Frigidity is the subject broached by Two Loves, a story of the reawakening of a spinster American schoolteacher in New Zealand. Based on Sylvia Ashton-Warner’s novel Spinster, it also takes a passing swipe at US morality, examines the vigorous spontaneous way-of-life of the Maori natives and utilizes the ‘civilized’ point-of-view of western-white values as a frame of reference. Unfortunately, the personal story emerges less lucid than its broader overtones.
Shirley MacLaine plays a dedicated school-teacher who has found her way to an isolated settlement in northern New Zealand from Pennsylvania, although how and why is never clearly established. Her dogged innocence is threatened by the amorous advances of Laurence Harvey, a rather irrational and immature fellow teacher unhappy with his lot but unable to rise above it. Influenced by the primitive but practical morality of the Maoris, she seems on the verge of giving her all to Harvey when he (rather conveniently) comes to a violentend in a motorcycle mishap. On the rebound, she is coaxed out of self-guilt pangs by senior school inspector Jack Hawkins.
MacLaine, although not ideally suited to the role, manages for the most part to rise above the miscasting and deliver an earnest, interesting portrayal. But there is a degree of gravity and warmth missing in her delineation, making it slightly difficult to understand Harvey’s passion and Hawkins’ tender affection for her. Nobu McCarthy comes through with flying colors as a 15-year-old Maori girl delighted to bear Harvey’s children out of wedlock.