Film Review: Paris When It Sizzles (1964) by Patrick Ivers

Madcap romantic comedy of inebriated screenwriter and his temp secretary.
 
ParisWhen It Sizzles posterIn Cannes, a buxom stenographer in a bikini takes a memo from Hollywood movie producer Alexander Meyerheim (Noel Coward) to be delivered by telegram to his screenwriter in Paris, Richard Benson (William Holden), who has spent the past 19 plus weeks of employment water skiing in St Tropez, imbibing whiskey, sunbathing in Antibes while studying Greek with a starlet, imbibing vodka, attending a bullfight in Madrid, and gambling (in a futile attempt at recouping the $5,000/week plus expenses in his contract) in Monte Carlo, instead of writing the script for The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower.
A temporary secretary from the typing bureau, Miss Gabrielle Simpson (Audrey Hepburn) arrives with her parakeet named Richelieu, whom Benson has hired to assist in producing the screenplay in two days. She has an adjoining bedroom because the hotel’s full. It’s Friday, and Gabrielle has plans for Sunday, July 14th Bastille Day, with a young man named Philippe.
Though Richard hasn’t written anything, he describes the story’s structure for Gabrielle as an action-suspense-romantic-melodrama with lots of comedy and a substrata of social comment (unlike New Wave pictures where nothing happens), very much a description of director Richard Quine’s madcap romantic comedy from George Axelrod’s screenplay based on a story and film, Holiday for Henrietta, by Julien Duvivier and Henri Jeanson, ending with “the final, earth-moving, studio-rent-paying, theatre-filling, popcorn-selling … kiss.” The dialogue is replete with delicious dietary delights.
After numerous false starts, including a cameo of Marlene Dietrich, Richard begins describing a simple Parisian working girl, much like Gabrielle, whom he names Gaby, waiting for her boyfriend Maurice (Tony Curtis), an actor, when the first switch and conflict take place, the appearance of a mysterious American stranger. But after eight pages with foreign agents in trench coats chasing the stranger and Gaby, Richard starts over as the 135th telegram from Meyerheim interrupts – “He spies on me constantly” – the already derailed train of thought.
Re-imagined, the stranger, “a liar and a thief” named Rick (Holden), is a safecracker with a master plan and a pair of gangster associates. As middle-aged boy meets girl, Interpol Inspector Gilet (Grégoire Aslan) observes his nemesis. Serendipity, chitchat (“The thing I do so brilliantly”), and dissolve to a lunch at the Bois where Rick says to Gaby, both born too rich: “I’m nobody, and I’ve done everything and nothing.”
Gabrielle remarks to her employer: “You know, I didn’t really like Rick at first. But he’s beginning to grow on me.” (“Important,” notes Benson: “The reaction of the female audience.”) After Rick plies Gaby with booze and nibbles at her neck – “I do know what happens next,” Gabrielle says, picking up the narrative: “What happens next is the second switch!” – they enter a grotto with bats, a vampire, and a laboratory table, bubbling with equipment, a bottle of vodka, Heinz and Tabasco sauces.
“A vampire’s life,” Gabrielle pronounces, comparing it to a writer’s, “must be a terribly lonely one.” Then the chase is on, a carriage pursued by a horseman dissolving to a dogfight in the sky. As Richard’s about to contact Meyerheim by phone, confessing he won’t have a script ready, Gabrielle emerges from her bedroom in a nightgown, inspiring him to write through the night.
In the morning, playing a Fred Astaire record on the phonograph singing “That Face” and dancing with Gabrielle, Richard abruptly stops: “Unfortunately, Miss Simpson, we’re not writing a musical.” The switch on the switch – “the whole situation is completely reversed” – with Rick taking the girl as “perfect cover” for his criminal enterprise, though he’s not aware of Gaby’s association with Inspector Gilet, who reminds the gregarious second policeman (Curtis) of his minor second billing in the cast.
As Rick and Gaby enter a movie studio with various sets, going from a jungle into a bedroom where the scene will eventually climax on the bed – “Well, I’m not that kind of girl,” Gabrielle on a couch declares to Richard who observes in an aside: “Did you ever realize that Frankenstein and My Fair Lady are the same story? One ends happily, and the other doesn’t.” (Hepburn, of course, had starred in the latter the same year.) At first she’s doubtful, but she does and she is.
Donning costumes – Rick in white cowboy hat with black mask and Gaby as a princess – for the movie producer’s party in the EiffelTower, the story’s denouement comes about in typical American fashion with a violent conflict, of which Gabrielle asks Benson: “Does it have to end that way?”

Paris When It Sizzles is available at UW’s Coe Library and for rent at Hastings Entertainment.

Patrick is a regular contributor to Laramie Movie Scope. See many more reviews of his at: http://www.lariat.org/AtTheMovies/old/others.html

 

The Contenders: Marnie (1964)

MarnieCardThe LFS poll continues its look at “the contenders”– films that are frequently appearing on the submitted top tens, and thereby in contention for the #1 film of 1964. This will help poll participants looking for the “must-sees” before they submit their lists: a crib sheet for what movies to catch up on. If you have already submitted your list, you may re-submit at any time before the deadline.

Marnie, along with Frenzy (1972), is considered among the Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock’s last “great” films. Will Marnie make your top ten of 1964?

Click the photo above to watch the trailer.

Upcoming 1964 Movies on TCM

The following 1964 movies are scheduled to air on Turner Classic Movies:

5558Apr 10/11 (Fri 12:30 AM MST) The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Apr 21 (Mon, 10:45 AM MST) Bikini Beach

Apr 21 (Mon, 12:30 PM MST) Pajama Party

Apr 26 (Sat, 1:45 AM PM MST) Séance on a Wet Afternoon

 

Apr 29 (Tues, 4:30 PM MST) The Naked Kiss

Click the icon at right to be taken to TCM.comtcm-logo

Photoplay Film Award 1964

The_Unsinkable_Molly_BrownPhotoplay, one of the earliest American film fan magazines, established in 1911, had been giving out its annual film award from 1920, pre-dating even the Academy Awards. The magazine polled its readers on the best picture of the year: the first was Humoresque (1920).  Although the magazine was published until 1980, the annual film award ended in 1968 with winner Rosemary’s Baby. A complete list of winners is listed on Photoplay’s Wikipedia page.  The winner for 1964 was The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Film Review: The Killers (1964) by Patrick Ivers

Ronald Reagan’s last appearance as an actor in a motion picture.

KillersPoster1Too little remains of Ernest Hemingway’s original short story about two killers entering a diner in director/producer Don Siegel’s thriller, screenplay by Gene L. Coon and Nancy Wilson singing a Henry Mancini tune, “Too Little Time.”

Wearing dark glasses and suits, Charlie Strom (Lee Marvin) and his younger partner Lee (Clu Gulager) walk into the Sage Home of the Blind, looking for Jerry Nichols, a sighted teacher. Informed moments before Charlie and Lee burst into his room that two thugs are after him, Jerry, who is actually the former race-car driver Johnny North (John Cassavetes), reacts with resignation to his fate.

In this re-imagining of Robert Siodmak’s 1946 film, the back story is seen through Charlie’s hard-boiled eyes, who after the contract hit – “He just stood there and took it” – for which an unknown party paid $25,000 after a big job went awry, wonders aloud to Lee: “What happened to the million?” First they take a train to Miami for a visit with Johnny’s former mechanic, Earl Sylvester (Claude Akins), whom they persuade to tell them about Johnny’s last race and the accident in his Sylvester Cobra that ended his career along with the “cheap, thrill-happy dame,” Sheila Farr (Angie Dickinson), “the wrecker,” who distracted the driver for four days – “You’re my east, west, south, and my North” – before the West Grand Prix in California. Earl had tried to dissuade Johnny – “You were for kicks” – from further involvement with her by telling him about her previous liaisons with a bullfighter in Mexico and a boxer in New York as well as her attachment to sugardaddy Jack Browning (Ronald Reagan), who paid the checks. Earl hadn’t seen Johnny since then.

Determined to find out “what makes a man not run … rather die,” plus get his hands on all the dough, Charlie searches for clues about the holdup gang. Next he and Lee follow a tip to see Mickey Farmer (Norman Fell), who’d been in on the heist, in New Orleans. They sweat more of the story out of Farmer, how Sheila convinced Browning to bring Johnny in as the driver in a caper to rob a mail truck of resort receipts. But first she had to convince Johnny of her serious affection for him – “What are you mixed up in?” he asked; “I’m mixed up in you” – before he’d come along.

Just before the heist, North slugged Browning in an altercation over Sheila: “After the job,” threatened Browning, “we’ll settle this, North.” Just after the holdup, Johnny double crossed Browning, absconding with all the money.

One more journey takes Charlie and Lee to LA to pay a courtesy call on the big honcho of Browning Development Corp. through whom (more gentle persuasion) they also locate Sheila, who decides discussion with the hoodlums is preferable to defenestration. Charlie finally has his answer: “The only man who’s not afraid to die is the one who’s dead already.”

This was Ronald Reagan’s last appearance as an actor in a motion picture. In 1964 he’d switched from being a lifelong Democrat to a Republican campaigning for Barry Goldwater. Two years later he became governor of California.

***

The Killers is available at UW’s Coe Library.

Patrick is a regular contributor to Laramie Movie Scope. See many more reviews of his at: http://www.lariat.org/AtTheMovies/old/others.html

The Contenders: The Americanization of Emily (1964)

AmerofEmilyCardThe LFS poll continues its look at “the contenders”– films that are frequently appearing on the submitted top tens, and thereby in contention for the #1 film of 1964. This will help poll participants looking for the “must-sees” before they submit their lists: a crib sheet for what movies to catch up on. If you have already submitted your list, you may re-submit at any time before the deadline.

The Americanization of Emily boasts a screenplay by three-time Oscar-winner Paddy Chayefsky. Will The Americanization of Emily make your top ten of 1964?

Click the photo above to watch the trailer.

The Laramie Film Society & the Wyo Theatre Present: Labor Day

LaborDayposterThis Sunday, the Laramie Film Society and the Wyo Theatre conclude their Spring Film Series with Labor Day, showing at 7PM April 6. The series presents Oscar and Golden Globe-nominated films, most that never played in Laramie. The tickets are $6.50 each ($5 for those with a Wyo Film Society membership card).

The Wyo Theatre is located at 309 S. 5th Street at Grand Avenue; the box office opens at 6:30 PM.

Upcoming 1964 Movies on TCM

The following 1964 movies are scheduled to air on Turner Classic Movies:

DisorderlyOrderlyPosterApr 1 (Tues, 6 PM MST) The Disorderly Orderly

Apr 3 (Thurs., 10 PM MST) Send Me No Flowers

Apr 6 (Sun, 8 AM MST) The Americanization of Emily

Apr 6 (Sun, 2 PM MST) The Incredible Mr. Limpet

Apr 10/11 (Fri 12:30 AM MST) The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Apr 21 (Mon, 10:45 AM MST) Bikini Beach

Apr 21 (Mon, 12:30 PM MST) Pajama Party

Apr 26 (Sat, 1:45 AM PM MST) Séance on a Wet Afternoon

Apr 29 (Tues, 4:30 PM MST) The Naked Kiss

Click the icon at right to be taken to TCM.comtcm-logo

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