Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Movie review - "Love is a Ball" (1963) **

One of several comedies Hollywood made in Europe in the early 60s. This is understandably one of the lesser known; Ricardo Montalban is an impoverished aristocrat seeking to marry rich American Hope Lange (not a bad set up) so he gets a team of people together led by Charles Boyer (good idea) and including Glenn Ford.

And it's with Ford's casting where things start to go haywire - he seems out of place, and far too old. It doesn't feel real that he'd get involved in such schemes. I know "real" is a relative term here for a frothy French Riviera romantic comdey but still appropriate.  (Actually you know who would have been good? Elvis Presley. The Ford character is a former racing car driver and the plot would have made an ideal Elvis film. In fact, it's actually got a lot in common with Girl Happy.)

And also Hope Lange's character is so sophisticated, beautiful, smart and brave that you never believe for one second she'd be bullied into marrying anyone she didn't want to, which makes the whole set up false. Why would an independent millionairess who wants to race cars and win Grand Prixs be so attracted a titled person? Sure uncle Telly Savalas pushes her along but she's easily too tough for him.This needed to be set in the past, or have Lange as a wall flower, or have her fortune dependent on getting married to someone by a certain date or something?

It's a shame because "someone pretending to be someone else" stories usually work in romantic comedies (there's no reason they couldn't have made it work here with some story adjustments for the star). And the film has lots of good things going for it - notably location shooting in the south of France and a support cast that includes Boyer, Savalas and John Wood (part of the team to train up Montalban).  For all Ford's basic miscasting, he and Lange have an enjoyable rapport (they used to be a couple in real life) and I enjoyed scenes when it was just the two of them flirting and I forgot about the weak set up.

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