Walk, Don’t Run
I’m not generally a fan of romantic comedies. If I’m able to maintain this blog for a while, you’ll see that very few even make the list, and I expect fewer still will get a decent response from me. I generally find them trite, predictable, and neither romantic nor comedic. I say this as a preface because I’ve just watched a romantic comedy that was both genuinely romantic and laugh-out-loud funny. I’m referring, of course, to today’s movie, Walk, Don’t Run starring Cary Grant. Released in 1966 the film would be noteworthy as the last on-screen appearance for the consummate leading man.
The film is set in Tokyo against the backdrop of the 1964 Olympic games. Grant plays Sir William “Bill” Rutland an English industrialist who has arrived in Japan on business two days earlier than originally scheduled. Because of the games there isn’t a hotel room to be found, so Bill answers an ad seeking a roommate that he finds posted at the British Embassy. Of course, it turns out that the ad was placed by the young and beautiful Christine “Chris” Easton who was expecting to rent out the sitting room in her small apartment during the games. She makes it clear that she was not expecting to rent the space to a man, but Bill won’t take no for an answer and is moved in before she knows it.
The film quickly establishes a great odd-couple type situation between Bill’s suave, laid-back and amused demeanor, and Chris who is meticulous, slightly neurotic, and generally flustered by the situation. At this point I was expecting this to be the primary basis for the film’s romance, and after complaining about awkward May-September relationships in my last two reviews, I was not sure how to react to this. But then, just when I was coming to the conclusion that I’d be alright with it here, (because it’s Cary Freaking Grant,) the film throws a twist, and reveals that Bill is, in fact, happily married. Instead the hilarity continues as Bill strikes up an acquaintance with Steve Davis (Jim Hutton) a young American Olympian and Architect who seems reluctant to disclose what his Olympic event is. (Although there may be a spoiler in the title.) Steve, it turns out, has arrived in Tokyo a few days early to study the architecture, and has also been unable to find a place to stay. Bill sees something of himself in Steve and agrees to sub-let half of his half of the apartment. Chris objects to this ridiculous situation, but she’s already spent Bill’s rent money, and so to our great benefit, she’s stuck.
Grant is fantastic every moment he is on screen, even here in his final film, he exudes that unquantifiable charisma that made him one of the all time greats. The film serves neatly as a bookend for Grant’s career, as, (if IMDB is to be believed,) it marks the first time since he established himself as a star that his character does not “get the girl.” Instead Bill chooses to play matchmaker for his two young acquaintances. This transition, is made very clear in the film’s final shot, a great symbolic finish for “the greatest movie star of all time.” Here, Grant clearly revels in each facet of the role whether smoothly handling another character, perfectly timing a clever quip, ratcheting up the nostalga by humming the theme songs from his prior films, or even delivering some fantastic physical comedy.
The film also features strong performances by Grant’s co-stars, Hutton is given quite the task and manages to establish Steve as a compelling character, holding his own when it would be easy just to be “the other guy” next to Cary Grant.
Eggar is great as the flustered young woman who’s neatly ordered life is unexpectedly turned upside down. Also, I was excited to see a pre-Star Trek George Takei pop up as the character charged with the task of restoring some order and kicking the plot into its final act.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this movie is actually a remake of The More the Merrier, which won Charles Coburn an acting Oscar, and was nominated for Best Picture in 1944. I hadn’t heard of that movie before today, but it’s now officially on The List. I can only hope it winds up as good as Walk, Don’t Run. This movie was light-hearted and clever, and simply full of joy. I’ve been on the fence on how to rate the film. Judged in a vacuum it’s definitely fun, and definitely worth watching. But that doesn’t feel right to me. Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching nothing but bad movies for almost a week, but you take a movie that has me laughing out loud from beginning to end, add in an this blog’s first unexpected appearance by the man who would be Sulu and you’re getting awfully near my highest recommendation. Then, I have to consider that this marks the triumphant farewell of one of THE iconic movie stars of all time. Taking all that into consideration, as a history fan, and as film fan, I’ve got to say this Walk, Don’t Run is a Must See.