Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 1971. American Broadcasting Company, Kotch Company Productions. Screenplay by John Paxton, based on the novel by Katharine Topkins. Cinematography by Richard H. Kline. Produced by Richard Carter. Music by Marvin Hamlisch. Production Design by Jack Poplin. Costume Design by John A. Anderson. Film Editing by Ralph E. Winters. Academy Awards 1971. Golden Globe Awards 1971.
Walter Matthau enjoys his days in charge of his beloved grandson, but his son and daughter-in-law eventually feel he is being asked to do too much and hire the child a nanny (a marvelous Deborah Winters). This allows Matthau to make more of a nuisance of himself than usual, prompting the couple to look into a swanky retirement home for him, information he receives with good grace and absolute refusal. Winters turns out to be in trouble thanks to her boyfriend, so they hit the road and eventually find themselves in Palm Springs where he helps her prepare for the birth of a child she plans to give up. As in The Sunshine Boys four years later, Matthau is too young to play a doddering old man, the fake bushy white eyebrows doing nothing considering how disingenuous his body movement and mannerisms are, but he presents the character’s verbal diarrhea with the usual rusty charm that this great actor was such a specialist at. The film is the only directorial effort by Jack Lemmon, who found the process too stressful to repeat, and is a solid work considering that he didn’t enjoy the experience, but Harry And Tonto would come along three years later and provide a similar story with far more resonance and poignancy.