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Cold War Hilarity – ONE, TWO, THREE

ONE, TWO, THREE is a great look back at a forward-thinking auteur at the top of his game.

Billy Wilder was undeniably a genius, a master filmmaker and social satirist of the first order whose keen observations often turned out to be true – in 1951’s Ace in the Hole he foreshadows today’s manipulative and self-promoting reporters (take that Rick Sanchez!) and in this scathing comedy, One, Two, Three (1961), written with frequent collaborator I.A.L. Diamond, he predicts what would be Communism’s tragic weakness – American goods and the lure of the Western lifestyle! On the heels of his comedy masterpieces Some Like It Hot (1959) and The Apartment (1960), Wilder crafts what might be the most atypical screwball comedy ever – one which mixes Capitalism, Communism, the Cold War and American cultural imperialism into a heady brew that’s easily 40 years ahead of it’s time, feeling more like an episode of The Simpsons than a turn of the century madcap comedy. In it, James Cagney plays C.R. “Mac” MacNamara, high level Coca Cola executive banished to West Berlin for some transgression years earlier, who concocts a plan to redeem himself by being the first to sell the Soviets the secret formula and make a killing for his bosses in Atlanta. But just as he’s on the verge of convincing his Soviet counterparts (a bumbling trio obsessed with buxom blondes), the boss complicates matters by asking Mac to host his only daughter on a European excursion. And when she falls in love with an anti-American East Berliner (played by Horst Buchholz, the “German James Dean”), everything seems ready to blow up in his face like a heavily shaken bottle of Classic Coke. Filled with references to James Cagney’s earlier films (as well as to Wilder’s), what transpires is that rare film that entertains on all levels, and is an absolute must for fans of intelligent satire with historical substance – plus a dash of slapstick thrown in for good measure.

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