FOR LOVE OR MONEY would be the question behind why this movie was made, with the answer obvious in short order: L-for-loot. Another 60’s comedy (1963 in this case) struggling to be “with it”, the script by Larry Markes and Michael Morris begging for grins and delivering grimaces. Directed by Michael Gordon, who a few years earlier helped make Pillow Talk sparkle for Doris Day and Rock Hudson. But along with a limp script, this wet biscuit he has miscast and mismatched leads in Kirk Douglas and Mitzi Gaynor. Instead of a Rock & Doris Play Set, there’s no chemistry fizz with Kirk & Mitzi. Some of the co-stars provide what little fun there is. *
San Francisco based lawyer ‘Deke Gentry’ is handed a whopper from wealthy client ‘Chloe Brasher’ (Thelma Ritter): find suitable mates for her three attractive and independent-minded daughters or they’re cut out of her late husbands will. ‘Kate’ (Gaynor, 32) is a brainy consumer researcher (the harder they melt…); ‘Bonnie’ (Julie Newmar, 29) is a health and exercise nut (clue tepid topical jokes about weights & wheat germ); ‘Jan’ (Leslie Parrish, 27) is part of the avant-garde, free-love crowd (enter stale pokes about modern art). Naturally, the men-mates Kirk has to stage-manage are all patented 60’s goofs of one sort or another. The script aches.
In the 17 years and 39 films prior to this Douglas only made two comedies, both flops (My Dear Secretary in 1948 and Top Secret in 1957), and in the 45 years and scads of features, TV movies and miniseries after there were just a handful more. His steak-chewing intensity just doesn’t lend itself to a soufflé: he’s precise but calculated, warmth doesn’t register. **
Gaynor is left lopsided thanks to the weak material and pairing; to suit her character’s boxiness, she’s also topped with a hairdo that would require dynamite to tousle. Newmar is called upon to flaunt her bod (I’m one of those who never got her appeal, so will plead the 5th, or just need to locate one…); lovely Parrish lights up her scenes, but doesn’t get much to work with other than charm, which she possesses. Besides Parrish, giving the wan get-up some measure of go are Ritter (dressed up for once!) and Gig Young, doing another of his playboy buddy essays: Thelma never let us down but Gig’s gigs had about run their course at this point. Old pro William Bendix easily deadpans his bit as Ritter’s private detective.
Ranking 60th in ’63, grosses came to $4,400,000. Outfitted with Universal’s standard off-the-rack sets, it toils along for 108 minutes, with every move reiterated by Frank De Vol’s clunk-obvious score. With Dick Sargent, William Windom, Elizabeth MacRae, Alvy Moore, Theo Marcuse, Don Megowan, Billy Halop, Don Beddoe.
* Gaynor’s last film: at 32 she gave up on movies and concentrated on live performances in clubs and TV specials.
Director Michael Gordon had his biggest success with Pillow Talk, and also scored box office luck with comedies Boys’ Night Out and Move Over, Darling. Then For Love or Money began a string of duds: A Very Special Favor, Texas Across The River, The Impossible Years and How Do I Love Thee?
** To give him credit, Kirk tries, but it just doesn’t fly. Later attempts in light stuff include There Was A Crooked Man…(pretty good), To Catch A Spy, The Villain, Home Movies, Tough Guys (okay), Oscar and Greedy.