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During WW2, a man persuaded to live on an isolated island and spot aircraft finds himself responsible for a teacher and several students, all female.
For more about Father Goose and the Father Goose Blu-ray release, see Father Goose Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on May 29, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Cary Grant, Leslie Caron, Trevor Howard, Jack Good, Sharyl Locke, Verina Greenlaw
Director: Ralph Nelson (I)
» See full cast & crew
Father Goose Blu-ray Review
Heaven Knows, Mr. Eckland.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, May 29, 2013
Cy Coleman is one of my favorite composers, one who effortlessly blended jazz, Tin Pan Alley and traditional Broadway idioms. Coleman penned a large number of huge hits through the years, including "Witchcraft" and "The Best is Yet to Come", two major smashes for Frank Sinatra (whose gravestone actually is inscribed with the title of the second song). Coleman's collaborator on those two tunes was the lyricist Carolyn Leigh, and Coleman and Leigh went on to create two moderately successful musicals, 1960's Wildcat, which starred Lucille Ball and introduced the standard "Hey, Look Me Over", and then Little Me, which starred Sid Caesar in a variety of roles and introduced the standard "Real Live Girl". Coleman moved on to working with the legendary Dorothy Fields for his next Broadway outing, Sweet Charity, which became perhaps his best remembered score (though he went on to write a number of other high profile and award winning musicals), one which contained a number of notable successes like "Big Spender", "There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This", "Where Am I Going?", "I'm a Brass Band" and one of Coleman's biggest hits, "If My Friends Could See Me Now". Coleman was one of very few tunesmiths competent enough to handle scoring duties for a major motion picture, and when Sweet Charity made it to the screen in 1969 (and when are we going to get it on Blu-ray?), Coleman received credit (and an ultimate Oscar nomination) for adapting his score for the screen. But Coleman had already flirted with the movies a few years previously by providing the original scores to three films that came out over the course of a couple of years between 1964 and 1965. One of these was the ebullient comedy Father Goose, the next to the last film a certain Cary Grant appeared in, and one which featured a rollicking Coleman-Leigh song called "Pass Me By", which according to legend was written at the behest of Grant himself so that Grant could once again perform something akin to what he did early in his career in British music halls.
Though the stage version of Sweet Charity was still more than a year in the offing and the film adaptation of the musical nearly five years in the future when Father Goose was made circa 1964, the Cary Grant film proved to be a "trial run" of sorts for a number of people who later collaborated with Coleman on the film version of Charity. These included producer Robert Arthur, scenarist Peter Stone (working as a co-writer on Father Goose), and several other staff regulars who were part of the waning studio system at Universal, which released both films. For all the incestuous relationships between these two outings, there's another connection in the film world that may be more salient in discussing Father Goose, namely the well remembered 1957 John Huston opus, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison. In both Allison nad Goose, we're presented an "odd couple" of sorts, including a grizzled male and a very proper lady (in the case of Allison, a nun played by Deborah Kerr) stranded on an island in the midst of the Japanese incursions across the Pacific during World War II.
Grant, who of course built his career on portrayals of debonair and suave men, plays against type in Father Goose, in fact probably one of the two most unusual roles in his long career (the other being the Clifford Odets drama None But the Lonely Heart, which rather incredibly was one of only two Academy Award nominations for Grant as Best Actor). Here he inhabits the rumpled skin of ostensible American Walter Eckland, a ne'er-do-well beach bum who is more or less blackmailed by a British officer named Houghton (Trevor Howard) into acting as a coast watcher on a small uninhabited island near Salamaua, which the Allies were evacuating in anticipation of a Japanese invasion. Eckland is a hard drinking, hard living guy who has scraped by on his formidable wits, but he is not happy about being dumped on a small island with few provisions, a situation made all the more untenable by the fact that Houghton has had his men hide the one provision Eckland was excited about—boxes of whiskey. Houghton works out a deal with Eckland that if Eckland sights Japanese forces and if Eckland's reports are confirmed, Houghton will reveal where one bottle at a time is.
Eckland continues to be a thorn in Houghton's side, insisting that a replacement be sent as soon as possible. Houghton relents, thinking he has a suitable replacement, albeit with the catch that Eckland needs to journey to a neighboring island to pick him up. At this point Father Goose becomes considerably more crowded, as Eckland stumbles onto a French schoolteacher named Catherine (Leslie Caron) who has been stranded on the island with a gaggle of young school girls. The man Eckland had hoped to retrieve has been killed in an air raid, and Eckland is suddenly confronted with the uncomfortable realization that he is all that stands between life and death for these castaways. He manages to fit them all in his rickety little boat and gets them back to his island, if only just barely.
It's here that the bulk of Father Goose plays out. Eckland and Catherine are of course at odds with each other, something that only slightly masks their just as obvious attraction for each other, and Eckland is also having to cope with a bunch of noisy, rambunctious young girls running around his erstwhile bachelor pad. Stone, working with co-scenarists Frank Tarloff and S.H. Barnett, plies much the same territory as Neil Simon did in The Odd Couple, though Simon's play opened after Father Goose hit the big screen (Father Goose won the Academy Award for Original Screenplay that year). Using that analogy, however, Eckland would be Oscar and Catherine would be Felix, with a sort of oil and water interaction ultimately leading to romance. Father Goose frankly doesn't have the outright hilarity of Simon's treatment of polar opposites thrust into close living quarters together (and of course Simon's outing doesn't have a romantic angle between the feuding pair), but it's effortlessly amusing and has some great laughs along the way.
Father Goose Blu-ray, Video Quality
Father Goose is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. The elements utilized for this transfer are in remarkably good condition, with only a few very minor white specks and other negligible flecks showing up very occasionally. The colors here seem just slightly faded, with flesh tones edging toward the pink side of things, and with some of the colors looking perhaps a bit less vivid than might be hoped. Otherwise, though, this is a very commendable looking high definition presentation. Fine detail is quite good, even in midrange shots, something that actually points out some of the miniatures and tank work that was done in some of the water scenes. As with virtually all Olive releases, there doesn't appear to have been any digital tweaking of any kind to the source elements.
Father Goose Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Father Goose's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix is a surprisingly boisterous affair, replete with an excellent rendering of Cy Coleman's very playful score (which rather anachronistically features recorders and only hints at the film's wartime setting) as well as some unusually vivid foley effects (the opening sequences features some rather surprisingly effective explosions, and later in the film other low end effects a are similarly effective). Dialogue is very cleanly presented, with excellent fidelity and unusually wide dynamic range for a "mere" comedy.
Father Goose Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are offered on this Blu-ray disc.
Father Goose Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Despite Father Goose's kind of Odd Couple-esque set up, this isn't a Neil Simon laugh-a-thon, but more of a gently amiable comedy that coasts on the considerable charisma of Grant (looking unusually rumpled) and Caron (managing to remain sophisticated despite being stranded on a tiny island). The shenanigans of the kids are occasionally giggle worthy, but it's the chemistry between the stars that makes Father Goose so enjoyable. And just for you sticklers— the fact that Cy Coleman's birth surname happens to be curiously similar to this reviewer's has absolutely nothing to do with my love for his music—well, mostly nothing, anyway. Recommended.
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