Friday 19 June 2020

Movie Review: The Perfect Furlough (1958)

A romantic comedy about a dream vacation turning to farce, The Perfect Furlough (also known as Strictly For Pleasure) delivers flighty entertainment.

Army psychologist Lieutenant Vicki Loren (Janet Leigh) conceives of a vacation competition for one soldier to boost the morale of all 104 batchelors stationed for a long year at a remote army base in the Arctic. After some clever scheming and fast talking Corporal Paul Hodges (Tony Curtis) wins the draw to enjoy three weeks in Paris with Argentinian Hollywood actress Sandra Roca (Linda Cristal), who was convinced to participate by her agent Harvey Franklin (Keenan Wynn). 

Hodges is a rampant womanizer, and even before they arrive in Paris he sets his sights on seducing Sandra. With the army terrified of bad publicity Vicki clamps down, placing Hodges under guard and denying him opportunities to engage in romance. He does not stop trying, leading to unintended escapades with both Sandra and Vicki.

A standard romance-in-the-military comedy, The Perfect Furlough has modest ambitions and rides the magnetism of star Tony Curtis to expected laughs. The Stanley Shapiro script draws predictable lines around a stuffy and somewhat incompetent military establishment clashing with fun-loving sex-starved troops, and Blake Edwards hustles the action along with a combination of deadpan humour and wide-eyed farce.

Despite the CinemaScope production The Perfect Furlough does not exude high budget aspirations. Many of the scenes in Paris are painfully flat backscreen jobs, and most of the action is confined to multiple hotel rooms, complete with the usual window ledge escapades.

Edwards builds his way up to farce-level misunderstandings and packs in a French magistrate, a doctor, an elderly winemaker, his more elderly father, and a few surprise revelations into the mix. And recognizing the delicately thin extent of the premise, all the antics are wrapped up in 93 minutes.

The film treats a woman in military leadership with surprising matter-of-fact respect, but without fully avoiding moments of sexism. Janet Leigh owns the pioneering role and walks a fine line between exerting authority and melting into romance on cue. Curtis aces his lothario persona, bending but not quite breaking the rules and not beyond manhandling a superior to prove a point. Linda Cristal is full of vitality as the exotic Hollywood beauty wringing exposure from the army publicity machine but also hiding a few secrets.

Colourful and charismatic, The Perfect Furlough is frivolous fun.

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