We’re back for one last go-round with Cary Grant to end our celebration of him as the Star Of The Month! Today’s movie is the 1964 film Father Goose, also starring Leslie Caron!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Ventriloquist Cat (1950)
(Available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)
(Length: 6 minutes, 41 seconds)
A cat uses ventriloquism to play some pranks on Spike the bulldog. It’s a fun cartoon, with many Tex Avery-style gags. Admittedly, the cat is a little over-reliant on using sticks of dynamite, and the ventriloquism kind of disappears for a moment or so. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as that can only work just so many times before it loses its humor (and it doesn’t). It was worth a few good laughs, and is worth recommending!
And Now For The Main Feature…
Early on in the second World War, Salamua is being evacuated by the Royal Australian Navy. Walter Eckland (Cary Grant) tries to take advantage, and “borrows” some supplies. However, he is pushed by his “friend” Commander Frank Houghton (Trevor Howard) into working as a coast watcher on the deserted island of Matalava. To make sure that Walter stays there and does his job, Frank has his ship “accidentally” create a hole in Walter’s boat. He also has his men hide bottles of liquor throughout the island, promising to reveal the locations of the bottles if Walter reports in on any Japanese aircraft (with the reports confirmed elsewhere). Soon, Frank finds that another coast watcher on the nearby Bundy Island is being surrounded by the Japanese, and, unable to send any military craft to get him off that island, asks Walter to go after him in his dinghy so that the other watcher could replace him. In exchange for the location of all the hidden booze, Walter accepts. So, off he goes. On the island of Bundy, he discovers that the other watcher had already been killed by Japanese planes, and had been buried by a stranded schoolteacher, Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron). She is stuck there with seven younger girls, and so Walter has no choice but to bring them back to Matalava. Wanting to be left alone, Walter tries to convince Frank to get Catherine and the girls off his island, but Frank can’t get anybody there to do so for some time. So, Walter is forced out of the shack he was living in, and continues to clash with Catherine. However, with time, they do start to get along. When she thinks she is bitten by a snake (which was actually just a stick with thorns), Walter tries to make her comfortable by letting her drink some of his booze, and in the process, they get to know each other better. Once they realize she is okay, they decide to get married, and get Frank to have a chaplain marry them over the radio. However, during the ceremony, a Japanese plane spots them, and tries to shoot them. Now in need of getting everybody out of there, Frank sends a submarine to get them all off the island. But with a Japanese patrol boat arriving first, can they all get out of there alive?
In choosing to do Father Goose, Cary Grant opted to take on a role that was different from his usual screen persona (with some speculating that it was an attempt to win that ever elusive Best Actor Oscar). While he didn’t win (and wasn’t even nominated), Frank Tarloff and Peter Stone won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and, for his acceptance speech, Peter Stone famously said “I want to thank Cary Grant, who keeps winning these things for other people.” The role was indeed different than usual for Cary Grant, as he was dressing a lot more casually (wearing jeans and sporting something of a beard) and was a selfish drunk, bent only on self-preservation without worry about others. Still, Cary made good use of his comedic abilities, as his character gets stuck “volunteering” for the job of coast watcher.
I’m coming off my first time seeing this movie, and it was wonderful! It was a lot of fun watching Cary Grant do something different (while still being funny). The whole opening, as we get him established on the island (with all the things his “friend” Frank does to get him to the island and actually get him to do the job) was pure joy, and got the movie off on the right foot! And while Leslie Caron may not have been the original pick for Cary Grant’s co-star (supposedly, he wanted to work with his Charade co-star Audrey Hepburn), she still does quite well as the schoolteacher (and is rather amusing when she gets drunk when they worry she might be dying from a snakebite). Of course, the movie isn’t pure comedy, as we also deal with the tension resulting from the Japanese coming around, especially near the end when they discover the island is inhabited. It may have been Cary Grant’s second to last movie, but, for my money, this was a wonderful discovery (for me), and one I would heartily recommend!
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Olive Films.
And with that, we end our celebration of Cary Grant as the Star Of The Month! Come back in a few days, as we start our celebration of actress Claudette Colbert for the month of June!
Film Length: 1 hour, 57 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
An American In Paris (1951) – Leslie Caron
As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!