Pros: Ford is hilarious, carrying the film on his back
Cons: The dialogue isn’t top notch, but you’ll hardly notice
It’s been a little less than a month now since I first fell in love with Glenn Ford as a comedic actor. My first exposure to him was in 3:10 to Yuma, followed by his appearance as Clark Kent’s dad in Superman and then as the tough as nails teacher in Blackboard Jungle. Still, it wasn’t until I saw him in The Teahouse of the August Moon that I realized that Ford could do comedy. After I saw him again in The Sheepman with equal charm and charisma, I decided to try another of his comedies when it came on TCM. That is what led me to The Gazebo.
The movie centers on TV writer and director Elliott Nash, who is played by Ford. Nash has been appearing more and more frantic at work lately, causing his boss to want to cut his workload and his doctor to want for him to find a new doctor. While everyone assumes it is because Elliott is working himself to hard, the real source of his stress if the blackmail that he has been paying of late to keep nude photographs of his wife Nell (played by Debbie Reynolds) out of the scandal rags. No one, not even Nell, knows about the blackmail, leading Elliott’s actions to appear more and more manic as the blackmailer’s demands keep going up.
One night, after having drinks with his friend Harlow (played by Carl Reiner) who is a district attorney, Elliott comes to the conclusion that his only way out is to kill the blackmailer to end the cycle once and for all. After taking all the proper precautions (tarp on the floor, waders on himself to avoid blood splatter, a shovel outside ready to dig the grave), he lures the blackmailer to his home one night and shoots him dead, burying him in the backyard. It’s not till the next day that he receives the news that the man who has been blackmailing him was killed in his own hotel room; leading Elliott to wonder who it is that is buried under his gazebo…
I hate to use hyperbole, but this was honestly one of the funniest black comedies I have ever seen. The premise alone doesn’t seem that funny, with blackmail and murder hardly ever leading to a happy ending, but the screenplay is so good that it took all my preconceptions and threw them out the window. I was literally laughing out loud at several points, causing my wife to come in from another room to see what was going on. When she saw what was on the screen was in black and white, she headed right back out the door, but that is another discussion for another day.
While there is fine acting all around, the entire film is carried by Glenn Ford, who has made neurotic look funnier than I’ve ever seen it. His frantic actions are so well done that you can’t help but fall in love with his character. The physical comedy is funnier than the script her is given, and Ford puts his whole heart into making it work. There are a lot of movies that have lines we remember, but fewer comedies that have standout scenes. The Gazebo has several scenes I’ll be able to look back at with fond remembrance. One of my favorite scenes is after he has committed the murder, only to have his shovel taken away by a nosy foreman doing work in his yard. He gets a call from Alfred Hitchcock (who he is writing a script for), and slyly gets his advice on what he can use to dig a hole with no shovel. The joke comes back full circle near the end of the film, when everything is falling apart and Nell is in the know, causing her to ask Elliott if he can call “Hitch” again for advice. Trust me; it’s much funnier when seen than when described.
Overall, I loved this film. Ford is at his over-the-top best here, and he has remarkable chemistry with Reynolds (which isn’t surprising, since they were an item at the time). Ford’s manic performance might not be for everyone, but I would recommend this film to anyone who loves comedy. The dialogue might not be the best, but you’ll quickly look past it as Ford carries this film brilliantly.
“Now wait a minute. Aren’t you going to check my blood pressure?
What for? I know what it will be…I’ll only get discouraged”…3.5 out of 4 stars
This is part of bilbopooh's Hot August Write-off. Celebrate romance, picnics and the month of August!