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>
Production designer Alexander Trauner imported all the window glass used in the sets' windows from France, as well as materials (iron for railings) used in the sets' construction. The window glass was imperfect--wavy, with air bubbles. All the street 6shop windows, apartment mullioned windows, were cut from this imported glass. Parisian street lamps, street fire hydrant plumbing hardware, as well as the sets' hardware for door latches, window latches and locks, were air-lifted to the U.S. and delivered to the Goldwyn Studio. These items were matched, molded and fabricated in the film's staff shop, duplicated in fiberglass. The "L" plan of the three streets converging at the central street core conversion at the "Cafe Moustache" was designed in a theatrically forced perspective plan layout. The left side of the street extended through an adjoining stage door. The "T" plan of the central street extended to the rear stage wall, extremely forced in perspective. Miniature French "toy" cars, approximately three feet long by 15-18 inches high, were maneuvered on wires. The false perspective street raised in height above the stage floor approximately three feet. Scenically, the street's façade of shops were scaled and painted to recede as calculated for the reduced perspective horizon plane. Illustrator Harold Michaelson, a genius at laying out perspective, calculated all of the perspective plans and elevations for the three street ends. The extras hired for "atmosphere" were small actors and actresses for all background action shots. Rain pipes were hung over the entire street set for the rain sequences, with the street's gutter system planned to flush the water out of the stage through stage-wall drainage systems into the exterior adjacent studio street. The second-story atelier set was located on the same stage, situated behind the street façade. This set was 20 feet off of the ground, accessed by ladders. Forklifts were used to deliver camera equipment and lighting equipment. The cast and crew had to use the ladders to climb up or down, to and from the set. A minimum crew were allowed on the scaffold set with Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Billy Wilder. While filming their scenes in this small environment, the wonderful rapport among Lemmon, MacLaine and Wilder was a "very private funny scenario". Behind this set, the scenic shop department was located on the stage rear wall, with a paint frame and a 20-foot-high deck, from which the scenic artists worked, while painting the film's scenic drops. Additional stages were used for the "Les Halles" and the cathedral interiors. The beef carcasses, used for set dressing in the meat market, were white plastic formed vacuums completely assembled. Twenty scenic artists painted these carcasses with oil paints, using sponges and fine-hair paint brushes. They employed scenic techniques to reproduce fresh marbled fat-grained meat. All of the cathedral stained glass leaded windows were also scenically oil-painted on imported French glass. See more »
When Nestor and Irma first meet, Nestor says he received a medal for performing 'mouth to mouth respiration' on a drowning child. Of course, he means 'mouth to mouth resuscitation'. See more »
Life is total war my friend... nobody has a right to be a conscientious objector.
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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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