Indiscreet (1958)

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Indiscreet (1958) is a delightful look at the ups and downs of a dream romance built partly on a lie. Ingrid Bergman plays Anna, an actress who’s made an unexpected return home from vacation. She’s bored with dull men, sick of everyone’s smothering and tired of her sister’s attempts to set her up with eligible bachelors. The night she returns she meets a soon-to-be NATO official Philip (Cary Grant) and falls in love at first sight. He tells her he’s married and they nearly part, but the chemistry is too strong and they begin an affair. The relationship is like a fairy tale of elegant dates, high fashion, expensive gifts and true love. 

It’s lovely to watch how these wonderful actors communicate so much and keep it real even when acting hammy (Grant’s dancing at the ball). Exploratory chit chat and careful glances turn into long stares that speak volumes. Bergman is especially great, mixing the awkwardness of a woman who suddenly feels like a smitten schoolgirl, with signs of a guilty conscience and instincts to pull back and deny her feelings when she gets too close too quickly. After her vow to never attend another diplomatic banquet with droning speakers, she happily attends to hear Philip and enjoys every word of his incomprehensible “hard currency” speech. She slathers cold cream on her face for a night in, then happily wipes it off as she talks to Philip and gets interested. She removes it right in front of him in the most relaxed way, while he watches, and neither one turns away in embarrassment. It tells us we’re about to watch adults in a sophisticated relationship. Anna’s apartment key is one marker of their progress; first Philip makes a mental note about the urn where it’s kept, later shows hesitation and then ease using it. One clever scene has autograph seekers interrupting the couple’s unseen but clearly intimate moment by the Thames at night. Bergman is polite but shaken, drops the autograph book and pretends to continue a light conversation about Philip’s left-handed violin. Then there’s a split screen phone call with each in their own bed but seeming to touch or nudge each other and hold hands (a year before the one in Pillow Talk).

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But warning signs are present. Anna’s servant Carl (David Kossoff) predicts nothing good will come of being a mistress. Anna starts noticing that Philip phones a few seconds later every evening. She questions his motive for spending so much money; is it to please her or is it his conscience? At the prospect of a long separation she asks him to get a divorce and marry her, and then she’s shocked and ashamed at her desperation and inability to “play by the rules.”

That’s when the romance pivots and we learn Philip’s not even married. He pretends to be, because he’s not the marrying kind. He’d much rather lie about a fake wife and keep Anna feeling like a mistress than face the discomfort of obligations and marriage proposals. Suddenly Philip seems more shallow than charming. He’s taken the emotionally easy way while Anna believes in an impossible romance and makes compromises. Furious and disgusted at being lied to and made to feel guilt and shame, Anna the actress plays him like a left-handed violin and dreams up scenarios to make him jealous and teach him a lesson. The hurt feelings and games, the bickering and ironing out before the inevitable happy ending, still makes for sparkling entertainment thanks to Grant and Bergman.  

Indiscreet was directed by Stanley Donen from a Norman Krasna screenplay adaptation of his play, Kind Sir. It also stars Cecil Parker and Megs Jenkins, features gorgeous Technicolor photography by Frederick Young and is part of the The Wonderful Ingrid Bergman Blogathon hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema.

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19 thoughts on “Indiscreet (1958)”

  1. I have only ever seen the middle of this film, for some unknown reason, and I actually gasped – out loud – when I read that Grant’s character was not married! Did NOT see that coming. Now I have to watch it again, the whole thing this time.

    I agree re: wardrobe, jewels, sets in this film. They are so beautiful that sometimes I forget to pay attention to what’s going on.

    1. spoiler! haha. I keep thinking how fluffy, and maybe dull, this would all be without the caliber of acting that Bergman and Grant bring to it, it really depends on their talent and charm. The beautiful clothes are a huge bonus. Thanks!

  2. Such a delightful movie! Great review, especially about the part with the cold cream. I particularly enjoyed Cecil Parker in it, with his slightly baffled Britishness and dry dialogue. One particular favorite line is when he tells his wife that they should be leaving so that they don’t run into Philip because otherwise “we’ll be embarrassed,” as if that’s the worst thing that could happen.

    1. Yes I also love his line about how he was “always” too old for this kind of thing. I love that it goes from sweet to silly and doesn’t feel overdone in either extreme. Thanks!

  3. Great review! I didn’t remember the film very well, so thanks for refreshing my memory! Of course I remembered the famous Cary Grant’s dance and let’s not forget Ingrid Bergman’s shooting “DAAAAMN!” Thanks for taking part of the blogathon 🙂

  4. I love this film. It was made in London and that ‘park in the dark’ you referred to was actually the London Embankment next to the Thames. The development of their romance is conveyed cleverly, as you describe, with the urn and the key scenes.
    It was great to have Grant and Bergman reunited for a last time.
    And that apartment Ingrid lived in was to die for!
    The film was from a play called Kind Sir.

    1. Excellent thanks, I’ll edit that, it was neat how the Rolls followed slowly too. Yes her flat was fabulous, they had all the different picture frames and upholstery. I read that Charles Boyer was in the play which must have been great. Thanks!

  5. Would love to have seen Charles Boyer and Mary Martin in the original play .
    I did see a stage version many years ago.
    But I wouldn’t like to see the 1988 remake of Indiscreet with Robert Wagner and Lesley-Anne Down. Probably they were fine but how can you get Bergman and Grant out of your head.
    I thought Cecil Parker and Phyllis Calvert played well too , though I never understood how Phyllis and Ingrid could be sisters !

    1. I haven’t seen the 88 one either but I would think you can’t recreate the magic of these stars and also of this era, where they still had to find clever workarounds to show the romance. That’s true about the sister casting 🙂

  6. It took me two viewings to completely fall in love with this film, probably because I was expecting a drama the first time around (the VHS tape I borrowed was so dang serious in its cover art and description!). It’s definitely a movie you just have to sit back and enjoy — let the amazing leads do their thing and just soak it in. When you do that, it’s so lovely.
    Great post!

    1. That’s true, there’s art out there that makes it look like a spy thriller.

      It’s nice to know, from the first moments you see these actors, that you’re in good hands and would pretty much follow them anywhere. Thanks!

    1. True, with lesser actors it would have been ridiculous. Certainly Cary’s lie wouldn’t go over as well if it wasn’t such a charmer trying to pull that!

  7. This was such a delightful movie, and contains one of my favorite sequences ever: Cary’s weird dance at the ball!
    This film also has a very cool story. Imagine a man lying about being married because he preferred a mistress to a wife? And what about Ingrid’s disppointment when she finds out he is single? Priceless!
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! 🙂
    Kisses!
    Le

    1. That was a fun scene, because the combo of him being so silly right when she’s mad at him, just sent her over the edge and annoyed her even more. Great acting, thanks and I will be catching up on your posts soon!

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