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Charley And The Angel was the final film that Fred MacMurray did for
the Walt Disney Studio. It was certainly a profitable association for
both Disney and MacMurray although this one does not come anywhere near
such things as The Absent Minded Professor or The Shaggy Dog.
MacMurray as Charley Appleby is a workaholic just tending to business at the hardware store day after day and ignoring his family which includes wife Cloris Leachman and kids, Kathleen Cody, Vincent Van Patten, and Scott Kolden. Kathleen's got a pair of boyfriends interested in her in Kurt Russell and Ed Begley, Jr. And the boys are getting themselves into mischief.
MacMurray after a couple of close shaves gets a visit from guardian angel Harry Morgan who says because of those things, he's fouled up the celestial schedule. But he's on borrowed time and MacMurray now waking up and smelling the coffee decides he'd better change his lifestyle.
The Disney family formula was wearing a bit thin. I don't think it was an accident that Fred's last three films with Disney were all set in the past. Disney's current star of modern type comedies was the all American Kurt Russell.
The younger brothers innocent involvement with gangsters was something of a hoot however. I'm surprised Vincent Van Patten didn't go on to do more Disney items, he seemed perfect as a Magic Kingdom type.
Harry Morgan is a droll sort of angel who gets to do a bit of scenery chewing with MacMurray. He's easily the best one in the film.
Fans of Fred MacMurray should appreciate this.
This is an excellent family film and I disagree with the previous reviewer. I think Fred MacMurray was an expert at playing the father on television and I don't think this movie is any exception. He was just perfect for the part and really fathers can be any age. This is also a movie with a good message about making the best of your relationships while you have the chance, giving quality time and not just "providing" for your family. The father in the movie is very absorbed with providing for his family, but has forgotten what is most important. His children & wife are growing away from him and he doesn't even know it. It takes an angel to help him "wake up" and to give him that 2nd chance to start over. Excellent and I hope it is released on DVD soon.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
i suppose if you wanted to be gutsy or perverse about this you might
suggest that this film has a religious element. personally i think
that's a stretch, but i once read a review in a Christian monitor
claiming the 'Oh God' movies with George Burns were good Christianity
in film. oh okay. if that's the case i suppose you could make a similar
argument here, if you so choose to go there.
to be perfectly honest and open about this, i consider myself to be a serious Christian, but i don't prescribe to any superstitious or medieval beliefs. i consider myself to be somewhat of a realist and try to be as practical about serious matters as i can be. most of our common beliefs about Heaven and angels are based on medieval artwork and superstitious notions. the whole "guardian angel" idea also seems like some corny contrivance out of nostalgic Hollywood movies like "It's A Wonderful Life" or "The Bishop's Wife". i've never really been into movies like that. i guess i always felt they were more my parent's thing.
Disney's 'Charley and the Angel' manages to be a Disney comedy of substance without being too preachy about a message. older Disney films seldom were because Disney did't believe in burdening his audience with anything too thought provoking. 'Charley and the Angel' manages to be poignant and offer good and correct insights into life without sacrificing it's usual formula of fun and humour to convey it's message. i doubt most viewers will even realize there was much said when the film is over.
this movie is also outright hilarious. it's almost "get away from me with that" kind of funny. there is a outrageous subplot concerning Charley's two little boys driving a automobile and running bootleg alcohol for gangsters. all a little questionable since the boys are only twelve and ten. WHOA. what was Disney thinking?! that's bound to unnerve any uptight parent concerned about wholesome content. fortunately the whole thing doesn't get too out of hand and remains within the confines of "G" rated entertainment. a wacky car chase with tommyguns doesn't help though, it just fuels the crazy, over the top giddiness of the events.
this film has got to have one of the funniest depictions of children in film ever. Charlie's two boys, Willie and Rupert, provide most of the humour here and come off as red blooded, all-boy types rather than namby pamby sweetie pie child actor types. the subplot of Willie and Rupert running bootleg whiskey after Charley tells them to stop being lazy freeloaders and get jobs (keep in mind the boys are only twelve and ten), is probably some of funniest and most off the wall humour concerning children i've ever seen in the movies.
the acting here is also amongst Disney's best in a live action feature. this was Fred MacMurray's last film for Disney and it's a great reminder of why his fans love him so much. MacMurray was a wonderfully subtle actor, something he didn't get a chance to show on his routine sitcom 'My Three Sons'. MacMurray makes Charley seem believable and a realistic focal point for the film. Cloris Leachman is just great and gives a equally realistic performance that helps to keep the whole film somewhat grounded and convincing. Harry Morgan was one of Disney film's best assets in the seventies. his performance also gives the angel a earthly humanness which is needed since the angel almost always appears with FX effects and gag imagery. Morgan gives the angel a feeling of normality which dilutes a lot of the eerie surrealism of the character. and any film that stars Vincent Van Patten is uber cool in my book. i mean hey, Vince VP was in 'Rock n' Roll High Skool' with the Ramonees. there is also a kiddie junior version of Kurt Russell here looking no older than a baby faced nineteen or twenty.
this film is a good American history lesson as well. it's depiction of life in America's great depression of the 1930's is effective and accurate. particularly a scene where the bank closes it doors on it's depositors. my grandparents told stories of that one. of course there's the whole Willie, Rupert and the prohibition thing.
look. i happen to be a Christian but i'm no prophet or psychic. i don't know what the afterlife is supposed to entail or what a seraphim is to look like. i know that most of our notions are based on superstition and medieval artwork. i don't think this movie is attempting any kind of literal interpretation.
it's said "that a good man cannot be unhappy or a unhappy man do good". don't know much about that. but i do know that Charley's destiny seems fairly ambivalent about him and his fate. that is until he reaches his "self discovery". i don't claim to know if tomorrow brings rain or sunshine, but most people should RELAX and not worry about money or worldly things to the point you forget the promises life can hold for you. this has got to be one of my very favorite Disney films. and one of my film favorites period.
Fred MacMurray and Cloris Leachman live in a Depression-era small country town. He has his own store and through a succession of mishaps and bad luck, he feels everything's against him. He finds his own sons idolizing another friend's father instead of himself, because he never does anything with him. Then he meets an angel, Henry Morgan, who says Fred has cheated death several times and that his end is only a matter of days, any time now. Unless he changes his money-loving ways and think of his family and real quick, he won't be here much longer. From such a serious and somewhat depressing beginning to a silly end, as the boys get a job, one not that up-and-up, (of course they're oblivious to what they're doing,) because they want to help the family out. The law goes after the mafia, which of course has something to with this questionable job of theirs. They all get thrown in this silly discombobulation of an ending. I wanted to like this movie, but it gets uneven and nonsensical by the end of it. It has its charming moments, but they are few and far between. The funniest thing is when Cloris thinks Fred has lost it, because he's talking to himself, when he's talking to the angel she can't see. If you love Fred MacMurray's Disney films, watch "The Absent-Minded Professor" and leave "Charley" to his own devices.
Family man and hardware store owner in the 1930s cheats death and is visited by a persnickety angel with a scheduling conflict. Fred MacMurray, his eyebrows arched in malevolent ill-will and his hair darkened black as patent-leather, plays the hero like a galumphing, sexless clod. His character of Charley never makes a wise decision, never says the proper thing at the correct time...he can't even drive on the right side of the street! As the heavenly apparition, Harry Morgan cracks wise and wastes time with dead-end lines like, "Don't worry Charley, your wife can't see or hear me." It's "Topper" for under-achievers, or perhaps children too young to know any better. Technical aspects good, but the supporting cast is filled with wheezing old-timers looking for their piece of scenery to chew on. *1/2 from ****
Quick Quiz folks: How old was Fred MacMurray when he made this film? He
was born in 1908-this film was made in 1973. He was around 65 years
old-too old to be a father of 2 young boys! He's old enough to be their
grandfather. So, would someone please tell me why Disney Cast MacMurray
as a father? He has since worn out his role as a father since "My three
I like Fred MacMurray, I consider him to be one of the best actors in Hollywood but he's all wrong here as a father. Cloris Leachman is OK as the mother, certainly better than she was in "Scavenger Hunt."
Perhaps the best performances comes from the two boys, I like the scene where they drive a car!(and they seem to be the only ones who are enjoying themselves.) Harry Morgan is fine as the angel.
So, overall this film was a half baked attempt at a feel good story of a family in the Depression. It was made at a time when Watergate broke lose and the Vietnam war-so perhaps they made this movie as an escape from that.
I enjoy this film, but Disney should have done better with the story and the casting.
TV veterans hammer out a movie version of "It's a Wonderful Life" without the Jimmie Stewart classic's charm and humanity. Harry Morgan plays the angel and Fred MacMurray is Charlie, the grizzled shopkeeper who realizes he has to put on a happy face. All told, half-baked.
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