Boeing Boeing and Dear Brigitte :: His and Hers Double Feature (1965)

HIS HERS HEADERHis and Hers Drive-In Double Feature :: 1965 :: Boeing Boeing and Dear Brigitte

Our Movie Nights are back at Lyriquediscorde, switching back-and-forth between Horror Double Features and our “His and Hers” year-by-year “Drive-In Double Feature“. We took a break, but are back in service to watch and review two movies for the Lyriquediscorde readers. This time around we settled in for a tale of womanizing gone awry in the City of Lights, and a story of an eight year old mathematical genius/French actress fanboy who travels to the City of Lights to meet the gorgeous Brigitte Bardot, oh, and also save literature and poetry while he’s at it.

Here is the obligatory description of this project to serve as a reminder, and an introduction to new readers/watchers:

My husband (Charles) and I (Laura) select a movie to view together from each consecutive year. Most of the time these are movies that the other has not seen, and sometimes, they are new picks to the both of us. After viewing the two films in their entirety, we share our thoughts about each choice.

Charles likes to take a cue in style and structure from the infamous drive-in movie reviewer, Joe Bob Briggs, borrowing his “3 B” rating system (“Breasts, Beasts and Blood“). I like to disclaim that no, he is not a redneck misogynist, he just plays one here on Drive-In Double Feature, with a heavy does of sarcasm, and a big wink.

As for me, well, the English major side influences my style, and my reviews tend to read more as a reaction to the art form itself, as well as any societal messaging, both positive and negative, that may permeate the film, and impact my perspective. That said, I like to ramble on about the things I enjoyed without any formal structuring, too.

All that said, we try to have fun with it, and utilize the challenge we threw at ourselves as a reason to carve out time, in each of our busy lives, to spend together.

Our first film (Laura’s choice) is Boeing Boeing, the farcical story about a die-hard womanizing bachelor who has scheduled his days meticulously to be able to juggle three international flight attendants who rotate being in town and living with said bachelor as his fiancee. All is down to scientific precision until a new airline is launched with faster thrust and timelines, and a professional colleague/adversary comes to pay a visit.

Boeing Boeing

Our second film (Charles’ choice) is Dear Brigitte, a story about a family of poet and literature professor who live on a dry-docked boat and spends his days teaching and fighting against science and technology, the two threats he perceives as destroying art in the future. What he wants most is to raise a family of artists, but his daughter is mostly interested in money and marrying into a million dollars worth, and his young son is mostly interested in Brigitte Bardot, oh, and he’s a math genius. How will the professor deal with saving the arts when his family isn’t even on board?

Dear Brigitte

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Boeing Boeing (1965)

Brief history:

Boeing Boeing (alternately titled Boeing (707) Boeing (707) was released on December 22, 1965. It is an American bedroom farce comedy film, based on the 1960 French play Boeing-Boeing, and starred Jerry Lewis and Tony Curtis. Boeing Boeing was the last film that Paramount Pictures made with Lewis, who made films exclusively with the studio since My Friend Irma, in 1949.

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Boeing Boeing was filmed from April 8 to June 30, 1965. As both Curtis and Lewis wanted top billing, their names appeared on a jet engine’s rotating nacelle. For print ads and posters, their names were criss-crossed on a diagonal so a portion of each stars’ name on top line appeared on top line (first name for one, surname for the other–with remainder of name on bottom line in reverse order). In the film’s trailer, both names flash on-screen in animated circles rotating so rapidly that it was impossible to discern top-billing.

Boeing Boeing was selected by Quentin Tarantino for the First Quentin Tarantino Film Fest in Austin, Texas, 1996.

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In 1963, producer Hal B. Wallis announced Shirley MacLaine for female lead. Marisa Mell turned down the part that was eventually played by Christiane Schmidtmer.

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The three actresses who eventually were cast to play the flight attendants have their physical measurements listed in small print under their names. Instead of measurements, Thelma Ritter, who played the housekeeper, has (?-?-?) by her name.

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His take: 

Imagine if you will a Martin and Lewis movie without Lewis. Hold on, actually make that a Martin and Lewis without Martin, but with Lewis pretending to be Martin, and that kind of sums up Boeing Boeing. Gone is Lewis’ moronic, man-child persona that made him famous in previous years allowing him to test his skills with an unfamiliar persona, not the over-the-top “Buddy Love” either.

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It was easy to put my disdain of this film taking place in France since its not quite as in-your-face.

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Throughout the entire film I constantly felt that this could have been a stage production since the bulk of it takes place in one of the most lavish, five bedroom, two bath apartments I’ve ever seen on a “reporter’s salary”. Although I am curious as to what the “benefits” of “married life” Tony Curtis’ is referring to when he and his fiancees sleep in separate rooms.

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(The film was based on a stage play, and has been staged multiple times, over the years, around the world)

Overall, a good film, even if many of the visual gags have been used ad-nauseam over the years since, ergo the well-timed door openings/closings.

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3 B rating (1 point given for Boobs, Beasts and Blood): I cannot give this any rating for blood or beasts, although the German stewardess obviously qualifies for “double B’s”, which earns this film a 2 B rating.

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Her Take: 

Those who have followed along with our previous reviews will note that I am not a fan of Jerry Lewis – at all – that said, this film was my choice and did co-star Mr. Lewis. I had not seen the film before, and my choice was based on a passionate plea from my oldest daughter who recommended it to me, praising the hilarity of it. Of course, I did realize that she is a fan of Tony Curtis, but she claimed that Lewis’ role was not full of his typical shtick that I find so cringe-worthy, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

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She was right on both accounts, the film is full of hilarious moments and those kind of moments when you have to hide your eyes and think “what are you doing!?!?!”, as well as somehow finding yourself rooting for the misogynistic lead, actually talking to the screen saying “switch the picture!”, or “not in that room!” Also, Jerry Lewis does not play the role of colleague/adversary/reluctant cohort with any of his typical Lewis-isms (really, he only had one pratfall even); instead, Lewis seems to play the role as if he were Dean Martin.

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Is it wrong that I wish they’d just cast Dean Martin?

There were ridiculous details peppered within the film, for instance, how many baths can these women take? It seemed that every time they entered the apartment, even if they had only been gone long enough to go to dinner, they were in desperate need of a bath (also, how were there not endless wet towels lying around EVERYWHERE for each girl to question?)

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And, of course, the notion of philanderer Bernard (Curtis) juggling these three international flight attendants just so they could kiss sometimes and sleep in side-by-side, separate rooms? Really, most of the time it just seemed like a huge hassle to a man who wasn’t even “getting any“.

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The long-suffering housekeeper, Bertha, who was tasked with switching out photographs, drawers of lingerie, and balance the ever-changing palates of the three women (switching the menu from kidneys, to souffles, to bratwurst sausage), stole every scene she was in. The comic talent of Thelma Ritter really shone here, and I looked forward to every moment she was on-screen.

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I did find the suggestion that the French “fiancee” (played by Dany Saval) kept making regarding the possible “relationship” between Bernard (Curtis) and Robert (Lewis) hilarious, and somewhat provocative for the time period, especially since it seemed that they could not imply that the girls were sleeping with Bernard.

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All in all, I really enjoyed the film and all its farcical silliness. I loved the scenes when all the girls were in the apartment at the same time, and the taxi scenes while they all chased each other through Paris, and of course, at the end with Bernard and Robert discover a group of female cabbies with rotating schedules, representing their next conquests, from planes to cabs (what’s next? cruise ships?)

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 I would love to see this performed on a stage, but please, no remakes of this – I’d be too afraid we’d get a film that was too Wedding Crashers/Neighbors and less farcical/satirical handling like a Christopher Guest production might bring to life – though I might actually enjoy if the film was gender-swapped and it was a woman juggling three men.

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Her Rating: Out of 5 stars: I give this film 4 stars, for the laughs, the energy, the performances (especially Thelma Ritter) and the stage play type farcical humor that I enjoy.

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Boeing Boeing soundtrack by Neal Hefti

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Dear Brigitte (1965)

Brief history:

Dear Brigitte was released in 1965 as a DeLuxe Color family-comedy in CinemaScope, directed by Henry Koster and starring James Stewart.

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The novel of Dear Brigitte was originally published in 1963. Walt Disney was rumored to option the rights for Bing Crosby, however rights were bought by 20th Century Fox who assigned the project to Nunnally Johnson, Henry Koster and James Stewart, the team that had made Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, and Take Her, She’s Mine.

Dear Brigitte was one of the first movies made at the recently re-opened 20th Century Fox studios.

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Bill Mumy was cast on the recommendation of James Stewart’s wife, Gloria Stewart, who taught a Sunday School class that Mumy attended.

Although Nunnally Johnson wrote early drafts of the film, Hal Kanter was brought in to work on it and he received the sole screen credit when the film was released. Kanter has said it was Henry Koster’s idea to introduce the captain, played by Ed Wynn, to act as the film’s “Greek chorus“.

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The film was the sixth straight acting role for Fabian since he quit singing. He had never been to the races before being cast so he researched the role by going to the races and developing his own “betting system”.

There was some doubt Bardot would appear in the film but she relented and her scenes were shot in three days in Paris.

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The movie was originally going to be called Erasmus With Freckles, after the book on which it was based. But Brigitte Bardot only agreed to appear on the condition that her name was not included in the credits or any of the promotional materials. The only way the producers could capitalize on Americans’ fascination with Bardot was by changing the title to alert the audience that she was in the movie.

Notwithstanding the opening background shots of the Golden Gate bridge, the exteriors of this film were not filmed in the San Francisco bay area. After about 30 seconds into the film, the exteriors are shot in the Seattle/Tacoma puget sound bay area.

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His take:

I was glad to pick this film out, being it is one of my favorite “family friendly” films of the sixties. Not only because it stars Jimmy Stewart, but also Bill Mumy, who I met in 1989 at Dragon Con in Dallas, Texas.

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The film is your basic family acceptance storyline at heart, one that can easily be done in modern days, either sports vs. scholastic, or straight vs. gay, without coming off too preachy. Add in the fact it cameos Brigitte Bardot, easily the second most attractive actress from the sixties (right after Julie Newmar), and you’ve got a little something for everyone.

Bill Mumy stars in a role that continued to haunt him throughout his child and teenhood. He goes on to play a chemistry genius in the film Village of the Giants, and his infamous Will Robinson role from Lost In Space. Not bad for the co-creator of the song Fish Heads.

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3 B rating (1 point given for Boobs, Beasts and Blood): No blood, no beasts (unless you count the few French people in it), but again, double-b’s for both Brigitte Bardot (one of the few French people I can tolerate) and “the niece” of the con-man who they meet in the dress department.

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Her Take: 

I had never heard of this film before I met my husband, even though I thought I’d not only heard of, but seen, nearly all of James Stewart’s films. When Charles’ had mentioned it to me, though, I had a different story imagined in my mind, one that was more about a celebrity-obsessed teenager, and not a story about a boy who doesn’t quite fit in with his family, a boy who happens to be “in love” with Brigitte Bardot.

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The film starts with a breaking of the fourth wall, a cinematic and theatrical gimmick that I’ve always enjoyed. There is something very inclusionary when it is done right, giving the audience an insider feeling, like when you are part of an “inside joke” with a friend or lover. Ed Wynn does this job well, acting as our narrator, and as a bit of comic relief involving his clumsy pipe smoking, and ashing, technique and his long-suffering dog who seems to be always in the wrong place whenever that pipe is being put out.

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James Stewart plays an absent-minded professor that is not a science or math geek, no, this nutty professor is a literature and poetry geek, not something one sees too often on-screen. He is a lover of the arts and a very vocal hater of all things math, science and technology driven. He is not just afraid of the technological takeover, but adamantly against it as he sees its emergence as a direct threat to the arts.

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He longs to raise a brood of fellow artists. He has settled his family in a houseboat dry-docked next door to a painter who is constantly on his boat’s top painting his topless wife. His own wife is a patient matriarch, who is musically talented, but not so anti-change and technical advancements. No, his wife Vina (played by Glynis Johns, best known as the Mother from Mary Poppins) is more concerned with the happiness and survival of the family.

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Pandora, the oldest of the two children, possesses musical talent, as well, but has seemingly no interest in pursuing the life of a starving artist. On the contrary, she has her mind set on marrying a millionaire, despite her adoration of her broke boyfriend, played by pop-music star Fabian (albeit after leaving pop-music for an acting career).

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And then there is Erasmus (a great name!), the “black sheep” of the family who is tone deaf and color blind, and who instead of having any artistic talent or inclination, is a mathematical genius, something his Father is horrified about, and actually attempts to actively hide. It is an interesting take as usually we see stories about artists who are shunned by their families who are made up of doctors and lawyers and scientists, etc., who look down on the arts as a choice.

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The funny thing about Erasmus’ character, though, is even though he possesses an almost savant type mathematic skill-set, he doesn’t seem very interested in math, or the pursuit of his talents except to earn money (he is paid by his sister and sister’s boyfriend to solve their homework problems, and later by gamblers to help handicap horse races). All Erasmus really seems to care about is his family and Brigitte Bardot, the former as shown when he uses his math-earnings to pay for a prom dress for Pandora, and the latter as shown in his daily letter writing to the actress.

Erasmus does get to meet his idol, and she gifts him with a visit to her home, a hilarious photograph, a puppy and a couple of cheek-kisses.

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The movie itself ends rather haphazardly, after the plot lines are a little too quickly tied together and resolved. But, that fact did not dissuade me from enjoying the film as a whole, especially since the movie is more about the characters than the plot, and it is the characters that I loved.

Her Rating: Out of 5 stars: Another 4 stars, a great double feature night as I really enjoyed both films.

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