There is a fundamental torpor about Seesaw that is less troublesome on stage that it is on screen, a medium of motion that exaggerates its absence, that emphasizes the slightest hint of listlessness. On film, it drags. It drags in spite of the charm, insight, wit and compassion of William Gibson’s play, the savvy and sense of scenarist Isobel Lennart’s mild revisions and additions, the infectious friskiness of Shirley MacLaine’s performance and the consummate care taken by those who shaped and mounted the film reproduction.
The basic flaws appear to be the play’s innate talkiness and the unbalance of the two-way ‘see-saw’. The selection of Robert Mitchum for the role of Jerry Ryan proves not to have a been a wise one. The strong attraction Gittel is supposed to feel for Jerry becomes less plausible because of Mitchum’s lethargic, droopy-eyed enactment. Something more appealing and magnetic is needed to make this love affair ring true.
MacLaine’s performance in the meaty role of the disarmingly candid, stupendously kindhearted Gittel Mosca, is a winning one. Her handling of the Yiddish dialect and accompanying mannerisms is sufficiently reserved so that it does not lapse into a kind of gittal-gitterless caricature.
1962: Nominations: Best B&W Cinematography, Song (‘Second Chance’)