During a high profile Mafia testimony case in California's Riverside County, a hired killer checks-in a hotel room near the courthouse while his next door depressed neighbor wants to commit suicide due to marital problems.
A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.
Berlin is the epitome of political and economic polarization. A microcosm of that polarization is the life of American C.R. MacNamara, known as Mac to his friends. He is Coca-Cola's head of West Berlin operations, although he feels he deserves to be Coca-Cola's head of European operations based in London. Mac's wife, Phyllis, wants him instead to get a steady and stable job back in head office in Atlanta. His West Berlin staff are all still used to treating him like their old master, the Fuhrer. The one exception is his secretary, Ingeborg, who is the latest in the long line of his secretary mistresses. And he's working on a trade agreement of getting Coca-Cola into the Russian market. His life goes into a tailspin when he hosts Scarlett Hazeltine in his home for two weeks. She is the seventeen year old spoiled and party-loving daughter of his Atlanta based boss, Wendell Hazeltine. Unlike most of the stops she's made on her European trip, Scarlett seems to like West Berlin and stays ... Written by
Billy Wilder made James Cagney do over 30 takes of a scene because Cagney kept saying "coat and striped pants" instead of "morning coat and striped pants." See more »
In the Grand Hotel Potemkin sequence showing the crossed Soviet and East German flags, the East German flag is upside down (black stripe should be on the top); maybe this was a deliberate error on the part of the filmmakers. See more »
Do you know what happens if I defect? They will line up my family and shoot them! My wife, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, my sister-in-law.
Let's do it!
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Howard Hawks usually gets the palm for the fastest dialogue in comedies but Wilder probably ties him here. This must be one of the funniest comedies to come out of Hollywood, at least during the sound era. The gags come fast -- and thick. If one doesn't work you don't have time to be disappointed because the next one is already underway.
It's one of those movies in which the gags would be spoiled if they were described to a person who hadn't yet seen the film. For the most part they are tied closely to the plot and often build on one another. But I'm compelled to give one example. Cagney is an executive in Berlin and his first-hand man is Schlemmer. Schlemmer has a habit of clicking his heels before and after addressing Cagney. At one point Cagney chews him out and asks him, "just between us," what Schlemmer did in the war. "I was in the underground," says Schlemmer. "Oh, the resistance?" "No, the underground. The subway. I was a conductor." Cagney says supiciously, "And I suppose you never were a supporter of Adolf." Schlemmer: "Adolf who? You see, I was always in the underground. They never told us anything down there."
The dialogue is shouted rather than spoken. Heels are clicked, people leap to attention, fingers are snapped, orders are flung about. The only person who doesn't run around frantically is Lilo Pulver who does not have to run to attract anyone's attention. She can simply stand still and get the job done. She's Cagney's secretary and tells him she's thinking of getting a job elsewhere as a translator. "Don't forget I am bilingual." "Don't I know it," Cagney mutters ruefully.
But I won't go on because I'll just wind up giving away more gags. Check the trivia entries too. This was Cagney's last major role and one of Wilder's best comedies. It's simply hilarious and not to be missed.
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