A New Kind of Love

A strange screwball romantic comedy from 1963 with husband-wife team Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. (In real life they were married 50 years–the 2nd longest Hollywood actor marriage.)

“Strange” is certainly the word for just about everything in this entertaining oldie. Strange music throughout with Frank Sinatra unexpectedly singing the opening theme. Strange, but funny fantasy scenes including an Elizabeth Arden makeover of the ugly duckling female protagonist. Amazing, colorful costumes by the legendary Edith Head. A strange plot premise: Newspaper reporter Newman is sent to Paris after he philanders with his immediate boss’s wife. There he meets Woodward, a middle-class-fashion-buyer-plagiarizer who wears blue-tinted glasses and who has chosen a “half-maiden” nose-to-the-grindstone existence after one failure at love, and who has become distinctly unfeminine right down to her preferred name Sam. (Both stars are fun to watch together, in particular.)

The supporting cast is likewise strange with cynical Thelma Ritter as a boss’s associate who pines to marry him despite his dalliance with sexy Eva Gabor. Maurice Chevalier guests as an experienced ‘father-figure’ who tries to get Sam to see the beauty of male-female love.

Many of the attitudes and choices are politically incorrect today, but do reflect the time of the film, in which many male-female relationships conventionally ended up in marriage. There is also the typical ‘hip’ womanizing and female longing to find romance and marriage subthemes likewise. But these touches are more comic than offensive when viewed today.

Most of this film’s touches are just plain odd and strange compared with other typical ’60s romantic comedies. The men pointedly smoke cigars and cigarillos. Steve, the journalist, is strangely forgiven by his boss and heads back to America after a series of humorous columns about a prostitute’s amorous adventures. A drunk Sam talks on a ladder to St. Catherine about her love epiphany. Ritter originally wants to go out for onion soup with her bachelor-boss, which he later does with Gabor, then finally does with Ritter, which finally bonds them. One oddity follows another such that it is hard not to like this comedy which heavy-handedly parodies all the usual clichés and stereotypes.

In the end, A New Kind of Love turns out to be a uniquely strange, quirky, but light, humorous retro-trip and a nice, original variation of the familiar ’60s romantic-comic turf.

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