Films, Books, Musings-With the Glamour of Old Hollywood and the Flair of the Retro

Dream Wife- A Movie Review.

In Movies on September 11, 2012 at 6:18 pm


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 1953. Blk/Wht.

“If a woman can run a home and still find time to have a career that’s fine, but first things first…”

I wonder if Cary Grant recieved threatening letters when his character, Clemson Reade uttered these words in the film, Dream Wife. No doubt, he would now, but Dream Wife was released in 1953 and things were different then- and Cary Grant had quite a large female following.

Clemson Reade is engaged to ‘Effie’ (Deborah Kerr) a high-powered, workaholic U.S diplomat, who is neglecting her fiance while she tries to negotiate an oil deal with the fictitious country, Bukistan. Clem is none too happy about being put on the back burner, he wants a wife who will devote herself to making him happy. Naturally, the engagement is called off.

“Suppose I had found a girl who was trained from the day she was born to be a dream wife.”

While discussing the pitfalls of matrimony with his collegues, Clem recalls an earlier business trip where he met the princess of Bukistan, a woman raised to serve her husband. Clem quickly sends off a proposal via telegram, which is accepted. As a diplomat with knowledge of the Bukistan culture, Effie has been assigned to look after Clem and the princess, Tarji, while she is in America. However, being engaged to a foreign princess has it’s problems, the language barrier, royal protocol and cultural differences. As they go about life in New York, Clem is disconcerted by the way Tarji walks behind him and does not eat with him- and the fact that he is not allowed to embrace or kiss his fiance. When he complains to the unsympathetic Effie, she says,

“But this is what you wanted isn’t it? It’s going to pretty difficult undoing 3000 years of history but I’ll try.”

And she does, teaching Tarji about womens’ rights in America, and the women who fought for them. Princess Tarji takes so greatly to being a ‘free woman’ that she almost starts an international incident and puts the future marriage in jeopardy.

Grant plays the bewildered man trying to assume some sort of normalacy in spite of an overbearing female, a character he had played many times before. After Dream Wife he went into a self-imposed retirement until he was persuaded to star in To Catch a Thief by Alfred Hitchcock.

Dream Wife was co-written and directed by Sydney Sheldon, and you may recognise a similar ‘desirable female’ in his later well-known sitcom ‘I Dream of Jeannie’. He also wrote the novels, Bloodline and Rage of Angels. Sheldon was married for 34 years (until her death) to his second wife Jorja Curtright, a stage and film actress and interior designer, who also edited some of Sheldon’s novels. Many years later, in an interview with the publisher, Harper Collins, he said of his mother, Jorja and his third wife, and the similarities in his female characters. They “epitomize the type of woman who is intelligent, purposeful and resourceful—but never at the expense of her femininity.”

Even now, there is still tension and soul searching in regards to women working, raising children and striking a balance, the recent movie ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It’ emphasizes this. Whatever your opinion, often characters like ‘Effie’ in Dream Wife are written as quite aloof and tough (despite her silly hats) and there are very few male characters faced with a work/home balance dilemma.

Some viewers may enjoy Dream Wife because of the tension they release by scoffing, making sarcastic comments and throwing cushions at the screen. Others will relax, maybe become a little nostalgic at the ‘old fashioned values’ and covet the gowns and silly hats.

Dream Wife is available on DVD. Try finding it at the links below.

Booko- a website that helps find the best prices on books,CD’s and DVD’s internationally.

Fishpond Australia buy or rent

  1. Sharon–great work! The kind of detail you go into would make this particular review perfect as a page in a book of reviews.

    If you find you are able/interesting in writing longer, and including more detail, back-story, etc., you could make 2 versions of a review (the long & short of it).

    Man! If I could figure out a way to make money doing this, I would do it! What a dream job–to review these truly classic films, and also do a bit of back story research. I find myself looking actors up on wikipedia after I see old films. Have you checked to see if there are books on Amazon that 1) review classic films 2)provide backstory on the film and the actors?

    I would LOVE that kind of book if it wasn’t too large and was in an easy to read format, and wow, if you could use those full color movie posters for each. I hear that photos make a book more expensive, so I don’t know how realistic it is. But maybe check Amazon and see if you have a novel idea?

    God bless,

    • Thanks Rachel,
      As usual I have a big virtual pile of books and movies and ideas for future posts. I expect one day I may compile them in some sort of logical way into another from ,ebook or something.Anyway,I enjoy the movies and research and the bio’s of the stars etc so whatever happens is o.k. 🙂 Sharon

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