One, Two, Three (1961)

One, Two, Three
Director: Billy Wilder
Writer: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond
Based on: Ferenc Molnár‘s play
Cast: James Cagney, Horst Buchholz, Pamela Tiffin, Arlene Francis, Howard St. John, Hanns Lothar, Leon Askin, Ralf Wolter, Karl Lieffen, Hubert von Meyerinck, Loïs Bolton, Peter Capell, Til Kiwe, Henning Schlüter, Karl Ludwig Lindt, Liselotte Pulver
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 26.10.2019

Content Note: sexism

C.R. McNamara (James Cagney) is the head of Coca-Cola in West-Berlin. Life is pretty good for him, until his boss sends him his daughter Scarlett (Pamela Tiffin) to take care of while she visits Berlin. But Scarlett doesn’t want to be taken care of, she wants to party – and even falls in love with Otto Piffl (Horst Buchholz), an East-German communist. That puts McNamara in hot waters. He needs to fix everything before Scarlett’s parents come to Germany themselves.

One, Two, Three is one of the fastest films I have ever seen. Its tempo is really impressive, but other things haven’t aged that well. I still had fun, but not as much fun as other people at the screening.

The film poster showing the drawing of a woman in a polkadot dress and black gloves, smiling broadly. Next to her feet are a few alcohol bottles.

Through some parts of the film, I just sat there open-mouthed at the speed with which things happen here, and also with which people talk. Cagney in particular talks so fast, I felt a bit overwhelmed, but not necessarily in a bad way. It was certainly impressive – and often the film is very funny, though nobody is funnier than Arlene Francis in her much too small role as McNamara’s wife.

Unfortunately what I didn’t find particularly funny was the sexism that is pretty much everywhere in the film. Yeah, it is a film of the 60s and a child of its time, but still. Things could have been handled better here – especially when it comes to Ingeborg (Liselotte Pulver), McNamara’s secretary.

C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney) on the phone in his office.

I am also a little bitter about the way they deal with communism here – they don’t take it seriously at all. I mean, you don’t have to be a communist to acknowledge that it’s pretty damn influential and not just a joke. My irritiation at this was aggravated by the fact that there isn’t a second of criticism of capitalism in the film. But I guess, I shouldn’t have expected any different from a USAmerican film during the Cold War.

Despite those things, I still had a lot of fun with the film and it made me laugh for sure, though people around me seemed to be laughing more than me. If you can look past the incredibly dusty bits, there is still a film that can sparkle there.

C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney) arriving in his office, with all employees standing at attention while he walks past.

Summarizing: entertaining, albeit not unproblematic.

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