Tuesday 9 March 2021

Movie Review: Kiss And Make-Up (1934)

A romantic comedy with some musical numbers thrown in, Kiss And Make-Up embraces its frivolity in a breezy story about infatuation colliding with love.

In Paris, American Dr. Maurice Lamar (Cary Grant) operates a world-renowned luxury clinic providing cosmetic surgery for women seeking improved physical beauty. He does not notice that his super-competent secretary Annie (Helen Mack), who barely bothers to powder her nose, is in love with him. Instead, Maurice is fixated on his patient Eve Caron (Genevieve Tobin), and considers her his masterpiece.

Eve divorces her husband Marcel (Edward Everett Horton) and marries Maurice. They honeymoon in the south of France at an industry conference, where Maurice discovers that creating the perfect woman and being married to her are two different things. Meanwhile Annie and Marcel meet and start their own romance.

With Cary Grant in full debonair mode and warbling a couple of songs, Kiss And Make-Up gathers enough elegance and self-deprecation to survive diaphanous content. Director and co-writer Harlan Thompson has the budget to go all-in on aesthetics and extras, Dr. Lamar's Parisian clinic a haven of Greek mythology-inspired beauty, occupied by an army of beauticians and patients in various stages of undress. The film was released in the same month the Hays Code was adopted, and straddles its limits.

The plot has its heart in the right place, first celebrating the relentless pursuit of beauty only to shred the aura of haughtiness and mercilessly expose the hopeless fragility of perfection in the real world. The romance elements progress according to genre conventions, the correct two people ending up together but only after navigating the most convoluted path possible.

Helen Mack (acerbically grounded) and Genevieve Tobin (semi-innocently puerile) provide strong support as the two women vying for Dr. Lamar's attention. The large supporting cast includes the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers (WAMPAS) Baby Stars of the day in mostly walk-on roles, although no members of this class progressed to notable careers. Ann Sheridan is uncredited in an early appearance. 

Kiss And Make-Up ends with a well-executed madcap car chase through the streets of Paris, almost entirely irrelevant to the plot but capturing the film's flighty spirit. Beauty is only skin deep, but can still cause a heap of trouble.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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