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The Grass Is Greener(1960)
Victor and Hillary are down on their luck to the point that they allow tourists to take guided tours of their castle...
For more about The Grass Is Greener and the The Grass Is Greener Blu-ray release, see the The Grass Is Greener Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 2, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum, Jean Simmons
Director: Stanley Donen
» See full cast & crew
The Grass Is Greener Blu-ray Review
Downton Abbey: The Next Generation.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 2, 2013
As fans of a certain Lord and Lady Grantham already know, keeping up appearances at a huge estate can be trying under the best of circumstances. If Downton Abbey ends up persisting into the 1950s or 1960s (in which case, one would think there would be a new Lord and Lady Grantham), the Crawley family might be encountering at least some of the issues that are raised in the middling 1960 comedy The Grass is Greener. The handwriting already seems to be on the Downton Estate's formidable façade, even if it was slightly erased by Matthew Crawley's efforts in this last season. But as the Crawleys may well experience, if indeed the series continues to move forward in time, often the only way to maintain even a semblance of a once proud tradition was to turn over family assets, including housing, the England's National Trust, letting the government step in to manage affairs, which often included tours for a slight fee. The families who had called these massive edifices home were usually shunted off into one wing of private living quarters, so that they could at least pretend they still were living the high life. That perhaps weirdly specific set of affairs is the general set up underlying much of The Grass is Greener, a film wherein a hapless Earl and Countess are resigned to the fact that gaggles of tourists (usually the despised Americans) will be traipsing through the palatial confines of their home most days while they retreat behind a door marked "Private". When one enterprising American deigns to walk through that door uninvited and unannounced, the Countess finds her entire life upended, which supposedly provides fodder for a farce like soufflé of wandering eyes and marital infidelity.
Casual observers seeing Lord Victor and Lady Hilary Rhyall (Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr) might think they have everything any sane person might want—a huge estate, a seemingly happy marriage and two beautiful little children. But a peek behind that door marked "Private" reveals at least a few frayed edges on a decidedly glamorous inherited rug. Lady Rhyall must make do with raising mushrooms to help bring in some much need moolah to the estate, while Lord Rhyall spends his day trying to figure out how to deal with a butler who doesn't have anything to do. Into this morass of petty domestic dysfunction wanders American tourist Charles Delacro (Robert Mitchum), who bursts in on Lady Rhyall in the private living quarters (not entirely by chance, it seems) and who just as quickly completely sweeps her off her feet.
Within mere days, Lady Rhyall has left for London to engage in a torrid affair with Delacro, leaving an angst filled Lord Rhyall back in the family manse to stew. And this is just one of many odd structural developments that keep The Grass is Greener from ever really being very funny. We're introduced to the Rhyalls as an apparently loving family, albeit one which has become, like many long married couples, complacent. What's then to really explain Lady Rhyall's frankly inexplicable decision to take off with Delacro, especially if one factors in the two rather youngish children (who are ostensibly off to a summer vacation and away from the estate)? Even worse from an audience standpoint is the fact that Kerr's character comes off as rather selfish, meaning in a very real way few are going to care whether she ends up with Grant or Mitchum.
Things become at least relatively more comic once the fourth character enters the fray. This is the flighty, eccentric and much married Hattie Durant (Jean Simmons), a woman who in her younger days had almost married Victor Rhyall but who has gone on to rather unbelievably become Hilary Rhyall's best friend. In fact, Hilary is supposedly staying with Hattie in London whilst actually ensconced with Charles, but once Hilary shows up at the Rhyall estate and confirms Victor's already on the nose suspicions, things start to turn into a cat and mouse game where, as Charles mentions to Hilary, everyone knows what's going on but no one will admit it.
Much like the impression casual passers by would have about the Rhyall family, film lovers might assume that this would be a fizzy confection with such an admirable cast and a noted director (Stanley Donen, Singin' in the Rain, Charade). The fault here lies mostly at the feet of a pretty lackluster screenplay, one that may have played better to British audiences (it was adapted from a reasonably successful West End play). But there's also some fatal miscasting with regard to Robert Mitchum. Mitchum seems to be on downers throughout this film, barely able to mumble some of his lines and seeming to sleepwalk through the role as if it didn't interest him in the slightest. Donen tries to shape the piece with a few nice touches. There's a lovely shot of Kerr hanging out of a train as she leaves Victor on her way to Charles that's quite haunting, and later in the film there's one of the few really amusing moments when Donen adopts a split screen to show Grant and Simmons on one side and Kerr and Mitchum on the other having more or less the same conversation at the same time—while Grant and Mitchum are talking to each other on the phone.
What may actually end up interesting some viewers more than the film itself are a few tangential items. Simmons' incredibly chic apparel was designed by Christian Dior, and it's a veritable panoply of mid-century glamour. The title sequence was designed by Maurice Binder, the man who would go on to create so many memorable James Bond credits sequences. And there's a fitfully amusing theme song by Noel Coward which attempts to detail the trials of mid-century estate holders who are having to deal with changes that even Lord Grantham wouldn't be able to handle. But given the interloping of Charles Delacro into the Rhyall marriage, perhaps they should have used Coward's much funnier "Why Do the Wrong People Travel" from his musical Sail Away. Alas, that show was still a few years in the offing when The Grass is Greener stumbled out onto the fairway in 1960.
The Grass Is Greener Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Grass is Greener is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transferr in 2.35:1. This high definition presentation falls very much in line with the bulk of recent other films from this era we've seen from Olive. The elements are in generally quite good condition, with only minor flecks and specks dotting the presmises. The biggest issue here is slightly faded color, which is especially a shame with regard to the opulent sets and especially Simmons' costumes. Otherwise, though, this transfer boasts very good fine detail and like virtually all Olive releases offers a viewing experience devoid of any egregious digital tweaking.
The Grass Is Greener Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Grass is Greener's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix suffices quite well for this very talky film, but the evidently built in reverb in the early scenes where Grant and the butler are wandering through one immense room after another make discerning some of the dialogue a bit difficult. There's a boxiness to some of the dialogue that leads me to believe at least some of this film was post-looped. Coward's theme song sound fine if not spectacular, though there seems to be a peculiar edit (the musically astute among you will easily hear it), that again I'm assuming stems from the source itself.
The Grass Is Greener Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are offered on this Blu-ray disc.
The Grass Is Greener Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
With a cast and director like that, how could The Grass is Greener go wrong? Unfortunately, they did, for the film is a pretty listless and uninvolving affair. There's probably just enough star power here, along with some interesting tangential elements as outlined above, to warrant a viewing by fans of any of the film's stars.
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