Synopsis

Post-war Berlin is the microcosm of the polarization of West and East; American and Soviet. C.R. MacNamara's Coca-Cola's head of West Berlin operations, His life goes into a spin when he must deal with the visit of Scarlett Hazeltine; the 17yo spoilt daughter of his boss. On the same day Mac hears Mr. & Mrs. Hazeltine will be iarriving in a day, he also learns Scarlett's married Otto Ludwig Piffl, a staunch East German Communist. Mac also learns Scarlett's pregnant, Mac has to get Otto, and turn him into a respectable young man for the soon-to-be arriving boss... and Otto's father-in-law.

Director

Billy Wilder

Cast

James Cagney
as C.R. MacNamara
Liselotte Pulver
as Fräulein Ingeborg
Horst Buchholz
as Otto Ludwig Piffl
Pamela Tiffin
as Scarlett Hazeltine
Howard St. John
as Wendell P. Hazeltine
Loïs Bolton
as Melanie Hazeltine
Hanns Lothar
as Schlemmer

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Gazzer-2 10 /10

Perfect, Hysterical Madcap Comedy

C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney), a soft drink executive stationed in West Berlin with his wife (Arlene Francis) and two kids, is given the task of looking after his boss' wild daughter, Scarlett (Pamela Tiffin), who flies in for a visit. But when Scarlett runs off and marries a young Communist named Otto (Horst Buchholz)---and with MacNamara's boss flying in to West Berlin in a matter of hours---MacNamara has to race against the clock to turn Scarlett's rebellious new husband into the perfect son-in-law, or risk losing his job....

Billy Wilder's "One Two Three" is one of the greatest comedy films ever made. This wonderfully zany 1961 gem is a lightning-paced, hysterical farce (and with it's classic instrumental theme of "The Sabre Dance," you know you're in for a rollicking, rapid-fire comedy). Based on a French play, much of the movie plays out like a stage comedy, as Wilder simply turns his camera on the actors and lets them do their thing. The entire cast is simply superb, their comic timing perfect. James Cagney gives one of his all-time greatest performances as C.R. MacNamara. In almost every scene, with the bulk of the script on his shoulders, Cagney is sharp, quick on the draw, and just plain hilarious as the bewildered executive. Arlene Francis lends fine comic support as Cagney's sarcastic wife, Horst Buchholz is very funny & perfectly cast as the rebellious Otto, and the gorgeous Pamela Tiffin is simply a riot as the hot-blodded, dim-witted Scarlett. But ALL the actors in this movie are funny & terrific. Billy Wilder's direction is marvelous, and his script co-written with I.A.L. Diamond is clever and hilarious.

Some may find the quick pace of "One Two Three" a little exhausting, as the movie's energy level remains high from beginning to end, rarely stopping for air, but it works for me. This movie is pure farce, plain and simple. It makes no apologies for what it is, and it's goal is to make you laugh loudly. "One Two Three" is one of the most hysterical movies I've ever seen in my life, and it never fails to give me bellylaughs. Thank you Billy, Jimmy, and all the rest for this magnificent comedy gem.

Reviewed by bkoganbing 9 /10

Billy Wilder Gets Hot Over the Cold War

One, Two, Three is from the fertile mind of Billy Wilder where Cold War politics gets reduced to the absurd. This film is so fast and so funny it's only a few steps from Monty Python.

For what was and what should have remained his swan song to the world of film James Cagney heads the cast in this. He's the man in charge of Coca-Cola's operations in Germany which is headquartered in West Berlin and he's had a lovely little present dumped in his lap. The daughter of the CEO of Coca-Cola is in Europe and now she's in Germany and he's expected to watch out for her. The daughter is played by Pamela Tiffin and she is one of the biggest airheads ever portrayed on the screen. She's fallen big time for a German kid played by Horst Bucholtz. They've gotten married.

Bucholtz is a kid who's real good at spouting all kinds of left wing slogans without delving to deeply into their meanings. He's a Communist and that drives Cagney nuts and if it drives Cagney nuts, Tiffin's father is sure to go over the top. Cagney takes it upon himself to get Bucholtz arrested on the East Berlin side as an American spy.

Of course a small memento of their married life has developed inside Tiffin so now Cagney has a real problem. He's got to get Bucholtz back and turn him into a money grubbing capitalist in his image. The frantic pace at which this is attempted, racing against the clock when Tiffin's father played by Howard St. John arrives in Berlin is what the rest of the film is about.

Wilder has a ball reducing the Cold War to its basic absurdities. The USA is symbolized by James Cagney who thinks the whole world will become America if only enough Coca-Cola is peddled. Cagney comes real close to proving it so.

The Communists come out far worse. Karl Marx's world always looked nice on paper, but always has had a real problem being converted into a functioning state. The Russians are also good at spouting the party line, but in One, Two, Three, Wilder shows how very easily they can be influenced by some of life's most elemental things and I don't mean Coca-Cola.

Cagney did not always get along with Wilder, but both men were professional enough to bury certain creative differences. Cagney was kind and patient with Tiffin who was getting her first real break in film. However he grew to positively loath Horst Bucholtz. In his memoirs which came out in the 1970s, Bucholtz was the only colleague who Cagney had anything really critical to say about.

During the middle of the film being shot, the Russians stopped the flow of traffic from West and East Berlin. Some shots had to be redone around the Brandenburg Gate, a whole set had to be constructed. I suppose a well trained cinema professional could spot the shots where the real and the fake Brandeburg were used. I sure can't. The following year, the Berlin Wall was built, so Wilder got his film done just in time.

Arlene Francis plays Cagney's exasperated wife and she of What's My Line does just fine. Cagney made an appearance on that show just before shooting started and gave the picture a big old plug.

The laughs come pretty fast and furious as James Cagney struggles mightily to prevent the arrival of "another bouncing, baby, Bolshevik."

Reviewed by rmax304823 N/A

Outstanding Comedy

Howard Hawks usually gets the palm for the fastest dialogue in comedies but Wilder probably ties him here. This must be one of the funniest comedies to come out of Hollywood, at least during the sound era. The gags come fast -- and thick. If one doesn't work you don't have time to be disappointed because the next one is already underway.

It's one of those movies in which the gags would be spoiled if they were described to a person who hadn't yet seen the film. For the most part they are tied closely to the plot and often build on one another. But I'm compelled to give one example. Cagney is an executive in Berlin and his first-hand man is Schlemmer. Schlemmer has a habit of clicking his heels before and after addressing Cagney. At one point Cagney chews him out and asks him, "just between us," what Schlemmer did in the war. "I was in the underground," says Schlemmer. "Oh, the resistance?" "No, the underground. The subway. I was a conductor." Cagney says supiciously, "And I suppose you never were a supporter of Adolf." Schlemmer: "Adolf who? You see, I was always in the underground. They never told us anything down there."

The dialogue is shouted rather than spoken. Heels are clicked, people leap to attention, fingers are snapped, orders are flung about. The only person who doesn't run around frantically is Lilo Pulver who does not have to run to attract anyone's attention. She can simply stand still and get the job done. She's Cagney's secretary and tells him she's thinking of getting a job elsewhere as a translator. "Don't forget I am bilingual." "Don't I know it," Cagney mutters ruefully.

But I won't go on because I'll just wind up giving away more gags. Check the trivia entries too. This was Cagney's last major role and one of Wilder's best comedies. It's simply hilarious and not to be missed.

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