The Truth About Women
Posted by martinteller on April 15, 2012
The aging diplomat Sir Humphrey Tavistock (Laurence Harvey) discusses his past romances with a friend having some marital difficulties. If I’ve counted correctly, there are six stories in all, although one is exceptionally brief. A British woman with progressive attitudes about marriage, a harem girl in some made-up country next to Turkey, a married Parisian, an American looking for a grandiose title to attach to her name (that’s the short one, and perhaps tellingly, the only one that makes the woman look bad), another British woman Tavistock encounters in an elevator, and a Swedish nurse from a loveless marriage. There isn’t really a unifying theme to the tales, but largely they touch on somewhat feminist issues of what women will and won’t, or should and shouldn’t, settle for in relationships.
This is Muriel Box’s second film from 1957, the other one being The Passionate Stranger. I thought this one lacked some of the charm and humor and inventiveness of its predecessor, but overall it’s not a bad watch. The Paris episode is the most blatantly comedic, but also the most tedious and unsatisfying. The others, however, are satisfying enough. There’s some forward-thinking commentary on feminism, coupled with some rather sweet anecdotes about sacrifice. Alternate viewpoints are explored without too much judgment, and the film’s messages are rarely very heavy-handed.
There’s some interesting casting notes worth mentioning. The first woman, Diane Cilento, seemed familiar to me but I couldn’t place her. After looking her up on IMDb, I realized that I recognized her from The Wicker Man of all things (the good one, not whatever that Nicolas Cage yelling about bees thing is), playing a libertine of a rather different sort. The Parisian is Eva Gabor, far from “Green Acres” in geography, but a somewhat similar, flighty character. Mai Zetterling appears as the Swedish gal, who would later become a director in her own right (I’ve seen two of her films and wasn’t wild about either one). She also starred in some early Bergman, and on a related note I briefly wondered if the elevator episode was inspired by Secrets of Women, but that seems quite unlikely. Powell & Pressburger regular Marius Goring shows up briefly, doing a silly accent and being a bit hammy. All the major female roles in the film are really quite good, and I also especially liked Michael Denison as Tavistock’s pal. He was a reminder that I should revisit Asquith’s The Importance of Being Earnest someday. Harvey, however, is sort of a dud. For much of the film all he does is act either lovestruck or dumbfounded and you start to wonder why all the ladies are falling for this cold fish with little personality. His “elderly” performance also seems quite bad, but that may be more the result of a poor makeup job.
The film feels a little longer than it should and it didn’t leave as strong an impression on me as Passionate Stranger, but it’s an enjoyable escapade with some fine actresses and nice color photography. Rating: Good