Jul 27 2012
Genre: Romantic Comedy
My quest for Summer Olympic themed movies turned up three that I decided to review. There are lots of Winter Games but surprisingly few about the Summer ones. Oh, well. Honestly, were it not for the fact that I needed another to round out the Friday slots during these Summer Games (Hi, London!) I probably wouldn’t have done this one but beggars can’t choose so here goes.
Netflix has a nice, compact synopsis –
“When an English businessman (Cary Grant, in his final film performance) arrives in Tokyo, the influx of tourists for the upcoming Olympic Games makes it almost impossible to find lodging. He smooth-talks his way into sharing an apartment with a beautiful British woman (Samantha Eggar) and soon finds himself playing cupid for her and an American Olympic athlete (Jim Hutton).”
This is a remake of the WWII film “The More the Merrier” with Charles Coburn, Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea which has been updated to the 1964 Games in Tokyo. The huge influx of people for the Games accounts for the lack of hotel space which spurs the need for William Rutland to find a place to sleep for the two nights before his hotel reservations will be ready. Steve Davis is a US athlete who’s also in town early – he’s an architect studying the fusion of traditional Japanese architecture with post war modern. Trust me, you just have to go with the idea that in 1964 an athlete would arrive early, that there wouldn’t be a place for him in the Olympic quarters and that the team officials would leave him wandering around Tokyo looking for a place to sleep. The set up of the original works much better but I guess you work with what you’ve got.
Anywho, Samantha Eggar is the poor woman – whose punctuality makes Mary Poppins look like a slacker – patriotically offering to sublet her apartment via a posting in the British Embassy who ends up dodging the other two in the narrow hallways of her surprisingly roomy Tokyo apartment. I mean this place is huge for one person and I couldn’t help but wonder what monthly rent on a place this size would cost today. Probably more than I make in a year. It’s a good thing this movie is in color because Samantha’s hair is marvelous and the wardrobe people did a bang up job highlighting it with her clothes.
Jim Hutton (the father of Timothy) was a staple of 1960s movies usually playing a poor sap who gets swept away in the plot and merely reacts to everyone else. Much as he does here. He shows some brief episodes of comic chemistry with Grant and Eggar but mostly he’s kind of just there. Watch for when his Olympic event is finally revealed. It actually does fit the plot though I have to agree with Rutland’s acerbic comments about it. Acclaimed British actor John Standing plays Christine’s stuffy fiance. The character’s name, Julius D. Haversack, should tell you all you need to know about him. Oh, and keep a eye out for the two darling children who silently watch Rutland in action and George Takei (Ahead Warp Factor One, Mr. Sulu) in a bit part towards the end.
But the real reason to watch this is for Cary Grant doing everything he can, including humming the theme music from “Charade,” to get all the laughs he can from this material. Mostly he does better than anyone else. It’s definitely not among his best films but it’s not a total dog to go out on. And at least he plays his age here taking over the role Charles Coburn perfected and playing it a touch more suavely if no less manipulatively. His use of Japanese miniature electronics to save the day is inspired.
I think the mid 1960s is about as late as this plot – throwing unmarried men and a woman into one small apartment and then watching love blossom – could be expected to work. Once the 60s were officially swinging most of the impact and titillation factor was lost. But the film makers did a good job of utilizing the Tokyo backdrop to make the film look good and the sliding paper screens of the apartment to work the romance and comedy. It’s worth checking out if only to see the final hurrah of the great Cary Grant.