SANDPIPER, THE (director: Vincente Minnelli; screenwriters: story by Martin Ransohoff/Irene Kamp/Louis Kamp/Dalton Trumbo/Michael Wilson; cinematographer: Milton R. Krasner; editor: David Bretherton; music: Johnny Mandel; cast: Elizabeth Taylor (Laura Reynolds), Richard Burton (Dr. Edward Hewitt), Eva Marie Saint (Claire Hewitt), Charles Bronson (Cos Erickson), Robert Webber (Ward Hendricks), James Edwards (Larry Brant), Torin Thatcher (Judge Thompson), Tom Drake (Walter Robinson), Morgan Mason (Danny), Peter O'Toole (voice cameo, uncredited); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Martin Ransohoff; MGM; 1965)

"A superfluous, ponderous and pretentious sudser about a married minister having an affair with a single mom non-conformist artist."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

A superfluous, ponderous and pretentious sudser about a married minister having an affair with a single mom non-conformist artist. It's based on the story by Martin Ransohoff, who based it on W. Somerset Maugham's outdated "Miss Thompson." It's written by Irene and Louis Kamp, and former blacklisted screenwriters Dalton Trumbo and Michael Wilson. If there were any more writers, they could have played beach volleyball on their breaks. Vincente Minnelli ("Some Came Running"/"Gigi"/"Kismet") can't do much with this trite script but let it bomb. 

Beatnik artist Laura Reynolds (Elizabeth Taylor) lives in a shack on Big Sur with bastard home schooled nine-year-old son Danny (Morgan Mason, son of Pamela and James Mason). The loose-living, Chaucer educated, precocious kid comes into conflict with the law over killing a deer and as punishment Judge Thompson (Torin Thatcher) gives his atheist mom a choice: reform school or enroll him in San Simeon--an elite parochial school  run by the pompous Episcopal minister head master Dr. Edward Hewitt (Richard Burton), an expert in fund-raising who is guiltily questioning his own educational integrity. Before you can say Hewitt is married to the repressed Claire (Eva Marie Saint) and Laura's pal is the bohemian sculptor Cos Erickson (Charles Bronson) and Danny has no trouble adjusting to the fancy school, Hewitt, the father of two sons, and Laura, put aside their initial dislike for each other and begin a romance. Problem is Hewitt has guilt pangs and confesses the affair to his wife, who withdraws from him after learning the truth. When their affair becomes public knowledge, Laura resents being made the focal point of gossips and breaks off the relationship. Hewitt then informs the board of trustees of his sins and vows to find a way to again become a sincere pastor even if he loses this post.

The film stinks, but the location scenery is nice to look at.

Despite the bad reviews, people bought tickets to gawk at real-life lovers Liz and Dick and the pic turned a nice fourteen million dollar box office profit. As a saving grace to its art, the ludicrous film did win an Academy Award for Johnny Mandel's theme song, "The Shadow of Your Smile."

REVIEWED ON 4/16/2012       GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"