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Saturday, September 7, 2013

THE WHEELER DEALERS (1963)

Lee Remick & James Garner are attractively charming (and charmingly attractive) in this very '60s Rom-Com which tries to move a step or two past the winking will-she or won’t-she Doris Day/Rock Hudson template. Remick’s a pioneering female on Wall Street, trying to move some mystery stock at James Garner’s Texas oil speculator. He’s in NYC to raise some quick cash, buying and selling modern art, restaurants, industrial plant sites and just about anything he can quickly turn around and earn a tax depreciation on. The idea’s clever and the script often plays against stereotypes with dabs of sophistication amid coarse gags directed at Texans, single gals & the high-end art racket. They even use abstract expressionism for more than the usual easy punchline. If only the ‘running jokes’ paid off with laughs or if newbie megger Arthur Hiller hit the mark on the visual sight gags. Still, there’s some fun to be had spotting the line-up of present-and-future tv gagsters which include John Astin, Pat Harrington, Jim Backus and an inspired Louis Nye as a modern painter who knows which side of the canvas is buttered. Weak as it is, it’s always likable and feels less forced then those late Doris Day pics.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Barely a week after its release, the film was commercially doomed in the wake of the Kennedy assassination, and then quickly forgotten. Remick, who’s very good and very pretty here, never got to do another of its type, while Garner sandwiched this one between two successful Doris Day co-starring vehicles: THE THRILL OF IT ALL/July ‘63 and MOVE OVER DARLING/December ‘63. The latter, probably helped by its release date.

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