Tag Archives: John Houseman

The Set of 400: #227 – My Favorite Put a Little Love in Your Heart

Today! Because I’m sure Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples –

Scrooged (1988)

Directed by Richard Donner (x2)

Starring Bill Murray (x6), Karen Allen (x2), Bobcat Goldthwait, David Johansen, Carol Kane (x3), Robert Mitchum (x3), John Glover (x4), Michael J. Pollard (x2), Alfre Woodard (x2), John Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray (x2), John Forsythe, Mary Lou Retton, Lee Majors, Buddy Hackett, John Houseman (x2), Jamie Farr, Robert Goulet (x2), Mary Ellen Trainor (x3), Kathy Kinney, Tony Steedman, Anne Ramsey (x2), Joel Murray, Mabel King (x2), Pat McCormick, Bruce Jarchow, Jack McGee, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Wendie Malick

A Christmas Carol isn’t an inherently funny story, and yet there have been many, many attempts to make it so. Most are musicals, and that helps to lighten the mood, but anything attempting an even halfway accurate recounting of the book usually ends up relatively straight. Even the excellent Muppet version devolves into a typical Christmas Carol about halfway through. There has been better success on television, but usually they take the story pretty far afield to find jokes. The terrific British series Black Adder has probably the funniest rendition (it helps if you’re a little familiar with that show to begin with) which turns the whole plot on its head, making Rowan Atkinson’s Scrooge character the nicest man in the world, who is shown how things were for his evil ancestors by Robbie Coltrane’s Marley/Ghosts figure. Mr. Magoo’s is one of the best straightforward musical versions, but it relegates its Magoo-esque humor to the framing scenes.

“Well, bless my ten toes!”

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The Set of 400: #273 – My Favorite Cabbie Bias

Today! Because I’m using rented bullets for my gun. We’ve all got problems –

The Cheap Detective (1978)

Directed by Robert Moore

Starring Peter Falk, Madeline Kahn, John Houseman, Stockard Channing, James Coco (x2), Eileen Brennan, Dom DeLuise (x3), Louise Fletcher, Marsha Mason, Abe Vigoda, Vic Tayback, David Ogden Stiers, Scatman Crothers (x2), Nicol Williamson, Paul Williams, Phil Silvers, Fernando Lamas, Sid Caesar, Ann-Margret, James Cromwell, Jonathan Banks (x2)

A spiritual sequel to the zany Neil Simon comedy Murder By Death, The Cheap Detective is a more direct parody than its predecessor, taking Peter Falk’s twisted Bogart impression and slamming Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and The Big Sleep together into one silly 1940’s San Francisco mystery, replete with Nazis, secret identities, Romanians, stolen treasure, and an acronymed pseudo-villain named Vladimir Tserijemiwtz, which works out to Ezra C.V. Mildew Dezire Jr.!

Many members of the large cast appeared in Murder By Death as well, including Coco, Brennan, and Cromwell, but Falk’s is the only character transplanted over more or less intact, even with a different name (Lou Peckinpaugh here, Sam Diamond in Murder). These movies are in the rare group of Neil Simon screenplays that weren’t adapted from his stage plays, which includes The Out-of-Towners, The Goodbye Girl, and Seems Like Old Times. They do, however, have that indefinable Neil Simon-ness about their jokes, which mostly land, even if they can verge into mild racism here and there. Ah, the 1970s!

And some vintage Sid Caesar shtick!

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