Friday, August 28, 2009

Donald O'Connor, 1925-2003

It was on this day in 1925 that Donald O'Connor was born. I've already recommended Singin' In the Rain before so instead, I'd like to mention what was to be his final film, Out to Sea.

O'Connor isn't the star; that honor goes to Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, making one of their many appearances together in a movie. Lemmon is a recent widower, having lost his wife to a long illness. Matthau plays his scheming brother-in-law, and decides that his late sister's husband could do with some cheering up, so he convinces Lemmon to accompany him on a Caribbean cruise. What Matthau neglected to mention though, is that he was able to get such a good deal on the trip because he signed the two of them up to be dance hosts, spending their evenings dancing with any of the elderly widowed women who don't have a dance partner of their own.

Thus begins the comedy. Fraternization between the dance partners and the women outside of the confines of the dance floor is strictly forbidden, per the rules of a martinet of a cruise director played by Brent Spiner (best known as Lt. Cmdr. Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation). Matthau, schemer that he is, came on the cruise specifically to find a rich woman he could persuade to marry him. Instead, he finds Dyan Cannon, who is herself a gold digger and thinks that Matthau is actually a rich man. Despite being a recent widower, Lemmon also falls in love all over again, with Gloria De Haven. As for O'Connor? He's one of the fellow dance hosts (along with Hal Linden), and even gets a dance all his own, in which he, despite being a septuagenarian, completely shows up everybody else.

Out to Sea isn't great by any means; it's the sort of movie Lemmon and Matthau could have done in their sleep. They, and everybody else in the cast, however, are professionals, and give us a really nice little movie with a nice ensemble cast of actors in their golden years (Spiner, at 48, is by a good ways the youngest of the main cast members). Like most more recent movies, it's also been released to DVD.

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