In August 2009, as part of the SO BAD THEY'RE BRILLIANT film festival - I went to see the Diana Ross melodrama MAHOGANY, followed by a curiosity called A NEW KIND OF LOVE co-starring the usually great Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.What the hell were they thinking? Casting Oscar-winning supercouple, the usually charming Newman and ordinarily lovely Woodward in a fluffy screwball romantic comedy in the Doris Day / Rock Hudson mold? You would think that at least Paul and Joanne would have great on-screen chemistry and a knack for comic timing - but you would be dead wrong. Romantique? Oui? Non!
A NEW KIND OF LOVE (1963, directed by Melville Shavelson) starts out on a misogynistic foot with an overlong sequence comparing women shoppers to a herd of stampeding cows. Excusez-moi?Things only get worse from there as we meet Joanne's Samantha Blake, a butched up manhating "half-maiden" (whatever that means) who works for a department store as a spy who aids in producing knock-offs of expensive fashions (ala mode) for the everyday gal. The wonderful Thelma Ritter steals the show as Sam's old maid wise-cracking man-hungry coworker Leena. Merveilleux!
Sam's boss, penny-pinching department store head Mr. Joe Bergner (George Tobias, better known as BEWITCHED's Abner Kravitz) decides that the menage à trois needs to go directly to Paris to steal haute couture from the source. Unfortunately the film's budget only allowed their doubles to go to Paris, so anytime we see anyone in Paris they are either super-imposed in front of a screen or shot from about a mile away. Bon voyage!
Newman is cast as a sexist (and sexy) journalist Steve Sherman who can't stop screwing every woman he meets - which lands him in deep excrément when he mistakenly beds his boss' wife. The results? He is exiled to Paris via SAS Airlines! Can you guess where this is going? En garde!Paul and Joanne have a few awkward encounters when he mistakes her for a man and she calls him on his drinking and sexist ways. Hungarian sexpot Eva Gabor comes along and joins Thelma Ritter in competition for Mr. Bergner's affection for champagne and French Onion Soup, bringing the moribund story back to life everytime they appear. Ambiance!
We learn that Sam really doesn't hate men, she was just burned once and decided to cut her hair and dress unattractively to spite them all. What follows next is an odd religious ceremony overseen by ancient French icon Maurice Chevalier (who does an endless medley of his songs).
What I've learned that apparently on Saint Catherine’s Day (November 25 of each year), couture houses in Paris throw Catherinette parties for all unmarried women over the age of 25. The women are forced wear exotic hats in Saint Catherine’s colors, yellow and green and run through the streets of Paris like raving lunatics looking for men, sort of what the Red Hat Society does in the US today. Oh la la!
In the weirdest sequence in the entire film, Sam, drunk on booze and Chevalier songs, says a prayer to a statue of St. Catherine and the statue tells her to go to Elizabeth Arden for a makeover. For real. Sacrebleu!
So, Sam does this and through a montage we see her transform from a tomboy into a ridiculous drag queen named Mimi. Mimi winds up at an outdoor cafe where concentration camp survivor/TV actor Robert Clary pimps her out as a call girl to - you guessed it - Steve! Aidez-moi!So Steve decides to do a series of articles about the prostitutes of Paris and his subject is our "half-maiden" Sam. She decides to play along with the charade, feeding Steve stories from CAMILLE. When she runs out of ideas, she relays one of of Eva Gabor's sordid tales. Silly and poorly-executed fantasy sequences play out featuring Sam/Mimi and Steve. Au Gratin!
Through a series of wacky occurances, Mr. Bergner gets engaged to Eva, then after her tawdry past resurfaces in Steve's article - the engagement is off, so Steve fixes Mr. Bergner up with Sam/Mimi! In the end, Steve figures out what Sam is up to and after threatening to strangle and punch her, decides to French kiss her and declare that he wants her to be the mother of his children. S'il vous plait!
And poor Leena finally gets Mr. Bergner to notice her after 15 years and they decide to go out for Fench Onion soup. Bon Apetit!
Overall, A NEW KIND OF LOVE an unappealing mishmosh with poor pacing, flat dialogue, unfunny jokes and terrible editing choices. Seek it out only to see what happens when great actors make poor choices or if you are into the fashion, wigs and look of 1963 Paris. I wonder what the French thought of this film? Au revoir!