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Dream Wife (1953), a romantic comedy about sexual politics and international diplomacy, marks the first teaming of two sublimely well-matched stars, who four years later would co-star in one of the most beloved film romances of all time. Dream Wife was hardly that, though it was, in the words of Deborah Kerr, "moderately funny and moderately successful." Cary Grant plays an American businessman engaged to State Department official Kerr, who doesn't want to give up her job for marriage. Frustrated, Grant proposes to the daughter of a Middle Eastern sheikh. The lovely princess is well trained in the art of pleasing and being submissive to a man. But when Kerr shows up to navigate the tricky arrangements for an oil deal and for the wedding, the complications increase.
After nearly two decades as one of Hollywood's top leading men, Grant entered the 1950's in a career slump, and he was hoping for the big hit that would restore him to the top rank. Kerr, on the other hand, had been playing elegant patrician beauties since her film debut a dozen years earlier, most recently in period dramas like Quo Vadis (1951) and The Prisoner of Zenda (1952). Tired of what she called "high-minded, long suffering, white-gloved and decorative" roles, she was eager to kick up her heels in a contemporary comedy.
Screenwriter Sidney Sheldon, who had written Grant's 1947 hit, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, was eager to direct. MGM head of production Dore Schary had produced Bachelor. He agreed that Sheldon's script for Dream Wife was a good vehicle for Sheldon's first directing effort, if Grant would agree to star. Grant did, but Sheldon later recalled that it was a difficult collaboration, because of Grant's fussbudget ways. Grant saw the set for a potentate's palace, and complained, "That's not how it looks in the Middle East!" He refused to take direction from Sheldon, ignoring Sheldon's suggestions and playing scenes his own way. He fussed over details of his costumes, and insisted on changing when co-star Walter Pidgeon showed up in a suit similar to the one Grant was wearing. Sheldon directed only one more film, and went on to produce the TV series, I Dream of Jeannie. He later had a very successful career as a pulp novelist of such bestsellers as The Other Side of Midnight.
Dream Wife producer Dore Schary, in his autobiography, called the film one of MGM's three failures that year (the other two being Bright Road and The Actress), which failed to find audiences, in spite of excellent casts and scripts. He blames the failure of Dream Wife on the fact that it was shot in black and white, although it "cried out for color." He also felt in retrospect that it should have been played more for farce.
Kerr's next film, released just two months after Dream Wife, was also a change from her prim-and-proper image, and a much more successful one. She was nominated for an Academy Award® for her portrayal of the adulterous Army wife in From Here to Eternity (1953). Grant would not be seen onscreen for two years after Dream Wife. But his next film, To Catch a Thief (1955), had all the polish that Dream Wife lacked: the services of one of his favorite directors, Alfred Hitchcock; an elegant script tailored to his suave persona; sumptuous Riviera locations, and Technicolor and VistaVision. Audiences loved it. They also loved the reunion of Grant and Kerr in An Affair to Remember (1957), a tragicomedy of enormous charm and style which has become an enduring classic.
Director: Sidney Sheldon
Producer: Dore Schary
Screenplay: Sidney Sheldon, Herbert Baker, Alfred Lewis Levitt, based on a story by Levitt
Cinematography: Milton Krasner
Editor: George White
Costume Design: Helen Rose, Herschel McCoy
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Daniel B. Cathcart; Set Designer: Edwin B. Willis, Alfred E. Spencer
Music: Conrad Salinger
Principal Cast: Cary Grant (Clemson Reade), Deborah Kerr (Effie), Walter Pidgeon (Walter McBride), Betta St. John (Tarji), Eduard Franz (Khan), Buddy Baer (Vizier), Les Tremayne (Ken Landwell).
BW-100m. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri