Father Goose (1964)

Directed by Ralph Nelson

With a title like Father Goose and an era like the early to mid-sixties, it’s easy to guess that this is a light film. And that’s exactly what it is. A very light bit of fluff that is unusually charming.

I’m not sure why, but I always enjoy watching this movie. One of the last, if not the last leading roles Cary Grant played, the wonderful actor gives us something a little bit different, though also very much the same. And that’s not a bad thing.

The real difference is that Grant isn’t the suave, well-groomed heroic figure we remember from such films as Charade or To Catch a Thief. Rather, he is a slovenly drunk. But given the period the film was made, the drunk is curmudgeonly yet lovable. (Made today, he would be a thoroughly tragic, depressing figure.)

But clothes (and a clean shave) don’t make the actor. Grant plays this role with his well-learned comic brilliance.

His timing is perfect; his “takes” are dead on.

A put-out Carey Grant discovers his idyllic island life is to be disrupted by a school marm and … kids! (Father Goose, 1964)

It’s fun to watch this film and compare it to a much earlier work like Arsenic and Old Lace to see just how well his comic talent has matured.

And the story … World War II, South Pacific. Grant is a drunken misanthrope who is leaving the world to blow itself up – he wants no part of it.

But he is manouevered into working for the Allies by a Navy captain played perfectly by Trevor Howard. (Howard is one of the best things in the movie – great counterpoint to Grant’s character.)

Grant’s character is now living alone on an island watching for Japanese ship movements for Howard. Then, Leslie Caron and a troop of young girls arrive.

So not only is Grant’s solitude interrupted, it’s intruded upon by children.

And the comedy follows.

Cary Grant befuddled by a drunken school marm, Leslie Caron. (Father Goose, 1964)

The movie is probably what would be called a family picture. But rather than the over-abundant saccharine associated with such movies, Father Goose is simply sweet and charming.

I think the main reason it succeeds is the performance of Grant who juggles a funny, crusty performance with just the right measure of fatherly assurance (if that makes any sense).

While not a great movie by any means, this is certainly a delightful one and an example of how Cary Grant’s talents were as powerful at the end of his career as at any other time.

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