Never a Dull Moment
Cast & Crew
Dick Van Dyke
Edward G. Robinson
On his way home after doing a bit on television, struggling actor Jack Albany, thinking that he is being followed by a mugger, ducks into an open doorway and is confronted by a young hoodlum, Florian, who mistakes him for Ace Williams, a notorious hired killer he has been assigned to meet. Fearing for his life, Jack does not correct the error and is driven to the estate of Florian's employer, gangster Leo Joseph Smooth, who is a lover of art. Smooth is planning to steal a painting recently acquired by a New York museum. Desperate, Jack tries to convince Smooth's pretty art instructress, Sally Inwood, that he is not really Ace Williams, but she refuses to believe him. When the real Ace appears, Smooth locks the two men in a room to determine which of them is the killer. Aided by a now-convinced Sally, Jack emerges as the victor; and the next afternoon he joins Smooth's gang for the raid on the museum. Once there, however, he prevents the mobsters from taking the painting and leads them on a wild chase from one gallery to another, ending up in a pop art exhibition. While Jack is holding his adversaries, the police, alerted by a telephone call from Sally, arrive on the scene and round up the would-be thieves. Acclaimed as a hero, Jack wins both Sally and enough publicity to assure future acting offers.
Dick Van Dyke
Edward G. Robinson
Robert F. Brunner
A. J. Carothers
John C. Chulay
Robert O. Cook
Cecil A. Crandall
John B. Mansbridge
La Rue Matheron
Robert A. Mattey
Frank R. Mckelvy
Never a Dull Moment (1968)
Taking second billing as aging mobster Leo Smooth is Edward G. Robinson, who made his name over 35 years before with the iconic gangster classic Little Caesar (1931). When production began on Never a Dull Moment in 1967, the 73-year-old Hollywood legend was reduced to playing gangsters in supporting roles and cameo bits in European crime dramas and heist pictures. Robinson's first and only Disney picture gave him his biggest role in years, though once again he plays an elder statesman of crime, this time a veteran who plots a heist simply to make his reputation for decades to come. According to Dick Van Dyke, Robinson was quite hard of hearing by this time. When asked if he had tried a hearing aid, Robinson showed him a bag of devices that failed to help. "Why don't you get them fixed?" asked Van Dyke to which Robinson replied, "Sorry, can't hear you."
Dorothy Provine made her screen debut in the title role of the energetic B movie The Bonnie Parker Story (1958) but found more success on the small screen, starring in the TV shows The Alaskans and The Roaring 20's, where she could showcase both her singing and knack for light comedy. Never a Dull Moment became her swan song. The actress married British directed Robert Day and, apart from a couple of TV appearances, retired from the screen for good.
Filling out the gang is Tony Bill as a punk kid constantly getting slapped down by Smooth, veteran bad guy Henry Silva as a cold-eyed thug who clashes with the fake Ace, rodeo rider turned actor Slim Pickens ("who showed me how to throw a punch," remembered Van Dyke), and Jack Elam as the real Ace. Elam's career took an interesting turn from playing grizzled villains in Westerns and crime movies to spoofing his image in such Westerns as Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) and Disney's Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978). Never a Dull Moment was one of his first comic turns.
Director Jerry Paris had been actor on The Dick Van Dyke Show playing Rob Petrie's next-door neighbor. In the show's second season, he stepped behind the camera for the first time and made the leap to director. He helmed over 80 episodes of the series and won an Emmy Award for his efforts. Never a Dull Moment, his first big screen project, reunited him with his friend and colleague Dick Van Dyke. "We laughed every day on the set," recalled Van Dyke in his memoir. But Paris didn't give up acting entirely. He gave himself cameos in his directorial efforts and in Never a Dull Moment he appears in an uncredited role as a police photographer.
It was one of the first Disney films produced after the death of studio founder Walt Disney. Ron Miller, Disney's son-in-law, had graduated from assistant director to co-producer. Never a Dull Moment marked Miller's first solo producer credit. Disney composer Robert F. Brunner channels the distinctive jazz-inflected style of Lalo Schifrin, who wrote the memorable opening theme for Mission: Impossible and the scores for Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Bullitt (1968), for the clever opening. And for Disney trivia buffs, note that the giant "Astro Pooch" comic strip prominently showcased in the art museum set was created for the film by Floyd Gottfredson, a veteran animator and cartoonist who wrote and drew the "Mickey Mouse" daily comic strip for 45 years.
The film was released in the summer of 1968 with the Oscar-winning 1933 cartoon classic Three Little Pigs as the short subject. "The Disney team has uncorked a good-natured one," wrote film critic Howard Thompson in his review of the feature for The New York Times, while the review in England's Monthly Film Bulletin proclaimed, "With no pretensions to being anything but a rollicking farce, this slight but intermittently amusing comedy largely succeeds on its own modest level."
Van Dyke jumped immediately into production on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), a massive musical fantasy from James Bond producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, while Edward G. Robinson returned to Europe for one last flurry of international caper films before returning home for good, spending his final years taking TV roles between periodic big screen appearances.
Meanwhile, Never a Dull Moment received a second life when it was rereleased by Disney in 1977 on a double bill with a reedited version of the 1944 animated feature The Three Caballeros.
Little Caesar: A Biography of Edward G. Robinson, Alan L. Gansberg. Scarecrow Press, 2004.
The Complete Films of Edward G. Robinson, Alvin H. Marill. Citadel Press, 1990.
My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, Dick Van Dyke. Crown Archetype, 2011.
"Never a Dull Moment" (film review), Howard Thompson. The New York Times, Thursday, August 15, 1968.
"Never a Dull Moment" (film review). Monthly Film Bulletin, August, 1968.
By Sean Axmaker
Never a Dull Moment (1968)