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Danny Kaye used to do a routine (which I saw several times on his television series from the 1960s) where he would speak with a soulful Russian accent, and consider his plight: Should he live for art or "pinney mooney" (his pronunciation)? In MERRY ANDREW the question could be rephrased to: Should I live for love or "pinney archeology"? That imagined misquote sums up the plot of this amusing musical trifle. Kaye (Andrew Larrabee) is a house master and amateur archaeologist in a public school that is run by his tyrannical father Noel Purcell. He is engaged to Patricia Cutts, whose family has known his for years. Both of his older brothers are in education too, but Robert Coote and Rex Evans have managed to get jobs outside of the orbit of their father. As the film begins, Kaye's main problem is his easy and whimsical manner with his students rubs "old school" Headmaster Purcell the wrong way. But he is in a position to solve the problem of regaining his father's respect because he thinks that he knows the location of the site of a Roman temple to Pan, and that the statue of Pan may still be there.
Unfortunately, when Kaye goes to the site it is occupied by a family of acrobats led by Salvatore Baccaloni. The family comprises of five brothers and Pier Angeli. They are going to be using the area for their circus for most of the summer - the very months when Kaye is on holiday from his house master chores and when the digging will be good. Kaye's only solution is to join the circus, and dig for the treasure when he completes the chores. But he and Angeli keep getting into each other's way, and slowly he becomes enamored by her. Her father, a man of ancient Italian spirit, understands the young people are in love and instructs Kaye that he expects him to behave like a gentleman. One night, while out digging, he falls into the ruins, as does Angeli (who is helping him), they spend the night in the ruin sleeping innocently enough, but the brothers find them the next morning and suddenly Baccaloni is demanding Kaye behave like a gentleman and do what is expected: propose. And Kaye does...only to return home that day and find Cutts and her father (Walter Kingsford) there. Kaye would have wanted to tell Purcell, gently, what happened. Instead, he finds he has to make a second marriage proposal. The reason: his discovery of the ruins shows his reputation as an archaeologist is made, so nothing SHOULD prevent their engagement.
THe only disappointment is that the long anticipated statue of Pan is missing. Kaye was certain that it was there when he first fell into the ruin, but it is missing. In any event, Kaye has to now try to figure out how to get out of the embarrassing mess he is currently in.
Then one of his charges from the circus, the chimpanzee, turns up. It delivers the Pan - which the chimp purloined. Kaye now has to return the chimp. But he also has to avoid Baccaloni and his sons, and Angeli, and he has to keep Purcell from recognizing there is a chimp in the headmaster's house (in Kaye's rooms).
Confusing isn't it? But very funny, as is the resolution of the plot. The songs are not classic Kaye patter tunes, like "Anatol of Paris" or "Tschaikovski", but "Tikkity Boo", "Pan", and "Salud" have their charms The second time that "Salud" is sung it helps complete a joke at Walter Kingsford's expense - the activities of the scene ending in the reprise of "Salud" include Kaye and Purcell managing to douse Kingsford with toasting sherry, and as Kay finishes the tune Kingsford gets a third accidental dousing - all of which he accepts with a reverse aplomb, as though apologetic that he had the temerity to be standing where that sherry should have fallen!
Purcell, always wonderful as tyrannical Victorian types, has a choice moment of bewilderment...he was not wearing his spectacles, although he did notice a chess move that his oldest son should have played to counteract Kaye's game (while he passed through Kaye's chambers). However it was Coote he saw, or was it a chimpanzee wearing Coote's smoking jacket?
Then there is the moment that the five brothers, chasing the man who shamed their sister, confront a sixth brother in their midst. Who is the impostor...or were there always six?
Perhaps not in the category of THE COURT JESTER or THE INSPECTOR GENERAL, but definitely a good comedy.
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