Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Good Neighbor Sam


Apparently Jack Lemmon had no interest in doing this film, no respect for the script, and was amazed when it did very well at the box office. I think he wanted to be known for dramas like The Days of Wine and Roses, and quality comedy/dramas like The Apartment, and thought this sort of fluff was beneath him. Also the movies he made before and after this one: Under the Yum Yum Tree and How to Murder Your Wife. It’s true that none of these were Oscar material in any way, but I have fond memories of all of them because they came out when I was in high school and they were excellent date movies. There’s something to be said for that, you know. And I think they hold up pretty well. Sure, the morality is dated, but they are all three better than the Doris Day/Rock Hudson comedies of that era. And to me it’s kind of a shame that Jack didn’t like doing stuff like this, because there was nobody better at it. He is hilarious in just about every scene here, and he’s got an excellent supporting cast, including Robert Q. Lewis and Louis Nye. Romy Schneider is quite good. (She died far too young.) It’s one of those films lampooning the ad biz that were so popular at the time. I’ve never quite understood why there was such a fascination with men in gray flannel suits back then, but there was. Stan Freberg made a career out of it.
This one takes place in San Francisco, but it’s just like Madison Avenue. Actually, many of the exteriors are the City by the Bay, and some of the interiors, such as the Fairmont Hotel. But the best interior is actually the fabulous Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles. Here it’s made up to be a sleazy hotel. In reality it is anything but that, and is one of the more beautiful historical structures in the Southland. We once visited it and heard a brass ensemble playing Handel, and it was glorious.
A nice little joke for history buffs: Sam works for an ad agency called Burke and Hare. You may know that those were the infamous serial killers in Scotland who sold the corpses of their 17 victims to doctors for dissection. If you didn’t know that, now you do!