A nonsensical title on a movie about time travel? This should be just the kind of campy midcentury sci-fi story I’ve really been itching for. They’re getting harder to come by, at least ones that are new to me.
I don’t know much more about the plot than that some scientists get lost in time, and really, does one actually need more?
I strongly associate this movie with a sweaty, empty apartment because I originally reviewed it during a broke summer internship where streaming video was my only luxury. There was nothing signalling to me going in that this was a Christmassy movie, all I knew was that it starred Dick Van Dyke and it was some kind of caper maybe. And at this point, I never really remember much more than that it’s a Christmassy movie, Fitzwilly is running some kind of kind-hearted scam, and I liked it a whole lot more than I expected, to the point that I included my original review (which I made so early in the run of this blog that I hadn’t fully developed my standards for movie poster graphics and so it has a relatively tiny poster) in at least three different bundles of recommended back catalog reading/watching. Over the years I’ve occasionally felt a little disappointed that I didn’t run it at Christmas because I recall it being such a good Christmas movie nobody remembers. So, does it live up to my recollections?
Claude Fitzwilliam has been elderly heiress Victoria Woolworth’s butler as long as he was old enough to run the household, after his father, her previous butler, died and Miss Vicky raised him. Miss Vicky’s father spent all of her inheritance, but Fitzwilly has made it his and his staff’s mission to keep her from knowing this, and to that end has developed an elaborate network of thievery charging expensive goods to other wealthy people and companies and diverting them to his “charity” thrift shops. Aside from the considerable expense of maintaining the house and staff and lifestyle Miss Vicky is accustomed to, the biggest hindrance to this scheme is her great passion for philanthropy, as she is constantly writing checks for thousands of dollars to any noble cause she comes across, most, but not all, being intercepted by Fitzwilly’s staff. A new complication enters this operation when Miss Vicky hires a secretary for her dictionary project who is not handpicked and briefed by Fitzwilly, but a straight and narrow college grad Juliet Nowell, who has to be kept from learning anything about the charade, and in the process comes to worry that Fitzwilly’s job as a butler isn’t appropriately challenging for someone with his mind and education. Under Juliet and Miss Vicky’s noses, Fitzwilly’s gang has to execute their biggest job ever, redecorating a house in Florida for a contact who spent most of the money his employers gave him on himself, in exchange for the remaining $75k, enough money to keep Miss Vicky in her lifestyle for the rest of her life.
For most of the movie I feel like my memory has oversold the amount to which it’s a Christmas movie, however the climax is in a busy department store on Christmas Eve and features carol singers, so it gets there eventually. Until that point it doesn’t even feel much like winter.
The two things this movie runs on are Dick Van Dyke’s charisma and to a somewhat lesser extent, the verbal fencing going on every time Fitzwilly and Juliet interact. Their scenes together are often dazzling displays of conversational agility and both actors meet the requirements of the dialogue expertly.
This is a comedic caper with a chapter that has as much Christmas in it as A Christmas Story, but it’s a much better fit to expectations to watch it for the heisting than for the Christmas.
This is another one it’s hard to find much description that doesn’t just recap the entire plot, so I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to see for a while. A rich Boston kid running away to Gold Rush California to have adventures? Eh, not too exciting. The kid getting accompanied by his family’s very buttoned-up butler out of concern for his safety, and the butler is played by Roddy McDowall? This is somewhat more relevant to my interests.
I suspect this is going to have more of an episodic structure, as the Disney equivalent of a pulp Western adventure. Apparently it’s a musical, which could go either way. Being based on a book, there will probably be a decent amount of substance, but mostly I expect loosely connected Western-themed hijinks and barely justified showstopper songs.
The more I dig around the edges to get a bearing on what to expect, the more excited I get. This is described on the box as a very witty and literate show, and while I don’t think I’ve heard any of the songs before, the titles I’ve come across sound lovely.
I’m not sure if Vanessa Redgrave had a career renaissance recently or if it’s one of those cases where I just didn’t start noticing her until I noticed her. Still, it’s going to be rather different to see her as a young lady and a love interest, and I don’t think I’ve heard her sing before either. I know Richard Harris both as a singer and an actor. I think. He’s still muddled in my mind with Richard Attenborough, but I’m fairly certain I’ve now got them straight.
For the most part, I’m ready to be swept away, but there’s a voice in the back of my mind going “on second thought, let’s not go to Camelot. Tis a very silly place.”
For as long as it runs, this blog will mostly center on the 80s and later, because that is what appeals to my tastes and what I’m most likely to have something to comment on beforehand. I’ve challenged myself to focus on older films for the last few weeks because I felt they needed more of a focus, but although the films themselves have been positive experiences, it’s mostly just created more work looking for older films and trying to fit my thoughts on them into the format of this blog. My reserve of pre-80s films has almost run out, so why not finish this run off with a musical that’s even on Broadway today?
So… a fun romp in song and dance that satirizes the business world. It sometimes seems like “Business” in the sense that this film presents it was never as keenly analyzed as in the 60s. Then I remember The Secret of My Success, which was made in the 80s and shows a young man climbing the ranks similarly.
It occurs to me to wonder if the children’s books How to be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days and Make Four Million Dollars by Next Thursday draw any direct inspiration from this story, though I doubt it.
I never realized how little I’ve seen of Dick Van Dyke’s work, or the fact that most of it is in television. Even more than Peter Sellers, Dick Van Dyke is just kind of an institution. It strikes me that his best work is in his films of the 1960s and 70s, because those show off not only his comic skill but also often the physicality he didn’t have opportunities to express in domestic sitcoms and is probably no longer capable of. I’m not saying I necessarily expect him to dance on rooftops in this film, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some slapstick for him to get into.
What sort of movie is this? Well, once again I’d never heard of it, but I’m expecting a madcap web of lies caper, and possibly some screwball elements.
What I know about this movie is… well, the iconic scene. Surely the plot can’t be as simple as “he gets seduced by an older woman?” Sources seem to indicate it is, but I don’t see how it could have such staying power if that’s all there is. I’m a little comforted by the mention I see that he has no direction in life after graduation, so I guess it’s a coming of age story?
It was not until I had this copy in hand that I realized that the title character was played by a very young Dustin Hoffman. Sure, I’ve seen him mentioned in context with the film a few times, but somehow I never heard “Dustin Hoffman” when people said, “In The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman…” Continue reading →