powered by AFI
Based on a Broadway play, The Gazebo (1959) is a black comedy about a harried television writer, played by Glenn Ford, who is threatened by a blackmailer with indiscreet photos of the writer's Broadway actress wife (Debbie Reynolds). He decides on desperate measures - he will kill the blackmailer and bury him in the foundation of the gazebo that's about to be placed in the garden of the couple's country home. Naturally, all does not go as planned. With its blend of comedy and murder, The Gazebo is reminiscent of the 1950s films of Alfred Hitchcock, as well as of Hitchcock's then-popular television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In fact, there's a sly homage to Hitchcock in the film, with Ford's character receiving advice on the telephone from Hitchcock (who is neither seen nor heard) on how to dispose of a body. Ford also receives some help from a very clever pigeon named Herman that he's adopted as a pet.
The Gazebo was the second teaming of Ford and Reynolds, who had struck romantic sparks both on and off the screen earlier that same year in It Started with a Kiss. In fact, 1959 was a year of nonstop work for Debbie Reynolds - she had four films released that year, also appearing in The Mating Game and Say One for Me. It was also a turbulent year in her private life. The very public breakup of her marriage to crooner Eddie Fisher, due to his affair with the recently widowed Elizabeth Taylor and his abandonment of Reynolds and their two young children, grabbed worldwide headlines for months. Ford's marriage to dancer Eleanor Powell had also recently broken up, and the two commiserated and helped console each other. According to Reynolds' autobiography, Ford even proposed to her, but she wasn't ready to get serious again so soon. She and Ford remained lifelong friends instead, although they never again made another film together.
Ford had been a movie star for two decades; in 1958, he was voted the number one box office attraction but had mostly appeared only in dramas and westerns. Several critics praised Ford's comedy skills in The Gazebo. "This film is nearly all Ford, and he's up to every scene, earning both sympathy and laughs as he muddles through his farcical 'crime,'" wrote the Variety critic. But Bosley Crowther of the New York Times disagreed. "Perhaps if Mr. Ford were a better, or at least a less wooden comedian than he is, some of this blundering and blathering would seem a little brighter than it does....But we're afraid Mr. Ford hasn't got it. He is not a comedian." Fans apparently disagreed. Ford's two comedies with Reynolds opened up a whole new career path for him, and his low-key charm would grace some very successful comedies of the early 1960s, including Pocketful of Miracles (1961) and The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963).
Reynolds didn't have much to do in The Gazebo but wear Helen Rose's Oscar-nominated costumes. But the supporting cast was filled with some superb comic character actors, including Carl Reiner, John McGiver, Bert Freed, and Doro Merande. Martin Landau, who was playing a lot of gangsters during this period, did so again, very well, in The Gazebo. And, of course, there was that well trained pigeon, Herman, showing a lot of star quality. The Variety review summed up the film aptly: "Cheerful murder-can-be-fun comedy....Good b.o."
Director: George Marshall
Producer: Lawrence Weingarten
Screenplay: George Wells, based on a play by Alec Coppel, from a story by Myra & Alec Coppel
Cinematography: Paul C. Vogel
Editor: Adrienne Fazan
Costume Design: Helen Rose
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Paul Groesse
Music: Jeff Alexander
Cast: Glenn Ford (Elliot Nash), Debbie Reynolds (Nell Nash), Carl Reiner (Harlow Edison), John McGiver (Sam Thorpe), Mabel Albertson (Mrs. Chandler), Doro Merande (Matilda), Martin Landau (The Duke).
BW-102m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri