Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dick & Shelley & Dick & Kay

Bud Yorkin's "Divorce, American Style,"  starring Debbie Reynolds and Dick Van Dyke, is now more than 45 years old, but it remains as astutely observant and contemporary as ever. If anything, this scathing comedy, airing on Turner Classic Movies @ 4:15 p.m. (est) on Wednesday, September 25, has improved with age.

A bit of trivia: Take note of the funny sequence which Reynolds and Van Dyke share with their respective divorce lawyers, played by Shelley Berman and Dick Gautier - both of whom have a history with Van Dyke.

Berman and Van Dyke had appeared on Broadway with Nancy Walker and Bert Lahr in the 1959 musical revue, "The Boys Against the Girls," and, a year later, Gautier played the title role in Van Dyke's musical hit, "Bye Bye Birdie."

For some bizarre reason, Columbia didn't recruit the witty Gautier to recreate his stage role for its 1963 film of "Birdie"(giving it instead to a gyrating blank named Jesse Pearson).

Speaking of “Birdie”… Gautier, an attractive comic actor who should have had a bigger film career,  enjoyed something of a reunion with his “Birdie” co-star, Kay Medford, in Joshua Logan’s 1964 “Mister Roberts” sequel, "Ensign Pulver," also airing, by the way, on Turner on Sunday, October 6th @ 10:15 p.m. Medford, who played Mrs. Peterson (Van Dyke's mother) in the Broadway musical, was also were passed over by George Sidney for his ‘63 film of the musical. (Maureen Stapleton got the role on screen.) Logan's little  movie may be negligble, but I will forever be appreciative of his nimble casting here and particularly for correcting Sidney's slight and coming through for both Medford and Gautier.

“Pulver,” by the way, has an most impressive cast.  Medford played a nurse who flirts with Walter Matthau (who inherited the William Powell role of Doc) and Gautier played a Seabee.
Jack Nicholson,  James Coco, Tommy Sands, Jerry Orbach, James Farentino, Larry Hagman, George Lindsey, Gerald O'Loughlin and Peter Marshall appear as other assorted sailors on "The Bucket"; Millie Perkins is Medford’s fellow nurse, and Diana Sands and Al Freeman, Jr. are rather hilarious as two rather worldly south-seas natives.

Note in Passing: Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds' sons in "Divorce, American Style" were played by Tim Matheson and Gary Goetzman.  Matheson, of course, is still an actor.  Goetzman, however, now works as a producer in tandem with Tom Hanks, actively involved in Hanks' Playtone production company.  

1 comment:

Larry said...

I love the connections you make in these posts. Some great trivia. Now about "Divorce - American Style," yes, it is quite observant and still contemporary. Perhaps - dare I say it? - more pertinent today that any of Apatow's relationship comedies.