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"Father Goose"

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Character's Name: Walter Eckland
Release Date:  December 24, 1964
Director: Ralph Nelson
Studio:  Universal-International
Running Time: 115 minutes

Cast: Cary Grant (Walter Eckland), Leslie Caron (Catherine Freneau), Trevor Howard (Commodore Frank Houghton), Jack Good (Houghton), Sharyl Locke (Jenny), Pip Sparke (Anne), Verina Greenlaw (Christine), Stephanie Berrington (Elizabeth), Jennifer Berrington (Harriet), Laurlle Felsette (Angelique), Nicole Felsette (Dominique)

Interview with Stephanie Berrington McNutt
child co-star of Father Goose

Warbride, Esther Park, has done a delightful interview with Stephanie Berrington, one of the girls who co-starred with Cary Grant in "Father Goose."
Click on photo to read the interview

- by ZoŽ Shaw
Eckland is forced to volunteer as a lookout for Japanese forces, and is posted on a South Pacific island alone. While attempting to rescue another watcher on another island, he ends up bringing Catherine and seven little girls to his hut. They take over his home and attempt to improve his habits.

- by ZoŽ Shaw
This film is set in 1941 as the Japanese advance and the Australians withdraw from the South Pacific islands. Cary Grant plays Walter Eckland, an American ex-professor who fled to the islands before the war to escape civilization. He is ill-tempered and has a passion for whiskey.

Eckland is persuaded to "volunteer" as a lookout for Japanese forces, and is posted on a South Pacific island alone. He attempts to rescue a watcher from another island, but turns up too late and finds him dead. Instead he discovers Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron) - the daughter of the French Consul - and seven little girls who were students at the consulate. He takes them to his hut where they take over his home and attempt to improve his habits. Walter and Catherine fall in love and are married by the Military Radio.

This is my favourite Cary Grant film. Cary's part is so unlike any other that he played- he subdues his usual suave, sleek self in favour of a bearded, bad-tempered scruff. And yet you can still see his charm shining through. The film is full of great one liners, and has one of the most original scripts that I know of. In particular look out for the scenes containing "Is it morning already?" and "That was no lady, that was my wife!". Cary works exceptionally well with children and CG and LC are a delightful combination that should NOT be missed!!!

VARIETY Film Review - November 18, 1964
- by "Whit"
- submitted by Barry Martin
Cary Grant comes up with an about-face change of character in this World War II comedy which at first may shock many of his more avid femme followers but provides the basis for some crackling good humor and a made-to-order plot unquestionably destined for handsome grosses at box office.  As a Japanese plane watcher on a deserted South Sea isle Grant plays an unshaven bum addicted to tippling and tattered attire, a long way from the suave figure he usually projects but affording him opportunity for nutty characterization.  Leslie Caron and Trevor Howard are valuable assists to plottage which brings in a flock of refugee kids.

Under Ralph Nelson's shrewd helming the Peter Stone - Frank Tarloff screenplay takes amusing form as Grant, who plies the South Seas in his own cruiser at the beginning of the war, is pressed into service by Australian Navy Commander Howard to man a strategic watching station.  Grant agrees only when an Aussie gunboat rams his launch, making it unusable.  He is further disheartened when Howard secrets his liquid store on the island, with Howard revealing the whereabouts of the supply, bottle by bottle, only when the reluctant and complaining reports enemy planes, which then must be confirmed by watchers on other islands.

Into this harassed existence, then, comes further harassment when Grant crosses 40 miles of open sea in an eight-foot dinghy to rescue another watcher, but ends up with Miss Caron and seven young girls, marooned there when a pilot who was transporting them to safety from New Guinea was ordered to pick up survivors of a crashed bomber.  Situation of Grant being unwillingly saddled with his femme flock cues the hilarity as Miss Caron, the height of primness until she becomes inebriated when she thinks she's dying of snake-bite, takes over.

Some of the gags are a bit shopworn but generally funny as Grant guns his character to the hilt.  His romance with Miss Caron, too, ending in marriage by a chaplain over the radio, is a bit too sudden, after a single evening of her guzzling, but lends itself to the mood and spirit achieved in the overall unfoldment.  Film has a fast climax as Grant puts out from the island in his repaired launch to draw the fire of a Japanese gunboat, and an American sub blasts the Nip craft out of the water.

Grant delivers with his customary aplomb, socking over his character in resounding fashion, and Miss Caron displays an aptitude for comedy.  Howard, as the Aussie commander, spends most of his time at the radio talking with Grant, whose identifying code name is Mother Goose, a clever piece of acting in which patience to his civilian watcher's complaints is the dominating element.  Jack Good gets a few laughs as his stuffy aide, and the seven young girls play their parts well.

Digby Wolfe's over-main-titles warbling of the song, "Pass Me By," cleffed by Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, is catchy, and technical credits are all on plus side.  Deserving mentions are Charles Lang Jr.'s color photography, Ted J Kent's editing, Alexander Golitzen-Henry Bumstead's art direction.  Producer Robert Arthur coordinated his duties with sure showmanship.  

NEW YORK TIMES Film Review - December 11, 1964
- by Bosley Crowther
- submitted by Barry Martin
Santa Claus made his customary early appearance at the Music Hall yesterday, dropping off a big delivery of holiday fare for stage and screen.  For the stage show, he set down the traditional "Nativity" pageant and variety revue; for the screen, he unpacked a cozy comedy, with Cary Grant and Leslie Caron, called "Father Goose."

Perhaps it would be more explicit to describe the film as a modern fairy tale or a good-natured gullibles' fable set in the South Pacific in World War II.  For it isn't the sort of picture that pretends to a precise reality or offers a hardship story that you are expected  to believe for one moment.

It's a cheerfully fanciful fable about a boozy beach-comber (Mr. Grant) who finds himself not only shanghaied to be a wartime coastwatcher for the Australian Navy on a lonely island in the New Guinea group, but also finds himself having to share his perilous outpost with a gaggle of stranded schoolgirls and their prissy custodian, played by Miss Caron.

Exposed to a literal inspection, a serious situation of this sort might well appear painfully unfunny and end in distress or tragedy.  But literalness was obviously as distant from the minds of Peter Stone and Frank Tarloff, who wrote the script, and Ralph Nelson, who directed their whimsy, as it was from the minds of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein 2d when they set a previous romantic fable on a South Pacific isle.

This is a filmland fabrication in which the conflict is not so much between the Allied forces in the South Pacific and the oncoming Japanese as it is between an Aussie naval commander on one end of a radiophone and the marooned coastwatcher on the other, trying to find out where the commander has hidden the booze.  And, after the kids and their custodian are wedged into our hero's cluttered shack, it is a conflict between Man the Master and the overwhelming forces of the female sex.

Sure there are flurries of wild excitement when Japanese aircraft appear overhead, or those treacherous little gunboats come nosing in from offshore.  But most of the action and the interest are in the acid word battles between Big Bad Wolf, the Aussie commander, and the code-named Father Goose or in the battles of wits between the coastwatcher and Goody Two Shoes, the French school marm, after she arrives.

Obviously, it is a conflict between the urge to be irresponsible and the will to be efficient and tidy that we have in this lively comedy.  The old Adam, snarly and rebellious, is called to task by a prim and proper Eve.  With our social expectations, as demonstrated before this in such films as Charles Laughton's "The Beachcomber" and Humphrey Bogart's and Katharine Hepburn's "The African Queen," it shouldn't be hard to anticipate which of the characters wins.

It is not the outcome of the battle but the way it is played that makes the film, and, on our critical scoresheet, the points favor Mr. Grant.  Miss Caron is cuddly and amusing when she finally gets pleasantly soused (after suffering what is feared to be a fatal snakebite and breaks out of her script-imposed shell.

But it is Mr. Grant's blustering and bristling in his filthy old clothes and a scraggly beard, rising in righteous indignation and shooting barbed shafts of manly with that make for the major personality and most pungent humor in the film.  It is not a very deep character or a very real one, but it is fun.

Next to his, Trevor Hoard's performance of the Aussie commander is most provocative of laughs.  And points are scored intermittently by the clutter of seven little girls.

Nothing of any great significance is achieved by this intensely colored film - noting except some harmless entertainment.  But that's the order for the Christmas holidays.

- Kathy Fox
This is Grant's next to last film (the 71st), made in 1964, and his only movie with Leslie Caron.  Grant plays Walter Eckland, a misanthropic unkempt man who has been living on a South Pacific island for many years.  He is approached by Australian navy commander Frank Houghton who needs Eckland to be a lookout for advancing Japanese forces in World War II and persuades him to volunteer.  Eckland being very familiar with all the islands is sent to another island to help another lookout but ends up finding Catherine Freneau (Caron), daughter of the French Consul at Rabaul, instead, and seven children entrusted to her care who have been stranded on the island.  They all pile in Eckland's dingy and return to the island where Walter is stationed.  Walter and Catherine begin to fall in love, as Catherine and the children begin to change his life; he is the drunken, unshaven master, hard to get along with, whose call signal over the radio is "Mother Goose."  Caron is the caring, correcting, organizer, and they are the direct opposite of one another.  Grant and Caron are very attractive together and this film must have been great fun to make.  So precious and tender is the scene where they are being married but there is no wedding ring available, so Walter places a band-aide on her third finger, left hand and kisses the makeshift ring.  One of Cary's many signature traits in his films is kissing the hand of his beloved.  The Japanese finally find them on the island, but everyone is saved when Eckland leads the Japanese destroyer out to sea in his newly fixed boat to be torpedoed by the submarine lying off the reef which has come to their rescue.  It is interesting to note that the same submarine torpedo launch was used in the movie OPERATION PETTICOAT in 1959, both pictures made by University-International.  When you think about it, how many times has Grant been shot at during his lifetime and he always is so heroic about it, calm, cool and collected.  This is a heart-warming story, which started out being produced entirely by Grant; however his chores eventually were taken over by Robert Arthur.  Grant wanted Audrey Hepburn in the female role, but she was not available.  One review from The New Yorker stated, "Cary Grant can go on making versions of this silly, attractive picture for another twenty years at least."   This was a turn about from Grant's usual suave and charming roles, but all in all, still so obviously very attractive and in total command of his career.  Just the opposite in real life, he is dating Dyan Canon, will marry her on July 22, 1965, and that marriage will be short-lived though, giving him at the age of sixty-two years what he had always longed for, a precious child in the name of Jennifer.

Click here to read Jenny's Crackpot Reviews at the Cary Grant Shrine

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