Saturday, April 5, 2014

1966 - THE FORTUNE COOKIE, another cynical Billy Wilder comedy.

Billy Wilder comes to the end of his box office run with this contemptuous comedy about a CBS cameraman injured at a football game who decides to sue the NFL for bodily injuries.  Jack Lemmon is the cameraman and Walter Matthau is his shyster attorney "Whiplash Willie"  who is also his brother-in-law. 

Jack Lemmon is playing the likable everyman with a touch of corruption in him that Wilder liked to write.  Lemmon could play these kind of roles in his sleep after appearing in films like Days of Wine and Roses, The Apartment, Irma La Douce and How to Murder Your Wife.  However the real star is Walter Matthau as the crooked attorney.  Matthau gets all of the good lines and blusters and overacts all over the place so of course he won and Academy Award for this over the top and obvious performance. 

This was the film that critics began to notice that Wilder's comedy style was getting harsher with characters so contemptuous they were impossible to even remotely sympathize with.  While most films were being filmed in color in the mid 1960's Wilder perversely shot this film in black and white to give it an ugly look.

In spite of working with his usual writing partner I.A.L. Diamond, The Fortune Cookie's jokes are not really that funny or witty.  Sure it has a few funny situations but for the most part the humor found in a lot of Billy Wilder's older films is missing.   The film also seems to have a rather nasty misogynist streak running through it as well.

125 minutes.

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