MacNamara is a managing director for Coca Cola in West Berlin in 1961, just before the Wall is put up. When Scarlett, the daughter of his boss, comes to West Berlin, MacNamara has to look after her, but this turns out to be a difficult task. After MacNamara has found out that Scarlett is seeing an East German communist named Otto, he goes to extreme lengths trying to conceal this from the girl's father in order to save his job.
James Cagney ... C.R. MacNamara
Horst Buchholz ... Otto Ludwig Piffl
Pamela Tiffin ... Scarlett Hazeltine
Arlene Francis ... Phyllis MacNamara
Howard St. John ... Wendell P. Hazeltine
Hanns Lothar ... Schlemmer
Leon Askin ... Peripetchikoff
Ralf Wolter ... Borodenko
Karl Lieffen ... Fritz (chauffeur)
Hubert von Meyerinck ... Count von Droste Schattenburg
Loïs Bolton ... Melanie Hazeltine (as Lois Bolton)
Peter Capell ... Mishkin
Til Kiwe ... Reporter
Henning Schlüter ... Dr. Bauer
Karl Ludwig Lindt ... Zeidlitz
Director: Billy Wilder
Codecs: XVid / MP3
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.
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."
"One, Two, Three" is a marvelously, funny film. It has an energy that you can't help but get caught up in.
From the time you hear the first few bars of "The Sabre Dance" thru the final shot of James Cagney, you are on a constant roller coaster, and you don't want to get off. It is a manic, wild movie that never disappoints or lets down.
The engine that drives this lunacy is James Cagney. In one of his best, funniest and energetic performances, he is nothing short of amazing. He is a whirling dervish, at the heart of a storm that he has no control over. I don't want to give any of the story away, suffice to say that he is nothing short of spectacular. In Cameron Crowe's book on Billy Wilder, Wilder laments that Cagney was so loud and energetic at the start of the film, that his character really has nowhere to go, in terms of building, and reacting to the chaos. I would agree with that assessment, but Cagney's performance does not let the audience stop and catch it's breath long enough for this to really be a factor.
Wilder and Diamond have brought us another gem. Is there another writing team that within a span of three years, have created three better pictures than the ones they have given us (Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, One,Two,Three)? I doubt it.
Kudos all around to the supporting cast as well. Especially, Arlene Francis, as Cagney's wife, and Lilo Pulver as his secretary. Also watch for some "inside" jokes. Like when Cagney threatens Horst Buchholz with a grapefruit, and Red Buttons, in a cameo, doing a Cagney imitation.
* At one point MacNamara, played by James Cagney, threatens Otto with half a grapfruit so that the scene resembles the famous one in The Public Enemy (1931), Cagney pushed into Mae Clarke's face.
* Red Buttons, in a small role as an MP, does a Cagney imitation to James Cagney.
* After he learns Scarlett is pregnant, James Cagney moans, "Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?" This was Edward G. Robinson's famous line from Little Caesar (1931).
* The voice of Count von Droste Schattenburg (played on screen by Hubert von Meyerinck) is that of Sig Ruman.
* The building of the Berlin Wall had begun in the night of August 13, 1961, right through the set at the Brandenburger Tor. The team, discovering the change in the morning, had to move to Munich to shoot the missing scenes on the parking lot of the Bavaria Film Studios, where a copy of the lower half of the Brandenburger Tor had to be built.
* Billy Wilder made James Cagney do over 30 takes of a scene because Cagney kept saying "coat and striped pants" instead of "morning coat and striped pants."
* In James Cagney's autobiography, he says that Horst Buchholz was the only actor he really hated working with because he was uncooperative and tried all kinds of scene-stealing moves, which Cagney depended on Billy Wilder to correct. Had Wilder not firmly directed Bucholz, Cagney said that he "was going to knock Buchholz on his ass, which at several points I would have been very happy to do".
* At the "Grand Hotel Potemkin", the band plays the song "Yes, We Have No Bananas" (in German of course). This song is used in Billy Wilder's previous film, Sabrina (1954)
* Pamela Tiffin was reportedly having trouble acting with such experienced performers. Legend has it that James Cagney helped her by giving her the famous advice about acting: "Walk into a room. Plant yourself. Look the other fella in the eye and tell the truth."
* When Billy Wilder was at Paramount, he often clashed with an executive at the studio named Y. Frank Freeman. Freeman was from Georgia and would often brag about his extensive holdings of Coca-Cola stock. That relationship was part of the inspiration for this project.
* In addition to the "Yes, We Have No Bananas" song, Billy Wilder also borrowed the climactic switcheroo from Sabrina (1954) right down to the hat and umbrella. Piffl goes to London instead of MacNamara, just as Linus Larrabee goes to Paris instead of David Larrabee.
* The building of the Berlin Wall during production badly hurt the film's marketing in Germany. It was very ill-received by German audiences and had minimal success during its initial run.
* When asked in 1974 why he made a film about Coca Cola, Billy Wilder responded, "I just think Coca-Cola to be funny. And when I drink it, it seems even funnier to me."
* James Cagney had such a negative experience making this picture that he retired from films for 20 years until his cameo in Ragtime (1981).
* Joan Crawford (then on the board of PepsiCo) telephoned director Billy Wilder to protest the movie's Coca-Cola connection. Wilder then added a final scene in which James Cagney buys four bottles of Coke from a vending machine. The last bottle out of the machine isn't Coke - but another brand... of Pepsi.
* The instruction at the front of Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond's screenplay reads: "This piece must be played molto furioso". Suggested speed: 110 miles an hour - on the curves - 140 miles an hour in the straightways. "
* At one point Cagney says, "I wish I were in hell with my back broken," a line Billy Wilder used in at least two of his earlier films. Humphrey Bogart says the same line in "Sabrina", and Akim Tamiroff says a slight variation, "I wish I were in a black pit with my back broken," in "Five Graves to Cairo".
* The Brandenburg Gate figures rather prominently in this film. It and the rest of the border between East and West Berlin were closed on August 13, 1961, only months before this film was released.