Cast & Crew
In Lynley, England, financial difficulties have forced Victor, Earl of Rhyall and his wife Hilary to open their ancestral estate to tourists. After seeing off their young son and daughter for the week, the couple retires to the mansion's private rooms, where Hilary conducts a small business raising mushrooms and Victor passes time with his butler, Sellers. Sellers, who is employed primarily to impress the tourists, laments the fact that he is too normal and content to succeed as a novelist, which requires a measure of despair. Later, Hilary reads Victor a line of poetry extolling the passions of spring, which he correctly interprets as an appeal for money for a new spring wardrobe. As groups of tourists begin their circuit through the house, debonair American millionaire Charles Delacro enters the private room where Hilary is working. Although she is at first peeved by his forwardness, Hilary is soon charmed by Charles and, upon hearing that he is an oil tycoon, invites him for a drink. They banter pleasantly, their mutual attraction growing rapidly as they discuss their respective backgrounds. They also playfully exchange cultural stereotypes, Charles guessing that Hilary is a spoiled aristocrat who studied history and Hilary assuming that Charles spends frivolously and eats large steaks. When Charles invites Hilary to meet him for lunch in London, however, she refuses, after which Charles redoubles his efforts, and manages to steal a kiss. Flustered, Hilary asks him to leave, but when he stops to take her photograph they are discovered by Victor, who immediately deduces that Charles is a romantic rival and invites him to talk. Hilary watches, her discomfort growing, as Victor and Charles exchange veiled verbal barbs, and when Victor steps away briefly, Hilary begs Charles to leave. Over the next few days, Victor notes that Hilary is increasingly absentminded, and is not surprised when she suddenly makes an appointment to have her hair styled in London. Although he realizes that she is going to rendezvous with Charles, Victor encourages her to go, hoping that she will soon tire of her new interest. Hilary is supposed to stay with her flamboyant friend Hattie Durrant, but after Charles finds Hilary, having called all the city salons to locate her appointment, she spends the next few nights at his hotel. Although Hilary tries to resist Charles, the romance of their illicit affair enchants her, and she begins to fall in love. Meanwhile, Victor waits at home, where he is soon visited by Hattie, who was once his girl friend and now finds mischievous pleasure in divulging the details of Hilary's affair. In response to Hattie's questioning, Victor admits that he is afraid to lose his wife but does not want her to return to him out of guilt. To her charge that he has had numerous affairs, Victor insists that those do not count, although he now refuses to sleep with Hattie. At dinner, Victor formulates a plan to win Hilary back by convincing her that she does not really love Charles. To this end, he calls Charles in London and invites him to visit over the weekend, both men pretending that Victor does not know Hilary is with Charles at that very moment. When Charles and Hilary arrive in Lynley, everyone acts as if nothing is amiss, but Victor continually irks Hilary with intimations of her infidelity. Hilary tries to hide the fact that Charles has given her a mink coat, not realizing that Hattie has already revealed the gift to Victor. Although Hilary is tense, the others seem to be enjoying the unspoken tension and acerbic comments, and she complains to Hattie that Victor does not seem to be jealous. At night, Victor finally confronts Charles, insisting that they compete in a duel for Hilary's love. With Sellers acting as Charles' second, the two men exchange gunfire, and Victor is hit in the arm. Hilary and Hattie hear the shots and run downstairs, where Hilary insists that Charles leave to fetch the doctor. While she ministers to Victor, Hilary explains that while one part of her is enjoying a romantic interlude, the other still loves him and their life together. Victor discusses infidelity with great practicality, stating that just because one marriage vow is broken does not necessitate the destruction of the entire marriage. Although Hilary mentions the attraction of the jet-set life that Charles offers, she is moved by Victor's declaration that he will love and cherish her despite her impropriety. He offends her, however, by offering to let her go away with Charles until the American is "out of her system," which Hilary sees as a "loanout." Just then, Charles returns, and Hilary indicates that she will stay with Victor by reciting a story about their daughter, who rejected one doll in favor of a newer one, but in the end preferred the old, familiar one. Charles, who deliberately tried to miss when he shot at Victor, suddenly realizes that Victor arranged to be shot to impress Hilary. Victor then confesses that he ordered Sellers to shoot him in secret, knowing Charles would miss and that Hilary would appreciate his willingness to be wounded for her. Hilary is distracted from this revelation by Hattie, who has shown up wearing Hilary's new mink coat, but once Hilary wrests it off of her, she gives it back to Hattie cheerfully. As Sellers eagerly applies his new experiences to his novel, Victor and Hilary see Charles and Hattie off and prepare to welcome back their children.
John Wilson Apperson
John W. Mitchell
The Grass is Greener
The central premise of The Grass is Greener concerns a British earl (Grant) and his wife (Deborah Kerr) and their efforts to maintain their palatial estate in the style to which they were once accustomed. This means exploiting their mansion as an attraction for paying tourists in order to afford the necessary gardeners, cooks, and servants - a situation that is not that uncommon in contemporary England. Romantic complications soon follow when a visiting Texas oilman (Robert Mitchum) falls in love with Kerr and a former girlfriend of Grant's - Jean Simmons - enters the scene.
Since Grant realized that The Grass is Greener was a risky venture for Universal (stage play adaptations rarely become major commercial hits), he became actively involved in the film's production. Grant had final approval on the cast, persuaded Noel Coward to serve as the musical director (The score includes such Coward gems as "The Stately Homes of England" and "Mad Dogs and Englishmen"), and even got permission to film in Osterley Hall, the stately home of his ex-wife Virginia Cherrill during her marriage to the Earl of Jersey.
In the biography, Cary Grant: A Touch of Elegance by Warren G. Harris, writer Richard Gerham recalled that during the filming of The Grass is Greener, Grant acted "more like a man in his mid-twenties than one in his mid-fifties. He was all over the place as he worked, bounding from the camera to the set and back to a lectern that stood at one side holding his script." Equally complimentary was Deborah Kerr who remarked, "I have never known a man to apply himself so seriously and so ruthlessly to the job at hand. It was only because he could take his job so seriously that he was such a fine comedy actor. You would have to get up very early in the morning to steal a scene from him. I never did. But he played fair. Comedy is a cutthroat business and many Hollywood actors play it rough, expecting you to take care of yourself. But Cary never cheated....He was an absolute genius at comedy timing. He believed in being always what it was his audience expected him to be, and that was why he achieved such enormous success."
Producer: Stanley Donen, James H. Ware
Director: Stanley Donen
Screenplay: Hugh Williams (also play), Margaret Williams (also play)
Cinematography: Christopher Challis
Costume Design: Hardy Amies, Christian Dior
Film Editing: James B. Clark
Original Music: Noel Coward
Cast: Cary Grant (Victor Rhyall), Deborah Kerr (Hilary Rhyall), Robert Mitchum (Charles Delacro), Jean Simmons (Hattie Durant), Moray Watson (Sellers).
by Jeff Stafford
The Grass is Greener
The title sequence designed by Maurice Binder features babies playing with props that reflect the credit being listed. Many reviewers praised Binder's creativity in the titles' design. Executive producer-star Cary Grant and producer-director Stanley Donen, co-owners of the film's independent co-production company, Grandon Productions, purchased the rights to the play The Grass Is Greener after its London debut in December 1958. The film was Grandon's second and final release. [The company's first production was Indisctreet (see below).] According to a January 24, 1961 Los Angeles Mirror article, Grant originally cast himself as "Charles Delacro," Kay Kendall as "Hilary Rhyall," her real-life husband Rex Harrison as "Victor Rhyall" and Deborah Kerr as "Hattie Durrant." Kendall died soon after, however. The filmmakers considered casting Ingrid Bergman as Hilary, but eventually assigned the role to Kerr, after which Grant took over the role of Victor. Moray Watson made his feature film debut in The Grass Is Greener recreating the role of "Sellers," which he had originated on the London stage.
The film referenced the practice, at the time relatively new, of inviting sightseers to tour England's stately homes in order to raise revenue for insolvent aristocrats. As noted in a July 1960 Los Angeles Mirror article, it was shot partially on location at Osterely Hall, the ancestral home of the Earl of Jersey, the second husband of Grant's first wife, Virginia Cherrill. By the time of the film's production, Osterley was owned by England's National Trust. Interiors were shot at Shepperton Studios using furniture and artifacts from several real-life stately homes. A June 24, 1960 Daily Variety item stated that Donen had closed the studio to the British press, due to their reputation for "needling film stars."
Contemporary reviewers commended Donen's skill with the split-screen technique in the scene in which both couples are on the phone, having a parallel conversation. In this scene, Victor identifies himself to the hotel operator as "Rock Hudson." Although April and May 1960 Hollywood Reporter news items stated that Andrew Faulds was to play a television commentator and that Gwen Watford was cast in the film, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. A June 26, 1960 New York Times article mentions "censorship trouble"; however, there are only a few, minor censorship issues listed in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library. The American press response to The Grass Is Greener was generally poor, including the Hollywood Reporter review, which called the picture "one of the year's most disappointing films."
Released in United States Winter January 1961
Released in United States Winter January 1961