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February 06, 2009

Cash McCall

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Joseph Pevney - 1960
Warner Brothers Region 1 DVD

Sometimes I'll set aside my auteurist badge to watch a movie just because of the starring actors. My only reason to bother with Cash McCall was simply to see Natalie Wood and James Garner in a film together. That the film opened in January of 1960 confirms my suspicions that the essential function of Cash McCall was to keep various people on the Warner Brothers payroll busy, and to provide something to the movie theaters after the big Christmas releases had run their course. Mildly entertaining, the best I can describe Cash McCall would be as a romantic drama with a little comedy thrown in that has no dramatic peaks or valleys, but is more like an hour and forty-five minute plateau.

There is a modicum of entertainment in watching James Garner as a proto-Gordon Gekko, described as a vulture who buys companies cheap, sells them at a profit, and puts employees out of work. Of course this is thirty years before Wall Street, and James Garner is an unashamed capitalist with a heart of gold. Natalie Wood is the daughter of Dean Jagger, the businessman who has sold out to Garner. For James Garner, spending two million dollars to woo the woman he had a brief encounter with during the previous summer is not too high a price. Taking a page from Howard Hughes, Garner's idea of a date is to talk Wood into boarding his luxurious little airplane, and fly off to his private national park.

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In a gauzy flashback, a drenched Natalie Wood visits Garner at his Maine cabin. In a scene that should have been more erotic, we see Wood's almost flesh colored dress perfectly molded around her breasts. Joseph Pevney has big close ups of Wood's eyes, and then her lips. I had to wonder what it was like to see a shot of nothing but Natalie Wood's lips on a movie screen in a palatial movie theater. On the downside, Cash McCall seems unnecessarily cruel to Nina Foch as a mature divorcee who thinks Garner is attracted to her.

For myself, it's hard to dislike a film that has a supporting cast with Henry Jones, Edward Platt (with a toupee), and E. G. Marshall, soon to make a name for himself on television's "The Defenders", uttering the line, "I'm not a moralist. I'm a lawyer."

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As for Joseph Pevney, as seen by the many available videos he has at IMDb, I can't deny that his name have been associated with some work that is, if nothing else, entertaining.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at February 6, 2009 12:58 AM


I've been curious about this film (mainly because of Wood, who I'll watch in anything) so it was nice to come across your review of it here. I suspect I'd enjoy it. It seems like the perfect kind of film I enjoy spending time with on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I'm familiar with Joseph Pevney television work, but I'm not sure if I've seen any of his films.

Posted by: Kimberly at February 7, 2009 03:04 PM

I've only seen a couple of films directed by Pevney. I did like Portrait of a Mobster with Vic Morrow as Dutch Schultz.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at February 11, 2009 11:31 AM