Bedtime Story (1964)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
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as Freddy Benson
as Lawrence Jameson
as Janet Walker
as Fanny Eubank
as Col. Williams
as Mrs. Sutton
as Miss Trumble
as Miss Harrington
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Critic Reviews for Bedtime Story
Audience Reviews for Bedtime Story
"Still, it's just another bedtime story, but tellin' it brings teardrops to my eyes!" Yup, this film is, in fact, older than Tammy Wynette's career, and don't get too excited, because this film can't possibly be quite as touching as one of Wynette's songs. Okay, children, here's the story of a war veteran who becomes wheelchair-bound and self-loathing (Anyone remember "The Men"?), or the story of an abusive husband questioning his sister-in-law's mental stability, or the story of violence against worker unions, or, my most favorite stories of all: the one about an old mob boss, or the one about anonymous sex in Paris, or the one about a colonel who goes AWOL and leads a tribe of heathens. Mind you, "The Godfather", "Last Tango in Paris" and "Apocalypse Now" all came out well after this film, but the fact of the matter is that Marlon Brando's career hasn't exactly been leading up to this innocent-seeming comedy. Granted, this innocent-seeming comedy is about trying to trick women out of their money and into bed, but you know it's going to evoke some fond memories of "The Pink Panther", because it features Sir Charles Lytton continuing to con. It's just David Niven's luck that right after Peter Sellers steals his thunder in "The Pink Panther", he should find himself leading yet another major comedy, fighting over the spotlight with Marlon Brando. Mind you, not too many more people noticed Brando in 1962's "Mutiny on the Bounty" than they noticed Niven in a non-speaking part in the 1935 film of the same name, so Brando's star power wasn't exactly booming at this time, but, come on, Brando is still awesome, and when you get him and David Niven together, it's too fun to be a bedtime story, even if it doesn't compel quite like Brando's many dramas, for reasons extending beyond the lightheartedness.
Running but a minute shy of 100 minutes, this film isn't very long, although its story is rather light, enough so for an hour and forty minutes to be stretching things a bit, through occasions of dragging, and through more than a few repetitious moments. Repetition dies down a spell when focus shifts away from all of the constant conning, but dragging rarely abates amidst all of the borderline aimless unraveling of the plot, which doesn't feel set up, as much as it feels as though it's wandering into its phases, with no real development or extensive characterization. I suppose holes in the characters' background is intentional, but you never truly bond with the leads, and that's not good, because as endearing as the colorful writing and charming acting are, it's hard to get invested in characters this thoroughly defined by sleaziness and other problematic traits which, on top of being unnerving, aren't entirely believable. The film isn't too over-the-top of a farce, but as a 1960s farce, it still hits some serious improbabilities from time to time, and hardly ever transcends conventions, following the usual tropes and trappings of a comedy like this. If nothing else is typical about this comedy, well, it's simply its inconsequentiality as a fluff piece, because no matter fun, this is nothing special, and that's what most holds it back, if you will. Issues in pacing and exposition are actually relatively light, no matter how consistent, and even though problematic characters are a much bigger problem, it's the lightheartedness of this premise that makes the final product somewhat forgettable. The film doesn't stick with you, but while it occupies its time, it ought to hold it pretty firmly, because for all of the challenges to your patience, there is plenty of distinct fun, and even distinct settings.
Trying to liven up a light narrative, this film spans various distinct, almost lavish settings, brought to live by Robert Clatworthy's and Alexander Golitzen's lively, dynamic art direction, as well as by some immersive direction by Ralph Levy. Levy's airtight framing and attention to certain details draw you into most every scene, endearing you almost as much as the tight pacing and colorful plays on anything from sharp writing to Hans J. Salter's colorful score in fulfilling a rich potential for entertainment value in this story. Farcical in its believability and weight, as well as rather conventional, this film's subject matter is nothing particularly worth remembering, but as an almost adventurous opus about two conning lady's men getting caught up in shenanigans and competition, this film has a lot of potential for fun that is fulfilled by Levy, and even more fulfilled by Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning. Their script is repetitious and aimless in its narrative progression, but it is never short on color, drawing distinct, lively set pieces that go further livened up by a sharp sense of humor, which is occasionally a little uneven in its tastes, - ranging from bitingly witty to near-slapstick in its pseudo-superficiality - but consistently warming, if not all-out hilarious. The film is fiercely funny, and its storytelling is so fun, thus, yet the characters remain problematic in concept, low-down dirtbags who nevertheless endear, through all of their sleaze, partly through the colorful, if developmentally lacking characterization, and largely through the performances that stand out as much as anything in this film. That is at least the case with the leads, Marlon Brando and David Liven, whose conflicting chemistry is almost as delightfully effective as the leads' individual charm, with Liven utilizing his trademark British charisma, occasionally besmirched by a hint of silliness, to capture the smoothness of the Lawrence Jameson character, while Marlon Brando, as a crafty, but sorry sleazeball who will do the smoothest and the wackiest things to get what he wants, abandons his usual seriousness and gets into antics that only further prove his talents as an actor, capable of exuding the energy and audacity to carry a flick this farcical. Brando and Niven both carry the film, milking its color and humor for all its worth, and playing as instrumental of a role as clever writing and lively direction in making the final product a ripping fun, if inconsequential time.
With the story wrapped up, the final product falls as almost forgettable in its inconsequentiality, worsened by aimless dragging, shortcomings in the development of problematic characters, and by certain conventions that render the final product just another '60s farce, complete with a thorough fun factor that is complimented by lavish art direction, and secured by the well-paced direction, hysterically lively writing, and impeccably charming lead performances by Marlon Brando and David Niven that make Ralph Levy's "Bedtime Story", or "King of the Mountain" (That's the title one winds in the leads' competition, so it actually has a prominent role in the film, and should be the official title) a delightfully entertaining farce, for all of its inconsequentiality.
2.5/5 - Fair
Marlon Brando used to say that making Bedtime Story was one of the best times he ever had on a movie set. It shows. He delivers a joyful, energetic and fantastically entertaining performance. Watching him play off of David Niven (who is also very good) is so much fun to watch. This is a politically incorrect comedy that draws its laughs from dialogue.
***Due to the recent RT changes that have basically ruined my past reviews, I am mostly only giving a rating rather than a full review.***
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