Kiss Them for Me
Stanley Donen's Kiss Them for Me (1957), starring Cary Grant, Suzy Parker, Jayne Mansfield, Leif Erickson, Werner Klemperer, Ray Walston, and Larry Blyden, never made it to laserdisc. It comes to DVD in an edition filled with handy little extras -- but, alas, no interview with or commentary track by Donen, though the man was very much with us in 2003 -- and in a fine letterboxed transfer, capturing the movie's 2.35:1 CinemaScope aspect ratio. The transfer is a beauty and captures the San Franscisco and Pacific vistas utilized in the film magnificently; between those shots and the presence of Jayne Mansfield, this is a demonstration-quality disc. Sometimes Donen seems a little awkward trying to fill the CinemaScope frame, but that problem is solved as soon Mansfield shows up; once the extended party scene gets going with Suzy Parker on hand as well, it seems as if Donen could use triple-lens Cinerama. There's all kinds of good to be found in here, not least of which are the entertaining performances by Grant, Walston, Klemperer (playing an American -- this was before he was typecast as a comical German), and Blyden, and the stunning appearances of Suzy Parker and Jayne Mansfield. Even though it's set during World War II and involves Navy combat officers on leave, from the moment one hears the McGuire Sisters' rendition of the title tune over the opening credits, one knows that Kiss Them for Me has about as much to do with the real Navy as Abbott & Costello's Buck Privates had to do with the Army. Still, there are some moments that are serious and entertaining, such as Ray Walston's explanation of his attempts to become a wounded war hero (including happily cracking up his plane on a carrier deck), in order to forward his intended political career; and Blyden's otherwise cool, laconic Southern pilot having screaming nightmares about being in a burning plane. Most of the movie comes off as an attempt at recapturing the magic of Donen's On the Town (1949) in San Francisco -- the Julius Epstein screenplay is too serious for that, but the result is a strangely compelling and honest nostalgia piece, something that On the Town never really was. The 102-minute movie has been given a very generous 20 chapters that are well selected, and comes with the original theatrical teaser and trailer, plus a still-frame array and a selection of trailers from other Cary Grant films in the Fox DVD library. The audio is mastered a little low, but the nearly half-century-old Deluxe color has been restored to richness and a fine luster. And the disc opens automatically to a simple four-selection, two-layer menu that's very easy to maneuver around.