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The Last Time I Saw Archie
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The Last Time I Saw Archie

Wednesday October, 8 2014 at 11:45 AM

Films in BOLD will Air on TCM *  |   VIEW TCMDb ENTRY


You wouldn't really expect a bleary-eyed hunk of granite like Robert Mitchum to successfully play a happy-go-lucky con man, but Mitchum is the key reason to watch The Last Time I Saw Archie (1961), a genial, easy-going comedy that's directed by Jack Webb, who also has a supporting role. That's right - Sgt. Friday once directed a light-hearted service comedy starring Bob Mitchum! If you can manage to shake off the sheer incongruity of it all, you might even enjoy this unassuming little picture.

Mitchum stars as Arch Hall, Sr., a World War II private who convinces everyone in his Civilian Pilot Training outfit that he's an undercover General who's been sent to weed out a Japanese spy (France Nuyen). Arch does this mainly through quick thinking, nerves of steel, and the ability to carry a clipboard. Webb plays Hall's sidekick and is the film's narrator, which affords him the opportunity to deliver voice-over commentary in the same monochromatic timbre that makes you feel like you're watching Dragnet reruns. Why someone at United Artists didn't notice that Webb was ill-suited to this type of picture is anyone's guess. The man was practically a walking dose of Unisom. Luckily, Mitchum livens things up considerably.

Arch Hall, Sr. (aka William Watters) was known in real-life as a Hollywood scoundrel who was the founder of Fairway International Pictures. Fairway International was a cheapie production company that cranked out Z-grade genre movies which, more often than not, starred his son Arch Hall, Jr. who was more interested in being a rock 'n roll musician. Bill Bowers, who wrote the screenplay for The Last Time I Saw Archie (and is played by Webb in the film) knew Arch, Sr. during the war. Although Bowers mainly based his script on Arch's military shenanigans, it's apparent that Hall didn't abandon his con man routine once he left the service. He was a hustler who knew how to make a quick buck off of low expectations.

Ray Dennis Steckler, who later directed several films for the real-life Hall, had good things to say about Mitchum's performance in The Last Time I Saw Archie...but not necessarily about Arch himself. "Mitchum played Arch Hall to a 'T'," he said in an interview years later. "They got together for dinner a few times, and Mitchum watched how Arch acted. Arch had that lazy walk, lazy attitude, very lazy. Like he had to make a real decision to get up and get a glass of water - really!" Steckler even noted that Hall's general sluggishness is on display in one of his films: "If you ever see Eegah! (1962), watch him running across the desert in his shorts. He used to make sure the lens would only cover a small area so he wouldn't have far to walk. Then he'd sit down."

Arch Sr. apparently didn't take too kindly to The Last Time I Saw Archie. He eventually sued the producers for invasion of privacy even though nothing of a personal nature is ever really revealed. He shouldn't have bothered because hardly anyone saw the picture. But Mitchum seemed to get a kick out of the entire experience. When asked to pick a favorite of the films he appeared in, he'd often name The Last Time I Saw Archie, pointing out that he made $400,000 for a mere four weeks of work!

TV buffs will note that The Last Time I Saw Archie is loaded with small-screen icons of various stripes in addition to Jack Webb. Joe Flynn would go on to star for a few years as a put-upon Naval commander in McHale's Navy. Louis Nye was the smarmy foil to Steve Allen in assorted Tonight Show skits. And, of course, Don Knotts (who also appeared on The Tonight Show with Nye), would make TV history, as Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show. Whatever flaws The Last Time I Saw Archie may contain, someone in the casting department was at the top of their game!

Director: Jack Webb
Producer: Jack Webb
Screenplay: William Bowers
Editor: Robert M. Leeds
Cinematography: Joe MacDonald
Music: Frank Comstock
Art Direction: Feild Gray, Stan Rogers
Set Decoration: John Sturtevant
Sound: Lambert Day
Cast: Robert Mitchum (Arch Hall), Jack Webb (Bill Bowers), Martha Hyer (Peggy Kramer), France Nuyen (Cindy Hamilton), Louis Nye (Pvt. Sam Beacham), Joe Flynn (Pvt. Russell Drexler), Joe Flynn (Pvt. Russell Drexler), Del Moore (Frank Ostrow), Don Knotts (Capt. Harry Little).
BW-98m.

by Paul Tatara VIEW TCMDb ENTRY
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