Apr 11, 2011

Three comedies from the 1960s: LOL

It seems that when you get in the mood for a comedy from the 60s, well, you just can't stop watching them. The other day I read over MC's blog about Come September (1961), a movie starring Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida. I must confess something: when people talked about Miss Lollobrigida, I imagined she was a brainless actress, only famous because of her physical attractiveness.
I had never seen her on anything, so it was a great surprise to discover a fine performer with excellent comedy timing. I won't review Come September, you can read MC's post, but I will talk a bit about my second Gina Lollobrigida film. And then I'll review a classic I hadn't seen AND another Mitchumovie.

Buona sera. Mrs Campbell (Melvin Frank, 1968)

I wanted to check another movie from Gina, so I googled and someone mentioned Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell as one of his favorites. I watched it. Now, we're gonna make this post a little more interactive, OK? Guess the movie: a woman in a small European town had a daughter but doesn't know who is the father. There are three possibilities, all American guys, and they show up all at once.

Any idea? You're right, Mamma Mia is based on a musical based on this film. What do you know! Of course that the story has differences, as Mrs. Campbell said to the local people that the father was an American colonel who died; and also made the three guys believe the daughter was theirs, so they supported her; and they travel to Europe with their families; and...whatever. The guys --Telly Savalas, Peter Lawford, Phil Silvers-- are not really attractive like the men in Mamma Mia (well, maybe Peter is), but they're really funny, most of the times.

Besides it has more room for a more realistic and human point of view of this difficult situation, without losing the comedy aspect, for example, the fear of being criticized by the local society is one of Gina's character motives for hiding the truth; the daughter suffers and confronts her mother when she founds out; one of the dads thinks of her Italian daughter as his proof of not being infertile, so the end is really emotive in this character's case. Gina is fun to watch and the script was perfect for her, because it allows her to show her Italian power in the comedy parts, combining it with sensibility in the most dramatic scenes. A fun little movie.

The great race (Blake Edwards, 1965)

I won't talk much about this Blake Edwards film, I guess most of you have seen it. This movie is constructed based on stereotypes. First, the characters: the hero (Tony Curtis), the feminist independent woman (Natalie Wood), the bad guy (Jack Lemmon), the bad guy's assistant, etc. Then, the different stages of the car race around the world are a parody of the movie genres: adventure, comedy (including slapstick), musical (loved the "karaoke" scene and the song), swashbuckler, romance, epic, etc. The result is a very entertaining, well-acted film, with music by Henry Mancini, in which you just have to enjoy the ride without asking questions.

What a way to go! (J. Lee Thompson, 1964)

I'll develop a point here. I know there are early parody films, like comedies starring Abbot and Costello, Bob Hope, etc, but seems like in the 60s the movie industry started parodying the movie industry using super stars. The great race is a (very elaborated) example. Paris when it sizzles (1964; Richard Quine), one of the...how should I say it?...less appreciated movies from Audrey Hepburn and William Holden, is another. If you don't take them for what they are you're gonna probably hate them. But, if you watch them considering this point, you might enjoy watching legends laughing at themselves, laughing at the way the industry works, laughing at how the movies are constructed and how they try to appeal to the public, etc. Watch Paris when it sizzles again, it's a great parody film IMO (yeah, I'm like the only person in the world who likes this movie).

What a way to go! is an even more obvious parody film. Shirley Maclaine is so lucky! She worked with Dick Van Dyke, Dean Martin, Gene Kelly,  Robert Mitchum AND Paul Newman speaking French...I mean, c'mon! (watch the behind scenes with super interesting material). Shirley starts remembering the life with her different husbands and it seems that every time she married a guy he got rich and then died.That's the plot. Really.

The cool thing about this movie is that each memory correspond to a type of film: silent, musical (with splendid music and choreography by Gene), French cinema (my gosh, a very tongue-in-cheek hot sequence with...Paul Newman), glamorous Hollywood movies (you have to see this sequence, you get tired of watching Shirley with a different amazing Edith Head dress in every take).
Maybe the plot is pretty weak, maybe some of the parodies are not very elaborated, but it was a fun film with an all-star cast to watch once.

Note: I wanted to post this entry last Friday, but a Coca-Cola truck cut the telephone wire and just today I got it repaired. "Open Happiness" my @·#.


  1. ¡ Buona Sera Sra Campbell ! ¡ cuánto tiempo ! Y me gustaria verla y recordarla.
    La Grande Course es decir La Gran carrera del Siglo un encanto de pelicula. ¡ están todos fabulosos !
    y de la 3ª destaco a Paul Newman. Shirley es una preciosidad pero la peli no tanto.

    Un beso, Clara.

  2. Oh I've seen The Great Race... it's cool that Vivian Vance from "I Love Lucy" has a small part in it.

  3. Abril: sí, la pelide Shirley no es como para verla de nuevo, pero suficientemente entretenida para verla una vez :) Gracias por dejar un comentario.

    Desiree: Oh, yes, I was watching and said "why does this woman look so familiar?". And then it dawned on me that it was Ethel!! :)

  4. Hahaha, yes, good ol' Ethel. I love when she is dressed all in pink. In scrolling down to the comments, I realized that I have "What a Way to Go!" on my DVR list now so I guess I'll be watching it, hehe :P Shirley MacLaine, Paul Newman, Bob Mitchum, Dean Martin, Gene Kelly, Bob Cummings, Dick Van Dyke?! I love them all!

  5. Hahaha, yes, good ol' Ethel. I love when she is dressed all in pink. In scrolling down to the comments, I realized that I have "What a Way to Go!" on my DVR list now so I guess I'll be watching it, hehe :P Shirley MacLaine, Paul Newman, Bob Mitchum, Dean Martin, Gene Kelly, Bob Cummings, Dick Van Dyke?! I love them all!

  6. If you want to see Gina Lollobrigida at her best (and the same is true for Sophia Loren) then you have to track down her Italian films. There she was given great roles, characters and writing. Far too often the people who put her in English films just wanted to show that their hero was a really cool guy, and giving him a hot foreign chick was a simple way of doing it.

  7. It's cute. Nice to know where Momma Mia actually came from. Fun 60s comedy. Not the greatest movie in the world but definitely entertaining. How many comedies these days do that?
    Great Race I recommend without reservation. Everyone should see it, it's a classic comedy.
    Haven't seen what a way to go but am buying it based on the other reviews.
    These 60s movies won't be on TV much anymore and the prices even used DVDS are expensive.



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