It’s a bitter irony that such a funny film should also be so sad. For, if there were any doubts before, this last comedy of Kay Kendall’s amply shows what a gifted comedienne the world lost with her early death from cancer, aged just 33.
Kay is Dolly Fabian, a harpist who poses as the wife of Victor Fabian (Yul Brynner), the temperamental and domineering conductor of the London Festival Orchestra, which is sponsored by Mrs Wilbur (Grace Newcombe), an American food canner’s widow.
Kay’s main function in life is to soothe the frayed tempers Victor leaves in his wake.
Finally, she revolts and leaves him, and with no one to placate the musicians he assaults and the board of directors he outrages, Victor soon finds himself without an orchestra to conduct.
The solution is simple. He must win Kay back, but she is now a music teacher and has found herself a more manageable man in physicist Dr Richard Hilliard (Geoffrey Toone) and wants nothing more to do with Victor.
The film – adapted from a stage play by Harry Kurnitz – is full of pseudo-knowledgable witticisms about the music world, and the whole thing rips along at a dizzy pace.
Director Stanley Donen displays a fine flair for the visual gag, and Brynner engagingly caricatures the bulldozing braggart of a conductor. Gregory Ratoff, Martin Benson and Mervyn Johns keep the fun flowing.
But it’s really Kay Kendall’s film all the way. Her wordless clowning is as hilarious as her wordy rages.
Not only was this Kendall’s last performance, it was certainly her finest.
Dr Richard Hilliard
Jascha Gendel/Grisha Gendel
Mr Wilbur Jr.
Shirley Anne Field
Sir Austin Flapp