A New Kind of Love (1963)
Director: Melville Shavelson
Cast: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Thelma Ritter
Synopsis: The fashion industry and Paris provide the setting for a comedy surrounding the mistaken impression that Joanne Woodward is a high-priced call girl. Paul Newman is the journalist interviewing her for insights on her profession.
I could be wrong, but it looks as though Paul Newman (The Long Hot Summer, Cool Hand Luke) was using his own box office clout to try and make a star out of his new wife Joanne Woodward (The Long Hot Summer) in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They made five movies together from 1958 to 1963 but, like A New Kind of Love, they were never really Paul Newman movies in the way The Hustler or Hud were Paul Newman movies. It’s true that Woodward was a known actress by 1958, and she was a very accomplished one at that, but she wasn’t a star in the same way that her new husband was. Either way, both Newman and Woodward are miscast in this tepid romantic comedy which comes across as a Hudson-Day reject.
Newman plays Steve Sherman, a maverick reporter who’s short on ideas and struggling for inspiration as he reports on football matches in Paris for his American newspaper. He’s been exiled to the French city by his boss, with whose wife he was found to be canoodling, which makes him just the kind of skirt-chaser Samantha ‘Sam’ Blake (Joanne Woodward) despises. Sam’s a fashion designer employed by cheap-skate businessman Joe Bergner (George Tobias) to knock-off cut-rate copies of the designs coming out of the Parisian fashion houses, which is why she and Sherman meet – or collide might more correctly describe their encounter – on the flight over. Somehow, Sherman mistakes Sam for a man, which is a bit of a stretch by my reckoning. It’s true that Sam wears blue-lensed glasses and has about half-a-dozen pencils stuck in her hair, which she wears unfashionably short, and there might have been a faintly masculine angularity to her looks, but even so, it’s difficult to see how anyone could mistake Mrs Newman for a bloke.
Anyway, needless to say, this mistake doesn’t sit well with Sam and she gives Sherman the cold shoulder for the rest of the flight. Where, we wonder, can this be heading? Well, ok, we all know exactly where things are heading, it’s just unfortunate that Melville Shavelson (On the Double), who both wrote and directed, couldn’t figure out an amusing way to get us there. Once in Paris, Sam and Sherman go their separate ways, but their paths are fated to cross once more after Sam, in a fit of pique, undergoes a gruelling makeover which has Sherman mistaking her for a high-class hooker – an error which Sam does nothing to correct.
Whichever way you look at it, for a woman’s movie A New Kind of Love is pretty insulting to its target demographic, even allowing for the era in which it was produced. Made in 1963, it has a plot which could probably have been made in the late fifties, but a cynicism and frankness about sex which identifies it as one of those watershed movies made when Hollywood was just beginning to realise that it was finally free of the Production Code by which it had been restricted for the previous thirty years, but still lacked the confidence to fully submerse itself in the murky world of sexual intercourse. So, the charming couple may make glib and knowingly sly references to the deed, but deep down every woman still just wants to be married so that she can love, honour and obey her man the way that mother did. Even Sam Blake succumbs, finally admitting that she’s been fooling herself all this time, that the veiled suggestion of a lesbian lifestyle is all a sham, the unfortunate and misguided by-product of a failed relationship.
A New Kind of Love might still have gotten away with it had it been able to produce the kind of sparkling humour so beloved of fans of those witty Rock Hudson and Doris Day ‘sex’ comedies, but the humour here rarely lifts itself above the mediocre, and A New Kind of Love grows increasingly silly once Sam starts masquerading as a prostitute – which, as we all know, is always a grand way to get your man. In fact, when the funniest thing in the movie is a prop (Sam’s misbehaving cigarette holder) you really know something isn’t right. Paul Newman movies should never, ever, be like this – they should involve egg-eating contests and comical bike rides – but at least he looks suitably embarrassed as he trudges his way through this (presumed) obligation to the wife.
(Reviewed 17th March 2014)