Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Tonight's Movie: The Gazebo (1959) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds star in THE GAZEBO (1959), a black comedy available in a remastered edition from the Warner Archive.

In this offbeat film, Ford plays Elliott Nash, a TV writer-director who's also the adoring husband of Broadway stage star Nell (Reynolds).

Elliott hasn't let Nell know that a photographer is blackmailing him over naughty photos taken of Nell when she was a teenager. Elliott's convinced the photos being published would destroy Nell's career and he takes desperate measures to protect her, initially considering selling their home to pay off the blackmailer and then concocting an elaborate plan to kill the man and dispose of the body...with a little long-distance advice from Alfred Hitchcock!

A man Elliott believes is the blackmailer shows up for a meeting at the appointed time, Elliott fires the gun, and the man keels over, dead. Elliott buries the body under his new backyard gazebo. But imagine his surprise when he learns the blackmailer was murdered somewhere else that night! Who's under the gazebo...and did Elliott kill him at all?

THE GAZEBO is mildly amusing thanks to the lead actors. Ford is often such a stoic type, it's kind of fun watching him play a love-addled would-be murderer who's reduced, among other things, to attempting to explain to his wife why the bathroom shower curtains have suddenly disappeared.

Debbie's sweet, buoyant innocence throughout the film goes a long way to keep the movie from sliding into being tasteless. (It turns out she'd been confronted by the blackmailer herself...and her response is hilarious.) Ford and Reynolds have good interplay with Carl Reiner, in a large role as their friend the DA who also carries a torch for Nell.

All in all, though, the film has such a bizarre premise that a little of it goes a long way; eventually Ford's manic preoccupation becomes wearisome. I think it would have played better if its 100 minutes had been closer to 80. Even so, that wouldn't solve the film's biggest problem, which is that comedy or not, our hero is a would-be killer.

In the end, it's not among the top films made by either Reynolds or Ford, but their fans will want to check out this oddball entry in their filmographies.

The supporting cast includes Martin Landau, John McGiver, Mabel Albertson, Helen Kleeb, Bert Freed and Doro Merande.

THE GAZEBO was directed by George Marshall. It was filmed in black and white by Paul C. Vogel. George Wells' screenplay was based on a play which starred Jayne Meadows and Walter Slezak.

THE GAZEBO is a nice-looking widescreen print. The Warner Archive DVD includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

2 Comments:

Blogger Hamlette said...

I watched this on a visit to my parents' house last summer. We'd all had a long, tiring day, and kicking back with this movie was somehow exactly what we needed -- our brains drifted merrily along, and we laughed so loud at some of the antics that we woke my kids up. Oops!

But definitely not a movie to take seriously, or one I could watch on heavy rotation.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

That sounds about right to me, I also watched it late after a long day and it made pretty good undemanding viewing.

Glad I saw it but it will be a long time before I return to it.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

Best wishes,
Laura

12:33 AM  

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