The crew aboard the USS Elmira are working on a project, code named Operation Honeymoon. At the operation's core is the testing of the Magnetic Analyzer Computing Synchrotron, or MACS for short, which is a smart computer designed to do among other things determine where missiles are going to land. Civilian Jason Eldridge is the scientific mastermind aboard in charge of MACS' operation. His friend aboard, Lieutenant Ferguson Howard, sees other possible uses for MACS. He wants to know if MACS, if given the proper data, can accurately predict games of chance, such as those found in casinos. After discussing the situation, Fergie and Jason decide the game which MACS can predict the most accurately is roulette. They decide to test MACS' abilities, and possibly get rich, at their next port of call where there is a casino, namely Venice. They plan on using a system of Morse Code light signals from the ship to shore to transmit the information. Although they go ahead with their plan, they are sidetracked by female distractions. Jason runs into his old girlfriend, hot dog heiress Pam Dunstan, who he left three years earlier because he felt he couldn't support her in the lifestyle to which she was accustomed. He is dismayed to learn that she is in Venice to get married to the pompous Tommy Dane, who works for the State Department. And Fergie meets a beautiful young girl named Julie Fitch, for who he instantly falls. He doesn't tell her of his naval occupation since her father is a naval admiral also in town. But problems for Jason and Fergie really begin when Admiral Fitch sees the transmission of messages to and from the ship, which he believes is enemy communication.
From the same director
Steve McQueen (Lt. Ferguson 'Fergie' Howard), Brigid Bazlen (Julie Fitch), Jim Hutton (Jason Eldridge), Paula Prentiss (Pam Dunstan), Dean Jagger (Admiral Fitch), Jack Weston (Signalman Burford Taylor), Jack Mullaney (Lt. Beauregard 'Beau' Gilliam), Marcel Hillaire (Inspector of casino games), Ben Astar (Russian consul), William Lanteau (Tommy Dane), Ken Lynch (Capt. James Angle), Simon Scott (Capt. Harvey Adam), Alex Ball (Patron of Cocktail Bar (uncredited)), John Bleifer (Second Russian (uncredited)), Paul Bradley (Roulette Croupier (uncredited)), George Bruggeman (Roulette Spectator (uncredited)), William Burnside (Roulette Spectator (uncredited)), Paul Cristo (Board Member (uncredited)), David Cross (Roulette Croupier (uncredited)), Oliver Cross (Roulette Spectator (uncredited)), Francis De Sales (U.S. Senator (uncredited)), Bess Flowers (Patron of Cocktail Bar (uncredited)), George Ford (Roulette Spectator (uncredited)), Sig Frohlich (Croupier (uncredited)), Kenneth Gibson (U.S. Senator (uncredited))...
Lawrence Weingarten (producer)
Lorenzo Semple's more deftly titled comedy, THE GOLDEN FLEECING, was missing something on Broadway. Even with master comedy director Abe Burrows at the helm and TV "name" Tom Poston in the lead (am I the only one who finds him dull?), it couldn't manage a better booking than the intimate Henry Miller's Theatre nor a run of more than 84 performances (Oct. 15 - Dec. 26, 1959) - ultimately bumped for the hit run of a serious Civil War drama, THE ANDERSONVILLE TRIAL which started 4 days later.
The Broadway run DID get a movie sale for Semple however, and hallelujah! Hollywood knew just how to handle the property. They polished the script, filled the roles with top drawer dramatic and farce players, changed the title to something sort of stupid, but which innocently implied sex (THE HONEYMOON MACHINE) and gave it a "Grade A" CinemaScope production.
Great farces MUST be played absolutely straight or they fall flat, and Dean Jagger's Admiral Fitch is a perfect example: he wraps up all the loose ends in a deadpan final confrontation even funnier than the "Hello, Daddy" court room scene in Streisand's hilarious WHAT'S UP DOC. The perfectly executed physical comedy of Jack Weston's drunken ballet on a hotel ledge is still funny (if possibly non-PC with the passing years), but probably the least funny part of this carefully scripted comedy caper film.
Steve McQueen, exuding more sex appeal than is normally on display in this sort of boulevard comedy, is a triumph his only unalloyed comedy role, showing a masterful gift for comic timing and farce delivery that makes it tragic he didn't find the genre to his taste despite the good notices he deserved and got. He's matched every step of the way by his fellow conspirators - especially Jim Hutton as the computer genius in a scam to use a Navy computer (the "machine" of the title) to perfect a "system" to break the bank at the Venice casino.
Naturally, romance (Paula Prentiss is a standout as a diplomat's straying fiancé - blind without her glasses) and other complications (like Cold War paranoia) ensue, and the result is one of those irresistible feel-good films which only gets better with repeated viewing.
There are those who just don't get the "well made" comedy, and since Hollywood rarely makes them anymore (they were a staple in the 1960's), we're not educating the palate for them these days. That's a pity, but for those who still DO enjoy them, this is one of the best. Take a 90 minute vacation on the Mediterranian!
Lt. Fergie Howard: Beau'll join you as soon as he gets into his civvies.
Lt. Beau Gilliam: My civvies?
Lt. Fergie Howard: You brought 'em, didn't ya?
Lt. Beau Gilliam: Yeah. But I won't wear 'em, Fergie.
Lt. Fergie Howard: I beg your pardon?
Lt. Beau Gilliam: Well you saw the duty board this morning. We were specifically ordered to wear whites. Any officer caught ashore in his civvies is gonna have his tail in a sling. And the order was signed by Admiral Fitch himself.
Lt. Fergie Howard: Old Foghorn.
Jason Eldridge: Fergie, we agreed not to break any regulations we didn't have to.
Lt. Fergie Howard: Uh huh. But we have to. We can't get into the casino in Navy uniforms. It's off limits.
Lt. Beau Gilliam: Off limits? And in civvies too? I'll be breaking two regulations at once!
Lt. Fergie Howard: That's right, it's sort of a package deal. Now get in there and get out of that uniform and that's an order, Lieutenant *junior* grade Gilliam!
Die Heiratsmaschine (Austria; West Germany) • A Máquina do Amor (Brazil) • The Honeymoon Machine (Canada (English title)) • En livlig landlov (Denmark) • Zafarrancho en el casino (Spain) • Kärlekens penningskvarn (Finland (Swedish title)) • Rakkauden rahamylly (Finland) • Branle-bas au casino (France) • Oloi gia to Monte Carlo! (Greece (transliterated ISO-LATIN-1 title)) • To mihanaki tou melitos (Greece (video title))
casino, admiral, computer, hotel, roulette, naval officer, u.s. navy, father daughter relationship, carabinieri, gondola, croupier, farce, reference to waterloo, reference to george washington, reference to napoleon, reference to admiral dewey, gambling, scheme, venice italy, animated credits, based on play
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