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Friday, April 27, 2012

WALK DON'T RUN ((1966)

Cary Grant made a graceful career exit playing matchmaker to Jim Hutton & Samantha Eggar in this pleasant nonentity, a posh remake of THE MORE THE MERRIER/’43 with the setting moved from WWII housing-crisis D.C. to 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The original saw Jean Arthur talked into doubling up in her small flat with grandfatherly Charles Coburn and then tripling with the addition of hunky Joel McCrea. A tremendous hit in its day, the film has aged oddly with Coburn’s mischievous turn as an addled cupid now looking more creepy than altruistic. What does hold up is the significant heat generated between Arthur & McCrea. In this remake, the relationships all go topsy-turvy since Grant retains an edge of sexual promise unknown to cuddly-bear Coburn, while Hutton’s Jimmy Stewart drawling & Eggar’s Mary Poppins primness implodes too politely. Meanwhile, the farcical elements feel more forced than funny and the plot mechanics are as crude as the ‘hilarious’ Russian dim-wit agent who files misleading espionage reports. Credit helmer Charles Walters, in his last film, for playing things as lightly as possible. Like Grant, he knows when to push & when to pull back, making this minor outing more appealing than it has any right to be. (He even lets Grant & Hutton move in and out of available light as they walk along a real Tokyo sidewalk. The studio must have given him hell over it.) Grant was known to whistle on set when he was enjoying himself. So it’s a treat to hear him having a go at the theme from CHARADE/’63 as he puts together an alarmingly strong cup of coffee. He’d earned it.
DOUBLE-BILL: Grant played middle-man before, bringing Loretta Young & David Niven together in THE BISHOP’S WIFE/’47. And, for more on the Olympics, by all means, get the full three-hours cut of Kon Ichikawa’s TOKYO OLYMPIAD/’65. This film never got the circulation it deserved. (Possibly because the original idea was to shoot enough material so that different cuts could play in different countries.) Yet, technically, it may be the most influential film ‘never’ seen, at least from the standpoint of sports coverage. Everything involving modern sports presentation started right here, and that most certainly includes all those Bud Greenspan docus.

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