DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
 
GOOD NEIGHBOR SAM (director/writer: David Swift; screenwriters: from the novel by Jack Finney/James Fritzell/Everett Greenbaum; cinematographer: Burnett Guffey; editor: Charles Nelson; music: Frank de Vol; cast: Jack Lemmon (Sam Bissel), Romy Schneider (Janet Lagerlof), Dorothy Provine (Minerva Bissel), Mike Connors (Howard Ebbets), Edward Andrews (Mr. Burke), Louis Nye (Reinhold Shiffner), Robert Q. Lewis (Earl), Edward G. Robinson (Simon Nurdlinger), The Hi-Lo's (as themselves), Barbara Nichols (Call Girl); Runtime: 130; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: David Swift; Columbia; 1964)

 
"The problem with the marital satire is that it goes on for too long, maybe like some marriages."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director David Swift ("Pollyanna"/"The Parent Trap"/"Under the Yum Yum Tree") effectively uses a cute mistaken identity plot and then plenty of sight gags (mainly in the form of a mobile sculpture) to keep the farce going and exploit the appealing performance by Jack Lemmon. The problem with the marital satire is that it goes on for too long, maybe like some marriages. It's based on the novel by Jack Finney and written by Swift, James Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum.

Sam Bissell (Jack Lemmon) is a low-level account executive in a San Francisco advertising agency and lives in the suburbs with his wife Min (Dorothy Provine) and their two daughters. Being well-thought of in the firm as a wholesome family man, enables Sam to take over the top account of Nurdlinger Eggs. Meanwhile, Min's attractive divorced best friend Janet Lagerof (Romy Schneider) rents the house next door. At this time Janet learns that she will inherit $15 million from her grandfather if he can be satisfied that she is happily married. When two cousins who are second in line for the loot arrive to visit, Janet slyly introduces Sam as her husband. But the cousins smell something fishy and hire a private detective named Shiffner (Louis Nye) to investigate Janet. With the snoop watching the house, Sam has to sneak back into his house at night; but one night he gets secretly photographed with Janet by an advertising man. Thereby Janet is introduced to Mr. Nurdlinger (Edward G. Robinson) as Sam's wife. When Howard (Mike Connors), Janet's ex, arrives to see if he can save the marriage, he's introduced as Min's husband. Janet thinks Howard's after her money, even though he's sincere and really loves her. 

Janet inherits the money. But trouble is brewing when a
picture of Sam and Janet as the Bissells, posing as the ideal American couple, is used on the Nurdlinger billboard. Janet fears she will lose the inheritance and this gets Sam to scheme how to save the day.

This was the Viennese actress Schneider's first Hollywood pic, and she almost steals the show from Lemmon. Lemmon does his "average Joe" shtick again and again it works. It's a harmless farce without an edge, but makes for pleasant viewing until it becomes too forced the longer it goes on.

REVIEWED ON 2/8/2010     GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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