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Sunday, July 25, 2010

NEVER TOO LATE (1965)

Paul Ford was a crafty character comedian who usually played supporting roles. He broke thru in film at the ripe age of 55, stealing TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON/’56 from Marlon Brando, then proceeded to steal every scene in every movie he ever appeared in. He only played two leading roles; first, in THE MATCHMAKER/’‘58, and then in this adaptation of his smash B’way farce. (Over 1000 perfs and a Tony nom.) The show is something of a relic, what used to be called a ‘commuter’ comedy, fit for the tired businessman. It’s the sort of forced sex farce that gives ‘smart’ B’way comedies a bad rep and, unless the name of George Axelrod is involved, something to steer clear of. But tv writer Sumner Arthur Long came up with a foolproof concept – retirement-aged man finds his fiftyish wife is unexpectedly expecting! – and the film manages to get enough of Ford’s immaculate timing and grumpy hilarity across so that it all seems a good deal funnier than it really is. Most of the other players hit their marks pretty hard, though Jim Hutton makes a noble attempt at channeling the young James Stewart. (Watch for his 5 yr-old kid Tim in a fantasy montage.) Lenser Philip Lathrop shows the bright happy suburbs that MAD MEN and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD think never existed (but they did, they did) and megger Bud Yorkin, who generally keeps out of the way, pulls off a neat trick on one of those telephone scenes where both parties are on screen at once. It's usually done as a split screen, but here he tries a stage solution with one set placed slightly behind and partially to the side of the other. It’s damned effective, even stylish.

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