February 18, 2011
We watched the 1969 film “Walk Don’t Run,” which was notable for being Cary Grant’s last movie. He retired, so the story goes, because he realized that he could no longer pull off the leading man image and didn’t think his fans would accept him in supporting roles. So he was “retired” for 20 years, as far as the movies were concerned.
In “Walk Don’t Run,” Grant plays a prominent British businessman, Sir William Rutland, who visits Tokyo during the 1964 Olympic Games, arrives two days ahead of schedule and can’t find a hotel room. He spots a notice posted by someone wanting to share an apartment and goes to the address. The “someone” is Christine Easton (Samantha Eggar), a nervous young lady who is engaged to a supercilious employee of the British Embassy. She isn’t interested in sharing her apartment with a strange man, but Rutland ignores her protests, confuses her with the kind of fast talk that Grant was so good at, and moves in. Christine tries to make the arrangement as hard as possible on Rutland by imposing an impossibly tight schedule for use of the bathroom, but Rutland – though totally unable to keep up with the timetable – isn’t that easily dissuaded.
During a business call in Tokyo, Rutland meets brash American Steve Davis, who is a member of an American Olympic team — though he won’t say which one — and who also is without a place to stay until the Olympic quarters open. Davis is played by the ill-starred Jim Hutton. Rutland and Davis are at odds at first, but Rutland ends up subletting half of his room to Davis — without asking Christine, of course. She objects when she finds out, but she is no match for the two of them. Rutland, who is happily married and old enough to be Christine’s father, doesn’t like Christine’s fiancée and thinks Davis would be a better match for her. Therein lies the story, although there’s a subplot in which Davis is accused of being a spy.
This is a good-natured film, and the three principal actors do it justice. Grant was about 62 when he made this movie, and he hadn’t lost any of his appeal or energy.
The movie was shot on location in Japan, and that adds to its interest. Tokyo is a busy place, and the outdoor shots were done in the middle of the daily bustle.
This movie is based on a highly-regarded 1943 film, “The More the Merrier,” which I haven’t yet seen. That stars Charles Colburn, Joel Macrae, and Jean Arthur. It tells the same general story, but it takes place in Washington, D.C., and makes fun of the housing shortage there during World War II. Colburn plays the businessman, and he was widely praised for his performance. He and Grant were very different personalities, but I can picture Colburn playing the role.