Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on December 15, 1961
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond
Cast: James Cagney, Horst Buchholz, Pamela Tiffin, Arlene Francis, Howard St. John, Hanns Lothar, Lilo Pulver, Leon Askin, Ralf Wolter, Karl Lieffen, Red Buttons, Hubert von Meyerinck, Sig Ruman (voice)
One of the all-time great hyper-drive comedies, from the minds of director Billy Wilder and longtime screenwriter collaborator I.A.L. Diamond, a manic, crazed, non-stop tour-de-force where rapid-fire dialogue, wisecracks, and retorts flew at supersonic speed…especially so during the out-of-control wrap-up, which somehow boosted the already-frenetic pace even higher, and like other scenes in the film used André Previn’s bouncy ‘Sabre Dance’ as a sort of high-strung metronome.
James Cagney was the perfect choice as the harried Coca-Cola exec working in West Berlin, who suddenly has to contend with a fed-up wife, three Russians trying to steal his gorgeous secretary, and the arrival of his boss’s daughter, a fun-loving teen who meets a stern and serious East German Communist and falls in love. From there, all Eastern Bloc hell breaks loose as Cagney tries to prevent the two from hooking up before her parents arrive to take her home.
I’ve seen this film a dozen times, and could watch it a dozen more, and still love every danged minute of it. Cagney was a hilarious and wonderful surprise as the exasperated operations director and family man who has dealt too long with West German mores and attitudes, and wants nothing more than a promotion out of West Berlin; his scathing comments and one-liners directed at those around him were absolute gems, and my favorite (“I’d rather be in hell with my back broken!”) was just one shining example.
Cagney called it quits after making this one, claiming the rapid pace of the dialogue wore him out, and I can see why; I was out of breath just watching him deliver these breakneck lines, and I’m guessing he slept for a solid year after filming finally wrapped. Trust me, this one’s worth it, and will have you busting a gut and savoring an ice-cold Coke (or Pepsi) from start to finish; an absolute work of comedic art that I cannot recommend highly enough. (10/10)