The Kissing Bandit (1948)


(director: Laszlo Benedek; screenwriters: John Briard Harding/Isobel Lennart; cinematographer: Robert Surtees; editor: Adrienne Fazan; music: Earl K. Brent/Nacio Herb Brown/Edward Heyman; cast: Frank Sinatra (Ricardo), Kathryn Grayson (Teresa), J. Carrol Naish (Chico), Mildred Natwick (Isabella), Mikhail Rasumny (Don Jose), Billy Gilbert (General Toro); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joe Pasternak; MGM; 1948)

This one goes down as Frank Sinatra’s worst movie.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A regrettable musical comedy, that acts as a parody of Westerns. The plot is inane. The acting is wooden. The direction by Laszlo Benedek(“Death of a Salesman”/”Namu, The Killer Whale”/”The Wild One”), in his first film, is the pits. This one goes down as Frank Sinatra’s worst movie. It flopped at the box office.

In 1830, California was a colony of Spain. The struggling innkeeper Chico (J. Carrol Naish) receives a letter from the son of the deceased infamous outlaw, known for his female conquests, the Kissing Bandit, who was the leader of the gang Chico used to ride with. The son, Ricardo (Frank Sinatra), finished college in Boston studying the restaurant business and plans to visit California to help in Chico’s business. Chico thinks the business mentioned in the letter is an outlaw gang. But upon Ricardo’s return to California, Chico learns he’s a milquetoast and only wants to help run the restaurant.

The comedy is dragged out in unfunny scenes that have Ricardo forced into pleasing Chico’s dreams by dressing in his father’s clothes and robbing stagecoaches. A poorly written romance between Frank and Kathryn Grayson gets thrown into the story. There are also a few forgettable songs such as “Love Is Where You Find It” and “Tomorrow Means Romance”, sung by Kathryn Grayson; “What’s Wrong With Me”, and “Senorita”, “If I Steal a Kiss”, and “Siesta.”

The film’s best scene is a fiesta dance performed by guest stars Ricardo Montalban Ann Miller and Cyd Charisse.