Tonight on TCM: A Movie About the First Woman President
Tonight on Turner Classic Movies at 8pm Eastern: a timely screening of an extremely dated thingamajig, the 1964 “comedy” Kisses for My President. (Warning: you’ll always get spoilers here).
The premise is the movie is so unique you’d think it would be better remembered; once you see it you’ll see why it’s been forgotten. It’s about the first female President of the United States. That’s cool, right? Well, not as drawn here. Because, as always (or almost always) the movie is about the man’s point of view — and the man’s point of view (which we’re apparently supposed to share) is how annoying it is that his wife is President of the United States. “Sure, honey, I’m proud that you made history and all, but shouldn’t you be wiping the coffee table down with furniture polish?”
And if this weren’t infuriating enough (trust me, it is), he’s not just self-centered, he’s useless. The whole movie is about an adult man whining that he has nothing to do. You see, the precedents for a President’s spouse all involved feminine culture and aesthetics and relatively frivolous duties like ribbon-cuttings. What would you do? I guess I’d have my office redecorated and jump in and think about how I could use my prominent position to make the world a better place -? No. First Gentleman Fred MacMurray wallows and whines about it. “I have nothing to do!” I have no patience for attitude coming from a five year old child. An adult man? To me that’s just a waste of human flesh and oxygen. I don’t just lack sympathy for that character. I have active animosity toward him. I want to see him sentenced to a chain gang. This movie isn’t just dated now — it was dated when it came out. Guess what? MRS. ROOSEVELT FOUND PLENTY TO DO! 20 years and more before this movie!
Oh it gets worse. Because he ends up redeeming himself by solving a question of statecraft that ought to have been solved by his wife’s administration, and then the “happy ending” is that she gets pregnant and resigns so she can raise a family! I’m a dude, and it still makes my blood boil.
There is one positive side, and that’s we get to see the always welcome Polly Bergen star in a movie, although — irony of ironies — in this movie she has far too little to do. (Side note: In a subtle bit of stunt casting, Bergen would later play President Gena Davis’s mother on the sort lived 2006 tv series Commander-in-Chief.) The always excellent Edward Andrews plays Bergen’s political antagonist. And, in some more horribly dated casting claptrap, Eli Wallach is an evil Central American dictator — they always gave him horrible roles like that.
All this fusty thinking can be chalked up to producer-director Curtis Bernhardt, a relic of the silent days who must have seemed like an Egyptian mummy to his Cold War era colleagues. This was his last movie.