Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Goodbye Charlie

One of the movies in the current FXM rotation that I haven't blogged about before is Goodbye Charlie. It's going to be on again tomorrow at 11:15 AM and again at 7:45 AM Friday.

The movie starts off with Charlie, who isn't really seen as he's partying with a bunch of other people on the yacht of wealthy movie producer Sir Leopold Sartori (Walter Matthau). Eventually, Charles goes into Mrs. Sartori's cabin and starts putting the moves on her, leading Sir Leopold to go below decks and shoot Charlie, who falls out the porthole into the ocean, obviously dying in the process although since he's lost at sea his body isn't found.

George Tracy (Tony Curtis) was one of Charlie's best friends, and is now living in France as a writer. However, Charlie had named George as the executor of his will, and Charlie's manager Morton (Martin Gabel) wants George to speak at the memorial service, so George comes from nine time zones away to fulfill his solemn duty. Unfortunately, George was also one of Charlie's only friends, as there's only him and two women at the memorial service. Charlie, you see, was a real smooth operator who used and dumped women like tissue paper.

George is going to be in the Los Angeles area for some time settling the estate, which is a mess since Charlie was effectively broke, but George is able to live in Charlie's beach house. That night, after the memorial service, a man comes knocking with an obvious emergency. Bruce Minton (Pat Boone) is a wealthy heir living in another beach house up the coast, and as he was driving to see his mother he ran across a naked and incoherent woman. The most Bruce could make out is that the woman wanted to be dropped off at Charlie's house; presumably she was one of Charlie's many ex-girlfriends.

Except that she regains her identity overnight, and realizes she's not in fact one of Charlie's ex-girlfriends, but Charlie himself, reincarnated as a woman (played by Debbie Reynolds). Charlie is none too pleased at first, knowing how he treated women, and George doesn't believe it anyway until Charlie tells George too many personal things that only Charlie could have known. And eventually, Charlie, if he's not exactly comfortable being a woman, at least figures he can put his womanly body to good use, what with those breasts and sex appeal.

Although Charlie has been reincarnated as a woman, he obviously hasn't learned anything from the whole experience of getting shot, as his plans are to use the womanly form to get close to men and blackmail them, having Charlie's knowledge of everything he did to women. Charlie does need money, after all, even if this isn't a particularly honest way of going about getting it.

Complications arise, however, when Bruce shows up again, having been captivated by this woman that he doesn't realize is actually a former man. Bruce could even marry the new Charlie, and while Charlie might like Bruce's money, he still doesn't want to be a wife till death does them part. There's also Sartori and the question of what will happen to Charlie if Sartori ever learns the truth or the new Charlie releases any information about Sartori.

Goodbye Charlie is a movie with a very funny premise, but one with doesn't quite live up to the potential of its premise. I think the problem is that both of the leads are miscast. In a movie without a gender-bender premise, it would be Tony Curtis who's the unctuous manipulator, not the Reynolds character. Curtis doesn't work so well as the straight man to such an operator. Reynolds, for her part, is entirely the wrong actress to be playing manipulative; I'm not certain who had both the comic chops and the reputation to pull it off at that point in the 1960s. Goodbye Charlie also goes on too long at just a shade under two hours.

As always, however, it's the sort of movie where you may want to watch and judge for yourself. In addition to the upcoming FXM showings, it's available on DVD if you want to watch it that way.

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