KISS THEM FOR ME was kissed off as a certifiable dud in 1957, a poorly conceived, badly acted, laughless ‘comedy’ ranking as one of Cary Grant’s low points. Reviews were harsh, especially on a squealing Jayne Mansfield and charmless iceberg Suzy Parker. Lumbering in at a cost of $1,945,000, the slack box-office returns sank it, coming in 52nd place for the year. *
Set in San Francisco during WW2, it has flier-heroes Grant, at 52, three decades older than typical real-life counterparts, Ray Walston (debut) and Larry Blyden trying to party away their combat nerves while being pursued by businessmen/profiteers who want to use their martial celebrity for private gain. The salty trio are more interested in boozing and wooing the upscale Parker and brassy (make that screechy) Mansfield.
The 1944 novel “Shore Leave” was turned into a successful play with the new title in ’45, but it’s topicality (lacerating war profiteers) was dated twelve years on when this made it to the screen, and veteran script genie Julius J. Epstein drew one of his few bad hands trying to make it funny (not) and occasionally serious (awkward as hell). Director Stanley Donen can’t find a way to make things un-forced. It quickly strains into groans.
Grant gives it a pro go, but Parker, at odds with her reputed breezy style as a model, is a dead loss, so bad she was partially dubbed by Deborah Kerr, and Mansfield goes so overboard channeling Marilyn Monroe that she makes your teeth hurt. Second-billed here, her Hollywood career promptly floundered.
Aside from Cary being tanned and handsome, the chief attribute is bright color camerawork from Milton R. Krasner. With Nathaniel Frey (grotesque), Leif Erickson (unpleasant), Werner Klemperer (unconvincing) and a slew of familiar, likable faces in bits: Jack Mullaney, Hal Baylor, Richard Deacon, Harry Carey Jr., Kathleen Freeman, William Phipps, John Doucette, Nancy Kulp. 105 minutes.
* Grant wasn’t nuts about the script but he wanted to work with Stanley Donen: they’d re-team to greater effect for Indiscreet, The Grass Is Greener and Charade. Cary’s other 1957 projects were public hits, The Pride And The Passion and An Affair To Remember. Super-model Parker thawed and improved (she had to) in her following appearances Ten North Frederick, The Best Of Everything and The Interns. Likable lightweights Blyden and Mullaney did more TV work than movies: both died too early. Mullaney passed away from a stroke in 1982, only 52, and Blyden, more tragically, was murdered by bandits in Morocco in 1964. He was 49. Jayne Mansfield’s subsequent fame rested mostly on nudity and publicity before her awful death in 1967, only 34.