One, Two, Three (1961) Poster

User Reviews

Add a Review
118 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
Billy Wilder Gets Hot Over the Cold War
bkoganbing21 September 2005
One, Two, Three is from the fertile mind of Billy Wilder where Cold War politics gets reduced to the absurd. This film is so fast and so funny it's only a few steps from Monty Python.

For what was and what should have remained his swan song to the world of film James Cagney heads the cast in this. He's the man in charge of Coca-Cola's operations in Germany which is headquartered in West Berlin and he's had a lovely little present dumped in his lap. The daughter of the CEO of Coca-Cola is in Europe and now she's in Germany and he's expected to watch out for her. The daughter is played by Pamela Tiffin and she is one of the biggest airheads ever portrayed on the screen. She's fallen big time for a German kid played by Horst Bucholtz. They've gotten married.

Bucholtz is a kid who's real good at spouting all kinds of left wing slogans without delving to deeply into their meanings. He's a Communist and that drives Cagney nuts and if it drives Cagney nuts, Tiffin's father is sure to go over the top. Cagney takes it upon himself to get Bucholtz arrested on the East Berlin side as an American spy.

Of course a small memento of their married life has developed inside Tiffin so now Cagney has a real problem. He's got to get Bucholtz back and turn him into a money grubbing capitalist in his image. The frantic pace at which this is attempted, racing against the clock when Tiffin's father played by Howard St. John arrives in Berlin is what the rest of the film is about.

Wilder has a ball reducing the Cold War to its basic absurdities. The USA is symbolized by James Cagney who thinks the whole world will become America if only enough Coca-Cola is peddled. Cagney comes real close to proving it so.

The Communists come out far worse. Karl Marx's world always looked nice on paper, but always has had a real problem being converted into a functioning state. The Russians are also good at spouting the party line, but in One, Two, Three, Wilder shows how very easily they can be influenced by some of life's most elemental things and I don't mean Coca-Cola.

Cagney did not always get along with Wilder, but both men were professional enough to bury certain creative differences. Cagney was kind and patient with Tiffin who was getting her first real break in film. However he grew to positively loath Horst Bucholtz. In his memoirs which came out in the 1970s, Bucholtz was the only colleague who Cagney had anything really critical to say about.

During the middle of the film being shot, the Russians stopped the flow of traffic from West and East Berlin. Some shots had to be redone around the Brandenburg Gate, a whole set had to be constructed. I suppose a well trained cinema professional could spot the shots where the real and the fake Brandeburg were used. I sure can't. The following year, the Berlin Wall was built, so Wilder got his film done just in time.

Arlene Francis plays Cagney's exasperated wife and she of What's My Line does just fine. Cagney made an appearance on that show just before shooting started and gave the picture a big old plug.

The laughs come pretty fast and furious as James Cagney struggles mightily to prevent the arrival of "another bouncing, baby, Bolshevik."
52 out of 57 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Outstanding Comedy
Robert J. Maxwell5 December 2003
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.
59 out of 66 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Perfect, Hysterical Madcap Comedy
Gazzer-217 July 2003
C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney), a soft drink executive stationed in West Berlin with his wife (Arlene Francis) and two kids, is given the task of looking after his boss' wild daughter, Scarlett (Pamela Tiffin), who flies in for a visit. But when Scarlett runs off and marries a young Communist named Otto (Horst Buchholz)---and with MacNamara's boss flying in to West Berlin in a matter of hours---MacNamara has to race against the clock to turn Scarlett's rebellious new husband into the perfect son-in-law, or risk losing his job....

Billy Wilder's "One Two Three" is one of the greatest comedy films ever made. This wonderfully zany 1961 gem is a lightning-paced, hysterical farce (and with it's classic instrumental theme of "The Sabre Dance," you know you're in for a rollicking, rapid-fire comedy). Based on a French play, much of the movie plays out like a stage comedy, as Wilder simply turns his camera on the actors and lets them do their thing. The entire cast is simply superb, their comic timing perfect. James Cagney gives one of his all-time greatest performances as C.R. MacNamara. In almost every scene, with the bulk of the script on his shoulders, Cagney is sharp, quick on the draw, and just plain hilarious as the bewildered executive. Arlene Francis lends fine comic support as Cagney's sarcastic wife, Horst Buchholz is very funny & perfectly cast as the rebellious Otto, and the gorgeous Pamela Tiffin is simply a riot as the hot-blodded, dim-witted Scarlett. But ALL the actors in this movie are funny & terrific. Billy Wilder's direction is marvelous, and his script co-written with I.A.L. Diamond is clever and hilarious.

Some may find the quick pace of "One Two Three" a little exhausting, as the movie's energy level remains high from beginning to end, rarely stopping for air, but it works for me. This movie is pure farce, plain and simple. It makes no apologies for what it is, and it's goal is to make you laugh loudly. "One Two Three" is one of the most hysterical movies I've ever seen in my life, and it never fails to give me bellylaughs. Thank you Billy, Jimmy, and all the rest for this magnificent comedy gem.
68 out of 78 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Delightful Comedy
harry-7614 March 1999
"One, Two, Three," is a fast paced, cleverly scripted comedy, with an absolutely stellar performance from James Cagney. Billy Wilder's direction is vigorous and tight-knit, with a tempo that doesn't let up, yet doesn't tire either. One good line after the next, in an original comedy with loads of laughs. But it's Cagney's show, and does he give it his all! This is a wonderful tribute to one of the screen's all-time great actors.
36 out of 40 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Exceptional Cold War Spoof
Mitch-3824 September 2000
Billy Wilder's hilarious Cold War comedy that only gets better with each viewing. It does help some, of course, to know the politics of the region and of that time period. Irregardless, one need not be a Hoover Institute Fellow to pick these up quickly. James Cagney, proving his acting range was virtually borderless, turns in a superb performance as the soft drink exec seeking an upper echelon corporate job.

With a terrific supporting cast, Cagney's corporate dreams are about to explode, when the boss' wild daughter flies into Berlin. Creating havoc, and not to mention more stress on his wounded marriage, the daughter runs off cavorting about in the Eastern Sector.

Corporate ambitions, romance and strong politics collide in this volatile, hilarious, extremely fast paced comedy. This is how a real comedic farce is put together, and it goes off without a hitch, all the way to the last gag. There's also some great homages/inside jokes to boot. A comedy classic, and another gem from Mr. Wilder.
48 out of 56 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Cagney in one of his best roles.
Stephen Alfieri26 January 2004
"One, Two, Three" is a marvelously, funny film. It has an energy that you can't help but get caught up in.

From the time you hear the first few bars of "The Sabre Dance" thru the final shot of James Cagney, you are on a constant roller coaster, and you don't want to get off. It is a manic, wild movie that never disappoints or lets down.

The engine that drives this lunacy is James Cagney. In one of his best, funniest and energetic performances, he is nothing short of amazing. He is a whirling dervish, at the heart of a storm that he has no control over. I don't want to give any of the story away, suffice to say that he is nothing short of spectacular. In Cameron Crowe's book on Billy Wilder, Wilder laments that Cagney was so loud and energetic at the start of the film, that his character really has nowhere to go, in terms of building, and reacting to the chaos. I would agree with that assessment, but Cagney's performance does not let the audience stop and catch it's breath long enough for this to really be a factor.

Wilder and Diamond have brought us another gem. Is there another writing team that within a span of three years, have created three better pictures than the ones they have given us (Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, One,Two,Three)? I doubt it.

Kudos all around to the supporting cast as well. Especially, Arlene Francis, as Cagney's wife, and Lilo Pulver as his secretary. Also watch for some "inside" jokes. Like when Cagney threatens Horst Buchholz with a grapefruit, and Red Buttons, in a cameo, doing a Cagney imitation.

Great fun from start to finish. 10/10
40 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Wilder At His Considerable Best
bigpurplebear2 February 2002
I first saw this film in a theater when it came out. Laughed so hard I fell out of my seat (and was spared considerable embarrassment only by the fact that everyone around me was doing the same thing). I can't count the number of times I've seen it over the years, but I know one thing for sure: I've yet to spot all the gags. (They come so fast upon each other's heels that you're likely to miss two for every one you're still laughing over.)

Wilder plays no favorites -- and he takes no prisoners -- here. Everything within his considerable reach (the Cold War, the postwar era, spy-exchanges, Communism, capitalism, European aristocrats, idealism and cynicism, JUST for starters) is lampooned equally. (Even at least one of Cagney's early performances, in "Public Enemy," takes a shot.)

Frankly, I'm surprised this film today has so many staunch fans who weren't around back when so much of its humor was "topical." Its ongoing appeal has to be attributed both to Wilder's pacing and to James Cagney's hallmark performance as McNamara (a poster child for high blood-pressure if ever there was one). Neither he nor Wilder ever let up, ably aided by a solid cast (Horst Bucholtz in particular, strangely enough!) who manage somehow always to catch up.

"One, Two, Three:" that's how fast the gags fly. See if you can keep up.
9 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
the film
pylon27 January 2002
The most hilarant film never watched. The Wilder's chef d'Oeuvre, will be remembered as one of the ten best films on the story of the seventh art it must be rated eleven over ten if there is justice on this earth
8 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of The Ten Best Comedy Films Ever Made
Bill Baldwin, Jr.15 November 2006
If you're planning on screening "One, Two,Three" for the first time and you weren't alive in 1961, take a moment to acquaint yourself with the political climate of the time....then get ready to laugh A LOT ! I was 17 when "One, Two, Three" came out and all these years later I am still amazed at the majesty of this film. As most of you know, this was to be James Cagney's last picture, and it took a lot of convincing by Billy Wilder to get him to do it. Cagney did come back one more time for "Ragtime", but that doesn't lessen the greatness of this, his final starring role. I saw a comment posted about the film having the perfect cast and I agree, but it's not surprising when you consider this: name me a Billy Wilder film that didn't have the perfect cast ! William Holden and Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Blvd", Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in "The Apartment", Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like It Hot", Jack Lemmon and..well, you get the picture: Billy Wilder knew precisely who he wanted for every part and usually got them, and if he had to go with choice # 2, then choice # 2 was one lucky actor. And each supporting role, no matter how small, got the same Wilder treatment. I know because my dad was the TV Movie Host in "The Apartment". Actors knew that being in a Billy Wilder film meant the script would be first rate and the director would get a first rate performance out of them, even if it took all night. Pamela Tiffin was just terrific in this film, but sadly she never got another role worthy of her ability. The same goes for Horst Buchholz, "The Magnificent Seven" not withstanding. At least they got to do "One, Two, Three" and that might have just been enough. Right up there in the same league with "The Philadelphia Story", "Annie Hall" and the original version of "To Be Or Not To Be" starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard, Billy Wilder's "One, Two, Three" is a forever film classic for all the reasons I and others have mentioned, and for one more which it shares with every great film: "One, Two, Three" assumes you have a brain and treats you accordingly. " SCHLEMMER !!!!!"
37 out of 46 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Quick, well acted, and funny as hell
MartynGryphon29 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Mention James Cagney's name, and most people will mention one of his gangster films like G-Men or The Public Enemy or at a push will mention one of his just as memorable Song & Dance roles like Footlight Parade or Yankee Doodle Dandy. While it is true he could be both Tough and Elegant, largely forgotten was Cagney's wonderful ability to play comedic Characters. (Who can forget his film stealing role as the tyrannical Captain in Mister Roberts).

One such film that highlights his comedy talent, was Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three. Made in 1961, it shows us a 62 year old Cagney still at the top of his game 30 years after he became a star.

Set in a post war yet pre détente Germany, the film is a fast, frantic, romantic, hilarious farce set against the non too funny backdrop of the Cold War which to be honest was far from 'cold' when the movie was made with the Cuban Missile Crisis just months away and American tolerance of the 'red menace' at an all time low.

Cagney plays MacNamara, a tough-talking Middle Management executive for Coca-Cola trying to secure the Coca-Cola rights on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain. He Hates Communists, Hates Fascists, and loves his work. He is short tempered, sharp tongued and quick witted. He has two women in his life his wife Phyiliss, played fantastically by the always fantastic Arlene Francis, and his yummy blonde and easily corruptible secretary Ingeborg (Lilo Pulver). His organised yet double life is thrown into turmoil when his bosses 17 year old yet wild insatiable daughter Scarlett (Pamela Tiffin) arrives with the bosses strict instructions to 'look after her'. Instead of staying for the intended two weeks she stays for two months and appears to have successfully curtailed her wayward lifestyle, until one night she fails to return to the MacNamara home, frantic with worry for her safety (and the safety of his Job), MacNamara is calling everybody and his dog in West Berlin that may have a clue to her whereabouts. His Driver finally admits that since her arrival in Germany she's been crossing the Brandenburg Gate into East Germany every night has been courting and now married to a fully fledged card carrying communist called Otto (Horst Buchholz). Knowing that this will be the final nail in his coca-cola coffin if his boss ever finds out, MacNamara proceeds to concoct a plan to erase the marriage from the books and have Otto incarcerated in the East by having him arrested for being an American Spy. MacNamara pleased with his handy work returns home to find out that Scarlett is in a 'family way' with Otto's baby, now he must get Otto Back from the clutches of the East German forces, and pass him of as a blue-blooded, non commie capitalist entrepreneur.

The friction between Cagney and Buchholz on camera is brilliant yet the two actors constantly fought off set with Cagney labelling Buchholz as the most un-cooperative active he had ever worked with with Cagney even threatening to 'put him, (Buchholz) on his ass' which made the interplay between their respective characters all the more realistic as two people that detest the sight of each other.

Red Buttons makes an early movie appearance as an American MP and steals his scene by doing an impersonation of Cagney circa 1931 right in the face of Cagney circa 1961, which even though his back is to camera you can tell Cagney is cracking up though forever the professional, he gathers his composure well enough to complete the scene. There is also a blink-and-you'll-miss it in-joke where Cagney threatens to hurl a half grapefruit in Buchholz face in homage to the memorable scene he did 30 years before with Mae Clarke in The Public Enemy Another classic line is when Cagney utters rival screen gangster Edward G Robinson's immortal final line from Little Ceaser 'Mother of Mercy is this the end of Rico'.

From the opening titles the pace of this movie is set with the fast paced sabre-dance theme. Cagney refuses to let the film slow down either from the moment he first appears on screen he shows more vitality and energy than the rest of the cast combined and still moves with the agility of someone half his age.

I love this movie and is a perfect example of a sixties screwball sex-farce. typical Wilder, but a role a little different than Cagney was used to playing, but he rose to the challenge perfectly. It was to be another 20 years before Cagney made another Movie, but hell, he needed a long rest after giving it his all in this one.

Jack Lemmon once said that the film would have been much better had a more comedic actor been cast as Otto, I personally would have loved Lemmon himself in the role, but in 1960's Hollywood, any actor willing to play an anti-American communist was committing occupational suicide such was the paranoia surrounding Communism.

This movie can never be remade as it is too racially and politically intolerant for today's politically correct audiences to digest with comfort, which doesn't really upset me as the performances is this movie could never be bettered
29 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Dated but still vibrant...
dexter-319 August 1999
Although "One, Two, Three" was made at a tense and crucial point in the Cold War standoff, it is bitingly funny and has aged well. As previous reviewers have noted, the performances are top notch, particularly those delivered by Cagney, Bucholz and Arlene Francis. The satire is thick in every scene, with particularly sharp barbs aimed at the behavior and attitudes of post-war Germans. The parodies of and references to Cagney's earlier films are also very funny. Cagney's makeover of the committed young Communist is outrageous.

A definite "10"...Wilder during his career peak, and Cagney delivering a fitting career finale.
24 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Another Delightful and Witty Comedy of Billy Wilder
Claudio Carvalho30 May 2009
In West Berlin, the ambitious executive of Coca-Cola C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney) is negotiating with the Russian representatives the opening of several factories in the Iron Curtain, expecting to be promoted to a high position in Europe. However, his boss Wendell P. Hazeltine (Howard St. John) calls him from Atlanta and tells him to call off the negotiation since it is against the policy of the company. Further, he asks MacNamara to take care of his seventeen year-old daughter Scarlett (Pamela Tiffin) that is traveling through Europe during her two weeks vacation in Berlin. When MacNamara and his wife Phyllis (Arlene Francis) meet Scarlett in the airport, they feel that she would be a troublemaker with her "hot blood". However, Scarlett gets sick and stays for two months in MacNamara's house. When Wendell calls MacNamara telling that he would come to Berlin with his wife to bring Scarlett back to USA, Phyllis calls her husband and tells that Scarlett has vanished. However, Scarlett appears in MacNamara's office and tells that she got married with the communist Otto Ludwig Piffl (Horst Buchholz). The smart MacNamara plots a scheme to get rid of the youngster; but when he finds that Scarlett is pregnant, he reverts the situation and decides to transform Otto in the ideal son-in-law.

"One, Two, Three" is another delightful and witty comedy of Billy Wilder in times of Cold War. The hilarious story is developed in a fast pace, with wonderful and ironic lines and situations making fun of the socialist and the capitalist regimes. James Cagney has one of his best roles (if not the best) performing the ambitious and smart executive. One of my favorite lines is the one that Otto says "I have been a capitalist for only three hours and I already owe more than ten thousand dollars". This is the first time that I watch this movie, and I imagine how funny it would be before the fall of the Berlin Wall. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Cupido Não Tem Bandeira" ("Cupid does not Have Flag")
14 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Wilder and Cagney at their peak.
Joseph Harder17 April 1999
This, and not Doctor Strangelove, is the supreme satire of the Cold War. From Cagney's hilarious opening narration, to its wonderful punch line, this masterpiece sustains a comic pace and energy that would almost no active film maker could hope to equal. The interrogation of Piffle is unforgettable, as is the meeting between Cagney and the commissars in the beer hall. In a word-MAGNIFICENT.
34 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A farcical comedy
henryhertzhobbit28 February 2011
If you don't like farce comedies like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Murder by Death, and The Pink Panther Strikes Again avoid this one because that is what it is. After reading most of these reviews I think people misunderstood this movie. If you compare it to a painting the cold war is just the canvas it is painted on. In reality it is about a person who just can't get things right in his career and hopefully this time around he can contain things and make it all work. Everybody else is trying to do the same thing. On the way they merge in so many references to other movies and one liners it could be considered a history of cinema. If you don't understand them the fast pace may make it difficult for you to keep up with it. But for the younger people today that get most of these references they will like its fast pace. Most movies from that time period move too slowly for them. Oh yes, I guess the McNamara curse does finally get done away with in the end. Or does it? You will have to see the end to decide that for yourself.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
You want the papers in triplicate, or the blond in triplicate?
lastliberal5 July 2007
In his last main-career film, James Cagney is an electric dynamo and so pushy his wife keeps referring to him as mein fuhrer. He is racing a mile a minute, playing tricks on the East Germans and trying to set up a date with his secretary. The best made plans get sidetracked when the boss send his 17-year-old daughter over for a couple of weeks and she ends up married to a Communist and pregnant.

You can't take your eyes off the screen for a second as Capitalist and Communist jokes are flying so fast you can hardly keep up with the. This is Wilder at his best - Cagney, too.

They are assisted by the Golden Globe nominated Pamela Tiffin as the ditzy Southern belle who falls in love with everyone, Horst Buchholz as her East German husband, Golden Globe nominated German actress Liselotte Pulver as the hot secretary that has the Russian trade delegation panting, and many more fine actors and actresses.

This is a classic Wilder comedy and it will keep you in stitches.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Has to Be Best of Wilder Comedies
RoswellFan28 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
James Cagney is at the top of his game giving a machine gun like delivery of his lines, once again, demonstrating his status as a legendary star.

Add to this, a cast of good character actors, some familiar like Leon Askin and Red Buttons and some not so familiar. All in all a cast that helps makes a film that delivers laughs in rapid fire succession!

Included in this cast is Horst Buchholz who is especially funny as the loony communist. Now, someone mentioned that Jack Lemmon thought a regular comedian should have been put in that role. I think that would have made the character less funny. It needs the "serious" touch that Buchholz gives Otto that really makes his statements even more ludicrous and therefore even funnier. A good example is the scene where Otto makes his comments on Americanism while being dragged out of the room, "America, unemployment, discrimination, gangsterism, juvenile delinquency, but under our new 20 year plan, we will catch up with you!".

If any one has not seen this gem, my advice is look for it on TV, buy it, rent it, just watch it! You won't stop laughing!
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of Cagney's last great roles
blanche-21 December 2009
James Cagney was pretty much retired when Billy Wilder lured him away from his farm to do "One, Two, Three," a witty, fast-moving comedy from 1961. And what a credit to Cagney - rapid dialogue and plenty of it, taxing to memorize probably for a man half his age.

The story concerns an American Coca-Cola executive, C.R. McNamara, heading up an office in Berlin who is asked by his boss to host his daughter (Pamela Tiffin). Hoping for a plum assignment in London, C.R. and his wife (Arlene Francis) welcome the young woman with open arms. She's southern, beautiful, flirtatious, and before they know it, she's got a Communist boyfriend (Horst Bucholz) Then he becomes her Communist husband, and that London promotion is looking less and less likely unless C.R. can pull off a miracle.

Wilder's direction for this was to have the dialogue shouted rather than spoken and to keep the film moving at a very fast pace. Admittedly this can get a little exhausting. Cagney gives a high-voltage performance and is extremely funny as the harried executive. And there are some hysterical bits as well as the madcap feeling of a '30s film. The rest of the cast is wonderful: Arlene Francis as C.R.'s long-suffering wife, Lilo Pulver as C.R.'s sexy secretary, and Hanns Lothar as Schlemmer, C.R.'s assistant who was "underground" during the war. ("The resistance?" "No, the subway. Nobody told me anything down there.") Though this was not a happy set - Wilder and Cagney had their differences, and Horst Buccholz was a major pain - the result is very good. Late in their careers, Wilder and Cagney still had it. Big time.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
a truly great comedy...
hamlet-167 November 2007
I remember this film from television many years ago and when a friend showed me it on tape in German I finally grabbed a copy on DVD.

WOW what a film... few films and even fewer comedies can sustain multiple showings.

BUT One Two Three is astounding.

Funny, satirical and even romantic with some of the fastest and sharpest dialogue ever to come out of an essentially Hollywood film.

Widler was a master and it shows.

With a top line cast headed by an extraordinary performance from James Cagney and a group of marvelous German actors and actresses ..and Lilo Pulver deserves special mention as the gum chewing secretary along with Hans Lothar as Schlemmer, Widler and I.A.L. Diamond create a wacky look at East West relations at the height of the Cold War.

I must also mention Arlen Francis who is just wonderful to watch as Cagney's long suffering wife.

It is interesting that Cagney and Buchholz (apparently) did not get on and this does add zing to their verbal duels!

But the whole cast is up to the funny antics that fill this film.

The use of music and Daniel Fapp's great wide screen cinematography (this is a film to really watch!!) are excellent.

So sit back, relax and just enjoy a great film, great cast and a genius director in action and I do mean ACTION!!!
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Fast-paced comedy
gws-22 July 1999
Somehow I had not seen "One Two Three" in the nearly 40 years it has been around. Now I have, and it was worth the wait. This is Jimmy Cagney's best comedy performance (with the possible exception of his role as the captain in "Mr. Roberts"). Director Billy Wilder generously fills the screen with sight gags, sly allusions to other movies, and double entendre -- all at a dizzying pace. I spent what may have been the fastest 155 minutes of my life watching this film. Highly recommended.
9 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Differences of opinion may be understandable!
Greg Couture10 October 2004
When I saw this one during its first-run release, I recall finding its relentless pace rather irritating and wasn't savvy enough at the time, I guess, to catch everything that Billy Wilder and his scriptwriters packed so tightly into its running time.

But it was shown (letterboxed - "The only way to fly!") on Turner Classic Movies the other night and I quite enjoyed it, since it may now be enhanced somewhat at today's distant remove from the politics and the contemporary references of its period.

Cagney's performance is really amazing and it's not so surprising that this was his last major film role on the big screen. He must have been exhausted when filming wrapped!

The rest of the cast seems to be thoroughly in the service of what Wilder intended, which certainly wasn't subtlety, to say the least. And the production values and behind-the-scenes contributions (especially Andre Previn's witty score) are Class "A" all the way (except for that flat-looking studio mock-up of the air terminal interior, apparently necessitated by problems that couldn't have been foreseen).

It's not Wilder's best but it's a cut above (and then some) so much of the stuff that passes for comedy on the multiplex screens today.
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A classic comedy gem.
WendyOh!20 June 2001
This one will make you wonder why James Cagney didn't work with Billy Wilder more often, they make a great team. Between Wilders ascerbic wit and Cagneys rapid fire delivery, it's a match made in heaven. Coca-cola was brave in letting them use the company in a 'cold war comedy', but I guess those were different times. Filled with great supporting actors, a great script and terrific performances, this is a rarely seen Billy Wilder film that deserves more attention.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A fast paced, riotous romp! Cagney at his best!
bellesar25 May 2000
To truly get the most out of this hysterically funny film, one must have an appreciation of cold war politics. This has to be one of the most fast paced comedy masterpieces ever set on the silver screen! Cagney is priceless! I can't say enough good things about this under appreciated movie. It is definitely one of my favorite comedies of all time. Children and the uninitiated will find it amusing... but to those who appreciate political humor and understand the Cold War ala 1961, they will die laughing, it is an absolute must see.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"It's that damned German efficiency."
ackstasis4 March 2008
Throughout his long and distinguished career, director Billy Wilder has always excelled at drawing impressive comedic performances from actors that we wouldn't typically associate with comedy. His most exemplary accomplishment would undoubtedly be the case of Walter Matthau, who, prior to 'The Fortune Cookie (1966),' was known prominently for his dramatic work, but went on, with Jack Lemmon by his side, to create one of cinema's most enduring and beloved comedic partnerships. No less remarkable is Wilder's transformation of archetypal gangster James Cagney. Defying all expectations, the director managed to wring a frenetic comedy performance out of his leading man, the experience leaving Cagney so utterly exhausted that he subsequently retired from the acting business {and wasn't seen again at all until Milos Forman's 'Ragtime (1981)'}. Though not one of Wilder's greatest efforts, and certainly paling in comparison with 'The Apartment (1960)' of the previous year, 'One, Two, Three (1961)' is a massively enjoyable comedy romp, and few directors other than Wilder were ever bold enough to poke such fun at the aggressively-escalating Cold War.

James Cagney plays C.R. "Mac" MacNamara, a proud veteran of the Coca-Cola Company, who has dragged his family around Europe for the past fifteen years in futile pursuit of the European managerial position. Now located in West Berlin, his goal is seemingly within reach, despite the elevating friction between the Americans and the Communists of the East. Just on the verge of a groundbreaking deal to distribute Coca-Cola across the Iron Curtain, Mac is unexpectedly asked by his boss (Howard St. John) to babysit his hot-blooded seventeen-year-old daughter, Scarlett (Pamela Tiffin), during her stay in Berlin. When Scarlett suddenly announces her marriage to a fierce Communist radical, Otto Ludwig Piffl (Horst Buchholz), Mac realises that he has just hours to transform this unapologetic Yankee-hater into the perfect son-in-law, otherwise his career is as good as doomed. Racing frantically around his office, barking orders with incredible ferocity, Cagney is absolute dynamite in the leading role, the film's hectic conversational pace often reminiscent of a Howard Hawks film, particularly 'His Girl Friday (1940)' {which Wilder notably remade in 'The Front Page (1974)'}.

Though some of the jokes occasionally miss their mark, the screenplay by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond {adapted from the one-act play by Ferenc Molnar} is brisk, intelligent and regularly very funny. The supporting characters each bring a streak of vibrancy to the darkly-themed satire, and, though Cagney always dominates his scenes, each performer complements him well. Schlemmer (Hanns Lothar), an ex-SS member who denies everything, habitually clinks his heels together at every order, despite being asked on multiple occasions to cut it out; Phyllis MacNamara (Arlene Francis) resents her husband's neglect of his family, and verbally articulates her frustration by referring to him as "Mein Fuhrer"; Fräulein Ingeborg (Liselotte Pulver) is Mac's sexy, ambitious secretary, and Wilder certainly knows how to make good use of her. Filled with amusing characters and situations, and more film references than I was able to count, Billy Wilder's 'One, Two, Three' is surefire Cold War entertainment, and fans of James Cagney will relish the opportunity to witness Rocky Sullivan playing the comedian.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Zany, madcap comedy.
sifujon1 September 2003
Saw this for the first time, and it had me laughing out loud. Wild action, double-entendres, even some slapstick. Good Cagney performance. Faster paced than either Some Like It Hot or The Apartment, two other very good Billy Wilder comedies. Lots of funny cold war one-liners.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews