The Conversation

20th Century-Fox Archive Release 'Something for the Birds'

Earlier this week I reviewed the 20th Century-Fox Archive release of "Mr. 800" (1950) which I compared favorably to another Fox film starring Edmund Gwenn, 1947's "Miracle on 34th Street."

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Purely by coincidence, the next film I chose out of the review pile was "Something for the Birds" (1952). The poster on the DVD cover reads, "Mr. 880 Is Back -- 881  Times phonier!" Though not a sequel, "Birds" is the second follow-up to "34th Street" that has Fox chasing the same magic.

All three films star Gwenn as an eccentric but lovable old man who brings together a young, attractive couple after his behavior gets him in trouble with the authorities. The climax involves a courtroom scene and in the end all live happily ever after.

If anything, I enjoyed "Something for the Birds" even more than "Mister 880." Director Robert Wise skillfully stays within the Fox look and feel, but at times the dialogue achieves something close to perfection. An uncredited writer on the film is I.A.L. Diamond, an Oscar-winner for "The Apartment" (1960) and longtime collaborator with the legendary Billy Wilder. His touch is everywhere.

Victor Mature (who steals the movie) plays a mercenary DC  lobbyist; a very young Patricia Neal plays a sweet girl from California trying to save the endangered condor; and Edmund Gwenn plays "The Admiral," an invitation engraver who always steals one for himself. Over the years, this charade makes the Admiral a beloved fixture in the DC party until… Well, you know the rest.

"Something for the Birds" is on sale here.


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