The Battle of the Sexes (1959)

 Run Time: 84 min. | b/w
Director: Charles Crichton
Stars: w. Peter Sellers, Robert Morley, Constance Cummings
 Genres: Comedy
Storyline
Cummings, career executive on the rise, meets her equal in the wily Sellers when a comic battle between old and new business methods breaks out. Vintage Sellers, and Morley is fine as his gout-ridden, sybaritic boss.

4 Comments

  1. IMDBReviewer

    August 2, 2017 at 8:08 am

    Peter Sellers could do just about anything and this film helped to prove that fact. With some white hair, a moustache, and spectacles, you thoroughly believe his transformation into Mr. Martin, a character at least twenty-five years older than the actor was at the time.

    Although the title sounds like a sex romp, that’s not the right description of this clever comedy with a somewhat dark theme. But BATTLE OF THE SEXES is about a power struggle between a man and woman. Martin is the faithful manager at the House of MacPherson, a Scottish firm that’s been turning out tweed the same way for decades. When the new heir (Robert Morley) takes over, he brings in a domineering efficiency expert (Constance Cummings), an American no less, whose ideas threaten to ruin the company.

    Martin is forced to act. While he seems like a quiet and unassuming sort, he actually has a lot of guile and cunning beneath his mild-mannered exterior. First he tries to get her fired, but when that doesn’t work he decides that more drastic measures are called for – like murder. Martin comes up with what he believes is the perfect plan, and all he has to do is carry it out.

    Do yourself a favor and watch it all unfold. Entertaining from start to finish, hilarious in several places, with a good supporting cast, and a plot that has a couple of surprises in store. Sellers proves yet again that he’s a true comic genius. Three cheers for that, and four stars out of five for the film.

  2. IMDBReviewer

    August 2, 2017 at 8:08 am

    A delicious mix of dry comments, cultural clashes and devious expressions. Sellers is excellent as the mouse-like Mr Martin shocked to the core by the brash Miss Barrows and driven by his devotion to the family to protect tradition at all costs ! The bumbling uncertainty of the head of the Tweed empire could only be achieved by Morley whose portly figure towers over his frail employees as they await his next disastrous decision. Great examples of new not always being better (or not allowed to be !) form the key of the battle until the final hilarious showdown between the American and Scottish way of thinking. Every second is a film treat – should be on everyone’s shelves !

  3. tfsadmin

    August 2, 2017 at 8:08 am

    This one is a lot of fun, wryly funny, not over-produced and, of course, impeccably cast. Sellers was often sabotaged once Hollywood purloined him but here he’s in fine form and gives one of his cleverest performances. Robert Morley lends just the right level of support and Constance Cummings makes a formidable opponent to Sellers’s mild-mannered Scot. She’s extremely funny without being allowed to go too "over the top." Looks like this one is not available on video so catching it on TV will reward those who keep a sharp eye on the broadcast listings.

  4. IMDBReviewer

    August 2, 2017 at 8:08 am

    The Battle of the Sexes is directed by Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob/ The Titfield Thunderbolt) and it stars Peter Sellers, Robert Morley & Constance Cummings. It's based on the short story The Catbird Seat written by James Thurber, with the script written by Monja Danischewsky.

    The grand House of MacPherson in Scotland has been supplying genuine Scottish tweeds for many years. Tho Woven out in the sticks by the professionals, the tweeds are sold out of the Macpherson HQ in Edinburgh. When Old MacPherson (Ernest Thesiger) dies, his son, Young MacPherson (Morley), takes over but is hardly blessed with business acumen. Things start to get dicey when he brings in Angela Barrows (Cummings) as an efficiency expert, an American lady he met on the train. The ageing staff, led by Mr. Martin (Sellers), is horrified as she starts updating the methods of running a business. To their minds a woman is for making the tea and cleaning up, not for doing away with hundreds of years of tradition with new fangled contraptions and ideas. However, Mr. Martin hatches a plan to rid the company of this meddlesome modern tyrant.

    Something of an unknown British comedy featuring the great Peter Sellers, The Battle of The Sexes sees him teamed with Crichton to deliver a smart and very funny piece. The film is dealing in cultural clashes and the battle is not just of the sexes, but also a poignant conflict between the advent of time and its impact on business'. Arcane traditionalists versus the forward thinking modern capitalist: or if you like? British custom versus American progress. Both played superbly by Sellers; as the calm and unhurried Mr. Martin; and Cummings as the get up and at em quickly Angela Barrows. Danischewsky's script is very impressive given that the source was very slight, and Crichton has done wonders to not let the film descend into slapstick or out of place screwball. Much like Mr. Martin, the comedy is very sedate, unhurried or forced. There's some farce in there, with one chase sequence in Angela's apartment wonderfully constructed, but the film never gets out of control and it's all the better for it. As the two rivals try to outwit each other, this brings Morley's (great as usual) oblivious Young Mac into play. The result is a three pronged character piece deserving of a bigger audience. 8/10

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