Wilder and wilder

by Yule Heibel on April 11, 2004

“Nobody’s perfect!” It’s been a vacationing type of weekend around here, with both kids — but especially about to turn 13 son — quite sick with some sort of coughing, fevered bug, and lots and lots of really warm sunshine and sweet-scented air because of the weeks and weeks of blooming stuff we’ve been having, while the coughing, fevered bug just kind of slowed everything down to the point where it felt all lazy and calm, like a vacation. Sweet scents of lilac and clematis and late narcissi occasionally gave way to the medicinal smell of Vicks Vaporub. Bed-rest. Don’t work or get all bothered. Unwind. It was actually really lovely. We are, in these latitudes, embarking on what I call The Bright Times, with no rain in sight (the regular annual summer drought now starts in spring already), hardly a cloud ever, warm temperatures, and sun that comes up at the ungodly hour of …uh, when I’m asleep, and which sets later and later and later in the day. By June it will be setting after 10pm. For now, in April and with Daylight Savings Time, there’s just lots and lots of day until it feels like for a lark someone made off with your eyelids. And while I don’t really feel like blogging, because my subject will be light, which makes me feel lousy because out there everything is so heavy right now, I changed my mind just enough to pass this on: that I did see tonight on dvd the funniest film ever. It’s a Billy Wilder comedy (he of Some Like It Hot fame, for those of you born just yesterday) called One, Two, Three (or: Eins, Zwei, Drei — say it like you mean it, das ist ein Order!). It was made in 1961, around the time the Berlin Wall went up. James Cagney plays a Coca-Cola executive stationed in Berlin — this Yank is supposed to be from Atlanta, right?, but you know he’s only half-kidding when he says that Atlanta is just like Siberia, except with mint juleps. I love Wilder’s films — even Sunset Boulevard, which has in the past had the uncanny effect of always putting me to sleep the first 5 times I (didn’t) see it: as soon as William Holden’s car started climbing the road, I was out like a light. Film noir is so dark, I have a hard time keeping my eyes open. Now that I’ve seen Sunset Boulevard a couple of times while awake, I too am a fan of Gloria (“Norma Desmond”) Swanson’s famous line, “I’m ready for my close-up,” but it was an acquired taste. Some Like It Hot is famous, of course. But One, Two, Three is hilarious in the best sort of way, and Liselotte (“Lilo”) Pulver (did you know that Pulver means “powder,” but the kind used to make firecrackers and dynamite?) might not be Marilyn Munroe, but she’s snappier and smarter, even while playing the stereotypical “dumb blond.” The film was so funny, it actually made me a little sad that we seem to have “advanced” to the point where no one can get away with making wisecrack movies about current politics in quite the same way that Wilder and his team was able to in ’61. And now, knowing that no one’s perfect (as Osgood Fielding III would say), I’m going upstairs, ready for my close-up, testing the Umlaute….


jr April 12, 2004 at 12:41 pm

I don’t get to see that movie often enough. There are elements of that movie that I see in many later films. I see the Wilder influence in many Robert Altman films.

Tom Shugart April 13, 2004 at 1:19 am

Hi, Yule! I finally got hip to your blog after Maria directed me to your excellent “confess” post. I’m looking forward to many good reads here and have added you to my blogroll.

Thanks for the tip on this Wilder movie. This one has gone under my radar screen, but now I’ll be looking for it. Immediately prior to the period in which this movie is set,I was in Uncle Sam’s Army serving in Germany–frequently on border patrol. From time to time, I would visit a good buddy who was stationed in Berlin (this was BEFORE the Wall went up. How’s that for feeling old?) Anyway, I wonder if my experience will heighten my enjoyment of the movie?

Yule Heibel April 13, 2004 at 3:00 am

Altman — that’s interesting, JR. I haven’t seen a film of his in ages — I don’t get out much, haha! — but Nashville certainly sticks in memory, and yeah, there’s lots of social commentary, oblique, in that film. Hmm, interesting comparison: guess I’ll have to rent some Altman films soon…

Tom, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the comment. I have to visit your blog and take some time to read — but it’s like I commented to Kate and others, I’m starting to feel panicked at the thought of trying to stay abreast of all the interesting stuff out there! Yikes! Do you think blogging can induce manic depression?, you know, along the lines of giddily thinking that you can stay in tune one day, and the next feeling like you should pull the plug on the old computer? Maria suggested blogging was giving her a case of ADD a while back, but maybe it’s even worse than that!

If you were in Berlin/ Germany in the post-WWII period, you have to rent One, Two, Three, schnell! Wilder is so smart. When the film started, I wondered about some of the characters, what they would have been up to during the Third Reich, and why that isn’t addressed in the film, and bang, within 5 seconds, Wilder was bringing it up (eg. asking his assistant, Schlemmer, etc.). I also was a bit creeped out by “Ingeborg” (Lilo Pulver), who has to “make nice” to the Soviet contingent, because it made me think of all the women in Berlin and environs raped by the conquering Soviets in ’45, and whether this would have permeated “Ingeborg”‘s consciousness. She was playing a 20-something in ’61, i.e., she would have been a little girl in 45, and any “Ingeborg”‘s mother along with older female siblings would likely have been raped if they were in the way of the advancing Red Army. That aspect of history is something Wilder left untouched, but as for the male role, he skewers it quite devilishly.

Come to think of it, maybe “Ingeborg”‘s insistence on the Umlaut in Fr

Tom Shugart April 13, 2004 at 4:19 pm

Ok, I’m convinced–palpitating, even! I can’t wait to hear Cagney fumble the Umlaut.

On the other hand, it might be an unpleasant reminder of how so many of my clueless comrades-in-arms refused to absorb anything of the local culture–other than schnapps, beer, and sex (there were hordes of lonely women due to half the male population of eligible marriage age having been killed in the war or left to languish in Soviet prison camps.

I never thought of myself as being a “post WWII” GI. I think of the guys who were there in the late forties as fitting that label. I arrived a decade later, but the country was still struggling, and the Americans were still a huge presence.

Actually, I don’t know why I’m telling you this. It might be more likely that you could tell me. I guess I’m talking to your readers.

Anyway, Yule, hope you can get around to my blog one of these days–although I don’t give it the attention I used to. During my first year of blogging, I posted just about every day. So many things went undone during that period that I had to scale back. So I fully understand your problem.

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