Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss:Part II “I washed my face clean the morning I woke up in your bedroom”

The Naked Kiss (1965) Part II

The scene opens with Griff sitting at the bar in Candy Ala Cart’s girlie establishment with “bonbon” girls dressed sort of like hat-check Playboy bunnies, wearing fuzzy hearts on their heads instead of rabbit ears. The girl behind the bar says “Hello Griff” and he says “Hello Marshmallow” Swing music is playing on the jukebox. “Say Griff I can earn more from the refined types than the ones who work in this rat hole…I’ll put Grantville on the map” Griff turns to her “You will, you really think you can?” he says sarcastically, which goes above Marshmallow’s head. “well sure, how can I lose with John ‘Law’ on my team.” another scantly clad girl comes over to Griff and touches his face,

Griff condemns prostitution in his town, but he frequents Candy’s club as a customer, as well as procuring girls right off the bus for Candy’s stable. That would make him pimp by proxy right?

There is a brazen double standard being perpetrated here. Women were objectified, then women were reviled. Even the use of nicknames for the call girls in Candy’s stable is demeaning and denigrating. Hat Rack, for instance, something you’d hang an item on. It dehumanizes these women. Candy even refers to Hat Rack clashing with her “upholstery.”Later on, Kelly is called “new stuff”

The other girl asks “Are you sure you don’t want a bonbon Griff?” just then an older woman Candy dressed in a long sequined gown walks over. “Get back to the stable,” she says in a sandy voice that’s been abraded by years of smoking, reaches over and grabs Griff’s face and kisses his cheek. Marshmallow, tells Candy “he’s not buying your chocolates, Candy.”

Candy played salty by Virginia Grey snaps back “Go earn your money, check the stock.” “Who you looking for Griff?”  “Kelly,” she asks “Kelly?…no Kelly here, do I know him?” “Well, I sent her here.” Candy looks slightly perturbed, “another female?” “A pro and she’s got class.” “Well, we could use a little class in this shop.”

“Just get a look at my bonbons, they’re all a broken-down flock of bimbos, all except Hat Rack.” Griff seems surprised, “Hat Rack?” “the name suits her alright, there ain’t a customer here that doesn’t want to hang his fedora on her.” Candy calls over to the tall girl. “Hey Hat Rack, come over here.” “Did I do something wrong?” asking in an ultra-feminine tone. The beautiful brunette realizes that it’s Griff at the bar, “Oh Griff! How are you, Griff?” She puts on an even more seductively whispery voice, “So glad to see you again.” He looks confused “Do we know each other?” “We met in a park in Grantville, near the fountain…on a Thursday?” Pouting she adds “Don’t you remember me?” Then a smile breaks free.

“Oh sure you came in by bus… (Sound Familiar?) sure I remember.” “It was very kind of you to recommend me to Candy… I just love selling bonbons.” Griff says “You were a platinum blond” as he puts his hands on her tray, Candy pulls him away and says “Well she was, but the color clashed with my upholstery, I made her go back to her own natural peasant color.”

Then Candy points and tells Hat Rack “The customer in the booth has a sweet tooth.” “Are you going to stick around for a while Griff?” Candy interjects strongly “The customer!” Hat Rack bends over and kisses Griff on the cheek, walks away, and says “Bonbon sir?” Candy says “Boy you sure pick ’em Griff.” Pleased with himself he says “I sure can” Candy asks “Then why did that hangdog look when you found out that this Kelly didn’t show?” He stays silent, and she says “How about a snort in the office?” He looks at her with a gaze that means something else, and tells her “I’m not thirsty.”

We know from before that when Griff uses the expression thirsty it is what he uses to mean “wanting sex” He used the same term with Kelly in the beginning. Candy gestures with her hand as if to say, she’s disappointed but whatever. Apparently Griff in the past has sampled some of Candy as well.

Back at Miss Josephine’s “Paris…have you been to those places?” looking at beautiful garments in her suitcase Kelly says no, but the old woman says “But these are originals…ultra ultra expensive.” The trunk with the K on the side, is almost like Kelly’s own scarlet A. After all, she is a marked woman, like Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne.

“What about that factory outside of town?” “Oh, I’m afraid there’s no job opening at Grant Mill.” “Grant” Kelly says “Grant this, Grant that.” Her hair pulled up in a lovely classic bun, and looking through her wardrobe “he seems to own everything around here.” “His great great grandfather founded this town.” “JL Grant is our most famous citizen.”

Here is the developing back story of the founded patriarchy in Grantville. The old woman continues, “Everybody calls him Grant” Kelly says “JL Grant, yes I’ve read about him, international playboy, chateau in Normandy, Villa along the Riviera, private Yacht in Monte Carlo, societies most eligible bachelor.” Josephine comes back “he’s a hard worker Miss Kelly… he’s no playboy, his very name is a synonym for charity… he’s got the biggest heart in the world. Why he built our hospital… he built the Orthopedic Medical Center and sponsors it all by himself. And it’s open to all handicapped children, with no racial or religious barriers.” Miss Josephine equates Grant’s kindness with his fame and outward appearance, and reasons he’s beneficent. Kelly starts to contemplate what the old woman is saying. She asks “Handicapped children?” Josephine says “It’s a haven of hope for those angels, so little, so helpless and so pitifully crippled.”

Cross fade from Kelly’s face to a single chiaroscuro shot of a nurse’s shadow, the central focal point is now on an empty wheelchair. Two nurses come into focus, the formidable Patsy Kelly (Rosemary’s Baby) as Nurse Mac, says in that broiled steak voice of hers “One more operation and that baby will have straight feet.”

The Naked Kiss (1964) Directed by Samuel Fuller Shown (left of center): Constance Towers

They continue to walk and talk about the various children in the hospital, then we see an office with a nurse seated at a desk. Griff is standing.“That Kelly is some woman Griff” Nurse Mac comes into the room.“One day she walked in here out of nowhere and “Mac chimes in “I’ll fill in lover boy with all the facts June.” Griff turns to face her. He says “Hello Mac, Dusty, where is this new nurse’s aide I’ve been hearing about?” Mac says “You Too?!”

Mac takes Griff for a walk down the corridor. Tells him that “she came out of the clouds one night, without a single reference” There are several allusions to angels in this film. Is Kelly a Whore or a Madonna? How do we perceive her character, how does she perceive herself? How do the townspeople distinguish her? Is she a whore because she is beautiful? or is she an angel because she is beautiful. The messages are mixed.

Nurse Mac tells him that she hired Kelly on the spot. He thought orthopedics called for specialized training. He’s obviously upset that she didn’t take the job at Candy’s. Mac tells him that “it does, some people are born to write books, symphonies, paint pictures, build bridges, but (Mac holds up her hand to the sky), she was born to handle children with crutches and babies in braces.” He looks visibly skeptical “Sounds like one of those sweet Florence Nightingales.”

Griff is clearly fixed on objectifying Kelly as a fallen, marked woman with no potential to be a woman of quality. There is a patriarchal hypocrisy in this town, where the most influential man is actually a despicable pedophile and has most of the power. Kelly who is truly virtuous and compassionate is labeled a pariah even though the men who judge her are the very people who simultaneously use her, without taking responsibility for their own participation.

“Ha, Kelly she’s tough, runs her ward like a pirate ship… she makes Captain Bly look like a sissy.” Now we see framed in the scene from the knees down, the boy Kip is slowly walking with crutches along the floor. On-screen we study the child walking for several seconds, and then we see Kelly’s legs. Full screenshot now, the boy stands stiff in front of Kelly dressed in a nurses aide uniform. Kip drops to the ground. Kelly asks to see him touch his toes. Griff and Mac are watching them from the doorway. Kip is trying to touch his toes. He says “They’re too far away.” He takes a deep sigh and tries again and does it! Kelly seems so relieved. Kip looks at her smiling with pride. Griff is hiding behind the door watching all this in secret.

Crossfade Kelly is sitting at a table with a toy sailing ship. We hear Griff speaking off-screen “That’s a new low, using crippled kids to front your trade” Kelly insists “I quit my trade” He grabs her arm,” You’ll have a problem breaking in those little girls to walk the streets on crutches” Kelly looks disgusted with this accusation and slaps Griff in the face. “I washed my face clean the morning I woke up in your bedroom.”

He says to her contemptuously “You got morals in my room?” She shakes her head reviling him “You had nothing to do with it…Nothing!…it was your mirror.” Griff says “You must have taken a long look.” She asserts “It was the longest look of my life…I saw a broken down piece of machinery.” Here Kelly herself objectifies her body as something that other people utilize. She continues “Nothing but the buck, the bed, and the bottle for the rest of my life…that’s what I saw!”

He turns away, “A hooker moving in with the town virgin, what an act.” He is so indignant “How much did you score honey?…how much did you tap at the hospital?” his hands in his pockets looking down at her like trash. “How much Angel Foam did you peddle?” Kelly’s furious “Oh you ask, you ask the doctors if I made a play for any one of them, ask them!… You were the only buyer I had in this town and my last one.”

“Are you coming with me or I am going to talk to Mac myself.” She grabs his arm and pleads “Look Griff, I’m trying your side of the fence, is there a law against it, is there anything wrong with it?” All Griff says is “Your face might fool a lot of these people, but not your body.”

Griff slams her with “Your body’s your only passport.” Kelly says “You’re right” instead of defending herself. She says “I can renew a passport, but I can’t renew my body…or my face” She shakes her head, tears in her eyes,” Or my health, oh look Griff I’m trying to change, please help me” she beseeches him. “Give me a break.”

Fade To Black

Kelly is telling the children the story of the White Swan Queen who wishes to be transformed into a woman. The film is predicated on the notion of transformation/redemption.

Kelly is surrounded by children dressed up in costumes. She’s telling them a story of the White Swan, a story about wishing to be turned into something else. This is what lies at the core of and is the veritable crux of The Naked Kiss.

Kip, is fantasizing about doing cartwheels outside with Kelly. He is shouting “I have legs, I have legs.” We see a daydream sequence, every little girl and boy running as if they had no handicap. The idea of handicap is a metaphor for Kelly’s past. The film equates her being a prostitute with having an affliction, an illness, or an abnormality. That question is put to us again, towards the end of the film.

Fade To Black

Now at Grant’s house. This is a very short scene introducing us to Grant. Griff is there, Grant has just come back from traveling. His servant Barney has been given a gift. It’s a skull, used as a drinking cup from some ancient city. A rather bizarre item to give his servant. Barney seems uncomfortable with it as well. Grant asks if everything is set up for the party tonight, Griff and Grant go to make themselves a drink, and we Fade To Black

Fade in with a long shot. Kelly’s in a beautiful long black gown at the hospital. The camera views her from a distance, rows of wheelchairs lined along the walls. Kelly is framed in darkness with a single band of light along the floor, like a runway. She pushes a wheelchair up against the wall. Then she walks over to an infant sucking on a bottle. She strokes the baby’s hair so gently, looking upon her with a maternal gaze, then gently touches her little foot in a cast, in traction. The baby looks up at her. We keep seeing glimpses of mothering in Kelly.

Cross Fade is now at Grant’s party. Grant is quoting something in Italian, to a room filled with the elite socialites of the town, he says “This means, All things by gentleness may be made smooth”

Nurse Mac and Kelly arrive, and then Grant focuses his gaze on Kelly, he sees something in her. Their eyes meet. We hear romantic strings, something is stirring. Griff looks up, the camera closes in on Kelly’s face, then Griff’s. The sensual motif of horns is there to remind us who Kelly really is. Kelly looks stopped in her tracks by Griff’s expression.

But we switch back to Grant and Kelly exchanging pleasant looks with each other. The romantic strings play once again. Mac hugs Grant and introduces Kelly to him by saying, she wants him to meet the lady that’s making history with orthopedics. He tells her everybody calls him Grant. Then Griff pipes in “And everybody calls her Kelly” obviously annoyed that she is at the party. Griff spells it “K E double L Y” A dig about their sexual interlude.

Griff still looks so bottled up with anger. Grant hands Kelly a package and tells her it’s something she might like from Venice. It’s blown glass. He tells her it’s Venetian 17th century.” “From Venice?” Kelly is very impressed by his breeding, and worldliness. This is something that has been brewing in her all along. The desire for a life with finer things. Grant has an almost childlike exuberance. He is not an archetypal masculine/male figure at all. Not a naivete, yet an icy calculating kind of assumed innocence.

Cross Fade, we see a reel-to-reel analog tape machine ( I get excited I can’t help it, I’m a musician) the music on the tape is playing once again Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata the camera pans to a bust of Beethoven, and then we see Grant and Kelly lying back on a leopard print sofa, taking in the beauty of Beethoven’s piece. eyes closed. Grant is waxing poetic about the moonlight and Beethoven’s hands playing the sonata. “he carved that sonata out of moonlight” Grant is wearing a silk ascot. There is something so plasticine about his appearance.

Kelly asks “Was he in love when he wrote it?” “Yes” “Did he marry her?” “No, he never found the wife he was looking for” “How do you know he was looking for a wife?” “What man isn’t…a sweetheart is a bottle of wine, a wife is a wine bottle” Kelly turns and faces Grant “Did Goethe write that?” “Baudelaires (Flowers of Evil)” “Beethoven and Goethe were good friends”

Kelly sits up, Grant smiling and says “Griff doesn’t go for Beethoven” Kelly spurts out “Griff is tone deaf” Grant looks over at her “How did you know?” “Well, I…I watched his face when we were singing the other night” Grant looks away from her, and smiles again “You sang very well” she says “I was happy” Grant spouts some more verse, “Happiness was born a twin” Kelly turns to him, leaning on her arm, “Lord Byron” Grant looks over to her as if surprised and she says “my favorite poet.” Grant has been trying to impress Kelly with his knowledge of literature, art, and music.

He sits up “Kelly you baffle me, intellect is seldom a feature of physical beauty” Grant is surprised Kelly is “a woman”, a “beautiful woman” who possesses an intellect and understanding of culture.

Grant continues “And that makes you a remarkable woman…the most interesting contradiction I’ve met in years, with a love of poetry, rare in this age of missiles…”

“Would you like to visit where Byron wrote many of his famous sonnets?” “Venice?” “I’m going to take you there right now. He shows her a movie projector with a travel reel from Venice and men in gondolas and fishing boats. They sit and watch the movies which Grant took from a gondola. He turns to her and says don’t you hear the man in the gondola singing? He tells her “If you pretend hard enough and if you listen hard enough, you can hear his fine Italian voice.”

Pretend is an active verb for the characters in The Naked Kiss, no one is what they seem to be. It comes down to image, embodiment, perception, class, and gender.

She has been taken under Grant’s childlike spell. She smiles and we see her as she imagines the tenor voice singing Santa Lucia. Her desire to inhabit a world with culture and refinement blinds her to Grant’s true identity. She escapes into a daydream where a man in a gondola is rowing she and Grant are lying on silken pillows. Flower petals are falling on her, as they flow through the canals of Venice, and Grant is making love to her.

For Kelly, Grant is symbolic of worthiness, success, and virtue. This is perpetuated by the town which is rooted in these beliefs. Grant is powerful and well-bred, so he must be the epitome of integrity and virtue. She wakes from the dream her hands on Grant’s shoulders, we see now that they are kissing on the couch.

For a brief moment of clarity, she pushes him slightly away, something in her gut reveals his true nature. She has the most curious stare on her face, she senses a tinge of the unnatural. Her hands and fingers splayed like claws on either side of his face. He looks confused. She studies his face. There is a prolonged pause while we hear the travel reel clicking in the background. She’s breathing uncomfortably, and Grant is looking more concerned. His gaze turns almost dark.

Ultimately she dismisses her intuition and gives way. A smile comes over her face, and then Grant’s darkness begins to clear up. Her right hand holding his head now. He goes back in for an embrace, and the camera stops on Kelly’s long legs, her shoes have come off, set against the leopard skin fabric of the couch. We’re left with the movie projector’s blaring lights in our eyes as it spins off its reel. We are blinded and so now unfortunately is Kelly.

Back at the hospital, the children are singing Old MacDonald. Kelly and the nurse Buff played by Marie Devereux are bathing 2 of the kids. Buff tells Kelly that the job is for the birds.“I’m not like you Kelly, I don’t got steel in my veins…I get sick just looking at these poor little babies, let alone handling them…I’m gonna quit, I’m gonna quit this job” she starts to cry, “it’s gonna hurt Griff, it’s gonna hurt Griff bad” Kelly asks “why Griff?” “he’s been like a father to me, ever since mine was killed in Korea…Griff got me this job, and he’s so damn proud of me.”

All the women in this town, need approval from these men, in particular Grant and Griff, as paternal and alpha male figures that Grantville sets up. Kelly tells Josephine that she’s worried about Buff.

Now we see Kelly pacing in her bedroom, in her nightgown. We hear a woman’s heels clicking outside. Kelly goes to the window and whispers “The door’s open Buff” In this scene Kelly is lit like an angel by the window light. Her white crepe gown flowed like wings, a huge divergence from the opening shot of her in black sexy underwear and shaved bald head. Like a mannequin, like an object. Like sexual “machinery” as she referred to herself earlier on.

Buff is wearing the lame’ gown that Kelly gave her, she grabs a box from downstairs as if it’s a tray and mimics the words “Would you care for a bonbon” Then she ascends the stairs to Kelly’s bedroom.

She enters Kelly’s room and tells her that she made $25 tonight, throws her bag on the bed, and shows Kelly the money. Kelly looks disapprovingly at Buff. “where’d you get that money?” A woman gave it to me” Kelly steps closer to Buff “What woman?” “Candy she runs a club across the river” “What’s the $25 for?” “It’s an advance, I’m gonna be a bonbon” Kelly gets angry and shouts “Take off my dress”, she spins Buff around, and starts grabbing at the zipper “I paid $350 for that dress, I’ll take it off myself” she then tells Buff, “those bon bon’s aren’t just there to serve drinks you know,” Buff says “I know” Kelly spins her around to face her, then smacks Buff and she falls onto the bed. Buff starts to sob. Kelly says “you had that coming to you” but Buff says, “Candy says I could make $300 a week.”

Now Kelly sits on the bed next to her and relates to her the hard facts of being a call girl “alright…go ahead…you know what’s different about the first night…?…nothing…nothing except it lasts forever that’s all. You’ll be sleeping on the skin of a nightmare for the rest of your life. You’re a beautiful girl Buff, young, oh, they’ll outbid each other for you ( Buff smiles)you’ll get compliments, clothes, cash. You’ll meet men you live on…and men who live on you ( now Buff frowns ) and those are the only men you’ll meet. And after a steady grind of making every john feel at home…you’ll become a block of ice.”

“And if you do happen to melt a little, you’ll get slipped a tip behind Candy’s back. You’ll be every man’s wife-in-law and no man’s wife. Well, your world with Candy will become so warped that you’ll hate all men…and you’ll hate yourself because you’ll become a social problem…a medical problem…a mental problem…and a despicable failure as a woman.”

Samuel Fuller’s film is very hard on women’s primacy and sexual freedom to choose what they do with their own bodies. If you can get passed the judgemental attitude from all sides of the picture, you’ll find an interesting character study of the early 1960s cinema. It would have been better to see Kelly more empowered and less self-deprecating.

Dressed in simple black Kelly shows up at Candy’s. A fight breaks out between one of the bonbon girls and Marshmallow, over a john. Candy rises from her seat the sequined madame of the joint and walks over to Kelly. She introduces herself and then circles around Kelly like she’s surveying merchandise. Candy says “Griff told me about you.” Then Candy asks where she’s been coasting. Kelly says she’ll tell her in her office. When one of the johns grabs Kelly, a bonbon comes over and says “Listen new Stuff” he’s my john exclusively after she hits him over the head with her tray. Candy remarks that he’s the 3rd guy she’s cold-cocked with a karate punch and laughs.

Candy starts to tell Kelly to sit down to talk business, but Kelly sucker punches Candy with her handbag. She’s good at that, remember Farlunde the pimp in the opening scene. She keeps the onslaught going, bashing Candy with her bag, til Candy falls down on the couch. Kelly keeps hitting her, smashing the lamp. Candy pleads “Cut it out” Kelly puts her knee on Candy’s chest and forces Candy’s mouth open. She counts the money like Buff did, reciting as she shoves the bills into Candy’s open mouth. “Ten, ten, and five…now you stay away from Buff” and Kelly hits her in the face one last time.

Fuller’s gusts of brutal cinema vérité are as shocking and confrontational. Candy lies there humiliated, pulling the money out of her mouth, looking destroyed by Kelly’s assault. This powerful businesswoman who runs an entire stable of what she calls”Bimbies” will not take this lying down!

Continued in Part III