Saturday, August 14, 2010

cinema obscura: Vincente Minnelli's "Goodbye Charlie" (1964)

In 1964, Vincente Minnelli took a break from his work at MGM to direct Fox's film version of George Axelrod's 1960 play, "Goodbye Charlie," a deft satire about a notorious womanizer who is murdered and reincarnated as the kind of woman he used to casually exploit and abuse.

Axelrod also directed the play which opened at the Lyceum Theater in March of '60.

On stage, the role of Charlie was played in her Broadway debut by Lauren Bacall, a woman ofen described as "handsome." Bacall's deep, husky voice was obviously also an asset in the role.

For the film version, Minnelli went with the eternally girlish Debbie Reynolds, a less obvious choice whose butch mannerisms indirectly added to the piece's scabrous sense of humor. Tony Curtis (reuniting with Reynolds after Robert Mulligan's "The Rat Race" in 1960) assumed the role played on stage by Sydney Chaplin, and the supporting cast included Pat Boone, Joanna Barnes, Ellen Burstyn (when she was still being billed as Ellen McRae), Laura Devon, Martin Gable and, most memorably, Walter Matthau in one of his most shamelessly hammiest performances as a sex-obsessed wastrel named ... Sir Leopold Sartori.

Andre Previn wrote the kind of music score for the film that makes one think the material, which is fun, should have been a musical all along.


Millie said...

Oooh! I've wanted to see this for so long (ever since I heard my beloved Bobby Darin's version of the title song)!

I wish Fox would release it on DVD!

joe baltake said...

Millie- It would be nice if Fox at least aired it on its movie channel!

bill said...

GOODBYE CHARLIE is a nutty, nutty movie, not just because of the material but because, of its type, it is surprisingly not an impersonal work. Minnelli brought something subterranean to it, something a little off-kilter. When I saw that film in college, I felt Minnelli was playing around with me.

wwolfe said...

I saw this once a few years ago, late at night - I would assume it was on TCM, although I can't swear to it. I found it interesting that a period in which casual sexism ran high produced a work which offered an intelligent and humorous critique of that very same thing.

joe baltake said...

wwolfe- You're correct. "Goodbye Charlie" did air on Turner a couple times a few years ago. I caught it and taped it.