Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas movies are here again

Jump, Fitzwilly, jump!

Now that we're in December, we begin to get a lot of Christmas movies. Some of them I've recommended in Decembers past, but one that I only saw for the first time last December is Fitzwilly. It's airing tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM on TCM.

Dick Van Dyke plays Claude Fitzwilliam, who with a name like that unsurprisingly gets the nickname Fitzwilly. Fitzwilly is the head butler to the wealthy old spinster Victoria Woodworth (Edith Evans). Or, Miss Woodworth used to be wealthy. She's burned through all her inheritance, to the point that Fitzwilly has to watch her financial situation very carefully. This is a big problem, since the grand old lady likes to donate money to every charity case under the sun. So to keep Woodworth solvent, Fitzwilly and the rest of the staff do two things. First is to try to prevent checks from going out in the first place; if a check doesn't go out you don't need the funds to make it good. Second is to get Mis Victoria's staff to engage in con artist schemes to bilk people of money when she does sign a check and get it past Fitzwilly.

So far so good, with the exception of Fitzwilly technically being a criminal. His situation is about to get a little more complicated. Miss Victoria wants to write the story of her life, and to that end, she's hired young journalism student Juliet (Barbara Feldon) to interview her and cobble those interviews together into an autobiography. Juliet suspects that there's something odd going on in the Woodworth household, and those suspicions are confirmed when she catches Fitzwilly trying to keep a five-figure check from leaving the house. Needless to say, this causes multiple problems for Fitzwilly, who not only is about to get caught, but is about to see his boss be humiliated when her insolvency comes to light.

Eventually, Juliet finds herself beginning to sympathize with Fitzwilly's plight and falls in love with him, although she'd rather that his next scheme be his last one: in order to pay for that big check that Juliet let go out of the house, Fitzwilly has to concoct an elaborate plot to rob one of the department stores of all its cash on Christmas Eve....

Fitzwilly is a comedy and, despite the themes of robbery, it's actually a fairly light comedy. It's certainly the sort of light comedy that Dick Van Dyke could do well. Edith Evans is reminiscent of Margaret Rutherford in The VIPs, and is a delight to watch as the dotty old lady. Feldon is lovely and capable, and there's a supporting cast of a lot of familiar names. All in all, I think you'll find it quite enjoyable. Sadly, Fitzwilly doesn't seem to be available for purchase on DVD.

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