Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray Review: It Started With a Kiss (1959)

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When Maggie Putnam (Debbie Reynolds) volunteered to sell raffle tickets at a charity ball, she had every intention of winning a date with a handsome, eligible millionaire attendee. Instead, she won an Air Force staff sergeant and a car.

Meeting and marrying the persistent Joe Fitzpatrick (Glenn Ford) in a 48 hour whirlwind after he rips the back of her dress and the two reenact the famous scene from Bringing Up Baby where Cary Grant marches behind Katharine Hepburn in unison to cover the missing fabric, Joe and Maggie's courtship might not be the most romantic but there's a fiery heat between the pair. It was so sizzling in fact, that Joe and Maggie's romance in director George Marshall's 1959 sex comedy It Started with a Kiss extended beyond the screen for Ford and Reynolds.

Getting a taste of life as a military wife when she joins Joe in Spain, even though the money minded social climber is crazy about her husband, she begins to fear that the only thing they have in common is lust. You can't say she didn't warn him, however, as on their very first date, Maggie told Joe, "you can trust things, not people," before adding, "love is no reason to get married."

Trying to reassure her that she didn't make a mistake, Joe reluctantly gives in to his bride's proposal that the two embark on a sex free one month honeymoon in order to see if there's more between the two than what's between the sheets.

"You mustn't make love to me. If you do," Maggie warns her husband, "I'll leave."

"Oh, this is murder!" the sexually frustrated Joe exclaims from the couch. "I won't bother you. I may cry a little during the night but I won't bother you."

Responsible for the Air Force's increased water bill, Joe takes one cold shower after another to keep his libido at bay. Unintentionally breaking the major general's orders not to show any vulgar displays of wealth that could fit the European stereotype of a boorish rich American, once the car he won trying to secure a date with Maggie arrives, Joe finds himself in hot water as well.

Also drawing the ire of a congressional committee investigating wasteful spending in the military, Maggie and Joe hit the road for awhile. Taking in the beautiful sights of Spain, they make the acquaintance of a macho, celebrated bullfighter Antonio Soriano (Gustavo Rojo) and a sultry marquesa (Eva Gabor) who in turn, set their sights on them.

Treated like one of Soriano's bulls that needs to be tamed — if not by the Air Force or a bullfighter, then by her husband — the sexist characterization and arc of Reynolds' Maggie has aged the otherwise escapist comedy quite poorly when viewed with modern eyes.

Acting like a bullfighter in pursuit of his future bride, when he first meets Maggie, Joe corners her in her ticket booth before he grabs her by the arm — causing her to rip her dress — then follows her back to her workplace with the torn fabric but refuses to give it to her until she agrees to go out with him.

While, of course, this is played simply for laughs, regardless of the year, this aggressive "meet cute" is anything but. Radiating chemistry, however, despite the fact that they simply smolder on celluloid, you find yourself agreeing with Maggie that there might not be much else holding this pair together besides sex.

Painted with a one-dimensional brush as the latest in a long line of 1950s How to Marry a Millionaire style husband hunters, it's a good thing that Maggie is vibrantly brought to life by Debbie Reynolds because our superficial lead needs her warmth, humor, heart, and empathy to make us care.

Made shortly after the divorce of Reynolds and Eddie Fisher — who left his wife for his subsequent bride Elizabeth Taylor — and at the same time that Glenn Ford's marriage to Eleanor Powell fell apart, the film's two stars bonded quickly on and off the screen, which eventually inspired Ford to propose to his leading lady for real. Understandably marriage shy, although the shoot for It Started With a Kiss and their next 1959 film together for George Marshall (The Gazebo) occurred at a rough time in their lives, Reynolds turned down his proposal because it was just too soon but the two remained friends for life.

The genuine tenderness the pair shares elevates the film at its weakest moments and helps keep viewers involved. Kiss became a huge box office hit for MGM, undoubtedly spurred on by all of the romantic "scandals" of the day, which soon enveloped Eva Gabor in the headlines when she found herself embroiled in a scandal by association as well.

While there isn't all that much to recommend this vapid time waster —save for perhaps interest in it as a fascinating time capsule of evolving sexual mores due to its frankness — the stars make the picture sing even when it shouldn't. Given a gorgeous transfer to Blu-ray by the fine folks at the Warner Archive Collection, seeing the film in 1080p makes the beautiful setting of Spain even more dazzling by default. A must for Batman purists and academics, the bright red, forty-thousand dollar, one-of-a-kind concept car in Kiss — a 1955 Lincoln Futura — was later repainted and customized by George Barris to serve as Adam West's Batmobile for the 1966 series and film.

Though not nearly as winning as other Debbie Reynolds pictures of the era, including her '59 reunion with Ford and Marshall in the superlative Hitchcockian Gazebo, fans eager to see the lovable star's take on a '50s sex comedy will feel like they hold the winning raffle ticket when they watch her shimmer (and shiver) with Ford in HD.

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