Before watching the movie:
This popped up on my radar as an automatic recommendation related to my interest in other movies of about the same era, which were in turn probably automatic recommendations based on other films. At this point, I have no idea what the original search was, but isn’t that what algorithmic recommendations are for?
So, as the poster says, this is the story of a bombshell who gets kidnapped for ransom and squabbles with her kidnapper until they fall in love. The synopsis I originally saw focused on her arguing the ransom amount was far too low, which is at least by now an old joke. So this sounds like a fairly stock screwball comedy, but it looks like it’s been cast with people who can pull it off well.
After watching the movie:
On the eve of the premiere of sex icon Laurel Stevens’ latest picture, Kidnapped Bride, about a kidnapped woman falling in love with her kidnapper, Laurel is in fact kidnapped for ransom from the studio. Mike is looking to make a lot of money because he’s having trouble getting back on his feet after being wrongly imprisoned, and Dandy is his friend supporting him. Neither of them want to call themselves kidnappers, just nice guys trying to get rich quick. But they spend a lot longer together than expected, since the plan was to make the ransom request after the story hit the papers, and Laurel’s agent and producer have decided not to go to the police in order to quell gossip. Eventually Laurel realizes that if word got out it would look like the most tasteless publicity stunt for her new film, and starts not only cooperating, but stage-managing her own abduction, while getting close to these two men who really don’t want to be kidnappers.
The titular nightgown is barely in the movie, not nearly as titillating as the poster implies, and not even visibly pink because the movie is in black and white. On the first night, Mike and Dandy offer her a nightgown to wear to keep the dress she was kidnapped in nice, and the next day she changes into something else, because they apparently have a full wardrobe of women’s clothes in her size. So not even does the poster misrepresent, as is fairly common, but the title misrepresents the story.
The parts I enjoyed most were the scenes where either Mike is out-thinking Laurel, letting her know without even looking that they’ve planned for what she’s trying at that moment (including putting a lock on the telephone, which I’d never heard of before, and I’m not really sure if I can look it up due to the way smartphones “lock”), or Laurel handling the strategy of her own ransoming. However, neither are in the movie as much as I expected. The icy relationship between the parties thaw quickly, and they spend most of the story as three vaguely chummy people stuck in a rough situation together, with a love triangle dispelled almost as soon as it begins to develop.
I don’t think I could ask for more from any of the actors, who are all working pretty well with a script that could use some tweaking and punching up. It’s not firing on all cylinders in any mode it’s using, which is why it’s not often remembered. But Russell and Wynn are entertaining, Ralph Meeker holds his own in a straight man/romantic lead role, and Fred Clark is delightful to watch even outside of the tensely cordial dynamic between Mike and Clark’s police sergeant who mistakenly sent him to jail.
As kidnapping comedies go, this is a bit dull. Aside from the sex appeal that’s squeaky clean by today’s standards, something like No Deposit, No Return is a much more fun “reluctant kidnappers” story. I just want this to be more… anything than it is.