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Banned aboard ship by U.S. Navy, banned on Sundays by the City of Boston, The Moon Is Blue is a celluloid peek into present day American sexual mores. But only the most stodgy will find its lampooning of erotic fashions and follies other than civilized and urbane.
Maggie McNamara as a fetching and demure ingenue is picked up by man-of-the-world William Holden, who lures her into his apartment. Socialite David Niven enters to aid in the seduction. And though no more dissolute and jaded a rake could be found east of Fifth Avenue, Miss McNamara remains secure in her faith that feminine right will conquer masculine might. By the end of the film, the rake is reclaimed and virtue triumphant.
Miss McNamara is a Shavian adolescent transplanted to American and come of age. She is an excellent cook; "cleanliness next to Godliness," she says, and subscribes to Tennyson's three virtues of faith, hope and chastity. Added to these is a charming sophistication; she speaks knowingly of a "mother instinct," and has gone to school of Freud and D. H. Lawrence.
"Romance is for bobbysoxers," she declares, and wards off the amatory Holden by telling him "You're not passionate, you're just hungry." A moment later, she announces kissing to be fun and proceeds to enjoy it. And yet, whether her sophistication is educated naivete, or her childlike candor utter sophistication (one is never quite sure which), she is so fresh, pure and enchanting as to completely disarm Holden, Niven and her audience. Niven, the rake redeemed, tells her that every playboy has an innate respect for innocence. Miss McNamara is acutely conscious of the irony and humor of this transformation, and participates with gusto in the vindication of morality over vice.
Author F. Hugh Herbert's dialogue is light and sparking, his screenplay a wonderfully successful vehicle for his heroine's naivete. William Holden is easy going and competent while David Niven wisely plays with restraint a part that is rather overwritten. And though there are some stage waits toward the end and the direction falters slightly, Miss McNamara's winsomeness and Mr. Herbert's comic talent conspire to produce delightfully witty entertainment.
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