Sunday, May 17, 2009

Boeing Boeing (1965)

I officially give up on 1960s sex comedies. Enough is enough.

"Boeing Boeing" (1965), also known as "Boeing (707) Boeing (707)", is a sex comedy starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis.

Curtis plays Bernard, a reporter in Paris who has an apartment he shares with 3 female flight attendants. None of these women know anything about each other; they're all lead to believe this is their permanent home and that Bernard is their fiance. He makes sure they're all away at the appropriate times by keeping strict control of their schedules and noting the times when they're away on their respective flight schedules.

This is skeevy enough, but his maid Bertha (Thelma Ritter doing the same damn role she did in every movie she made) helps him in his scheme. She changes out the ladies' underwear so the German woman doesn't accidentally find the French woman's bras, changes the photo in the living room to the appropriate girlfriend, stuff like that. Even takes the blame when something suspicious happens so that the girlfriends hate her and think she's the cause of all the weird goings-on. Bertha's ire is almost always directed at the women, too, while she's just moderately frustrated with Bernard.

Not skeevy enough? Good, there's more! Bernard's acquaintance Robert (Jerry Lewis) arrives and decides he likes the set-up so much he's going to steal it from him. Not just the apartment, but the three girlfriends and even Bertha, who he lies to in an extended scene where he tries to woo her away from Bernard.

When I said aloud that this was incredibly skeevy, my husband noted that this wasn't just skeeve, it was a case of "skeeve vs counterskeeve".

Basically, it's yet another 60s sex comedy where women are things. They are rarely referred to by their names, instead referred to by the airline they work for; the German woman is called "Lufthansa", the English woman "British United", etc. They're credited this way on the IMDb.

In the opening credits the actresses' measurements (i.e. 36-24-36) are listed under their real names, with no mention of the characters. So it's not just that the characters are objectified, the actresses themselves are turned into nothing more than objects valued based on the size of their breasts and buttocks.

The best part was when Bertha, told to keep girlfriend Lise away from the other two girlfriends, drugged her with so much sleeping potion she really thought she'd killed her. Ha ha! The fun we have!

The film isn't even funny, so you can't make the argument that objectification is all in fun. There aren't many jokes, it's all Scooby Doo-like hijinks with the running around airports and the hiding women in rooms and the hey. Curtis has all the charisma of soggy cardboard and the comedic talent of dry oats. Thelma Ritter... god, don't talk to me about Thelma Ritter. The most annoying actress on the planet. All she does is play the goofy maid, or sometimes a mom who pretends to be a maid. That she was nominated for an Oscar 6 damn times for playing the same role says as much about the Oscars as it does about her.

Jerry Lewis is wonderful and is sadly, sorely, terribly wasted in this film. The female leads are played as stereotypes, given bad wigs and stilted dialogue, and are all as wasted in their roles as Lewis was. Susanna Leigh's role in "The Deadly Bees" was a lot better than her role here, as was her performance. Go watch "The Deadly Bees" and leave "Boeing Boeing" alone.

As to this genre of movie? Enough. There are so many good movies to watch and, as the cliche says, so little time. I've given the 1960s sex comedy enough of a chance that I'm confident that it will not be a mistake if I avoid it for the rest of my life.


  1. They didn't even get the pun right. It's pronounced "going," not Boing. Maybe this should be remade as a stoner comedy called "Boeing, Boeing, Bong!"

  2. HAHAHAHAHAHA I love it!

    Jerry does try his best at the punchline to make the words sound both like "Boeing" and "boing", but it's still a stretch. The film was originally a French stage play, so perhaps "Boeing" didn't translate well.