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New York drama critic Larry McKay (David Niven) and his wife Kate (Doris Day) live in an apartment with their four rambunctious boys and their pet dog.  Although they have dreamed of moving to a quiet house in the country for years, Larry’s new-found celebrity as a famous critic makes him start enjoying the busy city life.  When they do move to a country house, there is conflict as Kate finds that she likes the life there, while Larry is still trying to maintain the social whirl that is the New York theatre scene.

That brief recap makes the film sound more like a drama than a comedy, but this IS a comedy.  I didn’t find it laugh-out-loud funny, but there were lots of amusing moments in it.  I also think that David Niven and Doris Day are both so appealing and such likeable actors, that I couldn’t help but enjoy watching them, and they do play perfectly off each other.

The supporting cast are good too – Janis Paige as an actress who tries to tempt Larry away from his wife; Richard Haydn as their playwright friend Alfred, who falls out with Larry after Larry criticises his latest production; and Spring Byington as Kate’s mother.  However, my favourite co-star was Hobo the dog, who refused to walk outside, and was apparently spooked by every other creature, including a frog and a squirrel!

It’s not the best film of either Day’s nor Niven’s career, but it is an enjoyable couple of hours, and well worth seeing, particularly if you are a fan of either actor.

Year of release: 1960

Director: Charles Walters

Producers: Martin Melcher, Joe Pasternak

Writers: Jean Kerr (book), Isobel Lennart

Main cast: David Niven, Doris Day, Janis Paige, Spring Byington, Richard Haydn, Patsy Kelly, Jack Weston

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Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway steam up the screen in this drama/thriller.  McQueen is the eponymous anti-hero, an incredibly rich, charismatic man, who organises a bank heist, not for the money, but just for the kicks.  Dunaway is Vicki Anderson, an insurance investigator, who has about as many morals as Thomas Crown – that is to say, very few.  Although they both know that she is trying to expose him as the man behind the heist, they are very attracted to each other, and start a relationship…but with one of them trying to catch out the other, just how far can such a relationship go?

I found this film flawed, but nonetheless enjoyable.  To get the major gripe out of the way first, there is excessive use of a split-screen in this film, and I found it annoying after a while.  I could see the need for it in some instances – for example where it was showing what five separate characters were doing at the same time, but there were times when it was completely unnecessary.  (For example, in one scene, Vicki is watching Thomas play Polo, and the screen divides up into multiple little boxes, all showing the same picture.  To compound the problem, occasionally one of the boxes would shrink and take up a corner of the screen while the rest of it was black.  In 1968, this may have been innovative, but in 2013, it was just annoying! (For this viewer anyway).

As for the story itself, it was wildly implausible, but a lot of fun for all that.  The soundtrack does date the film somewhat, but doesn’t diminish the enjoyment.  Steve McQueen just oozes charisma, in a role that was something of a departure for him. No matter – he was excellent, being one of those actors who you just can’t take your eyes off when he’s on screen.  Faye Dunaway too, looked stunning, and was fine as Vicki Anderson.  They definitely made a beautiful couple!  The most famous scene in this film is probably the chess sequence, where the sexual tension between Thomas and Vicki is almost palpable.  Although by today’s standards its fairly tame, I can imagine the reaction it caused when the film came out!

The ending was something of a surprise as well, and rounded it off satisfactorily.  I would recommend this film to fans of 60s movies, and/or fans of either McQueen or Dunaway.

Year of release: 1968

Director: Norman Jewison

Producers: Norman Jewison, Hal Ashby, Walter Mirisch

Writer: Alan R. Trustman

Main cast: Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Paul Burke, Jack Weston

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Click here for my review of the 1999 film.

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