The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown – 1957
"She'd be good company on a dull weekend"
That's what Dandy (Keenan Wynn) and Mike (Ralph Meeker) tell each other about their kidnap victim Laurel Stevens (Jane Russell), a movie star ironically starring in a film titled The Kidnapped Bride who they hide in a Malibu Beach house. Their scheme is to demand the studio pay them $50,000, an amount that insults Laurel as she is convinced she's worth at least $500K if not more. Since the kidnapping corresponds to the premiere of her new film, she convinces the two amateur abductors that no one is going to believe this is anything other than a publicity stunt and the backlash could wreck her career. What to do with a kidnapped movie star then becomes somewhat complicated and could have been rather interesting (and funny), but instead the story gets dragged through predictable love-triangle mechanizations.
Jane Russell wears what is presumably 'the fuzzy pink nightgown' briefly, but as this is a black and white movie, the sleepware could be any number of other colors instead. Russell also begins the film in a blonde wig and looks kind of odd, but it comes off not long after and she's back to her darker self. The difference in hair color visually corresponds to how her character modulates from an arrogant and pushy movie star into a likeable human being stuck in a strange situation (instead of a tense situation, which the film can't pull off for long), but it isn't enough to save the movie.
The script has Russell stocked with sardonic lines and glamour scenes, so in a way this is like a number of other (better) 50's films featuring Jane, but as this story rolls along, it becomes claustrophobic, though not in an intense way which would serve a "kidnap" movie, but through repetition with the same sets and situations over and over. With most of the tale taking place within the beach house where the star is hidden, The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown is narrow like an underfunded B-movie but with A level sets, and though the script has flashes of good humor, the dialogue (and that's mostly what we get after establishing the situation) is often predictable and we can see how the relationships between our three main actors is going to work out long before it occurs to the characters themselves.
Direction by Norman Taurog does what it can, which is aim the camera right down the middle of the beach house living room, giving the production a feeling of being under-rehearsed or thought out, and any time the story breaks out to the beach itself or, later, into an airport, the movie livens up considerably. The script simply doesn't have enough snappy patter and tough guy one-liners for Russell and Meeker to bounce off each other while standing in a room together for long stretches, nor does The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown provide any true showbiz-related insights or laughs like Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (also released in 1957). In fact, the difference between these two films, even though they both feature the tribulations of a famous and curvy film star, is like the difference between a widescreen cinemascope production and a stage play.
Adolphe Menjou is on hand as a film executive who can more or less guess at what is really going on when his big star vanishes, but he and the rest of the cast, aside from our three principals of Meeker, Wynn and Russell, just aren't really necessary since the story doesn't encompass anything more than showing us an off-kilter love-triangle and working out the threat to the star (Russell) and potential jail time for the two kidnappers.
Jane Russell has good moments in The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (the film itself was made by her own production company), but her energy isn't matched by the writing. Wynn and Meeker are sabotaged by the script, and director Taurog moves us through the tale as if we've got to hurry up and get to the credits, perhaps trying to make up for what's lacking in wordplay and story with speed: it doesn't work.
Jane Russell – Born June 21, 1921 – Died February 28, 2011
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Original Page December 1, 2021