(The currently overused “classic” label as pertaining to film is really a post-video cassette/cable-TV marketing term designed to make difficult-to-move inventories of B&W films appear more appealing to the public. Just as the word “rerun” has been retired in place of the more market-friendly “encore presentation,” nowadays, every movie with whiskers on it is labeled a “classic.”)
|Frankie Vaughan as Leo Mack|
"I learned a long time ago; nobody looks out for Daddy if Daddy don't look out for Daddy!"
|Juliet Prowse as Ursula Poe|
"You can marry a lot more money in five minutes than you could make in a lifetime!"
|Martha Hyer as Anne Perry|
"I'm not desperate. I like my life...I go where I want, when I want. Men aren't all that important."
|Gary Crosby ad Rip Hulett|
"You been beltin' that grape a little...eh, Daddy?"
|David McLean as Bill Sikulovic|
"It isn't always what a person gets that's important. It's what he gives up to get it!"
|Jesse White as Agent Brian Freer |
"Y'know you're a very good lookin' boy in my opinion. A red-blooded, he-man type!"
|Jane Withers (yes, Josephine the Plumber) as Liz|
"Sue me, but whenever I meet one of those 'Personality Boys' I wanna hide the good silver!"
This unaccountably forgotten camp treasure from 1961 has the look and feel of the bargain-basement, but it has a pretty snazzy pedigree: it’s based on an early, not very well-received play by Garson Kanin (Born Yesterday, Adam’s Rib) titled The Live Wire; it was adapted for the screen by Garson’s brother Michael Kanin and sister-in-law Fay (The Opposite Sex, Friendly Fire); it features a song by the award-winning songwriting team of Marilyn and Alan Bergman (The Way We Were, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers); and has a cast full of actors who all must have been under contract at 20th Century-Fox at the time. Oscar-nominee Martha Hyer (for Some Came Running) appeared in Fox’s The Best of Everything (1959); Liverpool crooner Frankie Vaughan was hot off of the lamentable Marilyn Monroe musical, Let’s Make Love (1960); and the ever-watchable Juliet Prowse had nearly caused an international incident by getting under Nikita Khrushchev’s skin in Can-Can (1960). Like most every film released by Fox between 1953 and 1967, The Right Approach was filmed in CinemaScope, but apparently Fox broke the bank with How to Marry a Millionaire, for this film is strictly economy class and shot in black and white...so atypical for a movie this light (with musical numbers, yet).
|Because the system works; the system called reciprocity|
Mitch (Steve Harris) clips the locks of Bill (David McLean) who ties the tie of Rip (Gary Crosby)
Into this happy, pentamerous setting comes Mitch’s older brother, Leo, a caustic, wannabe singer /actor of near-supernatural amorality. A lying, cheating, self-interested, double-crossing, womanizing opportunist decades before these character flaws became standard equipment for reality TV stardom; Leo’s poisonous influence on The Hut (as the “boys” have dubbed their digs) and the lives of the ladies he comes into contact with provides both the drama and moral of The Right Approach. And, might I add, it also provides a great deal of the unintentional comedy. Bad boys and bad girls are the real heart of any showbiz drama, and in Frankie Vaughan’s Wile E. Coyote interpretation of Leo Mack, The Right Approach has one doozy of villain. Cross Patty Duke as Valley of the Dolls’ Neely O’Hara with Stephen Boyd’s Frankie Fane in The Oscar (1966) and you have some idea as to the camp histrionic heights this film can reach in its brisk 92 minutes.
|The Pleasure Seekers' Gardner McKay (center) starred in the TV series Adventures in Paradise from 1959 to 1962. He appears as himself in a brief cameo in The Right Approach when Leo (left) lands a bit part on the series.|
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM:
We Americans are a celebrity-obsessed culture that loves to romanticize the lives and careers of the rich and famous while at the same time feeling the need to reassure ourselves (incessantly) that in spite of their looks, wealth, and notoriety, the famous are a shallow, amoral bunch without a shred of integrity or decency between them. Hollywood, an industry that’s always known what side its bread was buttered on, has been more than happy to feed this dysfunction with glitzy tales of fame idolatry disguised as cautionary fables designed to reassure us unwashed masses that all that unattainable, envy-inducing glamour we’ve been wallowing in for the last two hours is an unworthy pursuit born of heartbreak, treachery, and compromised ideals. That these lacerating indictments of Hollywood’s superficiality are made by individuals seeking fame and fortune in self-said industry doesn't strike anyone involved as a tad ironic probably explains why these films always feel so false and over the top.
|The Live Wire is the name of the 1950 Garson Kanin play upon which The Right Approach is based. It's also the title of the movie industry magazine at the center of the film's plot, symbolizing the Holy Grail of success.|
I don't know much about UK star Frankie Vaughan and will probably have to appeal to Our Man in the UK (Mark at Random Ramblings, Thoughts & Fiction) to perhaps provide me with some history. All I know is that I so soured on him in Let's Make Love (not his fault, I just hated Marilyn and Montand so much in that one) that his deliciously nasty turn as the bad guy in The Right Approach came as something of a surprise. He's not much of an actor, but he is an energetic showman and has these great Snidely Whiplash eyes that dart about cartoonishly whenever he's about to do something underhanded. Fans of Let's Make Love will recognize that film's theme song as well as the title tune from Fox's The Best of Everything played frequently in the film's background.
That's Juliet Prowse, Robert Casper, Frankie Vaughan, & Martha Hyer.
The Right Approach would have been really gangbusters if its couplings had gone the direction the gazes in this screencap hint toward. (Martha Hyer's giving Juliet Prowse one of those Candice Bergen looks from The Group.)
|Ursula: We're in trouble.|
Leo: You're in trouble.
Ursula: How's that again?
Leo: Who's the father?
Ursula: (Delivering a resounding whack across the chops) THAT'S who!!
THE STUFF OF DREAMS:With Russ Meyer dead, Paul Morrissey bitter, and John Waters gone corporate; it's growing near impossible for me to find good, enduring camp movies these days. The Right Approach has all the requisite bad dialog, weak songs, cliched plotting, exaggerated performances and self-serious moralizing to make it a classic of the trash-with-class genre, but it is soooo hard to find. I still have my old pan and scan VHS TV copy from I don't know how many years back, but I would love to see this in widescreen.
|Up To No Good|
In addition to all the above, nostalgia plays a small part in why The Right Approach is a favorite of mine.
So, if you're ever checking out the cable TV listings and happen to see The Right Approach scheduled, by all means fire up the DVR and give it a try. No "classic," it's just one of the most enjoyable good/bad films you've never heard of.
Copyright © Ken Anderson