Au Revoir, Cary Grant, Bonjour Jim Hutton

I don’t know why I’m casually inserting French words in my blog titles now.

It just seemed like something Cary Grant might do. If he could speak French. I don’t know, could Cary Grant speak French? I wouldn’t put it past him. He could do, like, anything, right?

Anyway.

In the past three months, I’ve read two memoirs from two people close to Cary Grant–his daughter Jennifer’s Good Stuff and Dyan Cannon’s Dear Cary, each touching, insightful, and a pure joy to read. In Dear Cary, however, there was mention of Grant’s final film, Walk, Don’t Run, which I had never seen. Cannon describes how increasingly uncomfortable Grant had become with playing the romantic lead as he grew older and how finally, with this film, he had been able to take the back seat in the love story, instead playing matchmaker and leaving the romance to the film’s two younger stars, Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton.

Hold up.

Jim Hutton?

Star of my new favorite thing, Ellery Queen?

Count me in.

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Cary Grant, dapper as ever, plays Sir William Rutland, some sort of English (well, half-American, he reminds us occasionally) businessman who arrives in Tokyo two days early to find himself amidst a housing shortage, due to the 1964 Summer Olympics. Enter Christine Easton (Samantha Eggar), who has placed an ad for a flatmate. When Rutland appears at her apartment, answering the ad, she tells him she prefers a female roommate, citing propriety and her engagement to a stuffy British diplomat. Rutland’s persistence and charm wears her down, however, and Rutland soon sublets his half of the apartment to Steve Davis (Jim Hutton), architect and Olympian. Stringent bathroom schedules, locking out roommates, and, oh, a little romance, of course, ensues!

What else did you expect?

You didn’t expect Cary Grant and Jim Hutton being pampered and bathed, did you?

No?

Well, it totally happened.

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“I’ve never heard of a practicing architect on an Olympic team.”

“I’ve never heard of a grown man being given a bath.”  

The film is a lot of fun, perhaps because I love watching two gifted actors whom I admire work together. Cary Grant is debonair and charming and all those other Cary Grant-isms. His comedic talents are also on full display. Jim Hutton, tall and gangly, is natural, instantly and unequivocally likeable, and a kind of everyman. No wonder some deemed him Jimmy Stewart’s successor. At one point in the film, Hutton’s character turns to Grant and asks, “Why are you so concerned about what I do with my day?”

“Because I identify with you,” Grant replies matter-of-factly.

And that, I think, is a perfect articulation of what makes Hutton so effective as an actor.

As the film progresses, Steve and Christine fall in love, despite their dissimilar personalities and Christine’s engagement, but trouble soon arises in the form of Russian spies (what else? It’s the ’60s!) and, well, Christine’s fiance. Rutland, who has been quietly orchestrating the match from the beginning, is forced to intervene to save their romance in the film’s final–and funniest–moments.

A running thread throughout the film is Steve Davis refusing to ever state which Olympic event he is competing. Whenever directly asked, he evades or simply completely ignores the question.

At the time of the film’s release, however, this gag was slightly ruined by advertisements which clearly showed the event. Luckily for me, I’m watching the film on DVD more than forty years later, so the gag wasn’t spoiled for me, making it that much funnier.

Spoilers ahead!

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“This is the most ridiculous race!”

Yes, that’s Jim Hutton and Cary Grant power-walking. Very, very, very suave.

There’s just something irresistibly funny about grown men power-walking through the crowded streets of Tokyo. Especially when one of them is Cary Grant, stripped to a t-shirt and boxer shorts (but with his loafers intact!)–a fitting end to his elegant and sophisticated film career. Au revoir!

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