Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fred MacMurray brought it on himself

In 1960, Fred MacMurray was excellent as Jack Lemmon's boss in the The Apartment. But, 1960 was also the same year MacMurray started playing the father on the long-running TV sitcom My Three Sons. The success of the sitcom and the new image it gave MacMurray is, I think, partly responsible for MacMurray's deciding to do light family-friendly movies when My Three Sons was on break after having finished a season's worth of episodes. It's probably what led MacMurray to take on the terrible script that is Kisses For My President, which is airing at 6:00 PM this evening.

Fred MacMurray plays Thad McCloud, whom we see at the beginning of the movie on the podium at the presidential inauguration. The only thing is, he's not the onbeing inaugurated. It's his wife Leslie (Polly Bergen) who's been elected at the USA's first female President; Thad is the First Gentlemen. After the inauguaration and the ball, the couple and their children retire to the presidential living quarters in the White House, and there the "fun" begins.

In theory, there are some interesting issues surrounding the spouse of a president, especially in these modern days when both halves of a married couple are generally working. Thad had to give up his business for political reasons, and that's something I can imagine would be difficult for anybody. A half century ago, women would have generally been housewives, so such a dilemma probably wouldn't have faced a housewife. Trying to find one's way around the White House would give rise to a few comic situations at first, and is shown here; dealing with an entrenched domestic staff would be more interesting, although not in the way the movie presents. Unsurprisingly, Kisses For My President decides to tread over the grounds of stereotypes. Even though there's a good 10 weeks between the election and the inauguration, Thad is still greeted by the "First Lady's" staff, who act as though he should be treated like any other First Lady, even though he's not a lady. And he's expected to live in quarters that have been appointed for a stereotypical lady. Heck, he doesn't even get to sleep with the president because apparently the Production Code still thought having the president and spouse sleep together would be scandalous.

So what's an emasculated First Gentleman to do? President McCloud has to deal with one of those tinpot Latin American dictators, Rafael Valdez (Eli Wallach), who is in Washington trying to negotiate an arms deal with the US. President McCloud still has some negotiating to do with the Senate regarding the deal, so she gets the bright idea to have Thad entertain Valdez. It's the sort of idea that makes sense on paper, but in a comedy is bound to go wrong. However, thanks to the weak script of Kisses For My President, it goes wrong in a fairly boring way. And if you think that's bad, wait until the ending....

Kisses For My President is the sort of film that sounds like it should be interesting, but ultimately falls flat. It has, however, received a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive, while many better movies still languish in the limbo of not having a DVD release.

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