The Sandpiper

1965, Movie, NR, 115 mins

Review

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A hot-blooded woman meets a repressed and married Episcopalian minister. Take the premise, give it to Somerset Maugham, and you have RAIN. Give it to the wrong people, and you have this picture, which was named for the wrong bird. As dreary and dull and contrived as this was, it still managed to earn well over $7 million the first time around, a tribute to the drawing power of Taylor and Burton because it couldn't have had anything to do with the quality of their performances, the dismal script, or the tiresome direction. Taylor is a bohemian artist living with her out-of-wedlock son, Mason, in a fabulous house in Big Sur, one of the most spectacular areas along the California coastline. How she has managed to afford such a gorgeous home after it is established that she doesn't care a whit about money is not sufficiently explained. Taylor eschews the usual educational opportunities afforded to US citizens and wants to tutor her son in her own fashion, which causes a problem with the local school authorities. Mason is always in trouble because he is a wild, unfettered child who has no idea of morality other than what his immoral mother has taught him. When the judge, Thatcher, states that Mason must either go to school or be taken from her custody, Taylor relents and sends Mason to a private institution run by Episcopalian Burton, who is married to Saint and has twin sons. Mason astounds Burton and Saint with his facility in several subjects and eases his way into the school with no problems. Taylor resents the fact that she's had to give up educating Mason and is, at first, angry at Burton, but that turns into passionate love as everyone in the audience must have known it would. Taylor surrounds herself with hippie friends, including Bronson as a sculptor who does a nude statue of her, Webber, her one-time lover, and Edwards. Burton is wracked with guilt about the affair he's having with Taylor. He can't take it and confesses to Saint. Now he battles with the local politicians and lets everyone know what he's been up to, so Taylor gives him the air. Burton decides to leave both his wife and his mistress, quits his job, and goes off to renew his faith in his faith. Taylor got a million for her work, Burton $750,000, and audiences should have been paid part of the money for being asked to watch. The exteriors were done in California and took about eight weeks, then Taylor and Burton had to leave the US for tax reasons and shoot all of the interiors in Paris (where she insisted they shoot a Las Vegas-based film, THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN, so she could be near Burton while he was doing STAIRCASE). It was the first passionate pairing of the two since the scandal of their divorces from Eddie Fisher and Sybil Burton, and audiences clamored to see them hugging and fondling. Taylor had been off the screen for a couple of years while Burton was busily doing BECKETT, NIGHT OF THE IGUANA, and his version of HAMLET. THE SANDPIPER opened at Radio City and broke records, despite the brickbats hurled at the movie. Mason, the son of James and Pamela, does a good job as the child. He has since gone into political public relations. The best part of this movie was the Oscar-winning song "The Shadow of Your Smile" by Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster. There was some nice trumpet-playing by Jack Sheldon and solos by Howard Roberts, Bud Shank, and Vic Feldman. Otherwise, it must rank as one of the most expensive and pretentious loads of garbage ever foisted upon an adoring public. leave a comment

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