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Interesting that 20th Century Fox gave Gene Wilder a second chance to develop his talents as a writer-director-star (and producer AND songwriter this time) after "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" left most critics indifferent. "Brother" wasn't terrible, and it reportedly grossed twenty million dollars, but as comic movie-making it was a botch (it had too much manic energy for one picture). Here, Wilder plays a Milwaukee schnook who travels to Los Angeles in the 1920's with his new bride to audition for Rainbow Pictures' answer to Rudolph Valentino. Wilder doesn't float gags around, he hammers away at them without much subtlety or finesse; he loves a good burlesque gag and he's fond of old-fashioned slapstick, but he needs more soft edges (the best scenes are the ones featuring Carol Kane, who is handled gingerly playing the wife). Lots of running jokes (bad ones, like Gene's character being named Rudy Valentine, that simply don't pay off), and too much of Dom DeLuise, bring the picture down. There are some laughs: Gene making eyes at a plain Jane on the train, an overflowing bathtub in a posh hotel. Wilder certainly has lots of ideas, but the results are more miss than hit. ** from ****
Coming out at the same time as Ken Russell's rather more amusing Valentino, The World's Greatest Lover suffers from Gene Wilder's sporadic tendency to mistake the grotesque for the side-splitting. Thus we get the odd huge close-up of mouths covered in shaving foam and a lot of tiresome hysteria and tongues. We also get far more of Dom DeLuise mugging away as if semaphore were back in fashion than is strictly necessary, though he's not as OTT here as in Sherlock, for which we can at least be grateful. Unfortunately, we get much more of Wilder's tendency to mistake hysteria for the hysterical when in doubt, shout seems to be his motto with Wilder adding a nervous tic that sees him stick out his tongue when he gets nervous. And he gets nervous a lot. Be still my aching ribs It's a reworking of Fellini's near career killing early flop The White Sheik, even including a Felliniesque lineup of hookers at a bus stop in one scene, only without Fellini's restraint (yes, you did read that right), with Wilder's unemployed baker heading for Hollywood to enter a screen test to find the next Valentino while his young wife seeks out the real thing. Wilder does acknowledge the debt in a screen credit that's part thank you to 'my friend', but seems more name-dropping in a film that comes across as something of a vanity project certainly with Wilder starring, writing, directing, producing and even writing a song for the film, it's fair to say where the buck stops on this one. One of those films that at once offers fairly lavish period production design but often a complete lack of understanding of silent cinema yes, we do get sped-up comedy scenes - it's definitely pre-Kevin Brownlow's Hollywood, which completely destroyed most of the then-common myths about silent cinema that this embraces. Indeed, anachronisms abound, with the feel (and the songs) often more Thirties than Twenties, which perhaps wouldn't matter quite so much if it were all funnier. It's not a total disaster there's the odd good line (a conductor announcing "Hollywood, home of the stars and several featured players"), a nicely natural performance from Carol Kane before she became a mess of mannerisms to rival Wilder and it does offer a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see James Hong playing a Norwegian (or is it Svedish?) studio executive, complete with excellent accent. (Also to be glimpsed among the bit parts in the supporting cast are Danny De Vito as an assistant director, Billy Sands Paparelli in Sergeant Bilko as a studio guard and, as the boss of a bakery, David Huddleston, here billed as 'Michael Huddleston's Father'!)
This production was built around the search for the next Rudolph
Valentino. While this work has become dated, it was filmed as a
pseudo-retrospective at the time, so it was already "dated" the day it
This is a total Gene Wilder vehicle. He wrote the screenplay, directed the movie, and was the movie's sole credited producer. He is also THE star of the movie. He does share the limelight with Carol Kane (a pure delight, as usual), but this was one of Wilder's brightest moments. By this time, the world realized they had a comedic genius on their hands and after this work Wilder pretty much had the Midas Touch for a while.
Kane plays Annie Hickman, the world's greatest Valentino fan. Wilder portrays a Milwaukean baker who is at the end of his rope. His idiosyncrasies are so severe, he finds it impossible to maintain employment. Upon learning of a contest held by Rainbow Studios (NOT the #1 studio) to find the next Rudolph Valentino, Rudy Hickman just "knows" this is his ticket to a better life. His wife leaves him to go find Mr. Valentino. But once Hickman is in the middle of it all, he realizes his wife is what is most important to him and he sets the works in motion to woo her away from Rudolph Valentino. The formula makes for some of the best heart-warming entertainment that's hit the big screen. It's endearing and funny in its bittersweet malaise.
It also goes a long way towards showing what CAN be done with no effects and no locations beyond the Studio Backlot and a few, cheap but decent sets.
While it is frayed about the edges, this classic favorite is one ripe for a DVD restoration...perhaps even a 2-disk director's cut for those of us fans who have BEEN fans since the beginning.
It rates an 8.8/10 from...
the Fiend :.
Back in April of this year I heard that The Worlds Greatest Lover was going to be on AMC and I was like yes I'm finally going to get to see this movie, I'm a big Gene Wilder fan so.....yeah, anyway the only problem was that it was going to come on at 3 in the morning on a Monday which was a school night for me so I asked my mom to record it for me, so when I came home from school I saw it and thought it was awesome, two or three months later I ordered the DVD off of Barnes and Nobles and I now have it on DVD what I had heard from this movie was that Gene not only stars in this movie but writes, directs, produces, and surprisingly wrote a song for the film as well, I think Gene's take on Rudolph Valentino was pretty cool and I think he came up with some clever ideas like "histerical laryngitis" and sticking your tongue out or twisting your words around whenever his character is nervous. I also thought Carol Kane was wonderful as Rudy's wife Annie and Dom Deluise was as funny as usual as movie mogul Adolph Zitz, one thing you probably found annoying was Gene Wilder's constant screaming and going into hysterics all the time but he does it brilliantly, plus the character of Rudy was very high-strung kinda like Leo Bloom right? so if you like slapstick comedy or if your a fan of Gene Wilder, I highly recommend this and I'd say its another one of Gene Wilder's forgotten films and its a great one to look out for, I'd give it a 7.5 out of 10.
I just saw this recently on DVD. I hadn't seen it since it was first
released and couldn't remember it that well. Well, I've reacquainted
myself with it and, although I'm genuinely not the one to exploit
yiddishisms, my first thought was "Oy!" Somebody tell Gene Wilder to
stop screaming! He did some funny shrieks in his previous films,
including the Mel Brooks romps, but he kept it at the proper minimum.
Here he screams in every scene like he's having his leg amputated with
a steak knife and anesthetic was unavailable. Other times he mugs like
a bad burlesque comic. The film itself is just as subtle, filled with
loud music, heavy handed gags, and cartoon sound effects. The "Modern
Times" parody is a major embarrassment. This film isn't even good bad.
It's just sad bad. Even Wilder, in his DVD commentary said "They don't
make movies like this today, and maybe that's a good thing." And then
there's Carol Kane, who is absolutely adorable. In time, she too would
become self conscious about her comic abilities (especially after
"Taxi"), but here she gives a tender, endearing performance with
occasional touches of genuine comedic spark which would be even better
if only the material would give her more. The Sex-By-The-Numbers
segment is the one truly funny bit in the movie.
Those two look like they were made for each other. I'm really surprised they didn't become an item after the movie. Maybe she just couldn't handle the screaming.
This movie is a perfect example of a film that divides people into 2 groups.. Those who get the joke and those who don't. People usually attack what they don't understand. This film has a comic style and charm that has been unparalleled since. It's a GREAT comedy.. and a GREAT romance. It's a perfect date movie. A perfect movie for someone who wants a good lighthearted laugh. And if your perspective is too tense, maybe this movie isn't for you, and you may need counseling. It is an injustice that Fox has kept this film, along with Wilder's 1975 classic "The Adventure Of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" on the shelf since the early 80's, having never seen the light of day on DVD. Yet they feel "Big Momma's House" was worthy of a special edition. I find it odd that my two all time favorite romantic comedies have never been released on DVD. The other being Carl Reiner's "The One And Only", which Paramount has sat on since the early 80's as well... Yet, "From Justin To Kelly" is in nearly every video store in the country. There is no Justice in the world. Maybe those who took the time to bash this will enjoy "From Justin To Kelly", I'm sure that one is watered enough for them to "get".
Strange movie because every word, sentence or definition about Rudy
Valentine is ambiguous. In same time, a brave attempt to define a
genius "sine ira et studio". Fruit of noble intention, the film
presents a wonderful Valentino interpreted by Gene Wilder splendid and
subtle. Dom DeLuise offers to his Wild power, gentle innocence and soft
attitude, the role of victim like result of sympathy and love.
Is it important the truth of this portrait? The real gestures and attitude of great Irish? Is it the gay statute his emblematic mark? I don't know but I saw this movie like a poised exercise to discover a man for who the life was the beauty's exploration.
Valentino was not a freak or a important actor. He is not an ordinary rich dandy or a homosexual icon. He is messenger of some values, very attractive, very deep in brilliant essence.
In fact, the prestige of a work who moves the time consist not in obscure sin, but in generosity of message ( the first moments of film- his visit in America- are a great pledge).
This movie studies a handful of themes, among them: romantic problems,
issues of the individual versus conformity, and beauty versus
mediocrity. It is set during the Hollywood silent movie days, when
Rudolph Valentino was the rage. Wilder plays the lead role, the husband
of a Valentino fan, who has to muster up the sexy man in himself in
order to save the day. The sets are lush, Carol Kane is gorgeous,
Wilder gives one of his most heartbreaking performances, and Harry
Nilsson devotes his song "Ain't it kind of wonderful" to the
soundtrack. Very ambitious, especially considering that Wilder wrote,
directed and produced it.
Yes, it's true some of the gags are dated or overdone, but there are other things to enjoy. It's in the same league as Woody Allen's early slapstick comedies, like "Sleeper" and "Play it again, Sam", as well as the Mel Brooks' oeuvre.
A neurotic baker goes with his wife to 1920s Hollywood for a screen
test. However, his wife is obsessed with star Rudolph Valentino, and
decides to chase after him, and well, nutty mishaps ensue.
While I do like this film as a guilty pleasure, I have to be critical and come clean: World's Greatest Lover is an uneven comedy that sums up the excesses of these wacky 70s comedies. But first, the good: The production values and score by underrated master John Morris (a Brooks regular, as well as Lycnh's Elephant Man) deliver, recreating the 'Old Hollywood' feel of the 1920s, and the actors are never awful, with the great Dom Deluise in fine form as the cartoonish studio boss.
But it's the humour is what makes the film hard to recommend: it follows an basic formula of slapstick, awkward situations and plenty of shouting and eye-bogging from Gene Wilder. Rise and repeat for an hour an a half, and that's the film. Dear old Gene has no control (he wrote, starred, directed and produced this) and without the steady hand of someone like Mel Brooks, he goes way past over-the-top, and almost creates something more like someone parodying Wilder, screaming like a banshee every couple of seconds. He himself is not necessarily terrible, but less generous viewers will be grated. However, his opening dream dance number is quite fun, and probably the film's highlight.
It's worth owning if you're a hardcore fan of Wilder, and it's taken a LONG time to finally receive a DVD, but, aside from aficionados, you're better off with Young Frankenstein or Blazing Saddles.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Interesting how people rather would comment on their expectations that have apparently not been met by this movie than on the actual movie. Obviously many reviewers expected just a hilarious comedy and their anticipation at least in their view was disappointed. Well, the odd thing is that The World's Greatest Lover is a hilarious comedy offering very funny scenes, but it is also much more than this, it's a brilliant satire. As such it is a comment on Hollywood and not a very pleasant one, though it is set in an era that had at least according to this portrayal not yet succumbed to the mere business side of filmmaking. What one can see - if one chooses to - is a city completely revolving around make-believe. Everybody is a movie star, everybody behaves like one, may it be Rudy on his arrival at the hotel or Uncle Harry and his family. After all this is the dream factory, which btw is an oxymoron. Yet despite of the absolute irreality of movies, there is a craving for reality and truth at its heart. When Rudy finally wakes up and comes to terms with himself realising his love for Annie, the mostly female audience gets hysterical for this is what they are longing for. Thus this movie can also be viewed as a romantic comedy of a man finally waking up from the dreams and expectations imposed on him, which also runs in his most private, sexual life forcing him to use and apply a manual, to the reality of his own dreams, which he can and will make real.
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