Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cary Grant & Deborah Kerr in Dream Wife (1953)

Obscurity factor: 6

TCM has programmed a series of films this month on the portrayal of people from the nations of the middle-east, and last night they featured this film. It's certainly interesting in its skewed portrayal of middle-eastern royalty, but that's not what I found fascinating about it. Unlike many films of its kind it features a very strong career woman, Pricilla Effington (Kerr) who works for the state department. She's in a relationship with ad man Clem Reade (Grant) who objects to her career taking her away from her future duties as a wife. After a big blow-up they break off their engagement and, on the rebound, Clem proposes marriage to Tarji, a beautiful young middle-eastern princess of his acquaintance who "has been trained with 5000 years of tradition" to serve her man's every whim.

Of course the expected culture clash ensues, but what's remarkable about the film is how Kerr's character fares by comparison. In other films of the era she would have "discovered" that sublimating her own desires and ambitions to her husband's wishes was the most fulfilling path she could pursue. Not so in this film. Effie's skills as a diplomat actually save the day and she triumphs at the end, not having to compromise that part of herself for a relationship. It's not a brilliant film (the reception of it convinced  Cary Grant to retire from films for two years), but it is uncharacteristic of the era and a nice foreshadowing of the woman's movement to come. Look for Walter Pidgeon as an official that works with Kerr at the State Department.

This film is available on DVD, and though obscure has been screened on TV, thanks to TCM. The trailer for it is above, uploaded to YouTube by skipjacktuner.

Obscurity factor: 6 (not well known, available on DVD)

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