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James Cagney gives one of the richest, funniest, most breathlessly paced performances of his career (The New York Times) in this Billy Wilder comedy that defrosts the Cold War with gales of laughter! C. R. MacNamara (Cagney), a top-ranking executive stationed in West Berlin, is charged with the care of his boss visiting daughter. But when he learns that she's gone and married a fierce young communistand that his boss will be arriving in town in 24 hoursMac must transform the unwilling beatnik into a suitable son-in-law or risk losing his chance for advancement! Before you cansay one, two, three, his plans have spun out of control and into an international incident that could infuriate the Russians, the Germans and, worst of all, his own suspicious wife (Arlene Francis)!
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Tasked with keeping an eye on his boss's daughter, who is mostly occupied with chasing boys, becomes Cagney's all consuming passion and concern. His total inability to carry out this task is what makes this movie so amusing. He can control Coca-Cola operations in Europe, but not a teenaged girl. Cagney's East German/Soviet Bloc opponents seem like the "usual suspects" in send up movies, but they all work well in their quest for the secret formula that makes Coke so successful. Cagney's cataloging of their failed attempts is side-spliotting. The double talk and double dealing is non-stop and excellently done and just adds to the fun of the film.
This is a film that is little known but it shouldn't be. Made at the end of Cagney's career, it highlights just how versatile he was as an actor and what a great comedic actor he was. Anyone with an interest in Cagney would enjoy this film and view it more than once.
This is also a chance to see Berlin before it was altered and changed by the erection of the Berlin Wall which was went up not too long after this film was made. It is a Berlin under the four powers that few will understand now that the city and country have been reunified.
It's a period piece, taking place in 1961 before the "Berlin Wall' went up that separated the East and West sectors. Much of the humor is at the expense of Germans and Russians; evident by MacNamara's German national heel-clicking staff that appears to be full of ex-Nazis that escaped trial, and several Russian trade commissars he deals with who are hard-core pupils of Premier Khrushchev. Although this picture lacks political correctness, its humor is wickedly funny and a guilty pleasure for those who appreciate the Cold War.
At the core of the crisis is Scarlett, the dim-witted daughter of MacNamara's boss, who secretly marries Piffl. Upon discovery, MacNamara attempts to de-rail the marriage by framing Piffl before the East German police as a perceived capitalist. The situation heats up when MacNamara then finds out that Scarlett is pregnant, and that her parents are flying into Berlin within the next couple of days. MacNamara, being the devious and ambitious person that he is, unfolds a scam to put the situation in order. It's a laugh a minute as MacNamara invades East Berlin to get Piffl out of jail, and then embarks on a campaign to convert the young idealist into a fine young capitalist who will be approved by Scarlett's father.
Overall a hilarious story co-authored and directed by Billy Wilder. The VHS edition is full frame format and high quality. It's another classic deserving a DVD edition.
I was concerned that a film about a salesman (Jimmy Cagney in his last role before Rag Time) trying to bring Coca Cola to the Solviet Union just prior to the building of the Berlin Wall would be more than a little dated.
I watched it with my teen agers and wondered if there would be too many gags and references they just wouldn't get.
I'm glad to say the film holds up remarkably well. For one thing, Wilder directed it at quite a clip and the jokes keep coming, so even is some jokes about '60s politicians don't hold, more jokes are on the way.
We all laughed very hard at what was meant to be a slam of rock music, but holds up because of the song used (no spoilers here.)
Sure, it's no "The Apartment". It's no "Some Like It Hot" (though it has a very funny drag scene.)But it's far superior to "The Seven Year Itch".
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