Promise Her Anything (1966)

Arthur Hiller proves to be the wrong director, and Warren Beatty the wrong actor, for “Promise Her Anything,” a frothy comedy, which tries to express the changing sexual and other mores of the times—sort of swinging New York version of Swinging London (where the picture was shot).

The movie tried to cash in on the public interest in Warren Beatty’s scandalous affair with Leslie Caron, whose husband, English stage director Peter Hall, named Beatty as the cause in a messy 1965 British divorce suit.

After two disastrous experiences with art films, Beatty decided he needed a change of pace, so he went to England to make this comedy, failing to realize his limitations as a comedic actor.

In this wannabe farce, Beatty essays to work in the tradition of Cary Grant or David Niven, who played variations of this role in their lengthy careers. This is a role that Grant could and would have played at his prime in his sleep.  Unfortunately, as a farceur, Beatty is awkward, fumbling, and heavy-handed.

William Peter Blatty, who had written “John Goldfarb, Please Come Home,” starring Shirley MacLaine, scripted this tedious comedy, which is too literal and heavy-handed for its own good.

Lelsie Caron plays a widow who moves into a Greenwich Village apartment with her infant son, Michael Bradley.  Upstairs lives the handsome Beatty, a guy who wants to make art movies but instead does burlesque fare to pay the rent.

Caron is smitten with her boss, the child psychologist (Robert Cummings), who really hates kids.   To increase her likeability and chances with him, she deposits the baby boy with Beatty and her infant secret from him.

Beatty then decides to use the kid in his sex movies—to some disastrous effects. Soon, the baby winds up in Cummings’ clinic where Beatty makes a burlesque film in the kid’s hospital. But Cummings has a hidden camera in the room to record Baby’s behavior, and the latter’s malfeasances are discovered. 

Beatty co-stars the baby with a sexy redhead in a revealing bikini but the kid obviously prefers his red building blocks. The infuriated Caron wants no more of suitor Beatty but when he saves Baby from a crane outside her window, it is apparent he is the right man for her—and the right surrogate dad.

In a desperate effort to be a funny satire a la “What’s New Pussycat?” the film contains sexy girls, semi-nude pictures, spoof about sex, jokes about child psychology, and references to other fads. 

The movie, supposed to be set in Greenwich Village, looks fake–in buildings, accents, streets, walls, children.

The baby steals most of the show, dominating the film’s first two reels.  Robert Cummings, an experienced and adept farceur, is miscast and wasted.  Cathleen Nesbitt, a distinguished English actress of impeccable taste,  and Lionel Stander are the sole cast members with a true professional feel for comic nuance, but both are playing small parts.

The jazzy editing, 1960s-style, with stop-motion gimmicks and experiments with Technicolor don’t add much.

 Cast

Warren Beatty (Harley Rummel)

Leslie Caron (Michele O’Brien)

Bob Cummings (Dr. Peter Brock)

Hermione Gingold (Mrs. Luce)

Lionel Stander (Sam)

Asa Maynor (Rusty)

Keenan Wynn (Ange)

Cathleen Nesbitt (Dr. Brock’s Mother)

Michael Bradley (John Thomas)

Bessie Love (Woman in Pet Shop)

Riggs O’Hara (Glue Sniffer)

Mavis Villiers (Middle-aged Woman)

Hal Galili (First Moving Man)

Warren Mitchell, Sydney Taffler (Panelists)

Ferdy Mayne (Fettucini)

Michael Chaplin (Beatnik).

Credits

Paramount Picture of a Ray Stark-Seven Arts Presentation.

Producer: Stanley Rubin.

Director: Arthur Hiller.

Screenplay: William Peter Blatty, based on a story by Arne Sultan and Marvin Worth.

Camera:: Douglas Slocombe.

Music: Lynn Murray.

Title song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David; sung by Tom Jones.

Art Director: Wilfrid Shingleton.

Set Decorator: David Ffolkes.

Editor: John Shirley.

Sound: George Stephenson.

Costumes: Beatrice Dawson.

Makeup: Bob Lawrence.

Miss Caron’s Makeup: Charles Parker.

Hairstyles: Pat McDermott.

Release Date: February 22, 1966.

Running time: 98 minutes.

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