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.
Post-war Berlin is the microcosm of the polarization of West and East; American and Soviet. C.R. MacNamara's Coca-Cola's head of West Berlin operations, His life goes into a spin when he must deal with the visit of Scarlett Hazeltine; the 17yo spoilt daughter of his boss. On the same day Mac hears Mr. & Mrs. Hazeltine will be iarriving in a day, he also learns Scarlett's married Otto Ludwig Piffl, a staunch East German Communist. Mac also learns Scarlett's pregnant, Mac has to get Otto, and turn him into a respectable young man for the soon-to-be arriving boss... and Otto's father-in-law.Written by
Billy Wilder made James Cagney do over 30 takes of a scene because Cagney kept saying "coat and striped pants" instead of "morning coat and striped pants." See more »
In the scene with the three MPs, when one opens the door and says he wants to be taken away, the other soldier call him "Sarge" at least twice. However, the insignia on his sleeve shows he's a Specialist 5th Class, equal in pay grade but not addressed as a sergeant. The two soldiers with stripes (Corporals) would actually out rank the specialist who was not considered a Noncomissioned Officer. See more »
[Scarlet takes off Otto's cap, revealing his shaggy, disheveled hair]
He could use a haircut... and I'd like to give it to him myself with a hammer and sickle.
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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.
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