This week I found that I killed two birds with one stone by seeking out one of the few Jean Neglesco
-directed movies I've never seen. While this colorful film featured a few glimpses of beautifully framed Spain (and even some breathtaking El Grecos and somber portraits by Velasquez), the movie was essentially a remake of several other awfully familiar movies, three versions of which were made by Negulesco after he sold his soul to CinemaScope and Technicolor at 20th Century Fox (How To Marry a Millionaire, Three Coins in the Fountain, The Best of Everything
). Not surprisingly, this movie turned out to be a fine entry for "bad movies i love" too. The show helped me scratch that itch for something beguiling but also tickled my funny bone. The story is set among some glorious Spanish locations, is beautifully photographed by Daniel Flapp
, has a peppy score from Lionel Newman, Alexander Courage
and songwriters Sammy Cahn & Jimmy Van Heusen
really gave their all to A-M's set pieces here. There is also a blind, clueless, perfectly likable if fatally wrong-headed American energy thanks to the girls who spout stuff like "Well, that's that. The most beautiful two days in my whole life wasted on a fine, decent, stubborn, pigheaded, beautiful, dumb cluck like you," and there are a few more lines directly referencing s-e-x than past versions of the same tale, indicating that the production code was getting flabby. And of course, there is Big Red aka Ann-Margret, a force of show business nature at this point in pop history:
Using the essential, now threadbare plot that was first a success in 1925 as Sally, Irene and Mary
, this movie takes three sixties-style babes (Pamela Tiffin
, who is sweet but dumb, Carol Lynley
who is savvy but deluded, and Ann-Margret
, who has ants in her pants), and plants them in_________________
Above: The granddaughters of Sally, Irene and Mary: Pamela Tiffin (who seems to be having some issues with her false eyelashes), Ann-Margret, and Carol Lynley in The Pleasure Seekers, set in sunny Spain (this was during Franco's reign, but this picture makes it look as though the ladies are visiting Disneyland, doesn't it?).
The trio are seeking: _________________
c.) A husband
d.) A good time
e.) An education
f.) All of the above
Above: Ann-Margret demonstrating her appreciation of Spanish culture in her own hot pink way in The Pleasure Seekers
Their diverse experiences teach the girls that: ______________________
a.) Be careful what you wish for while gazing at the masterpieces in The Prado (even if he is a rich Spanish aristocrat)
b.) Washing your dainty underthings and hanging them up on your porch while in your underwear is not wise (that's called "being a tease," Misses Lynley & Ann)
c.) Don't think that cool older guy (Brian Keith
, looking sheepish, as well he should) is such a catch (he's married, you turnip, Carol!)
d.) A girl CAN shake her moneymaker and still win true love in the form of a brown-eyed provincial deer caught in the headlights of your glamour
doctor (André Lawrence
) (I give it three years for Ann-Margret & Dr. André, tops)
e.) Former stars (Gene Tierney
) can still make their presence felt among a gaggle of twenty-somethings (though the helmet-head hairstyle doesn't do the woman any more favors than the script)
f.) Getting hitched to a playboy aristocrat/a sulky reporter/a traditional Spaniard is central to their continued existence.
Above: Brian Keith looks chagrined to see his staff (Gardner McKay & Carol Lynley) hard at work in The Pleasure Seekers.
Here's what I learned during this cinematic trip to Spain:
1.) You can still be a good girl and get picked up by Anthony Franciosa in The Prado (yeah, right!)
2.) If you work for a news service in Madrid, your work life never gets in the way of your time spent scampering
around your apartment in as little as possible.
3.) You can have a screaming match with your boss's over-wound wife (poor Gene Tierney
* in her last film role) in the ladies room with everyone listening but still "make nice" with her at a farewell party.
4.) Gardner McKay
should never have left the sea and his adventures in paradise...psst, he is right purty, but is he an actor?
5.) Isobel Elsom
, who plays Maria Ouspenskaya's role lifted from Dodsworth, transforms her character into a warm and cozy Doña Fixit. What a relief to see her haughtiness here.
6.) I had forgotten how much fun Anthony Franciosa
could be when he gave up trying to be a great method actor and played happy-go-lucky slicksters instead.
7.) I now understand why this odd little movie has achieved a weird cult status among those who worship at the shrine of Ann-Margret
, the erstwhile sex kitten with a whipload of heavy-duty sex appeal, Vegas-style. I never knew that the flamenco originated in Burlesque until I had seen Ms. Margret in this movie.
8.) Now I know what drove Pedro Almodóvar to make Women on the Verge of a Nevous Breakdown
aka The Pleasure Seekers II
Above: Tony Franciosa, aka Emilio Lacayo, a first cousin to Pepe LePew in The Pleasure Seekers.
This movie is currently on youtube, but I doubt if that will last:
*I experienced a lone moment of genuine feeling while watching this movie when I noticed that Brian Keith
, who is married to Gene Tierney in this movie, had a lovely photo of her wearing a hat as she appeared in an earlier 20th Century Fox movie, Rings on Her Fingers
(1942). So poignant...