Bedtime Story (1964)

Bedtime Story (1964)Synopsis:

An American hustler (Marlon Brando, The Godfather) engages in a battle of wits with a debonair English conman (David Niven, The Pink Panther). The pair of swindlers step up their game after they agree to compete for a naive American’s (Shirley Jones, Elmer Gantry) money and body.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Amusingly cynical comedy, written by Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning, directed by Ralph Levy (Do Not Disturb). Despite its high-profile cast, it is not as well-known as its remake Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin). Over the years the latter has achieved cult status while the former is rarely shown on TV. That’s really too bad because both movies are equally funny. Bedtime Story could have been mean-spirited, but it is not, although there is a hint of misogyny in the narrative.

Nevertheless, Brando’s uncharacteristically comic turn is the main reason to watch it. Master of human angst, Brando had done one comedy before — the 1956 hit The Teahouse of the August Moon — but he mostly avoided light material. It’s a bit weird to see him step out of his comfort zone, but he totally nails the part — Brando has a few scenes that had me on stitches.

Niven could have done, of course, this kind of thing in his sleep — sardonic wit and elegance came naturally to him. Jones (in a role intended for Tippi Hedren, Marnie) is mostly window dressing, but she handles her role well enough. Celebrated character actor Marie Windsor (The Narrow Margin and The Killing) plays Mrs. Sutton, one of Niven’s victims.

I do have one complaint — it’s a bit too obvious that most of the film was filmed inside a Hollywood soundstage. Cameraman Clifford Stine did shoot some scenes on location at Cannes, but, in my opinion, there was a missed opportunity here. You never get to feel the milieu of the 1960s French Riviera (the remake avoids making the same mistake).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Bedtime Story was a notorious flop. Brando was going through a tough time at the box office and this film didn’t help his situation. Anyhow, Bedtime Story is a funny movie. At the very least, it would make a great double-feature with Frank Oz’s hugely popular Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Color, 99 minutes, Not Rated.

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