Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pamela Tiffin ~ One, Two, Three (1961)

I associate Billy Wilder with intelligent comedies that may or may not invovle cross-dressing. He had an amazing way of exploring serious issues with humor and after watching the Cold War comedy One, Two, Three (1961), Wilder is becoming one of my favorite directors of all-time.

While I am writing about this film for my Pamela Tiffin series, I would be remiss to not point out that this is James Cagney's film through and through. He was a pint-sized fireball of... fire and he steals the show! His energy is off the charts and the theme music, Sabre Dance by Khachaturyan (click to play), matches his vitality. This film is also filled with a diverse selection of lively characters all with charming idiosyncracies that keep us holding our stomachs as we burst out laughing.

Cagney plays MacNamara is the head of Berlin's Coca-Cola factory who has his sights on a big position in London. His employees are all Gestapo-trained Germans who click their heels and stand up at attention much to MacNamara's very American dismay. His wife Phylis is a wise-cracking dame fed up with life in Berlin and MacNamara is also courting hot bilingual secretary Ingeborg (and is using her as bait to woo potential Russian business). MacNamara's boss in Atlanta, Georgia sends his daughter to stay with the MacNamaras in Berlin. This is when things get hilariously complicated and MacNamara finds himself in a jam when the daughter marries a Russian communist.

Pamela Tiffin's character Scarlett Hazeltine is really superb. Tiffin is in prime form as the ditzy hot-blooded Southern belle who rebels against her parents by falling in love with any boy in sight. After being engaged 3 times, her parents send her off to Europe which in her case is like putting fox in a chicken coop. Scarlett has a charming Southern accent, says "marvy" whenever she can and thinks it's cute that she secretly married a Russian communist. I love how Scarlett gets so excited that her man is an anti-American propaganda spouting subversive. Wonderful!

Scarlett: Tell him about the wedding rings...
Otto: Forged from the steel of a brave cannon that fought in Stalingrad.

I leave you now with the film's homage to Cagney's most iconic image. See if you can guess what I'm referring to.

MacNamara: How would you like a little fruit for dessert?


  1. Seeing Tiffin in One, Two, Three (1961) really made me stand up and take notice of her. She's a real delight.

    Of course, being a lifelong Billy Wilder devotee--One, Two, Three (1961) is one of my favorites of his films and it's hard to beat the peerless Cagney in a role that didn't even get noticed by Oscar.

    "I'm in Hell with my back broken!"

  2. Ah that's Tiffin- yes she's gorgeous, I love this film..

  3. One, Two, Three is one of my favourite comedies of all time--I first saw it when I was a kid. It is also the movie which first exposed me to Pamela Tiffin. I think it could possibly be her best role. She is fantastic as Scarlett. I don't think anyone could have done a better job delivering her lines as she did. I think my favourite bit may well have been the exchange between MacNamara and Scarlett over the "Yankee go home" balloons--"Where I come from everyone hates Yankees!" I think Pamela Tiffin was very underrated as a comic actress.

  4. Ohmigosh, I adore this movie. Simply hilarious!

    James is too, too, too amazing!

    Pamela's Scarlett from Atlanta (the name is a nice touch) is perfect.

    And Hortz gives the only unannoying performance of his career.

    You did a great review!

  5. Ivan - That's a great line! I can't believe how overlooked this film is, both as a Wilder vehicle and as a Cagney one. That has to change.

    Manwithoutastar - She's beautiful isn't she?

    Mercurie - Thanks for recommending the film to me. I agree that Tiffin was underrated. I hope people will give her a chance and watch some of her films.

  6. I watched this earlier this year for the first time in ages and loved it all over again. I returned the DVD to my Dad afterwards...yesterday my kids realized we didn't *own* it (one of them wanted to show it to a friend) and begged me to buy our own copy. It was only $5.99 from Deep Discount, how could I say no? LOL.

    My college daughter told me that a few months ago she was watching it on TCM and one of her roommates came in -- someone who doesn't watch a lot of old movies -- the friend watched for a few minutes and said "This is brilliant!" and watched the rest of the movie. :)

    Love your post and the photos... The movie is a great reflection of its era (but so "marvy" that it's not dated) and I love all the cultural allusions sprinkled throughout, like the grapefruit!

    Best wishes,

  7. What a great review-- I'm not familiar with this film, but you sure make it sound fun & appealing. Thanks!

  8. I've actually never seen this! I'll have to catch it next time it's on tv (even though Pamela Tiffin's communist love is definitely not one of my favorite actors.) But James Cagney makes every film worth seeing!

  9. Oh, I think Billy Wilder has got to be one of the top directors of all time.

    His successes are simply awesome - Some Like It Hot, Irma la Douce, The Apartment, Stalag 17, Double Indemnity, Sunset Blvd. ... just to name a few.

    One, Two, Three is in some great company.

  10. I always skip this when it's on TCM, because I think "eck, some Coca-Cola exec comedy?" but I'll definitely watch it now, Wilder is almost lways gold.

  11. I saw this last year on TCM. I didn't often pay much attention to 60's movies at that point (though I've recently broadened my horizons a bit), but this one drew me in. It was hilarious.

  12. Ha! "Scarlett" from Atlanta, love it! This movie looks fabulous -- yet another flick I'm adding to my Netflix queue. I can't believe I haven't seen it yet, as I absolutely adore Billy Wilder films. He's an amazing director in a league of his own.

  13. Terrific review, Raquelle! I'm enjoying this spotlight on Pamela Tiffin. I never realized that she was the girl in One, Two, Three. It's been a while since I've seen this one, but I remember totally hating the communist boyfriend. I think I may have let him spoil the whole film for me. :( I'll give it another try - Jimmy Cagney is too good to miss!

  14. I am always amazed at Cagney's rapid fire delivery in "One, Two,Three" which is twice as fast as almost any other film he did. i recently watched an early 1930's flick with Cagney called "Hard to Handle" where his delivery may be even faster than it is in Wilder's film, if that is possible.

    Of course, the grapefruit scene being given a "homage" is from "The Public Enemy" where a young Cagney, in his break out role, smashes it into Mae Clarke's face.

    Pamela Tiffin was an excellent comedic actress. Beautiful, talented and under used in her short career.

  15. Laura - I love your review. I can't believe I missed it the first time!

    John - You are very welcome!

    Kate - Cagney is the reason you will love this movie.

    Bill - All those films you listed are my favorites!

    Tommy - The artwork for the DVD has always thrown me off. It took Pamela Tiffin to convince me to watch it.

    Princess - I'm glad you are learning to embrace the 60s. It was a fun decade for movies!

    Crystal - Let me know what you think when you see it!

    Casey - Wow, everyone hates that actor. This is the first I've seen of him. I think I was just amused more about how Tiffin and Cagney's characters interacted with him than his actual character!

    John - You are the only person to mention the reference in the picture! Thank you for that.

    Sorry I've been so lax everybody on replying to comments. I read all of them though!

  16. Laura - you have written a great review. I loved it, you brought insight to the classics very well.

  17. "Do you realize what you've done? You've ruined me, that's all! ..."
    "Why didn't you look after me better?"

    BTW, this movie can be watched in full length on youtube now.


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