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Cary Grant

Friday Film Review: Walk, Don’t Run

Friday Film Review: Walk, Don’t Run

Walk, Don’t Run (1966)

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Grade: C+

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.


Friday Film Review: Charade

Friday Film Review: Charade

Charade (1963)

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Grade: B+

Witty, sophisticated, and elegant – this falls under the category of “they don’t make them like this anymore.” The pairing of Hepburn and Grant isn’t my favorite – he does look a little long in the tooth for her – but … damn, he’s Cary Grant and he always looks good.

Regina Lampbert (Audrey Hepburn) comes home to Paris from a holiday in the French Alps with the intention of divorcing her husband, Charles Lampert. Only when she arrives at their apartment, she discovers that it’s completely empty and her husband is gone. I mean really gone as she is told by police Detective Grandpierre (one of my favorite French actors, Jacques Marin) who informs her that her husband has been murdered while trying to leave the country for South America. Before Charles left, he auctioned the contents of their apartment but nothing worth the $250,000 (modern estimate $10,000,000) he got is found on his body or among the few possessions he had with him. When Grandpierre questions Reggie about Charles, it becomes obvious how little she knew about him, his life before she met him or who might want to kill him.

Later that evening Peter Joshua (Cary Grant), a man Reggie met and briefly flirted with at the resort, comes to the deserted apartment to offer his condolences. At Charles’s funeral, three strangers Tex, Scobie and Gideon (James Coburn, George Kennedy, Ned Glass) appear and all take the time to confirm that Charles really is dead. Another stranger hands Reggie a letter from a Mr. Bartholemew (Walter Matthau) of the American Embassy who, when she meets with him, tells her that he’s with the CIA, the three men at the funeral are after money they think Charles stole from them and, now that they think Reggie has it, she’s in danger of being killed as well. Reggie is more than willing to hand over the money but the problem is – she has no idea where the money might be.

To take her mind off the danger, Peter takes her out to dinner – where she’s threatened by two of the men – and then home where the third one shows up. Reggie thinks Peter is on her side but as events occur, and everyone seems to be double crossing each other, she begins to wonder. Can she dodge the killers and find the money before she ends up dead too?

From the opening sequences, the film gives a feel for what you’re going to get: suspense, a mild (for today) level of violence that’s more implied than actually shown, beautiful scenery and lots of playful, rapid fire banter between stars Grant and Hepburn. It’s also got a fantastic Henry Mancini musical score and slightly groovy 1960′s intro titles. Givenchy keeps Hepburn stylishly garbed (she even makes mittens look chic) but poor Grant barely makes it through the movie with one intact suit due to fights, games in the shower and ice cream cone mishaps.

And oh, the locations. The French Alps provide the intro but then it’s off to Paris where it looks just as I think it should. Slightly rainy, gorgeous old buildings, Notre Dame, the Palais-Royal Gardens, Les Halles and what looks like a French hotel with loads more charm than a Holiday Inn off an Interstate, even if you do have to use a creaky old elevator in it. I also wonder what an apartment the size of what is supposed to be the Lampert’s would run you these days.

The script is wonderful and turns the usual leading man/woman dynamic on its head as Reggie is the predator in their relationship while Peter attempts to fend off her advances. He doesn’t put too much effort into it as its obvious he’s starting to fall for her but the change from the original script – which Grant had turned down because he thought it made him look like a skeevy, old perv – not only salvages this pairing but makes it sparkle. There is one thing that’s always bothered me slightly and that is that at the end of the film, when Reggie’s learned the value of questioning everyone’s identity, she’s so easily distracted from it by the mere mention of a marriage license. Still these two have such lovely bantering dialog throughout the film – sophisticated and without bathroom humor. Why is this out of style or so hard to do these days?

Along with the romance, there’s a nice balance of comedy and tension that carries through the movie. The humor is more deadpan and low key rather than slapstick and more evident in some places than others but it’s pretty much in every scene. When Reggie and her French friend Sylvie discuss Reggie’s decision to divorce Charles because she doesn’t love him, Sylvie argues that’s not a good reason and Reggie counters that just because she left the US to escape American Provincial doesn’t mean she’s ready for French Traditional. Then there’s the darling scene where Peter steps fully clothed into the shower in Reggie’s hotel room and delights her with his comic antics and comments on his drip dry suit and waterproof watch. But director Stanley Donen knows when to switch on the suspense and danger such as when Tex terrorizes Reggie with nothing more menacing than a book of matches, Peter is leaping from balcony to balcony high above the streets of Paris or fighting Scobie on top of the American Express building or when Reggie attempts to evade the villains in the French Metro, the Colonnade and the Theatre du Palais-Royal. In that final sequence, even the footsteps ratchet up the suspense.

Despite how much I adore it, I have to say that there are plot holes and issues. I can’t recall if it’s explained how Peter knows the three men after Reggie or how Charles managed to elude them for so many years. Reggie’s phone conversations with Tex, Gideon and Scobie are surprisingly civilized and I don’t care what Mr. Bartholomew says, there is no way I’d stay in the same hotel with three men I knew were willing to kill me or leave my hotel key with the somnolent desk clerk when I went out. And though the manner in which Charles concealed the money is plausible and inventive, the way in which it’s stored would decrease the value in the real world. Still, the film sweeps me along as I’m watching it and most of these things don’t come to mind until after it’s over.

“Charade” is smart, elegant and doesn’t play down to the lowest mentality. It deftly juggles several genres from comedy to thriller to romance. I’m not much into parlor games but even I’d enjoy playing “pass the orange while not using your hands” with Grant and delight in being dressed by a master of French fashion design. If you haven’t ever seen it, avoid reading sites such as the Wikipedia article or some of the plot synopses at IMDB as they give away some of the twists and turns that help make “Charade” so much fun to watch.