“I’m sorry. Not one room in the hotel. Olympic, you know.”
In 1943, director George Stevens had taken on a project starring Jean Arthur that would prove to be one of the bright spots of the year, in fact, an Academy Award nominee as Best Picture — the romantic comedy The More the Merrier. The story concerned the wartime housing shortage in Washington and what happens when a young woman shares her apartment with two men. Over 30 years later, Columbia was in the middle of a bad decade and saw the possibility of a box-office success in a remake of this story. This time, the setting would be Tokyo at the time of the 1964 Olympic Games, and the star would be Cary Grant in what would be his last film. The film turned out to be a modest success both critically and financially. Columbia has now released the film on DVD, bringing to a close the mini-festival of Grant titles that Columbia has graced us with these past few months.
Sir William Rutland is an English businessman visiting Tokyo at the time of the 1964 Olympics. He is unable to find accommodation until he manages to convince young Christine Easton to share her apartment with him even though she had been looking for a woman to do so. The next day, Rutland meets up with Steve Davis, an American athlete participating in the Games and offers him space in Christine’s apartment as well. Christine feels unable to confide in her fiancé, Julius Haversack of the British Embassy, that she has two men staying with her. Through a complicated misunderstanding, she is suspected of espionage. Rutland sees an opportunity to clear Christine and play cupid for her and Steve, and embarks on a madcap scheme to bring the two to the altar.
Unfortunately for Walk, Don’t Run, Cary Grant is about the only plus in the film, and even his best efforts are not quite enough to save it. The basic story is a good one as the original version proved, but adding an extra ten minutes to it was a bad idea. The freshness of the original story idea has been lost with the passing of time and the new plot twists that have been dreamt up are basically flat, nor are they well served by the ordinariness of the cast beyond Cary Grant. The best sequences are the ones involving the disappearing pairs of pants and the race-walk event where an athletic-looking Grant endeavors to keep up with Hutton. All the rest is more tedious than anything else.
One the whole, even Grant himself seems somewhat out of place in the film. At 62, Grant still looked like he could be a very successful romantic lead, so to see him here acting as just a matchmaker is a bit disappointing. Mind you, it was Grant’s own desire that he not get the girl, feeling that younger audiences wanted to see romance between young people, not between a young woman and an older Cary Grant. For most actors he would have been right, but not for Cary Grant. Perhaps thinking of better days and films, Grant takes to humming the themes from a couple of his past hits, Charade and An Affair to Remember, at a couple of points in the film.
Taking on the Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea roles from the original are Samantha Eggar (Christine) and Jim Hutton (Steve). Both are as bland as could be, particularly Hutton, who’s never managed to enliven any film that he’s been in. Eggar was flavour-of-the-month during this period, but she was always better suited to drama. Somewhat balancing the two is John Standing, energetic in the role of Haversack. George Takei of Star Trek fame has a small role as a police captain. Quincy Jones contributes a modestly pleasing music score, otherwise the production itself is no more than a workmanlike effort from director Charles Walters.
For a change, Cary Grant is well served on a Columbia DVD release. The image quality is certainly a step up from some of the other Columbia releases of Grant films this year. The DVD contains both a useless pan and scan effort and a very nice-looking 2.35:1 anamorphic job. The latter is quite sharp, with bright colours and good shadow detail. Age-related debris is minor indeed.
Things aren’t quite so hot otherwise. The disc contains a mono sound track that offers little beyond the ordinary (perhaps a modestly decent low end) and we get three trailers, although, gasp!, one of them is actually for the movie itself, something that’s definitely not been standard on recent Columbia classic releases. The other two trailers are for It Happened One Night and His Girl Friday.
You may want to have this film just because it’s Cary Grant’s last. Otherwise, there’s little reason for a purchase. Bland performances from Grant’s co-stars and an overlong script that has too few comic highlights are too much for even Cary’s efforts to overcome. At least it all looks good on Columbia’s DVD.