A Movie A Day: PAPA’S DELICATE CONDITION (1963) It’s a good thing women can’t vote. We’d be worse off than we are now.
Published at: Sept. 27, 2008, 6:33 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection or from my DVR and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
That’s how long my movie-coma lasted and I feel great! Unfortunately that means I slept through the entirety of Friday, so first thing I did when I woke up was pop in Friday’s movie of the day and get it watched.
Today we follow director George Marshall over to PAPA’S DELICATE CONDITION, a rather obscure family comedy from 1963 starring Jackie Gleason.
The title refers to Gleason’s state whenever he drinks too much and gets impulsive. He’s a good man at heart and acts on impulse without a thought to the future. He’s a railroad man who comes back to his family and within a few days has bought the local pharmacy (because the guy who runs it is a dickhead who is about to fire his assistant manager for being so selfish as to be at his wife’s side as she’s giving birth) and a traveling circus, wiping out the family’s funds.
He buys the circus because he’s particularly crazy about Corrie, his youngest daughter and she falls in love with a pony in the circus. He goes into his meeting with the two circus owners trying to buy the pony and cart and walks out owning the circus.
This was a highlight of the film for me as the two sleaze-ball circus owners were played by great character actors Elisha Cook Jr. and Murray Hamilton. They could have made this movie about those two characters and I would have been much happier.
That’s not to say that the movie is particularly bad, it’s just slight. Gleason is fun to watch, I have a ton of nostalgia for Glynis Johns (she played mother of the house in MARY POPPINS) and overall tone of the movie felt a lot like Poppins to me. Hell, even their house reminded me of the Banks Residence.
I think I’m not a terribly big fan of George Marshall. He’s a competent director, for sure, but none of the films of his I’ve covered really stand out beyond the charisma of those in front of the camera. He knows what shots he needs to make the film cut together, but all three films, HOUDINI, MONEY FROM HOME and PAPA’S DELICATE CONDITION feel like they were directed as if from a pre-written manual, like stereo instructions or shelf-building instructions. There’s no flair to them, no real using the camera to visually tell the story.
And that’s fine. In all three instances the film floats on either the story (HOUDINI) or the likability of the leads (PAPA’S and MONEY FROM HOME).
One thing that did kind of stick out to me in this story was kind of a fucked up little side-story about Glynis John’s father and Gleason’s Father-In-Law, Mayor of Texarkana, who is up for re-election.
There comes a point when Johns takes the kids and leaves Gleason and stays with her father, who is losing his re-election to a charismatic politician. We only get a little glimpse of this politician and you can tell he’s kind of a good guy, which is odd because Gleason uses his circus to come in and draw away his voters! He offers free shows, popcorn, hot dogs and ice cream to the voters and his father-in-law wins the election! Fucked up, right?
And the movie has a cigar smoking, ass-kissing chimp in a Hef-like smoking jacket who always sucks up to the one in charge. First it’s Gleason and then it’s his father-in-law when he is re-elected.
Okay, someone should remake this movie starring that chimp and CG-in Elisha Cook Jr. and Murray Hamilton. I want that adventure.
Final thoughts: It’s a cute little movie, but there’s a reason it took over 10 years to hit DVD. It’s not bad, but damn is it just okay through and through. A week from now I bet I’ll remember precious little of this film, except for the awesome chimp and the 3 minutes of Elisha Cook Jr. and Murray Hamilton it has. Special note, this film is an Academy Award winner, winning best Song for Gleason’s drunken singing of a tune called Call Me Irresponsible, beating out IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD and CHARADE.
The schedule for the next few days is:
Saturday, September 27th: DILLINGER (1945)
Sunday, September 28th: BATTLE OF THE BULGE (1965)
Monday, September 29th: DAISY KENYON (1947)
Tuesday, September 30th: LAURA (1944)
Wednesday, October 1st – Friday, October 31st: H-MAD! Horror Movie A Day! Check out the list here!
The above Horror Movie list isn’t complete. I’ll be adding on titles as I find them. There are probably only one or two WTF!?! titles on there, one being the original version of one of my all time favorite horror classics, a remake, but no matter what I think we’re in for a fun October. I’ll add on to the list as I pick up more titles… ‘tis the season, afterall…
See you folks later in the day with the Saturday AMAD DILLINGER, following one of my favorites, Elisha Cook Jr. back into noir territory!