James Cagney left the movie business for more than 20 years after finishing his role in ONE, TWO, THREE and it's no wonder; he needed at least that much time to rest up after the fastest-moving comedy made in the 1960s, and surely one of the funniest. This film begins at mach one and gets
somewhere near the speed of light by the time it finishes. As a matter of fact, it's often too furiously quick for its own good as the dialogue comes at the ears with Uzi-like speed. Cagney is the fast-talking, hard-driving, self-made man who heads up Coca-Cola's bottling interests in Germany. His
attitude is similar to the man who once ran General Motors and said, "What's good for General Motors is good for America." And since there is nothing in Europe more American than Coca-Cola, Cagney is determined to bring it to everyone with two lips and a gullet. Cagney would like to become chief
of all the European operations and is working toward that end when Tiffin, the teenage daughter of St. John--one of the heavyweights at Coca-Cola's Georgia headquarters--arrives, and Cagney has to baby-sit her for two weeks as she makes her way through a tour of the Continent. Cagney does his best
to squire the dippy Tiffin, in the hope that his behavior will get him his desired promotion, but things go awry when she falls hard for Buchholz, a dedicated East Berlin Communist hippy. Cagney learns that St. John is coming to Germany at the same time he discovers Tiffin has married Buchholz. He
plants a copy of that most capitalistic of papers, The Wall Street Journal, on Buchholz, figuring the youth will be clapped in irons and an annulment can be secured. Then he learns that Tiffin is expecting Buchholz's baby, so he has to get the kid out of jail and train him to be a capitalist in order to make him a suitable son-in-law for St. John. Cagney successfully springs Buchholz, spends a few bucks to purchase a royal title for him, and gives him a crash course in American business. Buchholz impresses St. John so much that the pleased father-in-law hands the plum job of running
Europe to his new relation, the father of his unborn grandchild. Cagney winds up going back to Atlanta with wife Francis. He did his job too well and lost the promotion he'd hoped for.
Cagney plays this part with such verve and energy that he seems to be a much younger man than he was (62) and even appears to be a new actor eager to impress the studio with his abilities. But that was always the way Cagney played things--to the hilt. Many of the jokes were taken right from the
period's headlines and were already dated by the time the film was released. It was based on a one-act play by the master farceur Molnar and expanded beautifully by Wilder and Diamond. Filmed on location in West Berlin and at the studios in Munich (where Wilder had been before the war), it won no
awards except the laughter of those who saw it. Fapp got an Oscar nomination for his cinematography. Previn's score was perfect, and the use of several old ditties was excellent, including "Yes, We Have No Bananas" (Frank Silver, Irving Cohn). It would be better to watch this alone as the sound of
chuckling in a theater will drown out many of the clever lines.
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