Thursday, July 3, 2014

Damn the Torpedoes, Tokyo Style

First off, Walk, Don't Run (1966) is a remake of the classic Charles Coburn screwball comedy, The More the Merrier. I've mentioned this story before, but long story short, Ms. Spenser and I have a long history with that movie. Second, we love Cary Grant and the way he handles screwball. So glad we found it.

In The More the Merrier, industrialist Charles Coburn can't find a room in Washington DC due to the WWII housing shortage. In Walk, Don't Run, the industrialist is Cary Grant, the town is Tokyo and the housing shortage is due to the 1966 Olympics. He buffaloes up-tight Samantha Eggar into sharing her apartment with him, and tries to go along with her rigid schedule. Because he never minds his own business, he winds up sub-letting half of his half of the apartment to American architect/Olympian Tim Hutton. And before you can say "Damn the torpedoes!," Grant is playing Cupid.

The movie is full of cute jokes, like Grant whistling the theme to his other movies, Hutton refusing to tell what event he is competing in, and nobody suspecting the Grant and Eggar are living in sin, much to his chagrin. There's a lovely set piece involving two pairs of disappearing pants, culminating in a long take of Grant just staring at said garments. It doesn't sound like much, but it had me in stitches.

Grant just kind of tosses this off - it's his last movie, and I don't think he had to stretch himself much. Eggar does all right, but it's kind of a thankless role, the bluestocking type who has to be won over by love. Jim Hutton (Ellery Queen) does a decent job as a prickly independent type - I got a kind of Anthony Perkins gawkishness from him as well. I don't think I've mentioned the Ellery Queen shows we've watched with him in the title role, but I know I've mentioned his son Tim. So that was fun.

Also, some Tokyo locations from the summer of the Olympics, including the Yoyogi Gymnasium, just built. And George Takei shows up to try to straighten everything out. There's a bittersweet little ward-office wedding scene that looked a lot like mine and Ms. Spenser's - did I ever tell you we were married for immigration purposes in Tokyo?

By 1966, the true age of screwball was pretty much over, so this doesn't quite come off. For example, Cary Grant never gets put into women's clothing, the height of screwball comedy. But he spends plenty of time in his underwear, and that's got to be worth something.

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