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"The Grass is Greener"

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Character's Name: Victor Rhyall
Release Date:  January, 1961
Director: Stanley Donen
Studio:  Universal-International
Running Time: 105 minutes

Cast: Cary Grant (Victor Rhyall), Deborah Kerr (Hilary Rhyall), Robert Mitchum (Charles Delacro), Jean Simmons (Hattie Durant), Moray Watson (Trevor Sellers)

- by ZoŽ Shaw
Victor (an Earl) and Hilary, live in one of the many stately home that are open to the public. An American sightseer, Charles, invades the private rooms and falls in love with Hilary.  Victor brings in Hattie to make Hilary jealous. There is a duel, and Victor is hit in the shoulder. Hilary treats Victor and they realize anew their love for each other.

- by Aileen Mackintosh
Victor, Earl of Rhyall (Cary Grant) and his wife Countess Hilary (Deborah Kerr) live in a grand stately home. To help them with the upkeep of the house (and their two children!), they open the house to the public at certain times.

Enter Mr. Charles Delacro (Robert Mitchum) an American visitor, who after wandering into the private parts of the house, bumps into Hilary. They hit it off, and gradually they fall in love. We see them meeting in London, where she pretends she has a hairdresser's appointments, etc. The children meanwhile have been packed off to visit a relative.

Victor realizes this, but appears unconcerned until there is an episode with a fur coat Charles has given Hilary when he - with the aid of a friend Hattie Durant, sets out to make Hilary jealous. The outcome of all this is Victor challenges Charles to a duel with pistols, to take place in one of the hallways. In the fight Victor is wounded in the shoulder. As Hilary is bandaging his shoulder she realizes that she still loves him.

At the end we see the Rhyalls standing and waving Hattie and Charles goodbye as they leave in the American's car, and just as they go the children return.

Although some would say not one of the best films scriptwise, Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr strike it right. Personally I think its great, but then I'm a romantic at heart! And anyway no one in their right mind would miss an opportunity to watch Cary weave his magic. In fact, the understatedness of it is part of its charm - very British!!

VARIETY Film Review - November 30, 1960
- by "Tube"
- submitted by Barry Martin
Merry old England is the site of this not-always-so-merry comedy about a romantic clash between a British Earl-ionaire and an American oil-ionaire.  It will take all the cumulative magnetism of its appealing cast to bail it out at the boxoffice.  But bail it out the cast probably will for Universal and Grandon Productions, latter the company in which the picture's star, Cary Grant, and its producer-director, Stanley Donen, are partnered.  

The Hugh and Margaret Williams screenplay, adapted from their London stage hit, takes an outrageous premise, has some sophisticated fun with it for awhile, then slowly evolves into a talky and generally tedious romantic exercise, dropping the semi-satirical stance that brightens up the early going.

At the start, it appears the film will have something novel and interesting to say about the tourist Americans and enterprising British who make up opposite halves of the "stately homes" business in which England's titled gentry rather unwillingly fling open the doors of their historically-significant houses to curious Yanks for a stipend ("Nowadays an English home is not his castle, it's his profit").  Observations on this issue soon peter out, whereupon the story swerves toward some sharp and outspoken comments on the difference between being Anglo and being American.

While this is going on, a romantic triangle is developing among the Earl (Grant), his wife (Deborah Kerr), and a "rip-roaring Grade A romantic" American millionaire (Robert Mitchum) who wanders off-limits into milady's drawing room during the tour and promptly and preposterously falls in love with her, she with him.  Balance of the picture is concerned with Grant's efforts to woo his wife back to his side and, except for his own polished performance and Miss Kerr's, has little to offer in the way of light comedy, which appears to be the objective of all concerned.

Grant, as noted, is in good form.  It is a tribute to his once-a-generation flair for light comedy that every time he wanders out of eye-and-ear range, the comedy sputters, stammers and stalls.  The uninspired screenplay has its staunchest ally in Grant, whose stiffest comedy competition comes not from his three costars but from Moray Watson, who so agreeably plays the butler, a fellow who admits he's too normal, happy and well-adjusted to succeed in his ambition to be a novelist.  Exchanges between Grant and Watson are fine highlights of the film.

Miss Kerr gives a sturdy performance as the object of this abundance of affection.  Jean Simmons, decked out in purposely exaggerated makeup and several high-styled gowns by Christian Dior, manages reasonably well in the role of a madcap ex--girl friend of Grant's, a kind of British Zsa-Zsa.  Weakest link in the romantic and comedic give-and-take is Mitchum.  He's pretty sluggish on the comedy end and thoroughly unconvincing in his relationship with Miss Kerr, never really projecting the implied passion, or even interest.  

There are some thoughtful, inventive directorial touches by Donen (significant empty chairs and bedroom doors softly closing), but for the most part he has failed to translate static stage techniques into cinema terms.  The picture fairly talks itself to death, and the dialog isn't consistently amusing enough to bring it back to life for more than fleeting moments.  There are some compelling views of the English countryside ("The Grass" does seem a lot "Greener" over there), and some striking interiors of the old house, for which art director Paul Sheriff rates a bow.  As does director of photography Christopher Challis for the charming way in which his camera regards these scenic attractions.  James Clark's editing cannot be faulted, and the incorporation of some of Noel Coward's memorable tunes gives matters a lift, particularly his "Stately Homes of England," lyrics and all.

An outstanding achievement is that of Maurice Binder, whose use of babies at play to match the main title credits is a stroke of originality.  In fact, audiences may enjoy the titles as much as the picture proper.  

NEW YORK TIMES Film Review - December 24, 1960
- by Bosley Crowther
- submitted by Barry Martin
Once more, without too much feeling - or wit or humor, indeed - Stanley Donen has turned out a picture in which elegant folks of the London social set commit adultery and talk about it, tediously, far into the night.  The exercise is "The Grass is Greener," which boasts four "top name" stars, some stunning gowns and stately-home scenery.  It opened at the Astor and Trans-Lux Fifty-second Street yesterday.

The whole thing is based on an assumption that a happily married wife (Deborah Kerr) of a British earl (Cary Grant) would go absolutely silly within a matter of a few minutes over a strange American sightseer (Robert Mitchum) who wanders into the private rooms of their stately home, plies her with propositions and induces her to go to London with him for four days.  

Then, as if that assumption were not sufficiently implausible, it goes on to assume that the husband would patiently try to get his wife to return, pass up a proffered mistress (Jean Simmons) and finally discredit the lover by outwitting him in a "fixed" duel.

From a stage play by Hugh and Margaret Williams, it is very  much watered-down Noel Coward, with none of that popular playwright's old sparkle but with several of his familiar tunes, such as "Mad About the Boy" and "I'll Follow My Secret Heart," woven into the musical score.  A sample of its wit: Mr. Grant asks Miss Simmons, "Did you bring your bag?", and she replies, "When you're addressing me, I'd prefer you use the word Suitcase."

Miss Kerr and Miss Simmons look attractive and Mr. Grant and Mr. Mitchum try hard to create the illusion of being moved by love and passion.  But they both appear mechanical and bored.

As for the gowns and the scenery, they are handsomely photographed, in color, but gowns and scenery do not make a motion picture.  Nor does talk.  

- by Kathy Fox

THE GRASS IS GREENER is Cary Grant's 68th film and his third starring with Deborah Kerr, the others being DREAM WIFE in 1953 and AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER in 1957.  Grant would be directed by Stanley Donen four times:  KISS THEM FOR ME, 1957, INDISCREET in 1958, and CHARADE in 1963, plus THE GRASS IS GREENER, 1960.  This film when it opened was met with mixed reviews, since English drawing room comedies had long been out of style, and Radio City Music Hall decided not to open it at the Holiday season.  However, I have now watched this film recently several times, and I think it is a stroke of genius.  Cary has developed his screen persona so perfectly, that he is thoroughly enjoyable to watch on the screen.  As I am watching CG films, I tend to watch him on the screen, and forget to look at the other characters.  Again, acting comes so natural for him.  Grant plays Victor Rhyall and Deborah Kerr plays his wife, Hilary, and they have opened up their expansive castle to the public in order to make ends meet.  Also Hilary grows mushrooms in order to help ends meet. In walks Charles Delacro, a millionaire from the U.S., played by Robert Mitchum, who immediately makes a play for Lady Rhyall.  In a moment of passion, Lady Rhyall decides to take a holiday from her husband, and her children who are already gone for two weeks with their nanny.  Victor suspects that there is something going on between Charles and Hilary and decides he has to do something to win his wife back.  Hilary's best friend, Hattie Durant, played by Jean Simmons, helps Victor by making Hilary jealous.  In the end Victor and Charles fight a duel, and Victor gets shot in the arm, but he is shot by the butler who is trying to help Victor in Hilary back.  This film is spattered with double entendres throughout, and it takes several viewings to catch and understand them all.  I have just now begun to appreciate the movie.  My list of favorites is getting longer and longer.  Cary Grant has truly developed into a true genius at the twilight of his career. 

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