Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is “Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964):

Once upon a time there were two great powers in the world. The United States and the Soviet Union, better known by its nickname, “The Evil Empire” or simply the Ruskies. Ruskies is American for Russians. “Dr. Strangelove” takes a fond look at those long-ago times when there was a Cold War.

There are generals, and then there are generals. I love George C. Scott’s general. Especially when he confronts the Peter Sellers’ President. The President is trying to prevent a nuclear war with the Russians. He wants to bring the Russian ambassador to the Situation Room. Scott’s General confronts the President with a national security issue. “He’ll see the Big Board.” Now, we can’t have the Russians seeing the Big Board, can we?

It’s scenes like this that make “Dr. Strangelove” one of the funniest movies ever.

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Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: Two Teenagers and a Pianist

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “The World of Henry Orient” (1964).

Before “A Shot in the Dark”, before “The Party”, before “The Magic Christian”, before “Being There”, there was 1964. It was the year that was, the year that made Peter Sellers. Before that year, he was peter sellers. After that year, he was Peter Sellers. In 1964, he defined himself with three movies: “The Pink Panther”, “Doctor Strangelove” and “The World of Henry Orient”.

If you are a director, looking for a comic genius to play Henry Orient, it is obvious you get Peter Sellers for the job. That’s exactly what director George Roy Hill did. Henry is a womanizing New York City concert pianist who can’t keep his hands off of Paula Prentiss. Being Peter Sellers, Henry Orient brings a panache to his womanizing. Oh heck, let’s just say it. Peter Sellers’ panaching panaches.

It’s 1964, the Year the Beatles conquers the United States. There are Beatlemaniacs everywhere, but nary a one anywhere in this movie. Henry Orient has his fans too. Two teenage girls from well-off families. And they dream of nothing else but Henry Orient.  At least, Val does. Gil not so much. Just the mention of his name makes Val swoon.

For the girls, George Roy Hill chose newcomers, Merrie Spaeth as Gil and Tippy Walker as Val. Their characters are the kind of teenagers who put the fan in fanatic. And Val really knows how to swoon. Elvis would be proud to have such fans.They have some of the best dialogue in any movie around. At least for teenagers. It’s crisp. It is intelligent. It is funny. Val is the witty one, Gil the smart one.

Upon their first meeting, they discover they are the newbies at their private school. Val is the one who was thrown out of her last school for being “unmanageable”. Since Saturdays are good for adventuring, they agree to meet in Central Park. They discover Henry Orient making out with Paula Prentiss in the Park. Paula is a married woman who wants two things: not to get caught and to continue her friendship with Henry Orient. Henry Orient wants one thing.

The rest of the day the girls continue their adventuring through the streets of New York, having a good old time as only teenage girls can have, performing their shenanigans, getting themselves into jams. But not jams they can’t get themselves out of.

The next we see Henry Orient he is having his hair trimmed. His manager reminds Henry that he is not Van Cliburn. He has to rehearse. He keeps missing the rehearsals for a very good reason: Paula Prentiss.

The cross cutting from the girls’ world to Henry Orient, then back to the girls, then back to Henry builds the story.  Val runs smack dab into Henry Orient as he is getting out of a cab. He is trying to persuade Paula to come up to his apartment. Val ruins everything. This is twice in one day that the girls run into Henry Orient. To Henry, this is becoming a fate worse than death.

The girls attend a classical concert. Guess who’s performing? Henry Orient playing really bad avant garde classical music. The women in the audience think it’s genius they’re hearing. The men, for lack of a better word, know it stinks. You can just hear the wives telling their husbands, “It’s good for you.”

Val is transformed by the music. When Gil suggests that the pianist needs practice, Val says, “Of course, he needs practice. Especially on the scales. But this is love.”

With love this deep, Val must show how much she loves her “Oriental Henry”. Of course, Gil is going to help. This is serious, so serious the two girls make a blood pact and take a solemn oath.

Poor Henry, he hasn’t got a chance. This could be considered a search for the Holy Grail movie. Val’s Holy Grail is Henry Orient. Henry’s Holy Grail is Paula Prentiss. Both Holy Grails elude their pursuers. Unfortunately for the pursuers, the Holy Grails don’t want to be caught. You know what they say in show business? “That’s comedy.”

With “The World of Henry Orient”, the viewer gets two for the price of one. The brilliant comedy of Peter Sellers. Nobody gets out of town as fast as Peter Sellers. Most of all, this is the story of two adolescent girls transforming into young women.

Peter Sellers, Paula Prentiss, the girls, the script, Elmer Bernstein’s score all add up to a minor classic. The whip cream and cherry on top of the shake are Tom Bosley and Angela Landsbury as Val’s parents. When they say they don’t make them like they used to, they, of course, are referring to “The World of Henry Orient”.

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: British Comedy Anyone?

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “The Ladykillers” (1955).

Hollywood is the capital of remakeology. If it was made, we can remake it. That’s the philosophy of Hollywood. But the Coen Brothers. I gotta tell you that when they started rolling in the dough, they lost it. In their pre-Big Lebowski days, they could do no wrong. After “O Brother Where Art Thou”, my suspicions are that they got George Clooneyed. If not that, what then?

I mean who in his right mind would want to remake “The Ladykillers”? C’mon. But the Coens went and done it anyway and it wasn’t pretty. And they didn’t stop there. They had to go and do it again with “True Grit”, which wasn’t that great a movie in the first place. Jeff Bridges as John Wayne was entertaining. But Tom Hanks as Alec Guinness. No way. Guess you figured it out by now. I hated the remake of “The Ladykillers”. Unfortunately I paid real money to go and see it. So I hated it twice as much as I would’ve had I got it from Netflix.

There was nothing to do but re-see the original. Produced by Ealing Studios, this black comedy about a robbery gone wrong has one awesome cast. In addition to Alec Guinness, there’s early Peter Sellers before he became The Peter Sellers of the sixties. There’s Herbert Lom, who was Peter Sellers’ nemesis in the “Pink Panther” movies. They are supported by two other wonderful character actors, Danny Green and Cecil Parker. They all play members of the original Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight. And last, but not least, the wonderful Katie Johnson as Mrs. Wilberforce. She’s the the old lady who, in her innocence, foils the crooks.

In the capable hands of director Alexander Mackendrick, “The Ladykillers” has gone the distance and come out a champ as they would say in boxing. It is number 13 on the BFI Top 100 British films. Personally I think it should be higher. But you can’t go wrong with “The Third Man”, “Brief Encounter”, “Lawrence of Arabia”, “The 39 Steps” and “Great Expectations” in the top five spots. So maybe # 6.

As we say in the South, “The Ladykillers” is a good’un.