Tuesday, July 19, 2011

An affair to forget

If I said that I would be blogging about a movie starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, you'd probably think, "Oh, good! An Affair to Remember is coming up!" (That assumes you like the romance. If you think it's a sappy chick flick, you probably wouldn't be excited.) But no, that's not tonight's movie. Instead, I'm blogging about a movie the two made several years earlier: Dream Wife.

Grant stars as Clemson Reade, an oil company executive who is in some Arabian sheikdom trying to conclude an oil deal, and also trying to keep the US State Department happy. Well, he's really trying to keep one State Department worker happy, that being his fiancée Effie (Deborah Kerr). Things don't go quite right, however, when Clemson sees Tarji (Betta St. John), who is one of the young princesses, do a local dance. Clemson is immediately smitten with her, even though he should know she's unavailable. And when he gets back to the US from his trip, there's going to be hell to pay with the fiancée. And that's less for the flirting than it is for the diplomatic row this is going to cause.

So, Effie gets a brilliant idea. Bring Tarji over to the US, and have Clemson marry her. It will make everybody happy. The Arabs will be able to save face, Clemson will get the girl he presumably wants, and the oil deal will go through. Effie has more plans, though. She intends to teach tarji about America (kind of like Bill Holden teaching Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday, I suppose), and in the process make Clemson realize that perhaps Terji isn't right for him after all.

And that's where the movie really begins to fall apart. I can't quite place my finger on why, but the whole movie reeks of tiredness. Perhaps it's the stereotyping, or perhaps it's that Betta St. John couldn't do the sort of culture clash thing that Desi Arnaz was doing in I Love Lucy so well precisely because he was living it in real life. But for whatever reason, Dream Wife really comes across as a pale imitation of a pastiche of a bunch of other movies.

It's worth one viewing, and probably this viewing in particular since it's part of TCM's "Arab Images on Film" series, and it will be interesting to see what Professor Shaheen has to say about the movie.

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