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MISTER BUDDWING (aka: Woman Without a Face)(director: Delbert Mann; screenwriters: Dale Wasserman/based on the novel by Evan Hunter; cinematographer: Ellsworth Fredericks; editor: Fredric Steinkamp; music: Kenyon Hopkins; cast: James Garner (Mr. Buddwing), Jean Simmons (The Blonde), Suzanne Pleshette (Fiddle), Katharine Ross (Janet), Angela Lansbury (Gloria), George Voskovec (Shabby Old Man), Jack Gilford (Schwartz), Raymond St. Jacques (Hank), Ken Lynch (Dan), Beeson Carroll (Policeman), Nichelle Nichols (Dice Player), Joe Mantell (Cab Driver); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Douglas Laurence/Delbert Mann; MGM; 1966)
“Failed attempt to go the Hitchcock “who am I” route in Spellbound.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Its title is derived from a passing Budweiser beer truck and a plane flying overhead that an amnesiac uses for his name. Delbert Mann (“Desire Under The Elms”/”The Bachelor Party”/”Marty”) directs this failed attempt to go the Hitchcock “who am I” route in Spellbound. It’s based on the novel by Evan Hunter and written by Dale Wasserman. The dialogue is trite (like “Life is a crap game”), the story line is muddled and, even though shot on location in Manhattan, everything looks artificial.

A miscast James Garner plays a character he never gets a grip on and never convinces us he’s a lost vulnerable soul. Though he convinces us in this slow-paced, drab, shot in black and white film, that he must have a memory loss to go against type and appear in such a cockamamie film. Garner plays a man who awakens in Central Park with no memories at all, and finds himself seated on a park bench in his expensive gray suit, with no ID, 2 tablets, a train timetable of the Harlem line, a ring engraved with the inscription “From GV,” and the phone number of Gloria (Angela Lansbury). He tries the phone number and Gloria turns out to be a kindhearted lush who doesn’t know him but invites him in and gives him a $5 handout. Instead of checking in to a hospital, the sensible thing to do, our hero then goes on his lonesome in a search of his identity, as he goes through a series of disorientated adventures and flashbacks and to places that range from Washington Square Park to Shubert Alley to Harlem. Buddwing encounters three women (Katherine Ross, Suzanne Pleshette and Jean Simmons) who remind him in some way of someone named “Grace,” whom he assumes is the ring giver named Grace. The search is so dreary and the characters the amnesiac meets are such bores like him, that I forgot about this Buddwing guy long before his memories started coming back and never gave him a second thought.

The muddled melodrama features Katharine Ross as Janet, a 19-year-old NYU student who reminds Buddwing of courting his Grace; the swinging actress Fiddle is played by Suzanne Pleshette, who kindles Buddwing’s memories of how poverty forced him to abandon his dream of becoming a composer; and Jean Simmons plays a high-living socialite blonde, who persuades Buddwing to take her to Harlem where she must win a large sum of money in a dice game. During the crap game, a chance remark causes Buddwing to recall the shock that blotted out his memory and he thereby regains his identity. Also, in an awkwardly conceived cameo, is Jack Gilford as a chatty nosy body cafeteria owner named Mr. Schwartz.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”