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Debbie and Glen: 'It Started with a Kiss' & The 'Gazebo'

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Friday, Sep 2, 2011
A double dose of vintage comedy. One has worn well, the other not so much.
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It Started with a Kiss

Director: George Marshall
Cast: Glenn Ford, Debbie Reynolds

(USDVD release date: 2 Aug 2011)

The Gazebo

Director: George Marshall
Cast: Glenn Ford, Debbie Reynolds

(USDVD release date: 2 Aug 2011)

Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford starred in two hits of 1959, both directed by veteran comedy director George Marshall. Both are freshly available from Warner Archive’s made-on-demand service. One has worn well, the other not so much.


First comes It Started with a Kiss, a frothy bauble in color and widescreen that’s a few notches down from a Doris Day/Rock Hudson vehicle. After Reynolds sings the title song over the credits, the story begins well and has a couple of unique elements. An Air Force sergeant (Ford) and a chorus girl (Reynolds) meet cute. On their first date, his kiss is so electrifying that the film cuts to a saucy traveling shot of pure cinema: the camera pans over discarded clothes and comes to rest on the image of hands hanging off the bed, his on top of hers. He moves his hand to reveal the wedding ring that makes the scene okay with the morals brigade.
  
Then he’s immediately posted to Spain and doesn’t find out that he’s won a handmade, unique, expensive ($40,000!) car, a big red finny thing with a fabulous bubbly top. (Called a Futura, the same car was later converted to the Batmobile.) This leads to problems with military regulations and taxes while sweeping them up in a social whirl of marquesas and toreadors.


Unfortunately, there’s one of those grating contrivances that comes up in this era of American No-Sex Comedy (a type of film where characters constantly talk about sex without having it). Reynolds’ character, previously sensible for a scatterbrain, decides they shouldn’t have sex for 30 days to assess their relationship. This pleasantry starts getting tiresome about here, even with the postcard sequences of Spain and a raft of supporting comics like Eva Gabor, Fred Clark, Harry Morgan, Edgar Buchanan, Frances Bavier, and Richard Deacon.


Better and darker is The Gazebo, based on Alec Coppel’s Broadway hit and playing like a feature-length parody of an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents or a macabre lark along the lines of The Trouble with Harry. Ford plays a TV mystery writer dealing with a blackmailer, while Reynolds is again his wife, a Broadway star with a gratuitous musical number. Ford proves more deft with physical comedy than you might think, and to prove how tongue in cheek it all is, at one point Hitchcock fortuitously telephones to offer advice on disposing of a corpse.


The plan is to bury the body in the foundation of the garden’s gazebo, but nothing is simple. This is sleek widescreen farce in black and white, and the comic support from Doro Merande (as the shouting housekeeper) and John McGiver (as the phlegmatic contractor who solemnly mispronounces “gazebo”) is still hilarious. Carl Reiner and Martin Landau have prominent roles, as does a well-trained pigeon.


It Started with a Kiss

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The Gazebo

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