12 August 2011 | Holdjerhorses
Start Grinning Ear to Ear. Start Right Now! Sheer Joy!
If you've seen TTOIA before, even once, even long ago on its first release in 1963, you may not remember ALL the treats you're in for under the tree, but you know it's one of Santa's most memorable Romantic Comedy deliveries in motion picture history.
If you've NEVER seen it, you still can't help grinning, from the opening frames until the brilliant payoff.
"Santa" being, in this case, one of Hollywood's finest collaborative teams at the top of their game. It's a huge team! Carl Reiner (Dick Van Dyke show), Larry Gelbart (M*A*S*H) conceived it. Reiner wrote the screenplay.
Ross Hunter produced it, along with Day's then-husband, Marty Melcher, who got titular co-producer credit and a nice paycheck, but whose actual contributions are questionable at best. It's a Ross Hunter Production all the way. "Hire the best and keep them happy."
Reiner's script is tight as a drum. The continual builds and arcs he and Gelbart constructed are emotionally riveting, revealing of character, increasingly funny and broad (just pushing the edge of believability without ever violating it), with a foolproof "ticking clock" and jaw-dropping tender-yet-hysterical climax sequence unlike any before or since.
Amazing! The production visuals are as brilliantly developed as the script. This is a lavishly complex and technically challenging piece of film-making.
Ross Hunter nailed down the script, brought in Norman Jewison to direct. He cast Doris Day and James Garner as the irresistibly appealing leads. He also cast second leads to perfection: Arlene Francis and Edward Andrews. The supporting players, from Zasu Pitts to the two children – Jewison got stunning work from them too! Jewison's coordination of camera and technical work, color, set design, physical comedy touches, tweaks of his actors' close-ups – flawless.
He hired Jean-Louis to design the most beautiful costumes (LOTS of them!) Miss Day ever graced. The man was a genius and Day never looked lovelier.
But it's the grins that start from the first frames, with Miss Francis' deliriously happy laughter – soon explained – that grow and balloon into remarkable comedy set-pieces (punctuated with razor-sharp satirical on-screen bits featuring Carl Reiner himself) – and gradually explode into eye-popping visual comedy sequences that hark back to silent-film pioneers like Chaplin and Keaton – ending in the must-be-seen-to-be-believed, brilliantly staged and directed and played and edited, final sequence in stalled traffic – that lands TTOIA in the top ten Romantic Comedies of the last 100 years.
As good as all Doris Day's romantic comedies were – and they WERE – TTOIA is as good as this incredibly difficult, deceptively "easy," genre gets.
Watching it is a privilege.