Apr 22, 2020

On Blu-ray: Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford in It Started with a Kiss (1959)

While it has its charms, It Started with a Kiss (1959) is best remembered as the film that introduced the bizarre vehicle that would one day be the Batmobile. Stars Debbie Reynolds and Glenn Ford are charming, but they are often adrift in this unfocused romance. I recently watched this mixed bag of a movie on a new Blu-ray release from Warner Archive.

Reynolds is Maggie Putnam, a clever showgirl on the hunt for a millionaire husband. While on the prowl at a lavish charity event, she instead meets Air Force Sergeant Joe Fitzpatrick (Ford), who has new orders to report for duty at a base in Spain. They have a whirlwind romance before he leaves, resulting in their marriage, which is bumpy from the start. To further complicate matters, Joe wins a luxurious Lincoln Futura prototype which draws plenty of unwanted attention.

Reynolds and Ford are an odd match. Despite Ford’s use of persistent courtship tactics that have dated poorly, the pair seems to have chemistry at first. Their first date is relaxed and fun, with conversation that has a rambling, casual quality that feels real. They are unable to sustain the feeling of those early scenes though.

The bland story and poorly written script are mostly to blame, but part of the problem is that Reynolds was 27 and looked younger and Ford was 43 and looked older. Of course, that never mattered with Bogie and Bacall, but here it is unsettling. They’re both attractive, but there’s no sizzle between them and in some respects that’s a relief, because they look more like an uncle and his niece than a married couple.

For most of its running time, It Started with a Kiss is a confused mess. There are misunderstandings, arguments, bland flirtations, and an overall feeling that everyone is waiting for some direction. Harry Morgan and Eva Gabor are a pleasant addition to the supporting cast, but they seem to be politely playing along while searching for the point of it all.

There are some perks: gorgeous costumes, beautiful Spanish scenery, and a pair of leads who are immensely appealing if not too hot together. The Lincoln steals the film though. With its bubble glass roof, bright red interior, and sharp tail fins, it looks like a grounded Jetsons space craft. Painted cherry red for the film, it would eventually be made over as the famous Batmobile on the Batman television program starring Adam West. It was a lot of fun to see an early version of this famous car. 

This is a film strictly for car fiends and devoted fans of Ford and Reynolds.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

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