Sunday, June 21, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Reluctant Debutante (1958) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The very enjoyable comedy THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE (1958) has just been released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

I first saw this film over a decade ago, and I must say I'd forgotten how much fun it is. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, the movie successfully walks the line between being elegant and amusing; it's filled with glamorous visual eye candy and at times is laugh-out-loud funny.

It's the tale of a young American miss, Jane Broadbent (Sandra Dee), who comes to England to visit her father, Lord James "Jimmy" Broadbent (Rex Harrison), and her stepmother Sheila (Kay Kendall, who was Mrs. Harrison offscreen).

Sheila insists that 17-year-old Jane make her debut into high society, which means an endless social whirl, with night after night of dinners and balls. As I noted in my 2009 review, being a debutante was akin to a full-time job!

Sheila is disappointed when Jane falls for a young drummer named David (John Saxon), who like Jane is half-American. Sheila is in the dark that thanks to the Italian side of his family, David has inherited a title and is actually the catch of the Season.

Dee is a charmer, and I find the straightforward innocence of her courtship with Saxon's David quite appealing. There are none of the typical misunderstandings to create problems between the young lovers; they fall in love, they commit, and finally, with Lord Broadbent's help, they put Sheila in her place as part of a funny and romantic fairy tale ending.

Harrison does a nice job, patiently juggling the whims of the women in his life and then conspiring with David to overcome Sheila's reservations about his romance with Jane.

Kendall is a bit over-the-top at times, becoming a bit too manic near movie's end, but she also has some fun moments, particularly when she phones young men to invite them to dinner with Jane. Angela Lansbury is also on hand as a distant cousin who subtly battles Sheila for the best dates for her own daughter (Diane Clare).

It's a bit obvious at times that the movie is a filmed stage play; the screenplay was written by William Douglas-Home, based on his own play. (If the story sounds familiar, it was remade in 2003 as WHAT A GIRL WANTS.) The script is a well-paced 94 minutes, and Minnelli and cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg do such a classy job that most of the time the viewer is distracted away from the stagy theatrical feel.

The set design is gorgeous, with Jimmy and Sheila's apartment filled with interesting nooks and crannies, not to mention unusually shaped doorways and halls; I especially loved the kitchen. Jane's gorgeous gowns are by the great Helen Rose.

I found this upper-crust comedic fairy tale a delightful evening's entertainment, and I'm very glad I revisited it after so many years. I won't wait so long to enjoy it again!

The widescreen Warner Archive Blu-ray looks terrific, and the disc also features excellent sound. The trailer is included.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

A delight for the senses and I adore the dad's attitude toward parenting and the entire "season."

5:05 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Lots of fun in so many ways. :) :)

Best wishes,

5:09 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older