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June 02, 2006

Champagne for Caesar

champagneforcaesar.jpg

Richard B. Whorf - 1950
Image Entertainment Region 1 DVD

To paraphrase the most famous statement by Art Linkletter: "Kids see the darndest things!" In this case, I refer to this somewhat unlikely film that had something of a cult following back when I was in Junior High school, back in the early Sixties. While Linkletter, seen at the left as Happy Hogan was for most of us a more meaningful star than Ronald Colman, what made Champagne for Caesar popular was primarily the game show milieu.

Champagne for Caesar fully anticipates real-life characters like Jeopardy winner Ken Jennings, as well as placing American Idol results as front page news. Ronald Colman's character, the over-educated, under-employed Beauregard Bottomley can be seen as a proto-slacker, albeit one much better dressed than his contemporary equivalent. While scenes of people flocking in front of store windows to watch television are archaic, some of the film's satire is as true today as it was over fifty years ago.

The film is a featherweight comedy primarily pitting Colman's money winning know-it-all against comic villain Vincent Price as the corporate sponsor chief. The humor becomes broader and funnier during the last half hour with Colman wooing Celeste Holm, a "fan" planted by Price to cause mayhem and discover possible gaps of knowledge. Broader still is the reunion between Caesar, an inebriated, foul mouthed parrot, and Price, his former owner. The scene of Colman in an ultra-modern reception area briefly resembles that of Jacques Tati's Mon Oncle, while the set design of arms sticking out of walls, holding soap bubbles seems like a parody of the candle holding arms in Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast. This is no lost classic, but a decidedly minor film with a star who chose to slowly retire from movies following his Academy Award in 1947. Champagne for Caesar is more like Cold Duck than Moet or Korbel - light, sweet, and good for some giggles.

Posted by peter at June 2, 2006 11:14 AM