Saturday, March 21, 2009
The Grass Is Greener. Feature film. (1960, 105 mins) IMDB
hen they say they don't make films like they used to, THE GRASS IS GREENER would be an example. It's a film filled with brilliant dialogue, little physical action, longs scenes. There is wit, subtle, delightful wit and a dilemma to drive the narrative to its conclusion.
A film like this would easily get made today, but it would be an independent film which means a low budget, limited marketing and distribution and wouldn't hit the top ten on the box office listing. Further, it wouldn't have actors with the status of GRANT, KERR or MITCHUM.
Grant and Kerr play Lord and Lady Rhyall. They live in a stately mansion somewhere in the country near London in England. They are a gorgeous, happy couple with two young children. Despite the trappings of wealth, they are cash poor and must allow visitors entrance to their estate on tours. It's a sign of how different life is for nobles in England compared to the Victorian era where the estate would have been filled with hundred servants doing any number of jobs.
One of the tourists come to visit is Mitchum. He's a wealthy American who happens to ignore the sign saying PRIVATE and enters a room to find Kerr. What should be a short scene and he dismissed, becomes the pivotal first scene of the film.
Imagine a scene with just the two of them talking in this drawing room for over ten minutes and it works. It works because of the dialogue, combined with subtle gestures by the actors, especially Kerr.
Without every saying it, Kerr falls in love with Mitchum and he with her. On paper it seems absurd to think two people could fall in love so quickly, but when performed, it works.
The whole film works.
There is a scene where Grant's Butler comes to seek advice. He's frustrated because there simply isn't anything for him to do. Grant tells him he should work on his novel. The butler explains the novel isn't going well. He's too contented with his life and too ordinary to be a writer. It's one of the few times a character actually says what he's thinking.
The film takes a familiar concept of love and works a story that is delightful, mature, interesting.
The resolution of Grant winning Kerr back, forgiving her infidelity, seems alien today where divorce is as common as spelling mistakes. And I'm sure the religious freaks would have a thing or two to object to.
I am surprised this film isn't better known, better loved because it is a great piece of story telling, but perhaps that's it. It's more a play (it's origin) than a film.
It's probably best known for its opening title sequence (toddlers on a lawn) created by Maurice Binder. He a graphic designer and artist who got his break with this film and went on to fame as the title designer for the James Bond films. He created the sequence with the black and white gun barrel, Bond shooting followed by the red blood dripping.
Posted 2009/03/21 at 08h32ET in Movie Commentary.