Friday, August 8, 2008

The Olympics

Today saw the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics. I'm not all that interested in the Olympics myself, but I figured it would be a good time to recommend a movie set against the backdrop of the Olympic Games: Walk, Don't Run.

This is well known for being Cary Grant's last movie, and in it, he stars as William Rutland, an English businessman in Tokyo for a business deal on the eve of the 1964 Olympics. Because of the Olympics, all the hotels are booked, and since Rutland arrived in Tokyo a few days earlier than planned, there are no hotel rooms available for him until his original reservation. So, he goes to the British Embassy, and finds a classified ad from a British expat willing to sublet half of an apartment. Rutland takes up that offer, only to find that it's been made by a woman -- Christine Easton (played by lovely Samantha Eggar). Worse, it turns out that she's engaged -- to a man who works at the British Embassy, Julian Haversack, whom Rutland knows because he was treated rather officiously by Haversack when looking for a place to stay.

Rutland, having some time to kill before his hotel room becomes available, decides to see a bit of Tokyo with his Japanese business associates. While at their factory, he meets, Steve Davis (played by Jim Hutton), a young American who has arrived a few days early for the Olympics himself -- he's in one of the events, although there's a running joke about exactly which event it is, not being revealed until the plot demands it. Having arrived early, he finds that the Olympic Village is not yet open, and so he too has no place to stay. You can guess what happens next: Rutland (who, it turns out, had an American mother), offers his American friend half of the half of the apartment that he's subletting -- without, of course, telling Miss Easton about it. Hilarity ensues. More hilarity ensues when Rutland realizes almost immediately that Steve is much better-suited for Christine than Julius, and sets about playing cupid for his two flatmates.

Walk, Don't Run isn't Cary Grant's best movie, but it's more than enjoyable. Grant is fine, but it's nice to see that the real couple here -- Jim Hutton and Samantha Eggar -- have excellent screen chemistry together. Eggar's fiancé Julian is played by John Standing, who is perfect as the stereotypically stuffy Brit. The other huge plus is that much of the movie was filmed on location in Japan, and it's wonderful to have a color record of Tokyo as it was in the mid-1960s. One other face to watch for is that of a police desk sergeant who interrogates everybody near the end of the movie. That's George Takei, who would soon go on to play Lt. Sulu in Star Trek.

It's fairly well-known that Walk, Don't Run is a remake of the 1943 movie The More The Merrier, which is also available on DVD. I wouldn't say that one is better than another; each of that has its own superiorities, and to compare the two would take an entire blog post. The result, however, is that they're both well-worth watching, either by themselves, or together. The tagline of Walk, Don't Run was "Run -- don't walk -- to see Walk, Don't Run!" Paraphrasing that, I can enthusiastically say, "Run -- don't walk -- to rent Walk, Don't Run!"

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