FATHER GOOSE (director: Ralph Nelson; screenwriters: Peter Stone/Frank Tarloff/from the story “A Place Of Dragons” by S.H. Barnett; cinematographer: Charles B. Lang; editor: Ted Kent; music: Cy Coleman; cast: Cary Grant (Walter Eckland), Leslie Caron (Catherine Freneau), Trevor Howard (Commander Frank Houghton), Jack Good (Lieutenant Stebbins), Sharyl Locke (Jenny), Dickie Moore (Joseph Meister); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Arthur; Artisan Entertainment; 1964)
“Though Cary Grant manages to get the most he can from the role, it’s not enough to cover up the film’s emptiness.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
In Cary Grant’s second to last role (“Walk Don’t Run”), the usually suave and impeccably dressed actor is cast against type in Ralph Nelson’s (“Duel at Diablo”/”Soldier Blue”/”The Lilies of the Field”) shamelessly sentimental lightweight military comedy. It’s taken from the story “A Place Of Dragons” by S.H. Barnett and written by Peter Stone and Frank Tarloff (their screenplay won the Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay). It was a box office hit.
American beachcomber Walter Eckland (Cary Grant) is an unkempt, unshaven and uncouth boozing misanthropic beach bum, who has been coerced into serving as a coast-watcher on a remote South Pacific island (filmed on a Jamaican island) during the outbreak of World War II by his Aussie friend Navy Comdr. Frank Houghton (Trevor Howard). “Mother Goose” is his code name, Houghton’s is “Big Bad Wolf.” For every enemy plane movement spotted, he gets a bottle of whiskey. Ordered to rescue a fellow spotter on another nearby island, Walter finds him killed by Japanese strafing. But he does find alive a pretty but prim French teacher, Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron), and her seven schoolgirls, who are on the island because their American plane set them there to go on a rescue mission of a plane crash. Walter takes them all back to his paradise island, and teach tries to reform Walter of his drinking and coarse language.
The schoolgirls tell Walter that teach was bit by a deadly poisonous snake and his cold attitude toward her changes, whereby to ease her final moments he gets her drunk and tells her he used to be a history professor. They fall in love and when he learns the snake was really a stick, they get married on the cute via short-wave radio. Houghton sends an American submarine to rescue them but before it arrives a Japanese patrol boat threatens to sink Walter’s launch.
The fluff film comes with no surprises; you’ve most likely seen it done better in a number of Tracy and Hepburn battle of the sexes flicks or as The African Queen. Though Cary Grant manages to get the most he can from the role, it’s not enough to cover up the film’s emptiness. One expects more wit from a Grant film.
REVIEWED ON 1/1/2007 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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