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ONE, TWO, THREE [1961]

In Cold War Berlin, C.R. Macnamara (James Cagney) is a tough, fast-talking executive for the Coca-Cola company. A true patriot who believes that nothing could be more American than his product, Macnamara is determined to bring Coke to everyone on both sides of the country. He's also hoping for a promotion that will make him chief of all the company's European operations. His plans are interrupted when his boss's out-of-control teenage daughter Scarlett (Pamela Tiffin) arrives from America. Under pressure, Macnamara agrees to supervise Scarlett for two weeks, but finds himself in trouble when she falls in love with Otto Piffl (Horst Buchholz) an East German Communist who hates Coke and everything it stands for.

This Cold War comedy may not be either Billy Wilder's or James Cagney's subtlest work, but it's an energetic and sometimes unsettling exercise in brash bad taste. Filming took place around the time when the struggle between East and West had reached its height, and Wilder's response to this potentially lethal situation was to throw the switch to vaudeville. How Coca-Cola was persuaded to co-operate remains a mystery, given the film's determination to show all sides in the conflict as equally venal and ridiculous - screaming stereotypes acted in the shamelessly hammy, declamatory style since associated with lowbrow sitcoms like Married With Children or The Nanny. This includes Cagney's peppery executive, his harridan wife (who calls her husband Mein Fuhrer), the worthless bimbo played by Pamela Tiffin, and the earnest Communist youth who is inevitably corrupted by American ways, much like Greta Garbo in Wilder's script for Ernst Lubitsch's Ninotchka (in both cases, the perversely patriotic message appears to be that cynicism and Americanism are the same thing). Cagney goes all-out in his final lead role, and it's hard to resist a film that works so incredibly hard to entertain; many of the non-stop jokes may be obvious and corny, but some are unforgettable (such as the use of 'Yes, We Have No Bananas'). And if the immediate context for the satire has faded, you could argue that the prescient portrayal of ruthless corporate expansion is more relevant than ever in today's globalised climate.
Jake Wilson

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(US) [1961]

CAST: James Cagney, Horst Buchholz, Pamela Tiffin, Arlene Francis, Howard St. John

DIRECTOR: Billy Wilder

PRODUCER: Billy Wilder

SCRIPT: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond and Ferenc Molnár (play)


EDITOR: Daniel Mandell

MUSIC: André Previn

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Robert Stratil, Heinrich Weidemann

RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: September 16, 2001 (Melb Only)

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