“INDISCREET” ( 1958 )
Posted January 18th, 2015
“How dare he make love to me and NOT be a married man!!!!”
I know I would show up to listen to Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman emote about Jack and Jill going up the hill. And the same would be true of most Norman Krasna plays dressed up for Hollywood. The film that Cary Grant claimed to be his favorite, is also one of mine. And what would an actress who’d just won her second Oscar do for an encore? Why, “Indiscreet”, of course!
The scandal over Bergman’s affair with Roberto Rossellini in the fifties would soon be eclipsed by the Taylor/Burton/ “Cleopatra” sensation of 1963. Bergman’s triumphant return to the screen in “Anastasia” and her friendship with Cary, who was one of her greatest supporters during her exile from Hollywood screens according to reports, helped inch her towards the screen adaption of Norman Krasna’s play, “Kind Sir”, produced on the stage by Josh Logan. Cary wouldn’t have done it without her. They both were in director Stanley Donen’s capable hands.
The lovely art direction by Donald Ashton reveals a fabulous apartment in London, (actually Elstree Studios), with actual artwork by Pablo Picasso, John Piper, Raoul Dufy, and Georges Roualt, framing a handy foyer leading to the lovely living area. It is an apartment any gal in London would love to have, with much of the ambience of that great loft apartment of Adam Tyler’s in “Sunday in New York.”
The split screen phone calls with Anna and Phillip in bed, albeit different ones, was a bit shocking in 1958, but it must have been acceptable enough and a successful device because it was also used a year later in “Pillow Talk” when Doris and Rock are in their respective tubs rubbing their tootsies up against each other. Shocking! But the sexy split screens actually started with “Indiscreet” in 1958.
What happens? Cary Grant, as Phillip Adams, has a high-powered job in foreign relations and finance, and is brought to the apartment of Anna Kalman (Ingrid) by her sister (Phyllis Calvert as Mrs. Margaret Munson) and brother-in-law (Cecil Parker as Alfred Munson). Lightning strikes Phillip and Anna at the same time, and Anna is coerced to dine with the threesome where Adams is the key note speaker about ‘hard currency.’
Anna is charmed by Phillip’s honesty as he proclaims he is married, but cannot get a di-vorce. They wine, they dine, they walk by Big Ben, which also has a small part in the film as it rings and bongs and goes ding-dong to initiate the next major scene changes as an all-purpose continuity device.
The credits reveal almost all the production staff, who designed Cary’s suits, who designed the furs ( Calman Links ) and the drippingly luscious jewelry ( MP Green Gross ), but no one is credited with designing the gorgeous gowns worn by Ingrid Bergman, even though it is understood that they are Christian Dior in some circles. ( Docu- mentation was elusive about this fact. ) Berg- man’s wardrobe is fabulous, and satin brocade seems to be the fabric of the day.
Cozy, dearly stuffy Cecil Parker as the reticent brother-in-law, who doesn’t want to get involved with intrigue, is a favorite of mine from several films, like “The Lady Vanishes”, “The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders”, “Lady L”, “The Ladykillers”, and more. His ‘veddy’ Britishness belies the fact that he will usually play an ineffective bumbler avoiding conflict and disaster. But I adore him.
The true heroine of this film for me, besides the obvious energy and verve of Ingrid Bergman, is ado- rable pixie Phyllis Calvert, who looks just as stunning in her gowns and ensembles as Ingrid. Unfortunately, during the filming of “Indiscreet”, Miss Calvert lost her husband of many years, Peter Murray-Hill. Her energy and performance is a testament to her fortitude and ability to meet the challenge of a performance with a stiff upper lip; in this case, it is the jovial, flighty older sister to Anna.
I hope you will find the delights of this film, as I did, and overlook the sometimes stagey blocking and proscenium heritage of the popular Krasna play. Its merits wink at the stuffy social climate of the late fifties, and blossoming feelings about the importance of love in a formal atmosphere of social acceptability. Ingrid is winking all the way after her ‘return’ in “Anastasia” and Cary is just, well, someone we always want to wink at on screen.
( H O M E )