Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three is a fast-paced, high-pitched, hard-hitting, lighthearted farce crammed with topical gags and spiced with satirical overtones. Story is so furiously quick-witted that some of its wit gets snarled and smothered in overlap. But total experience packs a considerable wallop.
James Cagney is the chief exec of Coca-Cola’s West Berlin plant whose ambitious promotion plans are jeopardized when he becomes temporary guardian of his stateside superior’s wild and vacuous daughter. The girl (Pamela Tiffin) slips across the border, weds violently anti-Yankee Horst Buchholz, and before long there’s a bouncing baby Bolshevik on the way. When the home office head man decides to visit his daughter, Cagney masterminds an elaborate masquerade that backfires.
The screenplay, based on a one-act play by Ferenc Molnar, is outstanding. It pulls no punches and lands a few political and ideological haymakers on both sides of the Brandenburg Gate.
Cagney proves himself an expert farceur with a glib, full-throttled characterization. Although some of Buchholz delivery has more bark than bite, he reveals a considerable flair for comedy. Pretty Tiffin scores with a convincing display of mental density.
Another significant factor in the comedy is Andre Previn’s score, which incorporates semi-classical and period pop themes (like Saber Dance and ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’) to great advantage throughout the film.
1961: Nomination: Best B&W Cinematography