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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Father Goose

In looking at films from 1964, one wouldn't expect that Father Goose, a war comedy that suggests The African Queen crossed with Gilligan's Island, would merit discussion. But it did win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. So I watched it.

This is not a good film. This was Cary Grant's penultimate film, and he acts as if he doesn't want to be there. He plays a kind of hobo of the sea, who is just taking it easy around coast of Australia. He is drafted by an old friend, now a commander in the Australian Navy (Trevor Howard) into staying on an uninhabited island, spotting Japanese planes (it's set during World War II). Howard has to resort to telling him the location of hidden whiskey bottles in order to get Grant to cooperate.

Howard later has a replacement for him, but Grant has to go fetch him on another island. It turns out that the man is dead, but there is a young French woman (Leslie Caron), who is the chaperon of seven schoolgirls. Ah, so this is what this is--the old opposites attract number. Incorrigible drunken slob Grant and prim, spinsterish Caron. Of course they will fall in love.

This film doesn't work at any level. If Bogart and Hepburn were an unlikely couple in The African Queen, at least the script gave them a chance. This one just shoves the two characters together and tells us, "See? They're really in love!" A key scene is when Grant thinks that Caron has been bitten by a deadly snake, and gives her liquor to kill the pain. They exchange secrets about their lives, and supposedly this draws them together. But it's while they are slapping each other's faces that they decide to marry.

To keep things real, there are occasional scenes of menace by the Japanese navy, including all of them getting fired on, which kind of takes this out of the realm of a children's picture, which it really is. So it exists in a kind of limbo, where neither adults or children will like it.

1964 was a pretty lean year for original screenplays--the obvious winner should have been A Hard Day's Night, but I can see why it wouldn't win. The other three I've never even heard of before: One Potato, Two Potato, That Man From Rio, and The Organizer. So it fell to the lowest common denominator.

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