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Deborah Kerr learns lessons of amore -- with some help from Maurice Chevalier - in the 1959 comedy Count Your Blessings. Grace (Kerr), a proper English woman, is swept up in a whirlwind wartime romance with dashing French pilot Charles Edouard (inexplicably played by Italian heartthrob Rossano Brazzi). A three-day courtship results in marriage and a son, Sigi, but the couple rarely sees each other as Charles wanders the world, fighting wars for France. Nine years later, Charles returns to Grace and moves the family to Paris, but as the movie tagline went, "Marry in haste...resent at leisure." Grace discovers her husband's past - and present - with the ladies, including his current mistress Albertine (Patricia Medina). Kerr is counseled by Chevalier's worldly Duc de St. Cloud, who explains that this is the tradition of the French man.
As the marriage breaks up, their son (Martin Stephens) relishes in the new-found attention showered upon him by each parent. But when he learns that his father will give up custody of him, Sigi runs away. United in their search for Sigi, Grace and Charles rediscover their love for each other.
Based on the Nancy Mitford novel The Blessing, the film reworked the title to avoid further associations of Kerr's image with nuns. The actress had played a nun in Michael Powell's Black Narcissus in 1947 and in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957).
For Kerr, Count Your Blessings came at a peak period in her career. She had earned Academy Award nominations for From Here to Eternity (1953), The King and I (1956) and Separate Tables (1958), but never won. (She would later receive an honorary Oscar® in 1994.) Count Your Blessings was sandwiched between two other Kerr movies in 1959: The Journey with Yul Brynner and Beloved Infidel, co-starring Gregory Peck.
Although her film career was highly successful, Kerr's personal life was more troubled. After a year separation, she divorced her first husband in 1959 and met her second, Peter Viertel, a well-known novelist and screenwriter (Saboteur (1942), The Sun Also Rises, 1957).
Kerr's co-stars on Count Your Blessings were also enjoying career success. Rossano Brazzi was hot off the hit musical South Pacific (1958). He appeared again in 1958 in A Certain Smile, and before that, Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), both with Count Your Blessings director Jean Negulesco (Johnny Belinda (1948), Titanic, 1953). Maurice Chevalier, after his first bout of popularity in the 1930s, saw a resurgence in his career playing the wise adviser to the lovelorn in such films as Love in the Afternoon (1957), Gigi a year later, and again in Count Your Blessings. "Maurice Chevalier at seventy exudes more charm than Brazzi," the New York Herald Tribune praised in its Count Your Blessings review. The Frenchman charmed co-star Kerr, too. "Chevalier took me to visit his home, where everything, even the ash-trays, were in the shape of a straw-hat - the ultimate example of an artist being true to his image for ever and ever," she said in an Eric Braun biography of the actress. Chevalier would later team up with director Negulesco again in 1962 for the movie Jessica.
Despite the beautiful scenery of Paris and witty source material, Count Your Blessings missed the mark, according to Kerr. "A charming, funny, amusing book - somewhat castrated, because some of the funniest stuff, her beautifully observed sketches of American people in Paris, in government circles, was omitted from the script, because they didn't want to offend the Americans - became just a charming travelogue."
Despite some reservations, the New York Times described Count Your Blessings as "There's fun in this picture, some good laughs, some cheery romance and much Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer magnificence that is always a help to morale. Needless to say, all problems are settled in the end."
Producer: Karl Tunberg
Director: Jean Negulesco
Screenplay: Nancy Mitford (novel), Karl Tunberg
Cinematography: George J. Folsey, Milton R. Krasner
Film Editing: Harold F. Kress
Art Direction: Donald M. Ashton, Randall Duell, William A. Horning
Music: Franz Waxman
Cast: Deborah Kerr (Grace Allingham), Rossano Brazzi (Charles Edouard de Valhubert), Maurice Chevalier (Duc de St. Cloud), Martin Stephens (Sigismond), Tom Helmore (Hugh Palgrave), Ronald Squire (Sir Conrad Allingham).
C-102m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Amy Cox