11 April 2013 | professorharoldlloydhill
The film would have been stronger had they paired Frank with someone whose singing style wasn't as vastly different.
The Kissing Bandit was an attempt by MGM to build up Frank Sinatra as a leading man. This is a lively, bright, and goofy comedy musical. Sinatra plays Ricardo, a California born, Boston-bred young man who returns to California to take over the family business, not knowing that his father was the infamous Kissing Bandit. So named because he kissed all the women after he was done with his thievery. Ricardo is the last possible candidate to take up his father's mask. He is a proper and uncoordinated, and in his funny entrance he literally crashes through the inn that his father owned, having fallen off of his horse. J. Carroll Naish plays the comic relief on the male side as Chico, who was Ricardo's father's right hand man. Frank Sinatra is fine, but stiff at times in his role.
Sinatra's leading lady is operatic coloratura singer Kathryn Grayson, and this is a strange pairing. When they are doing songs by themselves, both actors shine, but their lone duet in the film (and thank goodness there is only one!) just doesn't work. Sinatra's smooth, jazz crooning is an odd, almost jarring pairing with Grayson's operatic arias. The film would have been stronger had they paired Frank with someone whose singing style wasn't as vastly different. The songs in the film are all good and memorable, including the Grayson solo "Tomorrow Means Romance", the Sinatra solo "Siesta", and my favorite song in the film "What's Wrong With Me?", which both Grayson and Sinatra sing. The songs were written by Nacio Herb Brown and Earl K. Brent. Brown had been paired frequently with Arthur Freed in the '20's and '30's and their songs were later used as the basis for possibly the best known movie musical of all time, Singin' in the Rain. "What's Wrong With Me", in fact, was used in the stage version of Singin'.
In addition to Naish, the film has a fine supporting cast of character actors, including Mildred Natwick as Grayson's man hungry aunt, and Clinton Sundberg as the bumbling Colonel Gomez, who keeps getting demoted. The plot line is thin and pure silliness, and Sinatra and Grayson have a flimsy chemistry, but it is held up by several strong musical performances and two cool dance sequences, one that includes Ricardo Montalban, Cyd Charisse, and Ann Miller. The comedy is not lacking though, and I had a smile on my face throughout. Overall, The Kissing Bandit, provides a fun time-filler for a late night or rainy day.