The World’s Greatest Lover

The World’s Greatest Lover. 20th Century Fox 1977.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not sure if this movie would be more effective for me if I was more familiar with Rudolph Valentino, but actually the fact that I know he existed and had such a reputation is probably more than I could say for a lot of my generation.

I’d like to say more, but there really doesn’t seem to be more to this than a Valentino parody. And Gene Wilder being Gene Wilder when he’s not being Valentino.

After watching the movie:

The executive of Rainbow Studios  decides that in order to be on top in Hollywood he has to have an answer to Rudolph Valentino, and puts out a national casting call for the star of their film “The World’s Greatest Lover” (I wish executives greenlighting films based on an idea for a title they had was only something that happened in the silent era).  Rudy Hickman, a baker from Wisconsin, fired twice in a week for his neurotic habits, decides to get a fresh start to his life by changing his name to “Rudy Valentine”, moving to Hollywood, and auditioning. His wife Annie, always dissatisfied with him, decides that being in Hollywood is the time to pursue other options, like the “invitation” on the autograph she got from Valentino, and leaves Rudy. Rudy has a breakdown over this during his screen test, and runs into Valentino himself, who proposes a plan for Rudy to win Annie back.

Gene Wilder plays his usual type (he doesn’t even get to spoof Valentino directly) with some superficial quirks thrown on top. How does a man get sticking his tongue out as a nervous tic? I’m sure I’ve probably seen him act with Carol Kane before, but nothing stands out. I find it interesting that the Valentino lookalike only acts in mime. I guess any voice they used would have broken the illusion since everybody probably has a different idea of what he sounded like.

Some of the funniest parts were rather significant digressions. The hotel suite’s sunken living room gets a lot of focus, and I get that the main reason it gets flooded is to underscore Rudy’s bad morning, but it gets a lot of attention that has nothing to do with the story. Rudy’s uncle and cousin are fun moments that feel like cameos of people I don’t know, but they don’t advance the story.

This film does not shy away from the full impact of the “lover” euphemism. They get as close to explicit as a 70s PG movie can (It involves bedcurtains), and Annie runs off to spend the night with Valentino.


Watch this movie: If you’re a fan of Gene Wilder and romantic movies.

Don’t watch this movie: If you’re a fan of not picturing Gene Wilder having sex.

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