Wilder's two-and-a-half-hour comedy set in the prostitute milieu of Paris (Hollywood-built, courtesy of Alexandre Trauner's designs) looks more than anything like a gaudy musical (which it once was) without the songs (which Wilder removed). It's a chance for Lemmon to go through his paces in various guises - zealous boulevard cop, pimp, and moonlighting worker in Les Halles foodmarket impersonating an English lord by day. Even for Lemmon, there's too much self-pity in the part of a naïve ex-gendarme who falls heavily for a tart, but Shirley MacLaine redresses the balance as the whore with a heart of gold. Wilder's soft-centred cynicism provides frequent enough laughs without too many longueurs. As in The Seven Year Itch and despite the French setting, they come mainly from the hypocritical vulgarity of contemporary American sexual morality.
Cast and crew
Billy Wilder, IAL Diamond
Jack Lemmon Shirley MacLaine Lou Jacobi Bruce Yarnell Herschel Bernardi Hope Holiday Joan Shawlee James Caan