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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE MAN FROM THE DINER'S CLUB is not Danny Kaye's best film by any
stretch, but it has it's moments. Kaye is a member of the staff of the
local office of the Diner's Club, and has several things against him.
He is a stumble-bum type, frequently causing trouble for fellow
employees. There is a running gag with Anne Marie Gilbert, who runs the
computer system. It is one of the original computers - which had
hundreds of cards in the system. Kaye keeps causing a switch to be
pushed that causes all the cards to come out and fall through a window
into the street like so much confetti. His boss Everett Sloane
threatens to fire him if he goofs up again. So does his supervisor
Howard Caine (who is mad that Kaye got the job that should have gone to
Kaye is also in the middle of wedding plans. He is marrying Martha Hyer, and is more nervous than usual as the date of the wedding (a few days later) approaches). But then a real disaster upsets everything. Kaye discovers he has approved the credit card application of a notorious mobster (Telly Savalas), and that this is the type of goof-up that Sloane and Caine are looking for.
The film follows Kaye's attempts to retrieve the credit card from Savallas. Little does he know that Savallas (in an early role here - complete with wig) is planning to get to Mexico using the Diner's Club Card of a member - but not the one Kaye would think. He also is planning to have his trail ended by using a substitute corpse.
There are funny moments in the film - Kaye rushing through a wedding rehearsal much to the dismay of Hyer and the annoyance of minister Ronald Long. Also Kaye pretending to be a German masseuse and giving a ridiculous rubdown to his foe Caine (you will see this and never be able to hear the word "tensing" said again with a straight face). Savallas is fine as a self-pitying gangster, wondering why we fought World War II if we allowed a home-grown gestapo (i.e.: his take on the FBI) take root. Savallas is also good dealing with his girlfriend Cara Williams, who he keeps referring to as a "birdbrain". In the end she does show she has more in her than he thinks. George Kennedy, as Savallas' right hand man, does the best he can with his role. And the final sight of Everett Sloane is also curious. Injured towards the end of the movie, we last see him on two crutches. Momentarily we think of Sloane's best recalled film role: Arthur Bannister in THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI.
This is Danny Kaye's last starring comedy, and like the last films of many comedians, it is quite sad. Frank Tashlin's film is much better suited to someone like Jerry Lewis. Kaye is completely out of place in the film. The true scene stealer of this film is Telly Savalas. In this film, Kojak has hair and plays the villain. And what a fine villain he is! But where are the musical specialties for Kaye? There is not one. Kaye was a comedian who depended on facial expressions, funny sounds, and musical patter. Here, he is expected to be a slapstick comedian. "On the Double", Kaye's previous film is a masterpiece next to this.
Although another viewer said that Danny Kaye looks like he was doing
something originally meant for Jerry Lewis, The Man From The Diner's
Club actually is taken part and parcel from the Bob Hope comedy Alias
In the Hope film he plays a life insurance salesman who sells a policy to Jesse James and spends the whole film trying to get it back and rescinded. In this film Kaye works at the Diner's Club Credit Card company and accidentally okays a credit card for gangster Telly Savalas.
Savalas has enough of his own problems, his American assets are frozen in lieu of an income tax liability and he's trying to flee the country to Mexico where he's got cash stashed away. Savalas has a distinct physical trait in that he's got one foot a size 10 and the other a size 11. He's got a guy picked out for a homicide with the same characteristics who goes and gets killed in traffic accident.
But when Kaye comes to call about the Diner's Club card, Savalas notices he has the same set of feet. Another pigeon, but Kaye in his usual bumbling way manages to get through it all.
The Man From The Diner's Club sports a good supporting cast in Martha Hyer who is so beautiful you can't conceive of a bumbling Danny Kaye getting anywhere near here. Cara Williams plays a nice part as Savalas's brain dead moll and she has a terrific drunk scene. George Kennedy plays a similarly brain dead muscle guy for Savalas and he shows a nice flair for comedy that rarely was utilized in his career. Everett Sloane is Kaye's excitable boss and Martin Caine is his sneaky rival in the company.
Kaye has some good moments in the final chase scene where just about the entire cast gets involved. His best moment is with Ann Morgan Guilbert who has designed a system for information retrieval on those old punch cards that computers back in the stone age utilized. Twice in the film the bungling Kaye flips a switch that sends a blizzard of punch cards spewing around the office. That bit was partially taken from the Tracy/Hepburn comedy Desk Set. In fact I think some of the set for that film's computer Emirac was used in this film also from Columbia.
It's not Danny Kaye's best film and it certainly was cobbled together from other sources, but I think his still legion of fans will be pleased with it.
This film represents the lasts starring theatrical film made by Danny
Kaye. Soon, he'd make his mark on TV--with his popular show and a few
assorted television movies. And, because it's the last, you'd hope it
would be among his best...which it isn't. Is it worth seeing? Read
Danny plays a schnook named Ernest Klenk and pretty much everything he does ends up exploding or breaking. It's a shame, as he wants to marry his long-time girlfriend but just when he things he's got enough money and job security to make a go of it, something stupid happens and the wedding is postponed. There also is an evil gangster (Telly Savalas) who wants to fake his own death--and guess who has a weird anomaly which would make him the perfect candidate to murder in place of the gangster?
If you are used to seeing Danny Kaye singing, dancing and doing comedy, you may be in for a little shock. There's no singing nor dancing and the sort of comedy he does is nothing much like the usual Danny Kaye humor. In many ways, it really reminds me of a Jerry Lewis film from the same era--where the leading man is a screw-up, there are lots of sight gags and the comic mugs A LOT for the camera. A great example of this are the scenes where Kaye is around computers--where he twitches and gesticulates like he's having some sort of seizure. Funny? Not in the least. And, after seeing it, I can see why he stuck to television.
Danny Kaye made this movie at age 50, just as he was transitioning into his long-running, successful TV show. It's a shame that the film wasn't better tailored to his talents. He gets to do a few funny facial expressions, but no singing or dancing, and almost no verbal humor (his specialties). Probably the best bit is when he pretends to be a Swedish masseur and does dialect humor while he gets revenge on his oppressive office-mate. Most of the blame can be placed on the weak, dated script by "Bill Blatty" (Mr. Exorcist), which is full of tired office humor from the early 60s. (It makes HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS look slick and sophisticated.) Kaye is paired up romantically with a girl clearly out of his league; why would such a hot number put up with a nerd who keeps putting off the wedding? Telly Savalas and Cara Williams make a nice team as the bumbling villain and his moll; Harry Dean Stanton makes an uncredited appearance as a poetry-spouting beatnik. (Yes, what early 60s film would be complete without a beatnik?) Music by Stu Phillips (Cosby Show) tends toward the Carl Stallings cartoon approach. The cinematography is dull and lifeless. If you want REAL Danny Kaye, turn back the clock a decade or more before this lemon, or hope that someday his great TV show is packaged for DVD.
This may be (I only did a little research) Danny Kaye's final lead role
in the movies, yet comes only a few years after our favorite Danny Kaye
movie, Me And The Colonel. I enjoyed The Man From the Diner's Club when
I first watched it, which must have been whenever it arrived on
television after its release in 1962-63 (when I was nine years old).
Seen today, the movie generally moves too slowly, especially in the beginning, as if most of the movie is a set up for the final climax and resolution. Yet the movie never quite catches fire, perhaps held back by the reliance on the familiar Danny Kaye "schtick", which by this point in his career must have been very familiar to theater goers.
We watched it during the Christmas holiday, 2015, as I wanted to share my decades old fondness for the film with my best friend, who gradually warmed to the movie as it developed.
But for me, a dyed in the wool Danny Kaye fan, the film stayed slow until the end.
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