Classic Film Review: Caron and kids treat Cary Grant as “Father Goose”

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Cary Grant was 60 years old, grey and most comfortably cast in grumpy curmudgeon roles by the time the 1964 comedy “Father Goose” was tailor-made for him.

But watch him nimbly scamper down beaches, over branches and around coconuts, through whatever set this undemanding but adorable kid-friendly comedy parks him on.

Focus on his every facial expression — not just in close-ups, reacting to whatever outrage spoiled schoolgirls, their “teacher” (Leslie Caron) — perpetrate upon this dipsomaniacal loner. marooned with them on a deserted isle in 1942.

Check out amped-up outrage acting opposite an absent, deliciously droll Trevor Howard as the Royal Navy officer who drafted/hoodwinked Grant’s cruising vagabond Walter into becoming a coast watcher for the Allies.

He shared scenes with children, and by God he didn’t let them steal’em, the little imps. Every line-reading — and we’re not talking Shakespeare here — Cary Grant perfect.

“Let me tell you…I am not a father figure. I am not a brother figure or an uncle figure or a cousin figure. In fact, the only figure I intend being is a total stranger figure.”

I hadn’t seen this thing since childhood, catching it on “NBC’s Saturday Night at the Movies,” probably, with my parents.

Clocking in at two hours, it asks a lot of indulgence from the viewer — even taking into account the WWII “action comedy” genre this sits within. Still, the laughs are here — sight gags, Grant double-takes, kiddie hijinks.

It’s nobody’s idea of a masterpiece, but it’s Classic Cary. And if I want to add a piece of the puzzle to my lifelong love of boats — living on them, sailing them, stocking them with gin and rum and tonic and books — this movie was part of the sales pitch.

I dare say Walter Eckland’s previous boat had sails.

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MPAA Rating: “Approved,” the G-rating of its day

Cast: Cary Grant, Leslie Caron, Trevor Howard

Credits: Directed by Ralph Nelson, script by Peter Stone and Frank Tarloff  A Universal release.

Running time: 1:58

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