Comedy Oddities: The Birds And The Bees

the bird and the bees indexThe Lady Eve is a much loved classic and many consider it to be the best film by the much loved Preston Sturges, with it being nominated for a couple of Oscars and on a good few lists of the best comedy films of all time. Yet proving that Hollywood has been a soulless entity that cares nothing for originality for many decades now they remade the film just fifteen years later, adding a couple of songs and some colour but little else.

As with the first film it starts just as George Hamilton (George Gobel) is leaving Africa and boasting of his finding a rare snake, and the similarities continue as Jean Harris (Mitzi Gaynor) and her father Colonel Patrick Henry “Handsome Harry” Harris (David Niven) are rather excited by his joining their ship as he’s so rich and they wish to fleece him of at least some of his money. What’s odd is that Jean’s seduction of Hamilton is far duller, she manages to get in to his apartment very quickly and has a dull conversation which cuts a lot of the amusing moments from the original scene, while this version of Hamilton is oddly limp and effete, lacking in the charm Henry Fonda bought to the character.

Then the film plays out for a long period in an all but identical a manner except the dialogue is flatter, and it’s only after about fifty minutes when George finds out that Jean and The Colonel are professional gamblers that the film then has a few other slight differences, George is a bit more of a dick to Jean and gives her reason to be pissy with him (which the original didn’t), and when Jean hatches a plan to play a trick on George she pretends to be French rather than English, but bar a slight change to the ending otherwise it’s near on identical. The only major additions are the two songs, the first being a fun duet about The Birds and The Bees which is the only new aspect that I’d praise, though a second song towards the end is weak and spoils the momentum it had built up.

As remakes go there’s really no reason for this to exist, it’s not a travesty because the original was so much fun, but Gaynor lacks Stanwyck’s charm and moxie, and George Gobel is very bland and even quite unlikeable in places and when it comes to the slapstick and physical comedy he’s no match for Fonda. Also cast wise George’s valet Marty is no Mugsy that’s for sure, and the only improvement is David Niven’s Colonel who makes for a fun sort of villain, but otherwise anyone who chooses to watch this over The Lady Eve is quite frankly insane and should be locked away for the rest of their lives, and fine I might be going over the top there but I’d still recommend it for a day or two at the very least.

★★

Alex Finch.
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