MAINLY NANCY KWAN
It was during my high school years when I began researching the careers of a number of Sixties starlets whom I admired. One of them was Nancy Kwan. She was red hot after her first two films The World of Suzie Wong (1960) and then Flower Drum Song (1961). Both were critical and financial hits earning Kwan a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer – Female and being voted a Star of Tomorrow. However, her career took an immediate downturn with her next couple of movies beginning with The Main Attraction (1962), Tamahine (1963), and The Wild Affair (1963). These movies were never broadcast in the NY metro area as far as I could tell (if aired and I missed it, it had to be on the Late, Late, Late Show before the VCR).]
I finally saw The Main Attraction and Tamahine recently when Turner Classic Movies ran three Nancy Kwan movies back-to-back. The third was the very unfunny sex comedy Honeymoon Hotel (1964) with Robert Morse and Robert Goulet, which I had seen previously. What surprised me about both is that they were medium-budgeted movies shot in color on location in Europe and not some low-budget programmers that I always suspected. When Kwan was hired by producer Ray Stark to play Suzie Wong on screen (after France Nuyen was unceremoniously dumped), she had to sign a contract with his company Seven-Arts Productions and was obligated to do these two films as well as The Wild Affair.
Nancy Kwan was half British and Chinese so with her natural look she could play either Caucasian or Asian roles, but usually was cast in the latter. The Main Attraction was one of the few exceptions. In this melodramatic circus yarn, Pat Boone, trying to butch up his pretty boy image, played an American singer who joins a Continental circus as partner to ventriloquist Mai Zetterling. He fights, sings, has sex, and is shirtless a lot. When Zetterling gets jealous of the attention Boone shows horseback rider Kwan, she threatens to frame him for murder and he flees accidentally meeting up with Kwan running from her infatuated brother-in-law. Kwan is usually an ebullient actress but here she is just saddled with a boring script and is quite dull. Sorry, Nancy but the main attraction here is Pat Boone despite your equal billing. The picture was an obvious showcase to try to get the crooner future adult roles, so it seems he gets all the best camera angles highlighting his toned physique and cute butt in very tight chinos and oh yes his acting talent.
Nancy fares better in Tamahine, which is a bit more lively and entertaining than the other plus she has no competition with any other castmate. Kwan is the pretty exotic Tamahine (a sort of perky Polynesian version of Sandra Dee’s Tammy) who is sent to live with Mr. Poole the staid British cousin of her father Charles Poole (played by Dennis Price) after he passes away. He is the Head Master of a Men’s Academy in England. Kwan is immediately a fish out of water as the island beauty’s frankness with sex and boys gets her in hot water with her new guardian but makes her really popular among the other males in residence including a Bohemian art teacher (Derek Nimmo) whom she poses nude for and her kissin’ cousin Richard Poole (John Fraser) a student and son of the Head Master. It gets really icky when the older Poole finally discovers just how attractive Tamahine is as she sits in his lap resting her head on his chest. Still, Kwan is utterly charming and makes the film quite entertaining and a worth while viewing. With which suitor will Tamahine end up with is quite obvious, but the film does deliver a surprise ending of where she winds up.