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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

On the Other Side

The Grass Is Greener (1960) on IMDb

Plot Overview

“The Grass” starts out with Noel Coward's rousing song, “The Stately Homes of England,” although homes may be a misnomer for the Earl & Countess of Rhyall who consider theirs but a house on account of the daily paid tours traipsing through it. American millionaire Charles Delacro (Robert Mitchum) loses him­self on the tour to wind up in the intimate company of Lady Hilary Rhyall (Deborah Kerr). They set up a London rendezvous. That gives Hilary's friend, and Lord Victor Rhyall's (Cary Grant) old flame, Hattie Durant (Jean Simmons) an excuse to come visit Victor. When the former pair returns, they all have them­selves a square love triangle that starts off with a spirited game of SCRABBLE™ and ends up in a duel between the two men, with the butler Trevor Sellers (Moray Watson) serving as second to both. I fear the math isn't coming out right, but as m'lord hopes, “The happy ending justifies the means.


Noel Coward's song, “The Stately Homes” is heard over both beginning and end credits that feature inserts of babies on a lawn, shown to be the cast and crew in their days of infancy. For example, as the pair of camera crew's names is shown, two babies are seen trying to work a camera; the "editor" is a baby trawling through a film strip, and so forth. If the grass is a blank slate, and the film para­pher­nalia the toys the tots are given to amuse them­slves with, then their grownup names in the credits illustrate, (Prov. 22:6) “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Then comes a panorama of a stately mansion, panning to a drive­way scene where the two young heirs—a boy and a girl—are being sent off to a relative for a few days, with the assurance that, “on Tuesday Aunt Rose has organized a treasure hunt and ponies.” The boy asks his mummy to tell Rose, “I needn't eat milk puddings.” The implication here is the house represents the big shoes the eventual heirs will fill, and their preferences being catered to (“in the way he should go”) are going to stay with them through adult­hood.

The butler brings m'lord the vicar's “lessons for Sunday, Deuteronomy and Matthew,” and he assures him, “They're both quite short,” thus establishing a pastoral (i.e. from the vicar) function of said passages. Indeed, during a tour a lad is seen stepping into the roped-off area and proceeding to a door marked private where he is stopped. Shortly after­wards millionaire Charles Delacro actually penetrates this door, as “helping your­self” is “some­thing you're quite used to,” and after the lord sees him off, he reads to the lady from—albeit “the wrong chapter”— (Exodus 20:17) “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife,” being a companion to the vicar's (Deut. 5:21) “Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house.” The little boy had coveted his neighbor's house, the big boy his neighbor's wife. It's a good message from the vicar, though in the companion book.

The butler Sellers is at his wit's end to be useful as he's mostly just a show­piece for the tourists to gaze at. Turns out he'd been a teacher, with a science major, before being hired on as a butler. His ambition was to be a writer, but he's too well adjusted for it (“I'm funda­men­tally happy and contented”), no angst to drive him (“I have no feeling of insecurity or frustration. No despair.”) The lady and lord are planning to “get Sellers to give the children their lessons.” Sellers grew up too well adjusted for being a writer, but his teaching back­ground will suit him perfectly to teach a nobleman's family. Thus, “when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

That means he will displace dour-faced Miss Matthews the governess, but we gather from chance remarks she will be no great loss. My take is that Miss Matthews represents a pastoral interpretation of the above Proverb that is presented to us here as a fact of life rather than from a vicar's perspective, than from the more recently para­phrased Living Bible, “Teach a child to choose the right path.” I shall quote the note from pastor Criswell's Study Bible:

22:6 Traditionally, this verse has been interpreted as a promise to parents who conscientiously rear their children in the Lord that spiritual nurture ultimately would assure their children of godly lives.

Miss Matthews might be more insistent on what's “right” by her own lights, while according to Criswell, “The phrase ‘in the way he should go‘ is more literally trans­lated ‘according to his way’.” There is nothing inherently wrong in “his way”: riding ponies or searching for treasure or passing on the milk puddings, and such preferences seem to be what the proverb was more literally addressing.

Later in this movie m'lord quips to Sellers concerning the duel's outcome, that “the race is to the swift and the battle to the strong,” this being a take­off on (Eccl. 9:11) “that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” Ecclesiastes being a companion book to Proverbs, the message here would seem to be that parents can do every­thing humanly possible to spiritually nurture their children, and they can still grow up off track.

Sellers has tactfully pointed out that m'lord is “not modern.” There's a perceived double entendre when m'lord asks the inter­loper tourist for a copy of the picture he took of the lord's wife “if it comes out,” and she replies that he's “still living in the world of the Brownie.” These days they all come out. Like­wise in the old days there had to be grounds for divorce, these days there's always grounds. That brings us to the other book of lessons for Sunday, (Matt. 5:32)

I say unto you, That who­so­ever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whoso­ever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

M'lord is old fashioned enough to be of the same mind when he says, “I don't like divorce. I don't think adultery sufficient grounds for it.” He says that just because his wife breaks her vows, doesn't mean he should break his. He should rather befriend her, try to win her back over, “unless she's a promiscuous trollop,” and then there's nothing to be done.

Lady Hilary grew up in a family with three brothers who bullied and teased her, etc. She adored them. So when an intrusive millionaire makes inappropriate advances, well, she's primed to give in to the bad boy. Especially as she was also accustomed to reading romantic poetry and tabloids. She quotes Henley:

All life's at the bud,
And my heart full of April
Is breaking my breast.

When Victor became a bad boy himself—but in a romantic way—challenging his opponent to a duel, I think that was very canny on his part. The earl and the Butler are shown to use the same Bible, “the one you're using is mine, Mylord.Prof. George P. Marsh in an 1859 (pub. 1861) lecture on the English Bible, stated, concerning this same King James Version (KJV),

The dialect of the English Bible is also the dialect of devotion and of religious instruction wherever the English language is spoken, and all denomina­tions sub­stan­tially agree in their sacred phrase­ology, with what­ever difference in inter­pre­tation. There are always possi­bilities of reconcil­iation, sym­pathies even, be­tween men who, in matters of high concern­ment, habitually use the same words, and appeal to the same formulas; whereas a difference of language and of symbols creates an almost impassable gulf between man and man.

The difference in slant on raising children can more amicably be discussed by parties using the same Bibles with the same words rather than with one of them using a modern version (para­phrase) more sympathetic to his position.

Production Values

The movie “The Grass Is Greener” (1960) follows a somewhat similar story line as the 1945 American film “Brief Encounter” in which a relatively upper class gent is willing to do his cross­words and wait for his wife to come to her senses after she inadvertently fell for a man she'd known but briefly. In this 1960 film, though, the husband makes a bold move. The director here is Stanley Donen. The screenplay was written by Hugh Williams and Margaret Vyner (as Margaret Williams) who together also wrote the original play. It stars Cary Grant, Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr and Jean Simmons, each doing a fabulous job. All four showed them­selves, as always, very talented, extremely likable, and hysterically funny. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr had previously worked together in the movies “Dream Wife” (1953) and An Affair to Remember (1957).

I'd say this one (of pre-rating vintage) is viewable by general audiences as the double entendres and implied sex are probably over the heads of young ones, even in these modern times of widespread exposure. It has the closed feel of a play—being based on one—but still remained interesting. Music is by Noel Coward and the cinema­tog­rapher is Christopher Challis. The comedy of Moray Watson the butler and Challis's photog­raphy inside the house are appreciated high­lights. The very intelligent screenplay is loaded with innuendo.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

I rather enjoyed this picture and thought it a treat. I wish they still made them this way, with subtlety and food for thought. If you're into fine acting and like movies derived from plays, you may enjoy it, too.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes Suitability for children: Suitable for children of all ages. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Unless otherwise noted, scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, Print.

The Criswell Study Bible. Authorized King James Version. Nashville | Camden: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1979. Print.

The Living Bible. Previously published under the title Living Psalms and Proverbs, 1967. Copy­right © 1971 by Tyne­dale House Publishes. Print.

Marsh, George P. “Revision inexpedient at the present time.”
       Lectures on the English Language. London: John Murray, 1863. Print.
       ——available to read or download at www.bibles.n7nz.org.