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In the 1950 MGM romantic comedy Please Believe Me, Deborah Kerr shines as Alison, a no-nonsense English girl who travels by ship to America to claim a ranch in Texas that she has recently inherited. En route, she finds herself pursued by a trio of very different men: Terence (Robert Walker), a gambler looking for someone to pay off his debts, Jeremy (Peter Lawford), a playboy millionaire who wants a no-strings-attached relationship, and Matthew (Mark Stevens), Jeremy's lawyer who has a watchful eye for gold-diggers looking to prey on his client. Complications inevitably ensue in this delightful film with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end as to which one of Alison's suitors will win her heart.
Please Believe Me represented a lighter change of pace for the lovely and versatile Deborah Kerr who was usually cast in more dramatic fare. The film gave Kerr, who was relatively new to American audiences at the time, a chance to showcase her natural comedic abilities and perfect timing.
Of all the unlikely people to serve as producer on a romantic comedy, it was none other than former RKO B-movie horror maestro Val Lewton (Cat People , The Body Snatcher ) that put together Please Believe Me for MGM. Lewton had recently moved over to MGM following his long association with RKO and a brief sojourn with Paramount. According to a letter he wrote to his mother and sister in 1949, Lewton saw the film as a chance to change career directions. "Please Believe Me, I feel sure," he wrote, "will be a big success and this will renew my position in the industry and forever still the rumor that I can only do horror stories." While Lewton gave his best to producing the film, his heart simply wasn't in it, according to his wife, because he was so far out of his familiar spine-tingling element.
In the same letter Lewton also divulged that Please Believe Me had been written exclusively for Deborah Kerr, but was in danger of being handed over to one of MGM's more established stars. "We were told to write [the script] for Deborah Kerr, who is a delightful comedienne," wrote Lewton, "and we followed out our instructions to the letter, making it a starring vehicle for her and for her alone. Now that they see how well the script turned out, they want to shift the part to June Allyson because she draws more dollars to the box-office. But it will kill the comedy. I'm fighting, but not hard enough to endanger my job, and probably not hard enough to win. Fortunately the director, Norman Taurog, a very nice man, is on my side and he swings a great deal more weight than I do. It may come out all right."
Lewton and Taurog eventually got their way and held out for Deborah Kerr, who received top billing as she entered into a long period of successful Hollywood films throughout the 1950s. Unfortunately for Lewton, he died just one year after the film's release at the age of 46 and would not get the chance to produce any more films for MGM. One of the film's stars, Robert Walker, also passed away suddenly that same year at the much-too-young age of 32. For Walker, who suffered from psychological problems, Please Believe Me marked his return to the silver screen following a long absence due to a stint in a sanitarium following a nervous breakdown.
Producer: Val Lewton
Director: Norman Taurog
Screenplay: Nathaniel Curtis (screenplay and story)
Cinematography: Robert Planck
Art Direction: Daniel B. Cathcart, Cedric Gibbons
Music: Hans Salter; Bronislau Kaper (uncredited)
Film Editing: Ferris Webster
Cast: Deborah Kerr (Alison Kirbe), Robert Walker (Terence Keath), Mark Stevens (Matthew Kinston), Peter Lawford (Jeremy Taylor), James Whitmore (Vincent Maran), J. Carrol Naish ('Lucky' Reilly), Spring Byington (Mrs. Milwright), Carol Savage (Sylvia Rumley), Drue Mallory (Beryl Robinson), George Cleveland (Mr. Cooper), Ian Wolfe (Edward Warrender), Bridget Carr (Lily Milwright), Henri Letondal (Jacques Carnet), Gaby Andre (Mme. Carnet), Leon Belasco (The Croupier).
BW-87m. Closed Captioning.
by Andrea Passafiume