|Mac (Cagney) with his employees.|
Directed by Billy Wilder
Produced by Billy Wilder
Written by I.A.L. Diamond and Billy Wilder (script); Ferenc Molnár (play)
Starring James Cagney, Horst Buchholz, Pamela Tiffin, and Arlene Francis
Billy Wilder is at his farcical best with his lesser known follow-up to The Apartment. In one of his final screen roles, James Cagney plays C.R. "Mac" MacNamara, a Coca-Cola executive working in West Berlin. He's worked for the company for many years, and he's prepping for a big promotion. When his boss in America asks Mac to watch his vacationing daughter (Tiffin), Mac agrees, with the assurance that he'll be remembered when the time comes for a change in personnel. The daughter arrives, and ends up marrying a young communist (Buchholtz), right under Mac's nose. While Mac is trying to get her to divorce him, his boss calls and reveals that he and his wife are finally coming to take her off Mac's hands, after two months of watching her. Everything goes to pieces as Mac tries to fix things before the boss arrives.
If Wilder's and Diamond's satirical humor is your thing, this is a film you should seek out. In the vein of His Girl Friday, the film plays like a screwball comedy, with Cagney's character being constantly bombarded from all directions with predicament after predicament. And Cagney's character is well-equipped to handle it, fast-talking and scheming his way through each obstacle. Cagney gives one of the finest - and probably the funniest - performances of his career. Wilder's best films have great pacing and flawless writing, and this is no exception. The laughs come one right after the other, making it one of his most hilarious movies. What is really fascinating is the ease with which the film unfolds, given such a challenging setup. Of course, it is adapted from a Hungarian play, which allows Wilder to use great dialogue to tell most of this story from Mac's office. But it never slows down, and Cagney proves to be the ideal choice for the lead role. From beginning to end, this film is an absolute delight, full of humor, and an oft-forgotten classic from Wilder.
Oscar Tally: Nominated for Best Cinematography (B&W)