Thursday, July 26, 2012

Good Neighbor Sam (1964)



“No, I didn't take a shower at Jan... What do you think I am? Some kind of a sex maniac?” 

            Before I start my review of Good Neighbor Sam I must give a huge thanks to Monty over at All Good Things for suggesting this movie. I saw that he was on a Romy Schneider kick so I asked him which of her films I should see and this along with The Trial were the ones he highly suggested. So thank you very much Monty for the suggestion I had a good time watching the movie.
            Good Neighbor Sam has the type of plot I am completely not fond of- mistaken identity and the screw ups that go along with it. Ever since I first saw Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’s film Top Hat a few years ago I have absolutely despised the mistaken identity story. I feel they get so dragged out and just ruin everything for me. I am giving a big “but” for Good Neighbor Sam because I was laughing at a lot of the scenes and I enjoyed all the performances (even though I cannot stand Jack Lemmon… more on that later). This plot was just silly and goofy and completely funny because no one really got mad and broke up over something ridiculous, it came close, but a split did not occur.
            Sam Bissell (Jack Lemmon) lives in a suburban area of San Francisco in a nice quiet neighborhood with his wife Minerva, two daughters, and two ducks. His life is nothing to exciting. Every day he travels into the city with his neighbor where they both work for an advertising agency. Sam works in the art department where he feels after so many years there he is getting nowhere and also feels he should be getting a raise. He asks the office manager if he could speak to the head of the company but that will not work.
            The heads of the company and their yes men are having a problem with their latest client Mr. Nurdlinger (Edward G. Robinson). Mr. Nurdlinger sells dairy products and he is not happy with the way the company has sleazed his company in their ads they came up with. Nurdlinger wants a nice wholesome family man to run the campaign because he feels that is the type of man who will create a wholesome add that the ordinary people will see and associate with. The only man who one of the yes men can think of is Sam. As Sam was asking for his raise the office manager tells him that he is wanted in the boss’s office. Sam is given the account based on his apparent family values.
            While Sam is at work she picks up her old college friend Janet Lagerlof (Romy Schneider) from the airport. The two friends have no seen each other in years. Over lunch Janet tells Minerva that she was married to a man named Howard, “a man every girl should be married to once.” When Sam comes home all happy he walks into the bathroom where he thinks his wife is taking a shower but he embarrassingly finds out that Janet is the one in the shower. The three of them go out on the town for drinks that night to celebrate Sam getting the big account. Sam gets totally wrecked drinking so much champagne.
            Janet has rented the house next door to Sam and Minerva while she sorts out her grandfather’s will with her money hungry cousins. Janet stands to inherit fifteen million dollars from her grandfather only if she is happily married. This news is horrible for her because she does not love Howard at all she hates him. Her lawyers tell her that in California it takes six months to get a divorce so technically she is still married things should be fine for her to get the money. The cousins unexpectedly come by the next morning while all her grandfather’s belongings are being moved into the house. Sam has come by in his pajamas and robe to see where Minerva was since she was not in the bed when he woke up. Janet pretends that Sam is Howard and that they are very happily married. The cousins are still outside in their car when Sam has to leave for work. To make everything look legit Minerva brings Sam his clothes and Janet drives him to work while the cousins follow them. Before Sam walks away from the car he sees Nurdlinger and his bosses outside. They think Janet is Sam’s wife so to keep up appearances they kiss. This image comes back to haunt them when Nurdlinger wants to put their pictures on their billboards since they are a clean cut wholesome husband and wife.
            Things really start to hit the fan the next morning when Janet notices a privet eye’s van parked in front of the house. Also, the real Howard comes to the house looking for Janet.
            All ends well though. Hopefully you have seen some movies in your life that you can guess that Janet gets the money with Sam’s help. In return she gives Sam and Minerva a million dollars for the trouble she caused.
            There were so many funny moments in the movie that I really cannot name just one and I really do not want to give them away. The whole situation never really went overboard it just stayed level and witty and perfectly silly.
            Jack Lemmon I actually enjoyed he usually drives me nuts in his movies but I really liked him here. To me he is too much the bumbling idiot or the push over and after a while that gets to be way too much and I cannot stand that. But his bumbling works perfectly here because that is the character this poor guy is thrown into this complicated situation and he bumbles through it the best he can for a few days.
            Romy Schneider I have kind of seen in a film before. I have to say kind of because I rented a DVD on Henri-Georges Clouzot’s unfinished movie The Inferno (let me just put it out there that the only reason I even rented this documentary was because Berenice Bejo acts out a few parts of the script with another French actor and I love Berenice so much that I just had to see it for her. I am glad I did I would up loving it). Parts of the movie was actually filmed and it survives. It was supposed to tell the story of an older man who married a younger woman and they live in a hotel at a seaside resort. The husband begins to become jealous of anyone that speaks her including women and children and when he was to go in a fit of jealousy the film would go from black and white to color. There are hours of test shots of Schneider showered in glitter, filmed under different lighting and special effects. As a documentary the DVD was fantastic. The movie would have been one of the best psychological movies ever but Clouzot was taking so much time to film the movie and get everything together that production stopped after he had a heart attack in the middle of filming. There was no sound on the film it is basically silent. Schneider in her scenes either from the movie or the test shots looks gorgeous. I had heard of Schneider before I saw this documentary so I figured now that I have seen a little something of her I would like to see an actual movie of hers. Once Monty recommended Good Neighbor Sam and The Trail I immediately found them to view. Good Neighbor Sam was the first one to finish and Monty raved about it so I thought why not give that one a try first. I am so glad I did because Schneider was so adorable and so good. She was so pretty with her blonde hair and incredibly light green eyes. I loved her accent especially when she got angry. She was a very good actress I look forward to watching The Trial and whatever of her films I can find.
            Good Neighbor Sam, though a type of film I would not normally enjoy, I had a great time sitting through it. All the performances were fantastic. The best part is that the plot did not get out of hand or over the top. Good Neighbor Sam is one of those almost perfect comedies or movies (I say “almost” because some parts dragged) that I plan on watching over and over again. I also plan to show some of my friends which I do not normally do with older movies.