The Kissing Bandit (1948) - Frank Sinatra and Kathryn Grayson

The world's goofiest bandit makes time with a young lady in The Kissing Bandit (1948).

Ricardo (Frank Sinatra) returns home from training in hotel management to discover that his late father was not an inn keeper but a famous bandit who kisses every woman he meets. His father's second in command, Chico (J. Carrol Naish), convinces the son to join the family business despite Ricardo's lack of training in criminal activities.

On his first crime spree, Ricardo robs the coach of Teresa (Kathryn Grayson)  - a desperate ingenue who has just graduated from a girls' school and can't get kissed fast enough. She puckers prettily, waiting for the inevitable, but Ricardo is something of a gentleman and abstains. The rest of the film sees the two of them awkwardly taking strides towards one another.

Watch for the always-hilarious Mildred Natwick as Teresa's Aunt Isabella who eagerly steps outside the coach, willing to take the kiss to spare her niece. Ah, the sacrifices!

The Nacio Herb Brown songs are light and beautiful (Yours truly is particularly fond of the appropriately lethargic "Siesta.") and are winningly performed by two of MGM's top singing stars.

There is a funny song ("I Like You") where a woman (Sono Osato) tries to seduce Ricardo.
However, she only succeeds in frightening the man with her ability to crack whips and snuff out candles with her bare hands.

Despite the fun songs, this film is famous as a flop. Legend has it that the producers apparently knew this film was lacking, so they rushed a last-minute performance into the works. There is a well-known, 5-minute cameo by superstars Ricardo Montalban, Cyd Charisse and Ann Miller who perform "The Dance of Fury" out of nowhere.

It didn't save the film from losing money, but it's an exciting little dance where two women dressed nearly identically (Sisters?) fight over one man. There is a progression from pure elation, to frustration, to manipulation, to a final calm. Brilliant story-telling in dance. You'll probably remember excerpts of it from That's Entertainment III (1994).

This film has a jovial, lightweight plot, yet almost all of the posters for The Kissing Bandit have a sober tone to them.  Under Sinatra's and Grayson's earnest faces are taglines like, "The Boldest Story Ever Told in Music and Technicolor."  You would think this is the torrid love affair of Untamed (1955). Maybe that's why the film didn't make the money they expected - false advertisement.

 Although the plot in The Kissing Bandit is just there to keep you occupied between songs and dances, it's still an entertaining musical comedy. Recommended.


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