A fish-out-of-water story from 1960 is “Surprise Package.” The fish is American gang-leader Nico March (Yul Brynner, between “The King and I” and “The Magnificent Seven”), who is deported to a Greek island. (though not named in the movie, it was filmed on Rhodes) He conspires to steal the bejeweled crown of the King of Anatolia(!) played by Nöel Coward, who was much better than he would later be as the Witch of Endor. The surprise to me is that the stripper bimbo moll as played by Mitzie Gaynor is charming and also the wisest character in the movie. I was underwhelmed by her in “South Pacific” and “Les Girls,” but she was funny trying to bring sense to her boyfriend. Brynner was dressed as if he wandered over from a production of “Guys and Dolls.” Apparently, some viewers couldn’t understand his fast talk, though it presented no problem to me.
George Coulouris provided the menace as an agent from the People’s Republic of Anatolia, determined to recover the ancient régime’s crown jewels. And the most comic character is the Hungarian spy (Guy Deghy) who responds to Brynner unmasking him: “”Of course, I am spying on you. That’s my profession. I’m a spy!”
A silly heist comedy and a silly rom-com, yet, but pleasant mindless entertainment from Art Buchwald and Staneley Donen. (Singin’ in the Rain, Charade) Coward and Gaynor perform the title song together btw. Donen made a far more interesting road picture in “Two for the Road” with Audredy Hepburn and Albert Finney in 1967.
©2018, Stephen O. Murray