Breening Thursday: 20. “Mad About Men” from 1954

BREENED

Today is Thursday, and it is time for our twentieth Breening Thursday article. After skipping last week because of busyness with other endeavors, I am back this week to self-regulate another movie. Today’s topic is Mad About Men from 1954. This movie is a British film. As such, it is the third foreign film which we have breened so far. This film is the sequel to the first British film I ever breened, Miranda from 1948, which we published as Breening Thursday #15. Breening this movie and its predecessor gives us a good opportunity to study British cinema and how it is different from American filmmaking.

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Miranda is the story of a very human mermaid who captures a handsome, married doctor and refuses to release him until he agrees to take her on land. In Mad About Men, we see the further adventures of Miranda, the lovesick mermaid. This movie introduces us to a new character played by Glynis Johns, Caroline Trewella, Miranda’s human cousin and lookalike. Caroline is a school teacher who is engaged to a very stuffy man, Ronald, whom she doesn’t seem to love. She goes to Cornwall to sell her family’s seaside cottage. However, while there, she meets her aquatic relative. She agrees to secretly go on a bicycling tour for a few weeks so that Miranda can take her place, claiming to be an invalid because of a gymnastic incident. In the real Caroline’s absence, Miranda earns the schoolteacher several beaux and a reputation of being anything but prudish.

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When the film opens, the first thing we see is Caroline Trewella in a swimming contest. The neckline of her black bathing suit is rather low. Her swimsuit must be decently high in the front.

When Caroline goes to her family’s ancestral home in Cornwall, she remarks that the only thing she remembers from her childhood visit is the painting of a mermaid, the one who supposedly lured her ancestor, Matthew Trewella, to the sea. The mermaid in the painting is topless, and her tail comes up much too low on her hips. She should be wearing a top of some sort, and her tail should come up as high as those of the real mermaids in the film.

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Later, the sign of the local pub is shown. It too depicts a scantily-clad blonde mermaid who bears an uncanny resemblance to Glynis Johns. This mermaid is also topless with a low-cut tail, but her indecency is worse, since it is a frontal image. She should be altered like the mermaid in the painting.

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Soon, we see mermaid indecency in the flesh. As in the original, Miranda is basically topless. In this film, we see her swimming from a closer angle; the fact that this movie is in color adds to the plainness of her near-nudity. To prevent the siren from being completely nude on top, she was given a very scanty covering for each side of her chest. However, she still appears to be almost completely naked. She should be wearing a decent top, as she should have been in Miranda. In this film, another mermaid is introduced, Miranda’s silly friend Berengaria. This redheaded is an excellent example of a properly-attired mermaid. She wears a shell-top which fully covers her chest. Miranda and the mermaids in the two illustrations should be similarly attired.

Miranda convinces her human cousin and lookalike, Caroline, to allow her to take her place on land for two weeks. During that time, Caroline will go on a bicycling and camping tour with a friend of hers. Miranda comments on this situation, saying, “Camping with a girl. What a waste of a tent!” This line is extremely suggestive. It must be deleted.

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Miranda quickly proceeds to improve Caroline’s life for her in her absence. She knows that Caroline is engaged, so she wants to see a picture of her fiancé. Nurse Carey, her usual partner in crime and devoted friend, points out a photograph of the fiancé, Ronald. Commenting on the photograph, the nurse says, “Hardly bursting with sex appeal.” “None at all!” Miranda replies in reference to the stuffy, bespectacled subject of the picture. The italicized phrase it a forbidden expression, since it is an overly suggestive and pointed phrase. It should be replaced with something like charmallure, or savoir faire.

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Miranda decides to buy some clothes for herself, so she rifles through her treasure chest in search of items to sell. She is stretched across a bed on her stomach, looking at a box with Nurse Carey. The angle makes it unclear whether or not she is wearing a top. It should be apparent that she is dressed in this scene.

Miranda’s misunderstanding of phraseology leads to many comical and often risque exchanges. After church, she and Nurse Carey meet a local gentleman, Colonel Barclay Sutton, and his fiancée, Barbara Davenport. Barbara comments that she knows the principal at the school where she (Caroline) teaches. She asks if Miss Trewella knows him. “Yes,” Miranda replies. “I’m his favorite mistress.” Obviously, she means school mistress, but Barbara reacts at the double-meaning. The italicized word must be changed to teacher, but perhaps the whole line should be removed, since it is fairly pointless without the innuendo.

There is a rather strange situation with Col. Barclay and Miss Davenport. It is stated immediately that they are engaged and that they are cousins. However, it soon becomes apparent that they live at the same house, or rather, mansion. Perhaps no sinful implication was intended. Since they are of the same family, they both might innocently live at the ancestral estate but not together. However, it is not stated. Since it would be awkward to clarify that they live in separate houses on the estate, Barbara should live in another house.

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Miranda soon begins pursuing another conquest, Jeff Saunders, a handsome and wealthy young man who passes his days in fishing and who was interested in Caroline the first time he saw her. Now, being secretly portrayed by the mermaid, the stoic schoolteacher is much more responsive. She is soon in his arms on the beach. With no subtlety or lead-up, she announces, “I love your legs.” I know that she has a fixation with legs because of her lack of lower limbs. However, this line is pointedly flirtatious and rather suggestive. Instead, she could say, “You’re so beautiful.”

In this scene, Miranda wears a dress which is off her shoulders. It reveals too much of her upper-body. The straps should be on her shoulders, and the neckline should be higher.

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Later in that scene, she kisses Jeff. This kiss, like all the kisses in this film, is excessive, lustful, prolonged, and appears to be slightly open-mouthed. It is clear from this movie’s kissing alone that it is not an American film. I believe that Code kissing is more romantic, since it looks less base and animalistic. It is more loving, gentle, and romantic. This kiss should be more restrained, shorter, close-mouthed, and generally more like an American kiss.

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Soon, Miranda has a date to dine with Barclay and Barbara. In preparation, she dons a white evening dress which is off the shoulders and rather low-cut. The neckline should be raised, and the straps should be on her shoulders.

When Barclay comes to fetch her, she says, “You smell delicious.” For a woman to say this to a man is overly-pointed and rather distasteful. Instead, she could say something like, “You look marvelous.”

Miranda comments that she thought he would send the chauffeur to pick her up (literally) and bring her to dinner. Barclay, who obviously wanted to carry her himself, says, “We can’t have every Tom, Dick, and Harry man-handling you, can we?” “Not all at the time,” she suggestively replies. This line is too risque. Miranda’s line must be cut, but Barclay’s can remain as a statement if the end question is eliminated.

At dinner, Miranda uses her tail to tickle Barclay’s ankle. This is a piscatorial variation of “playing footsies,” and it is very suggestive. It should be removed.

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When making conversation, Barbara asks Miranda, “What do you play?” I believe she is referring to Caroline’s position as physical education teacher. “Games,” Miranda replies. “Fun and games?” Barbara cattily remarks. The use of games in this exchange is suggestive. The interaction should be removed.

Later at dinner, they discuss swimming. Miranda states that she is a good swimmer, and Barclay says that Barbara is also very good in the sea. Miranda quips, “I’m not particularly good in the sea.” Her line is suggestive and should be removed.

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Since Miranda is a mermaid, she can’t eat the food served at dinner. Thus, she slips her meal into a sponge bag. As she is about to be carried out of the room by Barclay, the butler returns the bag to her. “My toothbrush,” Miranda explains, saying that she never goes anywhere without it. She says that the practice is taken from her great-great-grandfather. She quotes him as always having said, “Where I dines, I sleeps.” The line itself is quite suggestive. When combined with the fact that she is in Barclay’s arms and the way she looks at him, it is unacceptable. The anecdote about her ancestor must be removed.

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When Barclay brings Miranda back to her house, she says, “Now, where shall you kiss me?” The kiss which ensues is highly unacceptable and similar in nature to the earlier kiss with Jeff. Kissing in this film is overly passionate and aggressive. The kiss should be reformed as described before.

The next day, Miranda goes fishing with Jeff. On this fishing expedition, she wears a low-cut, off-the-shoulders red blouse. She appears to be falling out of it. The blouse should be higher, on the shoulders, and tighter at the neckline.

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In the small rowboat, she and Jeff kiss very passionately. This kiss has all the problems of the previous ones but to a greater extent. In addition, she appears to be lying down in the boat, and he is leaning aggressively over her. The kiss must be restrained as described before, and they should be clearly sitting. If they have their arms around each other, it cannot be lustful.

Later, Miranda wears a teal dress with an indecently low neckline. It must be raised to a decent level.

When he hears that Miranda’s engagement has been broken, Barclay rides over on horseback to see her. Eventually, he proposes to her. The scene culminates in another unacceptable kiss. This kiss should be changed like the others.

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Next, Jeff pays a visit to the landlocked mermaid and proposes marriage to her. In this scene, Miranda is wearing a very beautiful green and yellow dress. Unfortunately, it too has an unacceptably low neckline, which must be raised.

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This scene also culminates in unacceptable labial activity. This kiss looks particularly aggressive and violent because Jeff leads up to it by putting his hand around the front of Miranda’s neck while leaning over her. I suppose he wanted to turn her face upward, and I am sure he meant it as an affectionate gesture. However, it looks like he is trying to strangle her. He could put his hand gently on her face. Showing a man with his hand around a woman’s throat as a sign of love could encourage domestic violence.

Barbara hears rumors about strange things which have been seen in the cave below the Trewella house, so she decides to swim over and see for herself. On this expedition, she is wearing a white bathing suit. Although this is the 1950s, her bathing suit is surprisingly similar to modern styles for one-piece swimwear. It seems that British bathing suits of this time were less decent than American ones. Barbara’s bathing suit cuts too high on the bottom. More surprisingly, the front of the bathing suit has several open vertical panels. This is very risqué. The swimsuit should have a sufficiently-covering bottom, and its front must be solid, opaque, and high enough.

Later that day, Jeff goes to visit Miranda. In this scene, she is wearing a yellow dress with yet another indecently-low neckline. This neckline must be raised like the others.

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In this scene, Jeff and Miranda kiss again. As all necklines are unacceptable, all kisses are unacceptable. This kiss must be changed like the others.

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Barbara invites Miranda to perform at her charity concert. Little does the mermaid know that her admirer’s jealous fiancée has discovered her piscatorial appendage. The concert is a trap designed to ensnare her. At this concert, Miranda wears a lovely coral dress with a rippling skirt that looks very much like a mermaid’s tail. However, the neckline is too low and must be raised.

Before Caroline, or rather Miranda, goes on, a women’s chorus performs. The mediocre middle-aged singers are very comical as they cheerfully render a traditional song. The chorus leader is very aggressive in her direction of the group’s efforts. She brings soloists forward, conducts, and scolds one of the singers for waving at someone in the audience. However, her dress is rather surprising. It is brown, but there are patches of skin-colored mesh. Upon closer inspection, they are lined, but the initial appearance is that her torso is revealed. This would be indecent on any woman, but it is especially inappropriate on a woman of her age and stoutness. Her dress should be solid and opaque.

When Caroline reads about her relative’s upcoming performance under her name, she hurries back to Cornwall. She arrives at the auditorium just in time, since Miranda and Nurse Carey have just discovered that Miranda is trapped. She and Caroline trade places. The mermaid is able to escape into the sea as Caroline reassumes her own identity. However, the two admirers Miranda gained for her are unaware of any change. Barclay shocks Caroline by kissing her rather aggressively. The fact that the lady is now the more refined human does not improve the kiss, which is just as unacceptable as past ones. It must be changed like the others.

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Later in that same scene, Jeff comes over and kisses Caroline. This kiss is also as unacceptable as its predecessors. It too must be changed.

Later in that scene, one of the men kisses Caroline’s shoulder. This action seems quite suggestive. If he is going to kiss her somewhere besides on her lips, he should kiss her cheek.

Barbara tries to reveal that Caroline is really a mermaid, but she is humiliated when Caroline pulls back her skirt to reveal her legs. She starts dancing the rumba as the audience erupts in laughter. One of the men in the audience comments, “A regular red hot mammal.” This line is unacceptable, since the use of hot as a describer of a woman is forbidden. Instead, he could say something like, “There’s nothing fishy about her.”

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The last scene is in Jeff’s boat. Caroline and Jeff are sailing. As Miranda encourages her from the water, Caroline passionately kisses Jeff. Although the emotion is acceptable, the kiss itself is just too lustful. It too must be changed.

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That concludes my breening! Like Miranda, this movie is very enjoyable at times. However, both are very risqué. A lot of the risqueity is centered around Miranda herself, the very human mermaid who has no morals. I think that this movie would be just as amusing if these changes were made, and then there would be no offensive elements. After all, a good movie doesn’t need cheap humor to be entertaining!

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