Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 1, 2020


THE FORTUNE COOKIE (1966). Produced and directed by Billy Wilder.   

When cameraman Harry Hinkle (Jack Lemmon) is knocked over by Cleveland Braves player Boom Boom Jackson (Ron Rich) during a football game, his brother-in-law, Whiplash Willie (Walter Matthau), importunes him to pretend his injuries are far worse than they really are for a huge cash payout. At first Harry is appalled by the very suggestion, but when Willie intimates that Harry's ex-wife, Sandy (Judi West), may come back to him out of sympathy, he agrees. Meanwhile a very guilty Boom Boom, who practically becomes Harry's servant, finds his own life spiraling out of control. Yet Harry's essential humanity may put paid to Willie's audacious and avaricious plan.

The Fortune Cookie is an excellent comedy-drama which begins as an amusing dark farce and midway turns a bit more serious. The performances are superb, with Matthau master of all he surveys, Lemmon on target throughout, Ron Rich sympathetic and appealing, and Judi West, introduced in this picture, scoring as Harry's ex, a singer who dreams of a shot at the big time in New York's Persian Room. Cliff Osmond also makes an impression as private eye, Purkey, although Lurene Tuttle overdoes it a bit as Harry's hysterical mother. There are other good character actors in the cast such as Les Tremayne. Although highly exaggerated, the characters come off more or less as real people, although many of the situations are not realistic and are not meant to be. I won't give anything away, but the ending strikes a blow for Civil Rights in a way that is unusual for a sixties movie (although one might wonder how anyone could be certain of Harry's reaction). Handsome and talented, this was the first big role for Rich, but he had only a few credits after this. Similarly, Judi West, who actually had a couple of TV credits before this film, had only a few subsequent credits as well. Joseph LaShelle's cinematography is first-rate.

Verdict: Imperfect at times, but a very entertaining black comedy with outstanding performances. ***1/2.                                                             


angelman66 said...

I actually like this pairing of Lemmon and Matthau even more than The Odd Couple. Wilder did a great job directing them. As you say, not a perfect movie, but the chemistry between these two was magic!
- Chris

William said...

You can say that again!