Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 1963. The Mirisch Corporation, Phalanx Productions. Screenplay by Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond, based on the play by Alexandre Breffort. Cinematography by Joseph LaShelle. Produced by Edward L. Alperson, Billy Wilder. Music by Andre Previn. Production Design by Alexandre Trauner. Costume Design by Orry-Kelly. Film Editing by Daniel Mandell. Academy Awards 1963. Golden Globe Awards 1963.
The idea here was to reunite the cast and director of The Apartment and create yet another successful masterpiece that would please both critics and audiences. The result was probably favourable to audiences at the time, but forty years down the road it doesn’t look nearly as good as their previous effort. Here, Billy Wilder casts Jack Lemmon as a French policeman who is relocated from his original post to the red-light district of Paris, inhabited mostly by prostitutes and their pimps. He gets his career off to a bad start when he arrests a whole slew of hookers and throws them in jail, violating the understanding that the cops in the area have had for so long with the union of pimps that run the place. Later, he meets one very fun and sweet working girl (Shirley MacLaine) who charms him so much that he comes up with a scheme to prevent her from seeing other men: he impersonates a wealthy suitor and finds ways to pay her huge sums of money that prevent her from needing to ever see anyone else. Based on the Broadway musical (with all the songs cut out for the film), the flimsy story gets boring very fast and doesn’t sparkle with the kind of wit that one expects from a Wilder film. MacLaine is marvelous, however, and all the scenes that let her do her work (as an actress) are the best.