The Gazebo

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The Gazebo
Poster of the movie The Gazebo.jpg
Directed by George Marshall
Produced by Lawrence Weingarten
Written by Alec Coppel (story and play)
Myra Coppel (story)
George Wells
Starring Glenn Ford
Debbie Reynolds
Music by Jeff Alexander
Cinematography Paul Vogel
Edited by Adrienne Fazan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
16 December 1959 (US)
24 July 1960 (UK general release)
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,218,000[1]
Box office $3.31 million[1]

The Gazebo is a 1959 black comedy film about a married couple who are being blackmailed. It was based on the play of the same name by Alec Coppel and directed by George Marshall. Helen Rose was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Black-and-White. According to MGM records, the film earned $1,860,000 in North America and $1,450,000 elsewhere, making a profit of $628,000.[1]


Television writer and director Elliott Nash (Glenn Ford) is being blackmailed by Dan Shelby over nude photographs of his wife Nell (Debbie Reynolds), taken when she was 18 years old. Elliott does not inform Nell, the star of a Broadway musical, what is going on, but works feverishly to make enough money to pay off the ever-increasing demands.

Finally, Elliott decides that murder is the only way out. He makes preparations, incorporating some advice from a friend, District Attorney Harlow Edison (Carl Reiner). When the blackmailer shows up at the Nashes' suburban home as arranged to collect his latest payment, Elliott shoots him, then hides the body in the cement foundation being poured for the antique gazebo his wife has bought. He has to keep Sam Thorpe (John McGiver), the contractor hired to install the structure, and Miss Chandler (Mabel Albertson), the real estate agent trying to sell the Nashes' house, from stumbling across his scheme.

Then, Harlow brings news that Shelby has been shot and killed ... in his hotel room, leaving Elliott wondering who he murdered. Nell's name is on a list of blackmail victims belonging to Shelby, so both she and Elliott are suspects. (As it turns out, Shelby approached Nell first, but was rejected; the publicity would have greatly boosted the musical's audience.) They are cleared when the murder weapon is found to belong to Joe the Black, an associate of Shelby's. It is clear to Lieutenant Jenkins (Bert Freed) that Joe decided not to split the money. Elliott is relieved to discover his victim was a criminal.

However, there were two others in the gang. The Duke (Martin Landau) and Louis the Louse (Dick Wessel) kidnap Nell and take her to her home. They followed Joe the Black to the Nash house, and know he did not come out. They want the briefcase (containing $100,000) he was planning to disappear with. They eventually figure out that the body is in the gazebo's foundation, now crumbling due to unexpected rain. They find the briefcase and leave. When Elliott gets home, he unties his wife and confesses what he has done.

While they are trying to figure out what to do next, Lieutenant Jenkins shows up with his prisoners, the Duke and Louis. From what they have told him, Jenkins is sure that Elliott is a murderer. Just as Elliott is about to confess, he sees that the bullet he fired missed Joe and ended up lodged in a book. A doctor confirms that Joe actually died of a pre-existing heart problem, and Elliott's pet pigeon Herman flies off with the bullet, so there is no evidence to tie him to the death.


Original play[edit]

The Gazebo
Written by Alec Coppel
Date premiered 12 December 1958 (Broadway)
29 March 1960 (West End)
Original language English
Genre comedy-myste
Setting The living room of the Elliott Nash home near Roslyn, Long Island, New York. The present time

The Gazebo is a play by Alec Coppel based on a story by Coppel and his wife Myra.

It opened at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre on 12 December 1958 and ran for 266 performances, closing on 27 June 1959. Walter Slezak and Jayne Meadows played Elliott and Nell, and the director was Jerome Chodorov.[2] Brooks Atkinson in the New York Times claimed it was "as real as a TV crime play and a thousand times more diverting,"[3] though fellow critic Robert Coleman maintained that "There were times when a good gust of wind might have blown The Gazebo right off the Lyceum's stage."[4] The subsequent US tour starred Tom Ewell and Jan Sterling.

In London, Ian Carmichael and Moira Lister were the stars of the West End production, directed by Anthony Sharp. This opened at the Savoy Theatre on 29 March 1960 and ran for 479 performances. "The Gazebo is one of those modern murder plays which depend on comedy rather than mystery," noted Theatre World editor Frances Stephens, "and no actor is better equipped than Ian Carmichael, with his wholesome fooling and overall 'niceness', to take any embarrassment out of a laughter-making murder theme, even with the corpse in full view."[5]

The French film Jo, released in 1971 and starring Louis de Funès and Claude Gensac, was also based on the play. Another French version, this time for TV - Une femme dans les bras, un cadavre sur le dos, with Jean Lefebvre and Blanche Ravalec - appeared in 1995.[6]


  1. ^ a b c 'The Eddie Mannix Ledger’, Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study, Los Angeles
  2. ^
  3. ^ New York Times 13 December 1958
  4. ^ New York Daily Mirror 30 December 1958
  5. ^ Frances Stephens, Theatre World Annual (London) vol 11, Barrie and Rockliff 1960
  6. ^ Amnon Kabatchnik, Blood on the Stage, 1950-1975: Milestone Plays of Crime, Mystery, and Detection, Scarecrow Press 2011

External links[edit]