“Star Of The Month (May 2021)” Featuring Cary Grant in… Father Goose (1964)

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

Charade (1963)Cary Grant

An American In Paris (1951) – Leslie Caron

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Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… An American In Paris (1951)

“It’s very clear our love is here to stay.” In case you haven’t guessed already, the next movie I want to talk about is that classic 1951 Gene Kelly musical, An American In Paris, also starring Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant and Georges Guetary.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Service With A Guile (1946)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 6 minutes, 29 seconds)

Popeye and Bluto help Olive repair an admirals car. Another fun outing as Popeye and Bluto try to one-up each other in fixing the car, resulting in even more trouble. And a fun ending I didn’t quite see coming after Popeye eats his spinach and repairs the car. While still voiced by Harry Welch instead of regular Jack Mercer, I didn’t notice it as strongly this time, which made things better. While some of the gags may not be new, they worked well enough I had a good time watching this one! Certainly another fun short that continues to make this set (and seeing some of these old Popeye shorts) well worth it!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Ex-G.I. Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) is living in Paris as a painter, alongside his pianist buddy Adam Cook (Oscar Levant). One morning when displaying his paintings, Jerry ends up selling two of them to Milo Roberts (Nina Foch), who decides to help support him as an artist. They go out to a club that night, where Jerry runs into Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron). He is instantly infatuated with her, although she is less than thrilled with his attentions (and the same could be said for Milo as well). The next day, Jerry tries to ask Lise out again, and with a little persistence, she says yes. What Jerry doesn’t know is that she is engaged to Adam’s friend Henri “Hank” Baurel (Georges Guetary), who had raised her after her parents were killed in the war. Hank is given an offer to go to America, and he hopes that he and Lise can get married before they have to leave. Meanwhile, Milo is doing all she can to help Jerry towards giving an exhibition of his paintings, by providing a new place for him to work from and helping make contacts. When Jerry is given advice to tell Lise that he loves her, he does, only to find out she is engaged to another man (and to Hank, who had given him that advice without knowing who Jerry was in love with). In frustration, Jerry takes Milo to a party, where they run into Hank and Lise before they prepare to leave.

The idea for the movie famously came to producer Arthur Freed after he attended a concert for George Gershwin’s song An American In Paris. He liked the title for a movie, and went about getting the rights to the song (along with a number of other George Gershwin tunes). With Gene Kelly quickly cast, they ended up giving the role of his romantic interest to newcomer Leslie Caron, after Gene saw her performing in a French ballet and lobbied for her to get the part. Of course, the final ballet, set to the title tune, would prove a controversial addition, as previous attempts at lengthy ballets (especially in the 1945 Fred Astaire musical Yolanda And The Thief, also directed by Vincente Minelli) had failed to connect with audiences. But Arthur Freed and company stuck to their guns, and it became a high point of the movie (and the beginning of a trend whereby many musicals in the fifties would make use of dream ballets).

I can’t deny that a lot of the fun here is indeed the music and dancing! Gene Kelly gets a lot of the fun, especially with the likes of his tap solo to “I Got Rhythm,” where he gets to work with a bunch of French children as he teaches them a little English. Of course, he also has his romantic duet with Leslie Caron to “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” which is a thing of beauty in and of itself. But that ballet to the title tune is definitely a highlight, especially since some of the music should solidly be stuck in your head by that point, after having been used as background music for most of the movie. But the variety in dance styles and sets during that ballet is just so much fun to watch!

And this movie works so well as a comedy, too! From the character introductions for Jerry Mulligan, Adam Cook and Hank Baurel, we get the camera “mistakenly” showing somebody else before showing us the actual characters (especially a hoot with Oscar Levant’s Adam, if you know how much of a sourpuss Oscar’s characters tend to be and then we are shown a guy that is “too happy” before moving on to Adam)! And then the comic interactions between them on songs like “By Strauss” and “Tra-La-La (This Time It’s Really Love).” Of course, it’s hard not to laugh at Adam after Jerry tells him he is in love with Lise (especially since Hank had told Adam about Lise at the beginning of the movie) and then, when Hank comes in, Adam is nervously re-lighting his cigarette and drinking all the tea while he waits for Jerry or Hank to say just the wrong thing. Just priceless to watch! Honestly, this movie sells itself, it is just so wonderful, I can’t even begin to recommend it enough! “‘S Wonderful!”

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Summer Stock (1950)Gene KellySingin’ In The Rain (1952)

Leslie Caron – Father Goose (1964)

Oscar Levant – The Band Wagon (1953)