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.
Naive, by the book French police officer Nester Patou, is transferred to the Red Light district. Upon witnessing what must be a brothel, he calls the station and organizes a raid, transporting all the 'ladies' to the jail. This unfortunately disrupts the well organized system of the police and the Pimps union. Not to mention inadvertently netting his station superior at the brothel. Fired, he goes to a bar to drink, is befriended by Irma, beats up her pimp, and finds he is now Irma's new pimp. Nester's doesn't like the thought of his girl seeing other men, so comes up with a plan. Written by
Brian W Martz <B.Martz@Genie.com>
This film is Billy Wilder's rewriting of Alexandre Breffort's French musical farce. In 1960, David Merrick brought an English version of the piece to the United States. This Brechtian play concerned penniless law student Nestor le Fripe and his jealous love for his prostitute girl friend, Irma. He disguises himself as Monsieur Oscar and becomes her only client. When he becomes jealous of Oscar, he pretends to murder the fake client. He is assisted in this scheme by Bob, a bartender who also serves as a narrator of sorts.
Wilder keeps the basic idea of the play, but turns le Fripe, now Nestor Patou, into a policeman who falls for Irma. Bob becomes known as Moustache and Monnot's songs are used only for background music. In the leading roles, Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Lou Jacobi, Hershel Bernardi and Bruce Yarnell are as French as French fries. Wilder injects the farce with his usual cynical romanticism. The shame is that all of the leading players had musical comedy backgrounds and could have put across the musical numbers with style. Wilder did not have to use all 14 musical numbers, but 2 or 3 would have made the point. There is no reason why Jacobi could not have opened the film with "Valse Milieu". The "Dis-donc" number is almost performed by Shirley MacLaine in the film; why wasn't it done? Jack Lemmon could have crooned "Our Language of Love" to Shirley in the early bedroom scene. Maybe Wilder felt that the music would take the bite out the his film. It would have, but it would have made the film warmer. Thank goodness Wilder decided to include some silly slapstick to lighten the piece a bit.
When I first saw this film, I was disappointed in it, but after a few more viewings, it stands up well against Wilder's other cynical-romantic comedies of this era. And it is the only one in color!
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