on July 3, 2004
I'm just old enough to remember the minor controversy that was stirred up by the allegedly "risque" premise of the 70's TV show "Three's Company." It's hard to believe that once upon a time the idea of unmarried men and women simply sharing living arrangements together was supposed to be shocking. If you keep that dated sentiment in mind while watching "Walk, Don't Run" then you might be able to understand why this this movie was even made.
Essentially, what we have here is a "comedy" based on the alleged hilarity that ensues when a young woman shares her Tokyo apartment with two men during the 1964 summer Olympics. Pretty Christine Easton (Samantha Egger), a British expatriate living in Japan, had advertised for a roommate, but forgot to specify a gender preference. As a result, Sir William Rutland (Cary Grant), a visiting British businessman answers her ad and, ignoring her protests of the impropriety of a man living with her, promptly pays his share of the rent and moves right in. The next day while Sir William is attending to his business he meets Steve Davis (Jim Hutton), an American architect who is also an Olympic athlete (although what event he is participating in is kept a secret until near the end of the movie). For reasons that are never explained, Sir William befriends Steve, learns that Steve has no place to stay, and that leads to Steve also moving into Christine's tiny apartment. Sir William then decides that Christine's British fiance is a bore, who doesn't deserve such a "babe" as Christine, and so he starts manuevering Steve and Christine to get together.
If you don't know that the idea of two men sharing an apartment with a woman was considered shocking in 1966 then most of the "comedy" of this movie will fly right over your head. The "comic" premise of this movie is based on showing how unmarried people can co-exist in a cramped apartment. The movie wastes an inordinate amount of time around the idea of "bathroom scheduling" by showing how Sir William trys to squeeze in his bathroom time in between Christine's. It's overlong and boring the first time, but the film then repeats it by doing it again when Steve joins the apartment. Grant's amazing gifts as a comedic actor are the only thing that make those scenes watchable and even then just barely so.
This was Cary Grant's last movie and it's a shame that such a talent left on such a pedestrian note. However, "Walk, Don't Run" probably reinforced Grant's decision to quit. Here was an actor who, unlike many of his comtemporaries, had remained a believable romantic lead into his late 50's. Yet, here Grant is playing cupid for the superbland Jim Hutton. Grant seems to be having fun playing for the first time in his career the guy who doesn't get the girl and his look of chagrin when one of Christine's co-worker's tells him pointblank that she didn't even think that he and Christine are romantically linked is probably the funniest part of the movie. However, Grant was smart to get out after this movie if these were the roles he was going to be offered as he advanced into his 60's.
"Walk, Don't Run" was a product of Hollywood's dying studio system. It shows that Hollywood's self-imposed moral production code was breaking down as one hears Cary Grant say a curse word for the first time on-screen and the film makes no-bones that sex is a topic of discussion on several occassions. Also, one has to wonder if Sir William's befriending Steve was another nudge-and-wink reference to homosexuality that were occasionally sneaked into movies by closeted screenwriters and directors back in the day. Think about it- an older man starts following around a complete stranger, who just happens to be a young, handsome athlete, and then invites the young man to go to a bathhouse with him!
Overall, "Walk, Don't Run" is an extremely lightweight romantic comedy. The comedy is mostly based on a dated premise and the romantic chemistry between pretty, prim Samantha Egger and the bland Jim Hutton is minimal. Despite having Stanley Donen at the director's helm, this movie is only notable for being the last of one of Hollywood's greatest stars.