Monday, November 9, 2009

One, Two, Three (1961)

In honor of the fall of the Berlin Wall's 20th anniversary, I decided to put up this blog since the film is sort of about the Cold War and takes place in Berlin (also, as you will read in the blog, it was filmed while the Berlin Wall was being built). I just watched the 1961 James Cagney movie One, Two, Three for the first time and it was so funny!!! I think it's one of Billy Wilder's best films. James Cagney was great as C.P. MacNamara, the fast-talking Coca-Cola executive in West Berlin who tries to stop his boss's daughter, whom he's chaperoning, from marrying a Communist, who I think really represented the hippie youth of that era. Jimmy Cagney was certainly at his speediest in this film—and he was old, but who cares?! What really matters to me—more than James Cagney (surprise)—in this movie is its location: West Berlin & Germany all together. (Yes, I'm aware that Germany was split into East and West Germany and was called as such.)

Germany is one of my very favorite countries and it—especially Berlin (both sides of the city)—played as much as a big role as James Cagney did in this movie. It's also one of the reasons why I wanted to see this movie. This movie was filmed around the time that the Berlin Wall was built—which means that it was filming when JFK made that famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech. If you ever see this movie, you can see that in the scenes with the Brandenburg Gate, there is no Berlin Wall. Well, that's because the crew decided to switch over to the parking lot of Munich's Bavaria Film Studios to finish the scenes with the Brandenburg Gate because they had discovered that the Berlin Wall was being built one morning, so it was for continuity purposes (you can read more about that here); they even built the bottom half of the Brandenburg Gate for the scene. Let me tell you that when I watched this movie, I couldn't recognize the area around the Brandenburg Gate; that's because I went to Berlin recently (years after the Berlin Wall fell) and the area around the Brandenburg Gate right now is really built up.

But anyway, let's focus on the film right now instead of its location. I thought that what the gesture the MP played by Red Buttons gave to Cagney was very funny and was supposed to be a Cagney imitation (it was appropriate too since Cagney was so tyrannical towards the MP). And the fact that Cagney put a deflated balloon that said "Russki, Go Home" over the exhaust pipe of the Communist hippie's motorcycle and it was being inflated while the motorcycle was running was absolutely hysterical and clever.

Sadly, it was after this movie that James Cagney decided to retire from acting; it wasn't until 20 years later that he finally came back onto the screen in the film Ragtime (1981). Of course, he was being driven nuts by director Billy Wilder during the filming of this movie.

And I know that you guys are most interested in learning about Cagney from this film review rather reading about the Cold War and I'm sorry if this blog would bore you, but let me tell you something: I was exposed to more stuff about East & West Germany and East & West Berlin when I was in Germany recently than you guys are being exposed to right now, so you guys have it easy (even though I'm kinda interested in German history and easily understood the references to German history in this movie—especially the ones about Hitler). I would recommend this movie for any James Cagney fan who loves watching him in wild comedies. Again, opinions and comments on this movie are encouraged!

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