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Otto Preminger's "The Moon Is Blue" (1953)


HollywoodGolightly
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Well, after having wanted to see this one for ages I finally did, and found myself enjoying it a lot more than I ever thought I would.

 

Having long heard about how "controversial" it was during its original release, I can't help but be amazed at how different things must have been in the early 50s for this to be considered even remotely controversial.

 

As it is, it's a rather charming romantic comedy, though I'm sure it might have been a lot more fun when it was in the "cutting edge" so to speak, and there's probably a lot of innuendo that has lost its punch over the years.

 

I think both William Holden and David Niven are in top form here, with Niven in particular being his best boyish charming self, even when it comes to romancing a lovely young lady young enough to be his daughter. Maggie McNamara is also quite good, and for some reason I can't help but wonder why I'm not more familiar with her name.

 

Though a little stage-bound, it is still a pretty good movie, and hopefully more people will get to see it now that it has been released on DVD through the Warner Archives.

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The reason you never heard more about her was that she didn't do much more after her first film "The Moon is Blue". She did 3 other films in the 50's and some TV in the early 60's and all but disappeared. She was working as a typist when she committed suicide from an over dose of sleeping pills. Her last work was in a "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" in 1964. She had a history of mental illness. She was 49....

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The story of McNamara is one that has never been so easily clarified. It?s a story that while might be intriguing for some to scrutinized, there really isn?t much to tell, other than she came to the spotlight of fame fast and disappeared as quickly as she had come. There are more questions to her life and times than any plausible answers to make a clear assessment and understand what might have happened to such a beautiful, bright woman. What isn?t usually told about her is that before getting into show business, she had a very successful career as a popular fashion model in New York during the late 1940s and early 1950s. McNamara?s picture and image popped up almost everywhere on newsstand across the country. It wouldn?t take long for agents and show business personnel to approach McNamara?s family to consider her tackling a performing career. While still in her teens, she had already done television commercials aside from her modeling career. This type of exposure led to all sorts of interesting hype and comparisons were made of McNamara to the current flow of young aspiring stars of show business. With little or no performing experience, McNamara enrolled in various schools to study acting and dance. After about three years, in 1951, she began her pursuit of an acting career on the live stage and dwelling into television. It was during this period, McNamara, together with another aspiring model, turned actress by the name of Grace Kelly received a bit of notoriety. The Broadway critics were kind to McNamara, most of them admiring her girlish charm that obviously equated with the typical notion of the ?girl next door? syndrome.

 

The big turning point for McNamara and her entertainment career came, when she replaced Barbara Bel Geddes in the smash Broadway hit show, ?The Moon Is Blue.? This adult comedy created a sensation, especially with McNamara suddenly becoming the main central focus of the play?s success! Director Otto Preminger, who always took the credit for having discovered McNamara, felt he had no recourse but to realize the young girl had something special. After a two year run of the play, the director signed her on to be in the film version and thus make her a big film star. The various claims of Preminger having guided McNamara to the spotlight have always been in question, since McNamara had before her success in ?The Moon Is Blue,? already been noticed and written about. Still, the movie version received lots of buzz, due to the censorship issue, especially with various social groups condemning the movie. It might have looked rather dangerous for anyone to be in this movie, but Preminger made certain he could overcome the various resistances to the film. His biggest ploy was hiring William Holden to star, along with David Niven. Besides McNamara was still another starlet on the way up, lovely Dawn Adams in the movie. The publicity the film received over so many issues, on top of McNamara having been in the original show, pretty much guaranteed to Preminger his investment was safe and sound. The film was a smash at the box-office and everything now pointed to McNamara reaching movie stardom!

 

Perhaps the biggest surprise to the whole hype of ?The Moon Is Blue? was McNamara receiving an Academy Award nomination for ?Best Actress!? This was enormous news, due to McNamara having done just one film. It?s difficult to pinpoint just what gave McNamara leverage to received such a high honor. Some critics felt the Academy members had gone a little too far in nominating her. Yet, her performance was in so many ways first rate for a first time screen performer. Once again, Preminger harped on the fuss about McNamara becoming the next big movie star of the year. However, out of nowhere came another girl who caught the public?s fancy. This new face overshadowed McNamara that year of 1953, finally ending with this new face winning the ?Oscar? by the name of Audrey Hepburn. Although McNamara lost out, she signed a good contract with 20th Century-Fox to star in major productions. The first was the now legendary CinemaScope travelogue romantic tale of ?Three Coins in The Fountain.? Most of the film was shot overseas, on location in Rome. McNamara?s recent big publicity certainly helped her and the movie became a huge popular box-office success. Unlike most starlets, McNamara didn?t take quick advantage of the hype that suddenly surrounded her. She waited a whole year to appear in her next film for 20th Century-Fox, ?Prince of Players? in 1955. This biographical drama about the legendary ?Booth? stage acting family of the 19th Century was on all counts well received. But, McNamara didn?t seem to be a part of the film?s success. While some will say her performance was good, something behind the scenes went wrong, because only after two films, this turned out to be her last film in Hollywood! She simply disappeared from sight. Rumor has it that she simply dwelled in a few business ventures and then she married film director David Swift. Not much was ever known about their relationship, even though Swift had a highly visible directing career at various studios. McNamara stayed out of the spotlight, hardly ever being seen in public. At the end of the 1950 decade, she was all but forgotten, except for one situation that is rather amusing and part of Hollywood folklore. In 1959, producer/director George Stevens released the dramatic film, ?The Diary of Anne Frank.? In the film was a young new starlet, Millie Perkins, who bore a striking resemblance to McNamara. In fact, Perkins had once been a model and was discovered by director Stevens. All of this equated with what had happened with McNamara. But, there was for some strange reason confusion amid some in the general public thinking Perkins and McNamara were one in the same! People asked, ?What had happened to her? . . . Where had the girl from ?The Moon Is Blue? gone to? It was a situation that really didn?t last long, but created a bit of a silly stir.

 

McNamara would later show up in a few television shows during the 1960s. After her divorce from director David Swift, she left Hollywood and headed back to New York. She appeared in several plays on Broadway, but nothing that could regain her past fame. Then, in 1963 came a surprise, when McNamara appeared in a small role for director Otto Preminger, in the dramatic epic ?The Cardinal.? Rumor had it that she was sinking into hard-times and her only getting the role was Preminger extending a humble hand to help her for reasons of their successful previous teaming. There has always been the speculation that MaNamara's role in "The Cardinal" may have been originally more extensive and then ended up getting cut. This issue of her last major film appearance being so insignificant led to the first rumors referring to her suffering from emotional stress. Therefore, her return to motion pictures couldn't be seen as anything remotely satisfying. The last the time she would be seen in any performing capacity would be in one last television program around the end of 1964. With little hope of ever getting anything back of her previous celebrity prominence, she tried her hand at becoming a writer. This venture appeared for the most part to not get anywhere and she was by that time during the late 1960s, working as a secretary. Most of the time, people in the offices where she worked, had no idea who she had once been. There were times when even the mention of her name sparked no interest or remembrance to who she had once been. When she died in 1978 of a presumed overdose of sleeping pills, her death didn?t make the newswires until a month later! Reports from relatives said that she had been working on a movie script and that it was being considered by a small production company. This issue has created a controversy on whether or not she was so depressed at the time to commit what some say was a suicide.

 

What many film buffs will remember about McNamara will probably be her beautiful charm and spirited sweet image on screen. The three films she made during the 1950s were all good ones and they have remained in the forefront of movie history. I can?t really say that she was such a tragic figure, in that we know so little about her. Perhaps there was a time that being a celebrity and the pressures it brings wasn?t worth it to her. While some fans will want to know whatever happened to her, it?s now best to just let her go and not be so nosy and enter the realm of gossip that she doesn?t deserve. She will remain a mystery that has its usual intrigue to what there is about the movies and what happens to some who come under its spotlight.

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> {quote:title=MovieProfessor wrote:}{quote}

> What many film buffs will remember about McNamara will probably be her beautiful charm and spirited sweet image on screen. The three films she made during the 1950s were all good ones and they have remained in the forefront of movie history. I cant really say that she was such a tragic figure, in that we know so little about her. Perhaps there was a time that being a celebrity and the pressures it brings wasnt worth it to her. While some fans will want to know whatever happened to her, its now best to just let her go and not be so nosy and enter the realm of gossip that she doesnt deserve. She will remain a mystery that has its usual intrigue to what there is about the movies and what happens to some who come under its spotlight.

 

MovieProfessor,

Thank you for the background information regarding Maggie McNamara. I really knew next to nothing before I watched The Moon Is Blue, and it's pretty amazing that she would get this big part opposite William Holden and David Niven, I guess, until you consider that she was in the original stage production - and I'm sure she must have been a delight to watch live. I will try and keep an eye out for the few other movies that she made, because it's a real tragedy that she didn't go on to have a long and distinguished career in Hollywood.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is a cute little movie. As you say, it's clearly theatre on film. No fancy camera work or creative narrative. But it's light and intriguing, with audience friendly faces. Ms. McNamara delivers a superb performance full of spark and energy. She carries the movie with some of the best comedic acting I've seen. When the subject of one hit wonders comes up, Maggie McNamara is the name that first comes to my mind.

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Holly, those of you who get Fox Movie Channel might sometime be able to catch THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN, which was a big hit in its day. Although Clifton Webb, Dorothy McGuire, Rossano Brazzi, Jean Peters, and Louis Jourdan also star in the film, Maggie McNamara probably makes the strongest impression. It's a very likeable film.

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