MGM Studios DVD presents
For Love of Ivy (1968)
"How does anybody know what I want? Nobody asks me. People just tell me. 'Ivy stay.' 'Ivy go.' Doesn't anybody say please?"- Ivy Moore (Abbey Lincoln)
Stars: Sidney Poitier, Abbey Lincoln, Beau Bridges, Nan Martin, Lauri Peters, Carroll O'Connor, Leon Bibb
Director: Daniel Mann
MPAA Rating: G for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:40m:51s
Release Date: 2004-01-20
Genre: romantic comedy
DVD ReviewGood help is hard to find. So when housekeeper extraordinaire Ivy Moore (Abbey Lincoln) announces she's leaving the Austin family after nine years of loyal service, her pampered and spoiled employers can't fathom life without her. How on earth, they wonder, could a sweet, young, "colored" girl like Ivy see her cleaning career as a dead end? And why would she want to abandon the loving bosom of their dysfunctional family (and the tranquility of suburban Long Island) to live in Manhattan and attend secretarial school? When Ivy confesses she also wants to spread her wings, meet some eligible men, and maybe one day start her own family, the grown-up but shamefully dependent Austin children, Tim (Beau Bridges) and Gena (Lauri Peters), spring into action. Maybe if they snare Ivy a beau, she'll change her mind and stay.
The Austins believe their scheming is all for the love of Ivy, but Daniel Mann's bland romantic comedy merely proves the selfish and twisted nature of that affection. Tim resorts to blackmail to fix Ivy up, threatening to expose the illegal gambling venture of trucking executive Jack Parks (Sidney Poitier) if he doesn't agree to date her. Jack's fleet of tractor-trailers services the Austins' upscale department store, but one of his rigs doubles as a casino-on-wheels, a fact Tim is only too willing to exploit. Jack reluctantly plays "stud" to the unsuspecting Ivy, but doesn't bet on falling in love with her—or on Ivy discovering his charade.
For Love of Ivy marks the first and only time Poitier received screen credit as a writer. Possibly discouraged by the dearth of strong leading roles for black men, the Oscar®-winning actor devised one for himself, concocting the film's original story. Fresh from his success as the white-bread doctor in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, Poitier undoubtedly sought a slicker, more urban image for his next movie, and the character of Jack Parks fit the bill. Despite his shady profession, the self-made, intelligent, and articulate Parks remains a role model throughout Ivy, yet whether his esteem emanates from Poitier's polished persona or Robert Alan Aurthur's screenplay depends on your point of view.
Although it contains solid performances, For Love of Ivy never reaches the comedic or romantic heights to which it aspires. Mann, who directed such 1950s classics as Come Back Little Sheba, I'll Cry Tomorrow and The Last Angry Man, seems over his head here, unable to properly connect with the culture he's depicting. While he wrings an amusing screwball element out of the kooky Austin family (headed by a typically bombastic Carroll O'Connor), he stumbles by overly mainstreaming the black characters. In 1968, color barriers were still formidable, and Mann may have consciously sought to weaken them, yet the euphemism-filled script foils his efforts at every turn. Whenever our awareness of skin pigment begins to fade, characters of both races pepper their lines with words like "colored" and "spade" to describe African-Americans. Such language may have been accepted 35 years ago, but the effect is jarring and uncomfortable today, and adds another dated element to an already creaky story.
Racial issues aside, Poitier and Lincoln fail to ignite the necessary sparks to involve us in their relationship or honor the romantic comedy genre. The painfully slow build-up to their first kiss never reaches the proper level of sexual tension, while a potentially hot bedroom scene is more memorable for the gymnastic contortions the actors must perform to satisfy censorship rules than any steamy coupling. Although one gets the impression the film is trying to show how earthy, sensual, and sexually free blacks can be, it proves instead they're just as boring in bed as white people. And you can be sure that's not the kind of assimilation the movie's producers desired.
In the end, it's not racial insensitivity or a lack of prurience that sinks For Love of Ivy; it's the film's inherent mediocrity. Even the most creative talent can't overcome a weak story, and, frankly, Poitier's effort doesn't make the grade. A throwback to the comedies of the '30s, Ivy seems strangely tame for the liberated '60s, and downright archaic today. Wisely, Poitier never picked up a pen again.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: MGM has produced an above average transfer, maintaining the original widescreen aspect ratio and providing an almost spotless source print. Deep blacks and nicely saturated colors lend the film a vitality and warmth that's sadly lacking in the screenplay, while good clarity and minimal grain enhance the viewing experience. Unfortunately, distinct shimmering on heavily patterned suits, jackets, and dresses often distracts.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby sweetened mono track remains distortion-free throughout, with dialogue always easily comprehendible. Quincy Jones' jazzy score heightens the film's mood, but doesn't fill the room like it should. All in all, the audio is clean but dull.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Extras Review: Only a paltry 16 chapter stops—hardly an extra in my view. Considering Poitier penned the original story on this one, his audio perspective would have been especially welcome. A definite missed opportunity.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsA pedestrian romantic comedy that lacks any racial spice, For Love of Ivy copies the genre's out-dated traditions, and thus fails to sufficiently loosen up the straitlaced Poitier. Fans of the film will appreciate MGM's solid transfer, but the tepid story, ho-hum direction, and lack of extras relegate it to the rental bin.
David Krauss 2004-01-20