Olive Film’s Father Goose

The B-Movie Isle: Olive Film’s Father Goose (Signature Edition)

The B-Movie Isle/Adam takes a look at the Cary Grant action comedy Father Goose also starring Leslie Caron.  The Blu-Ray is being released by Olive Films in their Signature Edition line that’s limited to 3,500 units.  How does the film line up to modern action comedies?  Does Grant bring his signature wit and touch to the film?  Do Caron and Grant make a good onscreen couple though Caron was 33 and Grant was 60?  Read on…

The Film

The second to last film that Cary Grant starred in Father Goose is an amiable fun film.  Think of it as Gran Torino without the racism and darkness.  It’s one of those grumpy old men with a heart of gold performances that luckily only counts as one for Grant and not many.  Here Grant plays a scoundrel of a salty sea dog enlisted to the Australian Royal Navy as WWII has begun proper.  In order to keep his boat and stay fresh in booze Grant’s Walt Eckland code name Mother Goose becomes a coastal watcher ensuring that the Navy is in the known about possible incoming attacks.

Of course Eckland does not stay at his post alone.  A bid for freedom turns very wrong for Eckland as he finds himself saddled with half a dozen school girls and their ward (played by the amazing Leslie Caron).  This is the heart of Father Goose, Grant vs. the unruly school girls and Caron.  Part of the fun is seeing how quickly the school girls and Caron inject themselves into every piece Eckland’s life much to his chagrin.

Grant and Caron are sadly the biggest misstep in an otherwise delightful action comedy.  The insistence on having some sort of romantic subplot no matter how minor or surface level is wrong headed in every way.  Grant definitely shows every bit of his 60 years and it’s almost comical against Caron’s youthful 33 years.  As it’s only a minor plot point it isn’t as huge a problem as other films of the era but it does need to be noted that though Caron is great the forced upon romance could have been better suited by either recasting Grant for someone younger or Caron for someone older.

With that said Grant and Caron have great chemistry as does Grant with all of the kids in the film.  Father Goose understands exactly what it should be from the moment that it begins and through the entirety of the film.  It makes no pretensions about it being a film that is designed to be enjoyed and entertain all.  It’s a studio produced film in the best possible way.

Lush vistas, charming script and a game cast take this particular subgenre and gives it’s a shiny new coat.  Grant is great hear playing against type, his Eckland is dirty, tattered, drunk of a bastard.  He has no qualms with drinking in front of children and ensure that his needs are met before anyone else.  Father Goose is a semi-forgotten gem that definitely deserves to be rediscovered as it’s a fun time to be had by all.

The Transfer

The new Restoration from 4K Scan of Original Camera Negative looks beautiful in all of its early 1960’s era pastel glory.  The film was filmed on location in the Caribbean and it looks simply beautiful.  There’s some minor specs of dirt but that seems to be inherent on the print that is negligible.  The new scan brings out a razor-sharp picture without any sort of DNR.  They’ve managed to keep a healthy amount of grain on the transfer that makes the picture feel like a great archival print.

The Extras

They include the following

  • Audio commentary by film historian David Del Valle
  • Unfinished Business: Cary Grant’s Search for Fatherhood and His Oscar – with Marc Eliot, author of Cary Grant: A Biography
  • My Father – internet pioneer Ted Nelson discusses director Ralph Nelson
  • Universal Newsreel footage featuring Leslie Caron
  • Essay by Village Voicecritic Bilge Ebiri

The two featurettes on the disc are great in giving context to the production.

Unfinished Business: Cary Grant’s Search for Fatherhood and His Oscar is a documentary about the later life of Cary Grant and gives context to Father Goose as a film and in his career.

My Father is an interview with son of director Ralph Nelson, Ted talking about his father and the making of Father Goose.

The commentary is pretty great commentary by Del Valle where he talks about the actual production (who knew Jamaica could stand in for the South Pacific).

The vintage “newsreel” footage of Leslie Caron is fascinating from modern lenses showing just how much things have not changed in the EPK-Game.

The Bottom Shelf

Father Goose is the sort of delightful twist that is going to distinguish the label’s boutique editions from Criterion and others. The film is a family adventure comedy that will delight any Film Geek.  Those willing to adventure will be justly rewarded.  Recommended.

Father Goose is available to purchase now from Olive Films.

There are 4 comments

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  1. Bob Hovey

    I think you’ll like it, just be warned that it has a similar Neanderthal sensibility regarding male-female relationships, archaic even for the time (not totally unexpected, given John Ford’s age and background). I’d say that if you can contextualize John Wayne’s treatment of Maureen O’Hara in “The Quiet Man,” then “Donovan’s Reef” shouldn’t offer many surprises.

    • Adam Kautzer

      Yeah, anytime you’re dealing with pre-70’s era films its that mentality unfortunately. It comes with watching Classic Era Hollywood films. I really like The Quiet Man, so this has only upped the ante for me to check out Donovan’s Reef. Thanks again Bob!

  2. Bob Hovey

    Nice review, Adam. I don’t really have as much of a problem with the age difference since I always kinda considered Grant ageless until he went grey, plus Caron was playing a dour, spinsterish character that read as older than she was at the time. I remember seeing this in the theater when it came out, I was probably eleven or twelve. Forgotten gem indeed … I’ve mentioned the film to friends many times over the years and I’m surprised how few people know of it. Hey, another romcom of the period that I think you might enjoy is John Ford’s “Donovan’s Reef,” it came out about the same year, also takes place in the south Pacific and also pairs an older, roguish John Wayne against a younger, spinsterish Elizabeth Allen (with nice support from a trio of magnetic kids, plus Lee Marvin, Caesar Romero, Jack Warden and Dorthy Lamour).

    • Adam Kautzer

      Thanks Bob!

      It really bothered me. Its the one big complaint I have about Rio Bravo (a film I adore) is that Ann Margret is like 21 and John Wayne is in his late 50’s to early 60’s. I think it’s one of those ticks that continually popup that I have a problem with. That said… I did love their chemistry together.

      Its funny because I can forgive pre-1980’s Rom Com’s of their trappings. Anything post-1977 (or Post-Annie Hall) I have major issues with often times. It’s one of the genres I feel like 99.9999% of fail miserably at. Funny thing though is that this year one of my favorite movies is a Rom Com (the delightful, funny and emotional The Big Sick).

      Donovan’s Reef is a film that’s been on my list for years. I think that I may have to bump it up towards the top based on your recommendation!

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