Comedian Wim Sonneveld has had enough of his most popular character, Willem Parel the organ grinder. He feels his creation is becoming more popular than himself. Indeed, Parel proves to ... See full summary »
Comedian Wim Sonneveld has had enough of his most popular character, Willem Parel the organ grinder. He feels his creation is becoming more popular than himself. Indeed, Parel proves to have enough life in him to step down from a dressing room poster into the real world. When he start to lead actual organ grinders from all over the country into lobbying for equal rights, the police naturally, go after Wim Sonneveld. Written by
Wim Sonneveld had created the character of Willem Parel the organ player for Radio. Each Saturday night thousands of people listened to ten minutes of Willem Parel. Sonneveld got fed up with this character and decided to end it with this picture. It got very bad reviews but audiences liked it. See more »
Shadow of boom mic on wall in POV shot as Wim Sonneveld is introduced to the people attending the posh party. See more »
Willem Parel was one of Wim Sonneveld's most popular characters during the fifties, when radio still ruled the airwaves. During two years, the organ grinder from Amsterdam would close each episode of VARA's popular Saturday evening radio program 'Showboat' with a ten minute monologue (written by Sonneveld and Eli Asser). When Wim got tired of being recognized mainly as the organ grinder character, he decided to kill him off, but instead of using the medium of radio, he wanted to say goodbye to Parel on the silver screen. This is in fact the whole premise behind 'Het Wonderlijke Leven van Willem Parel': the artist trying to get rid of his alter ego. Sonneveld appears as himself and narrates the movie, until his 'Willem Parel' steps down from a poster on the dressing room wall and starts scolding his creator for trying to get rid of him. It is quite obvious that the filmmakers expected their audience to be familiar with the character, his catchphrases and his popular songs ("Daar is de Orgelman", "Het Poenlied"). They apparently did not entertain the notion that viewers in the future might not understand what the fuss was all about when viewing the film many years later.
At the start of the film, Sonneveld is invited to a posh party. He reluctantly agrees, knowing full well that the hostess wants him to perform a bit in character as Parel. When he refuses, 'the real Parel (the one that stepped out of the poster earlier) appears on the scene and starts misbehaving himself like Chaplin's little tramp at an exclusive Gentlemen's club (only more verbal, less physical). Now that Willem Parel has apparently become flesh and blood, he starts to rally the league of organ grinders and lobby for equal rights and better wages. It must be noticed that everywhere Parel goes, everybody recognizes him as being a fictional character and most keep calling him 'Mr. Sonneveld' (a name to which Parel will not answer). Meanwhile, the actual Sonneveld simply can't believe Willem Parel has actually stepped into the real world and is costing him a fortune in beer tabs. If Sonneveld meant to show his diversity by appearing in a dual role, he only partially succeeds: Parel remains a bit of a caricature while Sonneveld himself is mostly seen reacting to the strange situation he finds himself in instead of using his talents to rise above the entity of Willem Parel.
Spoiler filled paragraph:
All the regular members of Wim Sonneveld's cabaret group are present and accounted for, either seen briefly as themselves during rehearsals or in underwritten supporting parts (as is the case for Joop Doderer and Albert Mol). Funily enough, Rijk de Gooyer, in his screen debut, actually does manage to steal a few laughs in a non speaking role as a hungry pianist at the posh party. The film never seems to settle down into a coherent story though, just a collection of unrelated sketches and songs. One of the most surreal scenes involves two detective trying to question Sonneveld (because Parel has been causing amok) while a trio of clowns called De Drie Rubati's insists on auditioning for him. Sonnevelds' romance with the rich heiress, Angèle (Femke Talma), remains an underdeveloped subplot, as does fellow organ grinder Huipie (Hans Kaart)'s desire to become an opera singer. Most disappointing of all is the complete cop out of an ending. Unable to bring himself to actually 'kill off' Willem Parel once and for all, the film uses the old 'and then we decided to make a movie out of it' trick instead.
In hindsight, it does seem a little bit self indulgent of Wim Sonneveld to film an entire motion picture just to satisfy his need to get rid of a popular character. The film didn't become the enormous success it was expected to be and, together with the character of Willem Parel, is now almost completely forgotten. However, it wasn't all bad news for Sonneveld, American casting agent Mitchell Gertz happened to catch the film and offered Wim a contract in Hollywood. There he made a couple of TV appearances and played a Russian opposite Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse and Peter Lorre in 'Silk Stockings'. Still, Sonneveld soon got homesick and returned to stage and television in the Netherlands in 1957. He admitted to prefer his homegrown audience instead of having to build a whole new one abroad.
7 out of 10
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