Father Goose (film)

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Father Goose
Father Goose film poster.jpg
Directed by Ralph Nelson
Produced by Robert Arthur
Written by Peter Stone
Frank Tarloff
Based on A Place of Dragons
short story
by S. H. Barnett
Starring Cary Grant
Leslie Caron
Music by Cy Coleman
Cinematography Charles Lang
Edited by Ted J. Kent
Production
company
Granox Productions
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date
  • December 10, 1964 (1964-12-10)
Running time
118 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $12.5 million[1]

Father Goose is a 1964 American Technicolor romantic comedy film set in World War II, starring Cary Grant, Leslie Caron and Trevor Howard. The title derives from "Mother Goose", the code name assigned to Grant's character. The film won an Academy Award for its screenplay. It introduced the song "Pass Me By" by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, later recorded by Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and others.

This was the penultimate film of Cary Grant's long career.

Plot[edit]

While the Royal Australian Navy evacuates Salamaua in February 1942[2] ahead of a Japanese invasion, Commander Frank Houghton (Trevor Howard) coerces an old friend, American beachcomber Walter Eckland (Cary Grant), into becoming a coast watcher for the Allies. Houghton escorts Eckland to deserted Matalava Island to watch for Japanese airplanes. To ensure Eckland stays put, Houghton sees to it that his own ship "accidentally" knocks a hole in Eckland's launch while departing, so his only boat is its utility dinghy. To motivate Eckland, Houghton has his crew hide Eckland's whisky around the island, rewarding each aircraft sighting (once it is confirmed) with directions to one of the bottles.

Houghton finds a replacement watcher, but Eckland has to retrieve him from nearby Bundy Island by dinghy. He unexpectedly finds eight civilians stranded there: Frenchwoman Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron) and seven young schoolgirls under her care. She informs him that the man he came for was killed in an air raid. Eckland reluctantly takes the party back to Matalava with him, but there is no safe way for them to be evacuated.

The fastidious Freneau, who is used to the diplomatic milieu, clashes repeatedly with the slovenly, uncouth Eckland; they call each other "Miss Goody Two Shoes" and "a rude, foul-mouthed, drunken, filthy beast". In the end, though, he adjusts to her and the girls, and helps protect them when a Japanese boat approaches the island. Eckland learns that Freneau speaks Japanese when she explains that the sailors are only hunting for crabs; she learns that Eckland had been a history professor before he chose a less socially constrained way of life in the South Pacific. Afterwards, Ecklund cares for Freneau through what they mistakenly believe is a deadly snakebite. With nothing else to do, he gives her whisky; she gets drunk and speaks freely.

Now in love, the couple arrange to be married by a military chaplain over the radio, but strafing by a Japanese airplane interrupts the ceremony.

Since they have been detected, Houghton sends an American submarine to pick them up, but an enemy patrol boat shows up first. Leaving Catherine and the schoolgirls to make their way to the submarine in his dinghy, Eckland takes his now-repaired launch out to lure the Japanese vessel beyond the surrounding reef so the submarine can torpedo it. The Japanese sink his boat, but the submarine sinks the patrol boat, and Eckland survives to be rescued.

Cast[edit]

The children:

  • Sharyl Locke as Jenny
  • Pip Sparke as Anne
  • Verina Greenlaw as Christine
  • Stephanie Berrington as Elizabeth Anderson
  • Jennifer Berrington as Harriet "Harry" MacGregor
  • Laurelle Felsette as Angelique
  • Nicole Felsette as Dominique

Production[edit]

Father Goose was filmed on location in Jamaica.

When Grant was asked by a Universal Pictures executive to read the short story, he liked it well enough to pass it along to Peter Stone, who told him he wanted to write the screenplay.[3] Grant then arranged for him to be signed to Father Goose; Stone's contract called for a picture a year for five years.[3]

Director Ralph Nelson stated he tried to avoid professional child actors; with one exception, he succeeded.[3]

The Japanese patrol vessel at the end of the film was portrayed by a former U.S. Coast Guard wood hull 83-foot WPB patrol boat.

Reception[edit]

Father Goose grossed $12,500,000 at the domestic box office,[1] earning $6 million in US theatrical rentals,[4] making it the 7th highest-grossing film of 1964.

Time Out Film Guide panned the film, complaining, "It's a shame that Grant ... should have logged this sentimental claptrap as his penultimate film" and "Grant frequently looks as if he really didn't want to be there, wading lost in a sludge of turgid drama and pallid comedy."[5] Film4 agreed, stating "the story all too slowly descends into sentimental sludge."[6]

In its contemporary review, Variety found more to like: "Cary Grant comes up with an about-face change of character.... [He] plays an unshaven bum addicted to tippling and tattered attire, a long way from the suave figure he usually projects but affording him opportunity for nutty characterization. Leslie Caron and Trevor Howard are valuable assists to plottage...."[7]

Bosley Crowther, The New York Times critic, considered it "a cheerfully fanciful fable" and "some harmless entertainment".[8] Of the title character, he wrote, "It is not a very deep character or a very real one, but it is fun."[8]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film won the Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay, which was written directly for the screen by S. H. Barnett, Peter Stone, and Frank Tarloff, and was also nominated for Best Film Editing (Ted J. Kent) and Best Sound (Waldon O. Watson).[9] It received a nomination for the 1965 Golden Globe Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy award.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Box Office Information for Father Goose. The Numbers. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
  2. ^ Established by the mention of the surrender of Singapore
  3. ^ a b c Murray Schumach (May 17, 1964). "Hollywood 'Father Goose' Saga". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 6
  5. ^ "Father Goose (1964)". Time Out Film Guide. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Father Goose". Film4. Retrieved March 21, 2010. 
  7. ^ Daily Variety, December 31, 1963
  8. ^ a b Bosley Crowther (December 11, 1964). "The Screen: 'Father Goose'". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ "The 37th Academy Awards (1965) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-24. 

External links[edit]