GAZEBO (director: George Marshall; screenwriters: play by Alec Coppel/story by Myra & Alec Coppel/George Wells; cinematographer: Paul C. Vogel; editor: Adrienne Fazan; music: Jeff Alexander; cast: Glenn Ford (Elliot Nash), Debbie Reynolds (Nell Nash), Carl Reiner (Harlow Edison), John McGiver (Sam Thorpe), Mabel Albertson (Mrs. Chandler), Doro Merande (Matilda), Martin Landau (The Duke), Richard Wessel (Louis, the Louse), Bert Freed (Lt. Jenkins), Stanley Adams (Dan Shelby), Frank Mitchell (Mr. Olson ), Harlan Warde (Dr. Bradley), Robert Ellenstein (Ben); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lawrence Weingarten; MGM; 1959)
“A funny offbeat black comedy based on a so-so Broadway play.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A funny offbeat black comedy based on a so-so Broadway play by Alec Coppel, where it starred Walter Slezak and Jayne Meadows. Writer George Wells leaves room for it to be slapstick funny. Director George Marshall (“Destry Rides Again”/”The Blue Dahlia”/”You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man”) shoots it in black and white and keeps it cinema friendly. While Glenn Ford shows he not only can play cowboys but can hang with the better screen comedians, as he’s the reason the film succeeds.
Harried TV writer-director Elliot Nash (Glenn Ford) and Broadway actress wife Nell (Debbie Reynolds) live a quiet life in the suburbs of NYC. He’s about to hit it big, as he expects to be hired to write a script for Alfred Hitchcock. But his nerves are shot because a greedy sleazy blackmailer named Shelby (Stanley Adams) is squeezing him over the phone for money he doesn’t have. The sleaze threatens to release to the public cheesecake photos he has of Nell when she was first breaking into showbiz. The desperate writer opts to stop being squeezed dry by killing the blackmailer and burying him in the foundation of the new gazebo he’s installing in the yard. But things do not go according to plan. The film’s best part has Ford going through with the murder, but everything goes wrong when the blackmailer shows up at Elliot’s home as arranged and is supposedly shot dead. A funny bit has Ford receiving a long-distance call from Hitchcock in the middle of the murder, and he asks the master advice on how to bury a body if he doesn’t have a shovel.
Character actors Doro Merande, as the maid who always shouts, and John McGiver, as the contractor for the gazebo, with an uncanny droll humor, add to the film’s comical moments. But the pigeon Ford rescued in the park and turned into a pet named Herman, gets most of the laughs. What takes some steam off the comedy is that there’s too much story padding to make the murder just a bit too contrived for its own good, that Carl Reiner as a lonely pushy bachelor DA doesn’t have the funny lines to deliver his part deserves and an overlong and unexciting Debbie Reynolds musical stage number is unnecessary.
REVIEWED ON 6/29/2015 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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