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Kelly (Constance Towers), a prostitute who wants to transform her life, beats up her pimp, takes the 75 dollars he owes her, and leaves town. Winding up in the small town of Grantville, she turns a trick with Griff (Anthony Eisley), who is actually the sheriff. After paying her for sex, Griff tells Kelly that Grantville is a clean town and orders her out, though he refers her to a brothel in a neighboring city. Instead, Kelly makes a final break with her past and becomes a nurse's aide at the local children's hospital. In ...

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May 18, 2020

An Affair In Grantsville

Samuel Fuller's (1912 1997) gifts as a director of low-budget, sensationalistic, and morally provocative films are on full display in this 1964 movie, "The Naked Kiss", which Fuller also produced and wrote. This black-and- white film features Constance Towers as Kelly, a prostitute seeking to make a new life for herself, Anthony Griff as Captain Griff of the local police force, and Michael Dante, as Grant, the wealthiest resident of the town which bears his name who hopes to marry Kelly. The American small town of Grantsville also is a prominent character in the film.

In its story of a prostitute, brothels, and pimps, the film has its share of sleaze and violence. In the movie's most memorable scene, Kelly beats her pimp, who has shaven her bald, before she is forced to flee the city and practice her trade in small towns. When she arrives in Grantsville, Captain Griff purchases her services while advising her to relocate in a popular brothel in a town across the river. Kelly, who loves Beethoven and his Moonlight Sonata, Goethe, and Lord Byron, decides instead to make a new life. She gives up prostitution to work as a nursing assistant in the town hospital for handicapped children and establishes a remarkable rapport with her patients.

As the story progresses, Kelly attracts the attention of the wealthy and idle Grant. When the two fall in love, Kelly tells Grant of her life as a prostitute, but Grant continues ardent and proposes. Kelly feels she has found a life. When she finds Grant about to molest a young girl, she kills Grant n a fit of rage. Although Griff is skeptical of her claims and a host of witnesses testify against, Kelly, the true story eventually comes out. In an ambiguous ending, Kelly leaves Grantsville as an independent and free woman. With her independence and life as a prostitute, Kelly sees life as gaining its meaning from love and from forming a lasting relationship with a man. This is a traditional, moralizing theme at the heart of this film.

The movie includes a great deal of toughness together with caricature, sentimentality, and moralizing. The little town of Grantville has its virtues but is also a place of sexual repression and, of course, hypocrisy. Kelly is a practitioner of her trade but also educated with a mind and heart of her own. She finds, as she tells a young woman who wants to work in the brothel across the river, that prostitution results in a life of contempt for oneself and contempt for men. It results in a loveless, childless life for the woman and in lifelong loneliness. Kelly beats the madam who tries to recruit her friend into the brothel and gives her friend a large sum of money on condition that she will not use it for an abortion - which in the morality of this film is viewed as a grave sin. With the sensationalism of the film's themes and the manner of their presentation, "The Naked Kiss" takes seriously what are now considered traditional values.

This noir film thus looks two ways towards the lurid and the sensational and towards the traditional and sentimental. In this respect, it shares many traits with other noir literature and film. Admirers of noir and of Samuel Fuller will enjoy this apparently critical and yet traditionally themed movie.

Robin Friedman

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