Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tonight's Movie: The Moon is Blue (1953) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

THE MOON IS BLUE (1953) is a very entertaining romantic romp starring William Holden, Maggie McNamara, and David Niven. It's available from the Warner Archive.

THE MOON IS BLUE is based on a 1951 Broadway play directed by Otto Preminger, which starred Barbara Bel Geddes, Barry Nelson, and Donald Cook. Preminger also directed by film version, from a screenplay by the original playwright, F. Hugh Herbert.

The screenplay was notorious in its day for using words such as "seduction" and "virgin" which weren't approved by the Production Code. Preminger refused to trim them, so the film was released without Production Code approval. Despite this "scandalous" background, the film was a success, including receiving three Oscar nominations.

The movie definitely shows its theatrical origins from time to time, with limited sets and being something of a talk fest, but it transcends the staginess and proves to be quite an engaging ride. The Oscar-nominated McNamara can be a bit exhausting, as she never seems to stop talking -- in a rather high pitch -- and some of her dialogue is a bit too precious, but those are minor quibbles.

The three lead actors propel the action forward in a fast-moving 99 minutes. Though it might have been considered racy in its day, now it just seems cute, with the dialogue underscoring that the heroine is actually quite a proper young lady with marriage on her mind.

Architect Donald Gresham (Holden, at his most attractive) notices cute Patty O'Neill (McNamara) in the Empire State Building and follows her to the observation deck, where he chats her up. Before you know it, Patty is sewing on his button and cooking dinner for Don at his apartment, confounding him with her very frank and direct questions and observations. He can't quite decide if she's charming or has a screw loose, but he's enjoying figuring it out.

Don's bachelor neighbor David (Niven), who also happens to be the father of Don's ex-girlfriend Cynthia (Dawn Addams), comes to see Don and before the evening is over he's proposing to Patty, which makes Don jealous. And then Patty's protective Irish cop father (Tom Tully) arrives...

There's a whole lot more to the story, which takes place in the span of just 24 hours, and it's all quite fun. Holden is so charming it's completely believable that a sweet young girl he picks up would agree to accompany him to his place, and towards the end of the film Niven works himself up to a couple of laugh-out-loud funny moments.

Although at times I felt she would wear me out trying to keep up with her character's chattiness, McNamara keeps you watching, and it ends up being completely believable that Holden would fall for her. Despite her Oscar nomination, McNamara had a surprisingly sparse screen career; her other best-known film is probably THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN (1954). She died in 1978. A couple of years ago Kristen wrote about McNamara at her blog Journeys in Classic Film as part of the "Gone Too Soon" blogathon.

An odd bit of trivia: Preminger also filmed a German version of this story, DIE JUNGFRAU AUF DEM DACH (1953). The stars of that film are the couple who want to use the Empire State Building telescope William Holden is monopolizing in the last scene of THE MOON IS BLUE. Holden and McNamara returned the favor in the German film.

The Oscar-nominated title song was written by Herschel Burke Gilbert and Danny Kaye's wife, Sylvia Fine -- an interesting coincidence since I also watched Kaye's THE KID FROM BROOKLYN (1946) today.

The Warner Archive DVD is a typically nice print showing off the black and white cinematography by Ernest Laszlo. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.

2 Comments:

Blogger DKoren said...

I recently watched this and agree with all your points. I thought she would get annoying after awhile, but somehow she didn't. And I loved David Niven. He stole all his scenes. I'm a big fan of Hardy Kruger, and did not at all expect him to suddenly pop up at the end of the movie on the top of the Empire State Building! I promptly had to look that up and found the same trivia, about the German version made at the same time. Very interesting!

9:53 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

"An odd bit of trivia: Preminger also filmed a German version of this story, DIE JUNGFRAU AUF DEM DACH (1953). The stars of that film are the couple who want to use the Empire State Building telescope William Holden is monopolizing in the last scene of THE MOON IS BLUE. Holden and McNamara returned the favor in the German film."

That's pretty neat. I didn't know that.

4:08 AM  

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