Marriage a la Mode

1955

Comedy

0
IMDb Rating 6.4 10 341

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Synopsis


Uploaded By: FREEMAN
March 31, 2021 at 03:19 PM

Director

Cast

George Cole as Friends and Relations - Luigi Sopranelli
Margaret Leighton as The Law - Counsel for the Defence
Michael Hordern as The Law - The Judge
Rex Harrison as In the Hospital - The Patient
720p.BLU
810.28 MB
988*720
English 2.0
NR
24 fps
1 hr 28 min
P/S counting...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by alice liddell 7 / 10

Disturbing froth from a forgotten master.

It is hard to believe that there was a time when some of the last century's greatest artists were considered mere entertainers: Hitchcock made thrillers, Sirk made weepies, Hawks made comedies. Of course, we now know that these auteurs worked in genres that many other directors worked in, but transcended them by subversion, critique, extension, parody, genius.

There aren't so many English genres - the documentary-style war film is probably the most persistent - but in the 1950s, there were a spate of comedies that ran the gamut from glossily glamorous (GENEVIEVE etc.) to the cheerfully cheap (all those precursors to the CARRY ONs, like TWO WAY STRETCH and TOO MANY CROOKS), all of which invariably starred a small pool of exceptional players, including Alistair Sim, Terry-Thomas, Kenneth More, George Cole, John le Mesurier, Michael Hordern, etc.

Like most generic products, these films were modest, content to entertain in an unsurprising fashion, which they did. But, as with every genre, there is always a superior artist who expands its limits. Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat may not, as a directorial team, reach the dizzy heights of the Archers, but, since writing THE LADY VANISHES for Hitch in 1938, they produced a steady stream of highly literate and cinematically inventive comedies, which, while smuggling in complex and disturbing ideas, never failed the first duty of comedy, which is to be funny.

THE CONSTANT HUSBAND may not be a masterpiece, but it is extraordinarily daring. A lot of critics like to talk about disjunction and alienation implied in films, disturbances in character, crisis in identity, but it's rare to find a supposedly frothy comedy which has this as its overt subject matter. A man (Rex Harrison) wakes up dazed in a strange country with a strange language, no idea who he is, or how he got there.

With the help of a professor of psychiatry, Llewellyn (THE LADYKILLERS' Cecil Parker), he pieces together his life, and discovers that they are indeed pieces, that he is a cad, a gold-digger and a bigamist, who hit on women with the prospect of wealth, and dumped them when it fell through. He is rather appalled by his past, and is brought to court for bigamy. Yet such is his charm that all his normally intelligent wives pay for his defence, and declare they would gladly take him back.

From the opening sequence, you know you are watching something special, as Gilliat presents us with a series of fragments (a lampshade, a view out the window, a wardrobe mirror) as a dazed man comes back to consciousness. We do not see him first, but his reflection, as he looks in the mirror; the sequence is very broken in its editing to suggest the characters alienation from himself. In one hilarious sequence, he ponders the various possibilities of who he is - judge, priest, sportsman etc. - which are visualised in the mirror.

And this is what the film essentially is, a detective story, as a man searches for himself, his true identity. As such, it can be counted as an early anti-detective film, three years before VERTIGO. Unlike a normal detective, objectively analysing a crime, Harrison is personally involved; like Oedipus, the first detective, he is the answer to the question. But it is not a reassuring answer - the further Harrison searches the truth, the more diffuse that answer is - he is not one person, he is a series of endlessly proliferating identities, an abstraction made concrete in the number of wives he collects. And while this might seem to minimise women, it obliterates him until he becomes nothing. This leads to genuine, if comic, bewilderment in the court, as legal questions of identity and responsibility take on an ontological aspect.

This is a man who has so effaced himself that he can no longer live in the world, and sees prison as a refuge. I think it was Andre Breton who once suggested that Surrealism never took off in England because its desperate normality is already so surreal, and it is amazing how many predictions of the late Bunuel can be found here, as in so many English comedies of the period.

The great thing, though, is how accessible all this is: the comedy is expert and witty; the identity mystery compelling; the ending up in mysterious Wales mind-boggling. The faded 50s colour is beautiful, doubly so when you think of the monochrome uniformity of the war films that dominated the period; and the old hands in the cast are a joy, as is sexy Rexy, who cannot help (unconsciously?) repeating his past mistakes, adding another ironical layer to the film.

Reviewed by jromanbaker 8 / 10

Should be Treasured

All this delightful comedy with definite subversive elements is 6 reviews. It also has relatively low ratings. The UK made many good comedies during the 1950's and this is one of them. Perhaps on a subliminal level the subject matter is still considered slightly objectionable ( is he faking amnesia comes to mind ? ) and do we as an audience really care. Clearly at this semi-conscious level they do, and the brilliant acting of the great Kay Kendall and the equally brilliant one of Margaret Leighton still cannot raise the enthusiasm the film deserves. Rex Harrison, who I consider a heartless actor is superb in the role of someone who cannot show genuine emotion because in this clever film he does not need it. It was a role made in heaven for him and he is at his shallow best. Many men in the audience must have had mixed feelings of his presentation of being happily amoral, and their female or male partners must have been equally worried. It was a daring film to make and given the ' U ' certificate of the time children could get in by themselves, perhaps dreaming as they watched the scenario of a colourful future of their own. That is subversive!!!

Reviewed by eschetic-2 6 / 10

Style and grace only go so far

This is certainly a film to savor for marvelous performances and the style of an almost fine film maker as he slowly peels back the layers of the onion skin of a story with the audience struggling right along with the lead (the always charming Rex Harrison) to find out who and what he is after he comes to in a seaside Welsh hotel with no memory of either.

Unfortunately, the original ad campaign seriously undercut the chief interest in the film as a light hearted mystery, trying to lure audiences with a presumably "racy" tag line about the "Intimate revelations" of Rex's character who "went one better than Henry VIII" (all told in "Blushing Technicolor")! Tack that onto a plot which, once the past nature of Rex's character was revealed, had no where to go even with a courtroom full of women still anxious to throw themselves at him, and you can readily understand THE CONSTANT HUSBAND going straight to TV in the U.S. - the first relatively major film to do so - not getting a theatrical release for two years.

You certainly cannot blame the sterling cast for the film's ultimate letdown - any film with BOTH Margaret Leighton and Kay Kendall (the soon-to-be Mrs. Rex and reputedly the love of his many partnered life off-screen) AND droll performances from Cecil Parker, Robert Coote, Michael Hordern, Valerie French and a generous bevy of other beauties is going to hold the viewer's delighted interest right up to the end. If the film HAD an end or any idea how to end, I suspect it would be a perennial which we would play constantly on both sides of the Atlantic like so many of the sublime Ealing comedies, rather than only now (in 2010) enjoying a British DVD release with no likelihood of being offered in the Colonies.

Instead, THE CONSTANT HUSBAND (a/k/a MARRIAGE ALA MODE - no relation to the brilliantly satirical Hogarth painting) just peters out - leaving a hint in the resemblance of the leading ladies what a better director (than Sidney Gilliat) might have done with the property had he chosen to have ALL the women in Rex's life played by the same actress (either Kendall or Leighton would have been marvelous) the way Alec Guinness famously played all the doomed members of the D'Ascoyne family six years earlier in the dazzling KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS. Just that little touch of style might have made all the difference. It might have even made the lame final fade out make some sense...the 84 minutes which preceded it were such fun.

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