Stanley Donen has one hell of a directorial resume: On the Town, Singin’ In the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Damn Yankees and so many more. Here, he’s working from a 1945 Luther Davis play that was in turn based on the Frederic Wakeman Sr. novel Shore Leave.
Wakeman had worked in advertising until the war and as he healed up in a hospital, he wrote his first novel about a fellow crew member but called him Andy Crewson instead of his true name. Critics tore this movie apart and the studio punished its stars. Actually, it mainly punished Jayne Mansfield.
It’s all about three Navy pilots — Lieutenant McCann (Ray Walston, in his film debut), Mississip (Larry Blyden, a Broadway star who would become a game show host) and Commander Andy Crewson (Grant), who is a master grifter — who are enjoying the spoils of war while trying to adjust to what the world will be afterward.
A ship company owner named Eddie Turnbill (Leif Erickson) wants the men to give speeches to his workers to keep them on the job, but they’re all burnt out, despite the fact that Turnbill offers to set them up for life.
While all the men are on the make, Crewson only has eyes for Turnbill’s fiancee (Suzy Parker, who is in the Twilight Zone episode “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” and married Bradford Dillman later in her life), which makes sense when you see the scene where she removes her nylons. Actually, it’s a wonder anyone can look at any other woman in this film when Mansfield is firing on all cylinders, delivering sly comedy while making her way through nearly every male member of the cast.
Look for Werner Klemperer (Col. Klink from Hogan’s Heroes) as Lieutenant Walter Wallace, Kathleen Freeman (Mother Mary Stigmata!), Harry Carey, Jr. and Frank Nelson, who starred in The Malibu Bikini Shop right before he died.
Siouxie and the Banshees recorded the song “Kiss Them for Me” in 1991, not only referencing the way she said “divoon” but also discussing her heart-shaped swimming pool and the tragic way she died. To wit:
“It’s divoon, oh, it’s serene In the fountain’s pink champagne. Someone carving their devotion In the heart-shaped pool of fame, oh.”
You can watch this on YouTube.