It’s about an American journalist in Paris that has convinced himself that it’s okay to secretly manage three fiancées, who are stewardesses with three different airlines, in one apartment. He’s a very content and happy guy.
Tony Curtis plays the journalist Bernard Lawrence. His maid, Bertha, is played by Thelma Ritter…
…and in typical Thelma Ritter fashion, she steals the movie with perfectly-placed one-liners. I haven’t laughed out loud this much during a movie in a long time and it’s largely because of her.
“I’ll talk to you later,” Bernard says as he runs out the door to pick up one of the fiancées.
“That’ll be a thrill,” a worn-out Bertha replies.
This banter runs throughout the movie and makes the entire hour and 42 minutes worth it.
Bernard is engaged to Vicky (Susanna Leigh), who works for British United Airways, Lisa (Christiane Schmidtmer) who works for Lufthansa and Jacqueline (Dany Laval) who works for Air France. They all unknowingly share the same apartment with Bernard, who manages to pull this whole thing off only because they all have different flight schedules. Ok, yes that, but mostly because of a well-organized Bertha.
Bertha makes sure everything is in its place for each girl and she’s clearly tired from it. She changes the clothes in the dresser to make sure they’re the ones that belong to the girl that’s visiting next. She makes sure the soap in the bathroom is the right one for that girl and even changes the pictures in the frames to match each girl’s visit. She’s responsible for making them the food they like (of course they’re all different). She’s exhausted and driven to snippy remarks that make the whole movie. Thank God she can keep a sense of humor about it all.
“Which one is it?,” Bernard whispers as Bertha answers the phone for him. “Fraulein D Cup,” she wearily replies.
And then Bernard’s American friend Robert (Jerry Lewis) comes for a visit. I have to admit that this is the first Jerry Lewis movie I’ve ever watched to the end. I know! I’ve just never been drawn to his trademark craziness. But he’s more controlled here than I’ve ever seen him. It’s Tony Curtis who plays the chaotic basket case here. I enjoyed seeing Jerry Lewis in this role.
Robert can hardly believe what he sees Bernard is pulling off and even starts helping him manipulate all the fiancées. It eventually dawns on him that he, too, could have this same set up. He just needs Bernard’s apartment….and Bertha.
It’s when the Boeing company introduces the new DC-10 that things start to unravel.
The DC-10 is a much faster airplane the three girls are used to working on, and it makes a mess of Bernard’s schedule. Turn up the chaos! It’s no longer enjoyable for anyone and the situation disintegrates before our eyes.
In the end, all three girls find out about each other, but until then the chaos Bernard has created in his Paris apartment is laugh-out-loud funny. Near the end, things feel a little bit off in the plot department, but Thelma Ritter rescues it with another funny line and all is forgotten. The movie isn’t. I’ve been thinking about it since I watched it and it makes me feel good. I’ll watch it again and again. Tony Curtis is worth it, Jerry Lewis gives a great performance….but it’s Thelma Ritter that makes all the chaos a pleasure to spend time with.