Wednesday, March 08, 2006


I was shocked when the Academy Award Show mentioned that both Tony Franciosa and Sandra Dee died during the year. They co-starred in one of my favorite movies, A Man Could Get Killed.

How the hell could they be dead? They seemed like kids to me. I guess you live long enough most people start to seem like kids. But these were special to me. They gave me pleasure with their performances in an excellent movie.

Franciosa especially. I became a fan of his for life. He played a native street hustler/smuggler in Lisbon. His accent sounded believable to me. But then Sandra Dee came along.

Wait a minute.

Let’s start at the beginning.

James Garner and Melina Mercouri starred in this comedy/action-adventure. (According to an English website Robert Coote starred. Tell them to take their cooties and go home.)

Garner plays an American businessman who is mistaken by everybody for a super-secret British agent on the trail of smuggled diamonds. When Coote, supposedly his liaison at the British Embassy meets him at the Lisbon airport, the car intended for him is blown up. No matter how much Garner protests, all of which are accepted as cover for his actual mission, he is then transported into a world of scheming, dangerous, underworld characters.

First among these is the fabulous Melina Mercouri playing the amorous, amoral, ungrieving widow of a recently killed gangster. It is great fun for us to see how much fun she has in this role. She flirts with Garner at the funeral of her husband.

Tony Franciosa, totally charming in his guise as a Portuguese hustler, attaches himself to Garner. Sandra Dee, the archetypical Southern California beach girl appears and exposes Franciosa. They had been connected in America. But Franciosa’s exposition is that he is an American hustler, not Portuguese. Not much change there.

The four of them are then off on a life or death quest to find the smuggled diamonds. It is a fun trip. Garner, straight and proper, is continuously agitated by Mercouri’s delightful lack of morals.

In one memorable scene, the bad guys tell the two of them to strip so they can be searched. While Garner tries to defend her honor, Mercouri eagerly begins to comply. She begins by removing her false eyelashes.

This is a fun romp with charismatic stars and great chemistry between them. Much of the fine background music throughout became the ballad, “Strangers in the Night.”

See it if you get a chance.

And say goodbye to Sandra Dee and Tony Franciosa.


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