On the Double


1h 33m 1961

Brief Synopsis

An American serviceman in World War II is forced to stand in for a British spy.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
War
Spy
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
New York opening: 19 May 1961
Production Company
Capri Productions; Dena Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Ernie Williams, a timid G. I. stationed in England shortly before the World War II Allied invasion of Normandy, is caught impersonating Gen. Sir Lawrence Mackenzie-Smith, England's foremost battle campaigner. American and British intelligence persuade Ernie to continue the impersonation in order to confuse Nazi spies. He first encounters the general's amorous chauffeur, Sgt. Bridget Stanhope. Though Ernie manages to fool her, he is less successful with the general's estranged wife, Lady Margaret, who, when she is informed of the situation, agrees to cooperate. A short time later the real general is killed in a plane disaster, and Ernie is free to end the deception; but the masquerade is now more important than ever, and he agrees to continue. He comes very close to being exposed by the general's eccentric aunt, Lady Vivian, but Lady Margaret saves the day by starting a family brawl that turns into a free-for-all. Later that night he is kidnaped by Bridget, who is actually a Nazi spy, and whisked off to Berlin for interrogation. After giving the Gestapo false information, Ernie eludes his captors, assumes numerous disguises, including one representing Marlene Dietrich, and makes his escape through an opera house and a beer hall. Once back in England he exposes an old chum of Mackenzie-Smith's, General Browne-Wiffingham, as the chief German agent in Britain. With the successful launching of the Allied invasion, Ernie returns to the waiting arms of Lady Margaret.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Musical
War
Spy
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
New York opening: 19 May 1961
Production Company
Capri Productions; Dena Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

On the Double - Danny Kaye in ON THE DOUBLE on DVD


Danny Kaye's Technicolor comedy On the Double comes near the end of the multilingual entertainer's remarkable film career. In 1961 Kaye was adding to his continued success around the globe with star billing in Las Vegas and a series of TV specials. The restless star was always on the move, flying his personal plane and appearing as a spokesman for UNICEF.

But changing movie tastes were leaving Kaye's comedy style behind. On the Double followed three successive box office failures. The last was the heartfelt emotional drama The Five Pennies (1959) in which Kaye played the troubled jazz trumpeter Red Nichols. The mawkish film alternated scenes of family tragedy with standard Danny Kaye comedy touches. The Five Pennies was directed by Melville Shavelson, a writer on Kaye's early Goldwyn hit Wonder Man who had made a career in comedies for Bob Hope and worked with Jerry Lewis, Doris Day and Danny Thomas. In 1960 Shavelson and producer-writer Jack Rose developed On the Double specifically for Kaye. They received a quick okay from the performer's wife Sylvia Fine, who guided many of her husband's business decisions. Mrs. Kaye had been writing songs for Kaye's films since the beginning of his Hollywood career.

On the Double is a full-on return to Danny Kaye's earlier "Walter Mitty" screen persona and the farcical format that allowed him to play more than one role. The story idea can be sourced from the popular war film I Was Monty's Double (aka Hell, Heaven and Hoboken)), the true story of an actor in the British Army recruited to mislead the German enemy by pretending to be General Montgomery. Kaye plays Pfc. Ernie Williams, a silly-but-lovable soldier caught while trying to sneak through camp security by impersonating Colonel MacKenzie (also Kaye), a stuffy martinet who wears an eye patch. MacKenzie's top aides Colonel Somerset (Wilfrid Hyde-White) and Colonel Rock Houston (Gregory Walcott) coax the nervous, hypochondriac Ernie into continuing his MacKenzie charade for public appearances. They neglect to tell him that German agents, including one rumored to have infiltrated regimental headquarters, have targeted Colonel MacKenzie for assassination.

Danny Kaye finds plenty of comedic opportunities in the reluctant private's difficulties. Ernie suffers attacks of nerves. His costume eye patch covers his only good eye, so unless he wears a contact lens he's as blind as a bat. Ernie is painfully awkward around staff officer Captain Patterson (Allan Cuthbertson) and MacKenzie's blonde driver, Bridget (Diana Dors), who are unaware that he's doing decoy duty. Ernie doesn't know that Mackenzie is having an affair with Bridget until she plants a warm kiss on his lips, and he doesn't realize that the Colonel is married until his wife Lady Margaret (Dana Wynter) arrives unexpectedly from overseas, just as Bridget is taking a bubble bath in the next room.

Ernie stumbles through his impersonation duties at parties and receptions, causing disasters of etiquette. The enemy assassins are tripped up by Ernie's sheer unpredictability, until the Nazi double agent successfully kidnaps the trembling impostor and ships him to Berlin via U-Boat. Threatened with torture unless he divulges the secret Allied invasion plans, Ernie is placed before a map of Europe. He attempts to confuse his captors the only way he knows how, with nonsense doubletalk straight from the music hall stage.

On the Double isn't particularly inspired in the script department but Danny Kaye and a game group of actors give the show a professional gloss. Kaye sings three Sylvia Fine songs; it was his personal belief that he was a better singer than actor. Preferring to skip rehearsals and improvise on the spot probably improved Kaye's one-man routines, as when he panics in Colonel MacKenzie's office or is forced to pretend that he can speak Russian. The opening reels see Kaye paired with a perfect comedy foil in actor Jesse White, as another private eager to try out a stupid idea. White and Kaye are so good together that it's a shame that the character is left behind as the story progresses. The improvisation method didn't work as well for a scene in which Ernie, wearing a ceremonial kilt to a formal reception, is coerced into dancing a Scottish Highlander Jig. The dance reportedly took eight days to film. Actor Cuthbertson remembers that Kaye refused to rehearse or pay attention to the elaborate choreography. Unlike earlier comedies that showcase Kaye's clever dance moves when thrust into similar humiliating circumstances, the scene falls flat.

Dana Wynter plays straight as MacKenzie's cultured and understanding wife. Margaret instantly recognizes Ernie as an imposter and likes him far better than her cold and philandering husband. Most everyone else goes through the moves, supporting the military spy intrigues while standing back and observing the star's one-man antics. Margaret Rutherford overacts in a party scene, while Diana Dors seems included to provide a sexy bubble bath for the film's trailer. Wilfrid Hyde-White contributes a sarcastic narration spoofing serious films about military exploits.

On the Double is acceptable fun for fans of Danny Kaye, yet it plays like something made ten years earlier. On the run in a Berlin opera house and leaping into one costume change after another to evade capture, Ernie appears dressed as a woman, and for a moment, as a cabaret drag queen. He then bumps into none other than Adolf Hitler himself, and exchanges a nervous Heil salute. Hitler is played by the aging Bobby Watson, who began impersonating der Füher in a wartime short feature called The Devil with Hitler and continued doing so for at least ten successive pictures. The moment, like much of the rest of On the Double, is a trip into the past.

Olive Films' presentation of Paramount's On the Double brings yet another forgotten comedy to DVD. The brightly colored enhanced transfer displays the film's entire Panavision width for the first time since its theatrical release. Scenes shot in Hollywood (by Harry Stradling Sr.) and in England (by Geoffrey Unsworth) show the picture's relatively high budget. The audio is in fine shape as well. Leith Stevens' spirited musical score begins with a main theme suitable for a serious historical drama.

Danny Kaye's next feature was his last starring comedy, the low budget The Man from the Diner's Club written by William Peter Blatty. None of these movies was successful, but the international entertainer continued for many years with a robust career on the live stage and television.

Research sources:
Nobody's Fool by Martin Gottfried, Simon & Schuster 1994;
The Secret Life of Danny Kaye Michael Freedland, Comet 1987.


For more information about On the Double, visit Olive Films/. To order On the Double, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson
On The Double - Danny Kaye In On The Double On Dvd

On the Double - Danny Kaye in ON THE DOUBLE on DVD

Danny Kaye's Technicolor comedy On the Double comes near the end of the multilingual entertainer's remarkable film career. In 1961 Kaye was adding to his continued success around the globe with star billing in Las Vegas and a series of TV specials. The restless star was always on the move, flying his personal plane and appearing as a spokesman for UNICEF. But changing movie tastes were leaving Kaye's comedy style behind. On the Double followed three successive box office failures. The last was the heartfelt emotional drama The Five Pennies (1959) in which Kaye played the troubled jazz trumpeter Red Nichols. The mawkish film alternated scenes of family tragedy with standard Danny Kaye comedy touches. The Five Pennies was directed by Melville Shavelson, a writer on Kaye's early Goldwyn hit Wonder Man who had made a career in comedies for Bob Hope and worked with Jerry Lewis, Doris Day and Danny Thomas. In 1960 Shavelson and producer-writer Jack Rose developed On the Double specifically for Kaye. They received a quick okay from the performer's wife Sylvia Fine, who guided many of her husband's business decisions. Mrs. Kaye had been writing songs for Kaye's films since the beginning of his Hollywood career. On the Double is a full-on return to Danny Kaye's earlier "Walter Mitty" screen persona and the farcical format that allowed him to play more than one role. The story idea can be sourced from the popular war film I Was Monty's Double (aka Hell, Heaven and Hoboken)), the true story of an actor in the British Army recruited to mislead the German enemy by pretending to be General Montgomery. Kaye plays Pfc. Ernie Williams, a silly-but-lovable soldier caught while trying to sneak through camp security by impersonating Colonel MacKenzie (also Kaye), a stuffy martinet who wears an eye patch. MacKenzie's top aides Colonel Somerset (Wilfrid Hyde-White) and Colonel Rock Houston (Gregory Walcott) coax the nervous, hypochondriac Ernie into continuing his MacKenzie charade for public appearances. They neglect to tell him that German agents, including one rumored to have infiltrated regimental headquarters, have targeted Colonel MacKenzie for assassination. Danny Kaye finds plenty of comedic opportunities in the reluctant private's difficulties. Ernie suffers attacks of nerves. His costume eye patch covers his only good eye, so unless he wears a contact lens he's as blind as a bat. Ernie is painfully awkward around staff officer Captain Patterson (Allan Cuthbertson) and MacKenzie's blonde driver, Bridget (Diana Dors), who are unaware that he's doing decoy duty. Ernie doesn't know that Mackenzie is having an affair with Bridget until she plants a warm kiss on his lips, and he doesn't realize that the Colonel is married until his wife Lady Margaret (Dana Wynter) arrives unexpectedly from overseas, just as Bridget is taking a bubble bath in the next room. Ernie stumbles through his impersonation duties at parties and receptions, causing disasters of etiquette. The enemy assassins are tripped up by Ernie's sheer unpredictability, until the Nazi double agent successfully kidnaps the trembling impostor and ships him to Berlin via U-Boat. Threatened with torture unless he divulges the secret Allied invasion plans, Ernie is placed before a map of Europe. He attempts to confuse his captors the only way he knows how, with nonsense doubletalk straight from the music hall stage. On the Double isn't particularly inspired in the script department but Danny Kaye and a game group of actors give the show a professional gloss. Kaye sings three Sylvia Fine songs; it was his personal belief that he was a better singer than actor. Preferring to skip rehearsals and improvise on the spot probably improved Kaye's one-man routines, as when he panics in Colonel MacKenzie's office or is forced to pretend that he can speak Russian. The opening reels see Kaye paired with a perfect comedy foil in actor Jesse White, as another private eager to try out a stupid idea. White and Kaye are so good together that it's a shame that the character is left behind as the story progresses. The improvisation method didn't work as well for a scene in which Ernie, wearing a ceremonial kilt to a formal reception, is coerced into dancing a Scottish Highlander Jig. The dance reportedly took eight days to film. Actor Cuthbertson remembers that Kaye refused to rehearse or pay attention to the elaborate choreography. Unlike earlier comedies that showcase Kaye's clever dance moves when thrust into similar humiliating circumstances, the scene falls flat. Dana Wynter plays straight as MacKenzie's cultured and understanding wife. Margaret instantly recognizes Ernie as an imposter and likes him far better than her cold and philandering husband. Most everyone else goes through the moves, supporting the military spy intrigues while standing back and observing the star's one-man antics. Margaret Rutherford overacts in a party scene, while Diana Dors seems included to provide a sexy bubble bath for the film's trailer. Wilfrid Hyde-White contributes a sarcastic narration spoofing serious films about military exploits. On the Double is acceptable fun for fans of Danny Kaye, yet it plays like something made ten years earlier. On the run in a Berlin opera house and leaping into one costume change after another to evade capture, Ernie appears dressed as a woman, and for a moment, as a cabaret drag queen. He then bumps into none other than Adolf Hitler himself, and exchanges a nervous Heil salute. Hitler is played by the aging Bobby Watson, who began impersonating der Füher in a wartime short feature called The Devil with Hitler and continued doing so for at least ten successive pictures. The moment, like much of the rest of On the Double, is a trip into the past. Olive Films' presentation of Paramount's On the Double brings yet another forgotten comedy to DVD. The brightly colored enhanced transfer displays the film's entire Panavision width for the first time since its theatrical release. Scenes shot in Hollywood (by Harry Stradling Sr.) and in England (by Geoffrey Unsworth) show the picture's relatively high budget. The audio is in fine shape as well. Leith Stevens' spirited musical score begins with a main theme suitable for a serious historical drama. Danny Kaye's next feature was his last starring comedy, the low budget The Man from the Diner's Club written by William Peter Blatty. None of these movies was successful, but the international entertainer continued for many years with a robust career on the live stage and television. Research sources: Nobody's Fool by Martin Gottfried, Simon & Schuster 1994; The Secret Life of Danny Kaye Michael Freedland, Comet 1987. For more information about On the Double, visit Olive Films/. To order On the Double, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

I'm on a salt-free, fat-free, high protein, low calorie, low cholesterol diet.
- Pfc. Ernie Williams

Trivia

Notes

Location scenes filmed in England.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer July 1961

Released in United States Summer July 1961