Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Fortune Cookie

I had planned to watch How To Murder your Wife, a film I had been curious about a long time, since Jack Lemmon plays a cartoonist, but the director, Richard Quine, is no Billy Wilder and has almost no visual sense or feeling for timing. I stopped the film after half an hour, decided to rather watch the real thing and popped in The Fortune Cookie.

Cameraman Jack Lemmon is knocked over by a footballplayer during a game. His brother-in-law, ambulance chaser Walter Matthau decides to sue, asking Lemmon to fake an injury. Lemmon reluctantly goes along with this, thinking it might reunite him with his gold digger ex-wife.

Actually, this is the first pairing of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau on screen, not The Odd Couple that came two years later. It's another cynical comedy from Billy Wilder, shot in glorious black and white. Lemmon is very good in another of his decent, ordinary guy roles, but the film is owned by Matthau, pretty much creating here his screen persona for the rest of his career. It's maybe not the masterpiece that The Apartment was, but still a fun film.


  1. I love Fortune Cookie, I think they should remake it. The Matthau part is so over the top and in control. Its the kind of thing Alec Baldwin is making his bread and butter on these days.

  2. Have you seen Jack Lemmon in The War Between Men and Women? It's a film about real life cartoonist-writer James Thurber. It's a very strange, very off-beat comedy-drama about a misanthrope in a sexist society.

    Since it's based on real biography it has all sorts of intrusive details and story-wrecking twists that distinguish life from an enjoyable narrative.

    Some of the jokes are simply incomprehensible today and a majority of them are downright alarming! And it mixes live action with animation!

  3. No, haven't seen that one. Sounds interesting.

  4. Oh, I think you'll love "How to Murder Your Wife." There are great scenes of Lemmon creating his comic strip...and the art used in the film is pretty wonderful, too.

  5. I might give it a second try. At least, the girl was cute!

  6. the best part of HOW TO MURDER YOUR WIFE is Eddie Mayerhoff. Mel Keefer did the art for cartoonist Lemmon's comics in the film, by the way.

    Classic character actor. Even better than that film is most of the Frank Tashlin comedies, such as the Martin/Lewis vehicles HOLLYWOOD OR BUST and ARTISTS AND MODELS. I also like Tashlin's SON OF PALEFACE with Bob Hope and Also the Jayne Mansfield comedies are kind of interesting.

    Tashlin was a Warner Bros. animator (mostly Porky Pig) before turning to live action films. But what he did was genius - he translated the Warner Bros. aesthetic into live action. Hence, living cartoons. You can bet your last dollar that Tim Burton cribbed from HOLLYWOOD OR BUST when he made PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE. Check out Tashlin's stuff if you haven't yet.

  7. RE: Wilder, have you seen some of his more offbeat comedies like ONE TWO THREE and KISS ME, STUPID yet? Worth investigating....