Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
A pleasant comedy supposedly shot in Tokyo during the 1964 Olympic games, Walk, Don't Run is
Cary Grant's last film. Often cited as a low point for the end of his career, it's simply a mild
and amusing romantic comedy with the aim of providing a relaxed good time. As such, it's a
rather unique film, especially when seen in its proper widescreen format as on Columbia's handsome
Businessman William Rutland (Cary Grant) needs a room in Toyko. He's several days
early for his hotel reservation, and the 1964 Olympics have the town booked up. Rutland bulls his
way into taking a room from Christine Easton (Samantha Eggar), a proper young woman who really
wanted a female roommate. Then he brings in Steve Davis (Jim Hutton), an American architect and
Olympic athlete. The three of them have some low-key cohabitation adventures, observed by Christine's
friend Aiko Kurawa (Miiko Taka, of
Sayonara). Busybody Rutland also
schemes to make Easton and Davis recognize their attraction one for another - even though Christine
is engaged to Consul staffer Julius Haversack (John Standing).
The plot of Walk, Don't Run can be summed up in a sentence or two, and there's really not
much more to it than that. Two Englishmen and an American share an apartment and interact with a
stuffy diplomat, some polite Olympic athletes, troublesome Russian snoops and a
number of uniformly pleasant Japanese - but there's no theme about international relations to be
found, except for the obvious one of Harmony.
The Tokyo citizens who see Grant's trousers fall into the street and watch him climb into second
story windows, are tolerant straight men for a half-hour's worth of silent-style comedy that will
either charm or irritate, depending on one's patience in waiting for something to happen. Director
Charles Walters constructs the world of the film out of the personalities of the stars.
Although the beautiful, freckled Eggar is made to play the exaggerated fussbudget type, putting
activities like shaving and showers on tight schedules, she's not overly criticized. Hutton and
Grant (especially Grant) do force themselves into her life, and Grant does perform some Cupid
manipulations to get Hutton and Eggar together, but it's nothing that extreme.
The Japan we see is all carefully controlled. Well-known stars (Miiko Taka, Teru Shimada)
play the few parts to be had, and the trailer's claim that the entire film was shot in
Tokyo must have meant Toho studios, because all of the interiors and many of the exteriors
are clearly soundstage sets. Even the Olympics scenes are doubled - a couple of cutaways to events in
progress look like outtakes from
Tokyo Olympiad. There's no attempt
to disguise the traveloggy context of the foreigners' tour boat trip, etc., but then again, one isn't going
to get a docu look at Tokyo in this film, either.
As for the Olympics, the plot keeps the actual event
in which Hutton is competing a secret. It's a glaring flaw that he spends no time at all in training for his big day,
and his entire pre-event Olympic experience is one informal dinner feast - as if the athletes wouldn't
be carefully watching every calorie they ate before their big contests.
The marginalizing of the Olympics storyline leads Savant to suspect that the script started as a non-Games
story along the lines of
The More the Merrier, a 1943 George Stevens comedy about a housing shortage that puts Cupid Charles
Coburn in charge of Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur. That was a Columbia picture too, so maybe Walk, Don't Run
started with a trip to the script file room ...
All the plot complications are rather muted. The mixup with the suspicious Soviet chaperone is probably
not farfetched, and leads to the run-in with a police captain nicely played by
George Takei, soon to take off with Star Trek. It's like so many old screwball comedies where
all the characters end up in front of a flabbergasted judge, except the tone is ... relaxed. It's
as if Grant wanted a serene vehicle in which to bow out.
Also on board from the screwball comedy is the obligatory fifth-wheel fiancee who provides an impediment to
the blooming romance. There's never a trace of doubt that Eggar will chose the lanky, sincere Hutton
over poor John Standing, who condemns himself to second-place by being a boor and by paying
insufficient attention to her. Ironically, Grant's character is a knighted industrialist, but actor Standing is
in reality a titled Baronet, which we know from On Her Majesty's Secret Service is 'some kind
of inferior Baron'. So what's he doing in Val Guest's softcore
Au Pair Girls?
In the same year's Man's Favorite Sport?, Howard Hawks tried to revitalize the screwball
formula with Rock Hudson and Jim Hutton's familiar co-star, Paula Prentiss, but the proceedings
were (pleasantly) false and artificial whenever plot gags got in the way of the star personalities.
Walk, Don't Run
seems to know that just spending some time with Grant, Hutton and Eggar is pleasure enough, and
recognizes the gag trimmings for what they are. The fact that Grant is an
electronics industrialist gives him a remote control device with which he opens and closes the
paper screens in Eggar's apartment. But the gizmo is so underplayed that its use to open the
'Walls of Jericho' for the two lovers is a throwaway.
Walk, Don't Run seems to convey Grant's satisfied attitude after a long and rewarding career. The film is
like his last day in High School, walking the halls with no books to carry and no classes to attend,
just feeling like everything's going to be okay.
As many reviewers have pointed out, Grant's last scenes are like a baton-passing to a younger
generation of actor. He exits with a smile to rejoin his wife in England, leaving the romance to the kids.
As an alumni of the first generation of talkie stars, Grant couldn't leave the youngsters a
studio system that would sustain their careers, as Hollywood did his. Hutton and Eggar were part of the last
generation of studio-promoted stars, and would soon have to fend for themselves.
Columbia TriStar's DVD of Walk, Don't Run looks great in its Panavision screen shape - Savant
tried watching the film flat many years ago, and it was a disaster. The low-key Laurel & Hardy comedy
moments require the context of empty space around the befuddled Grant; when pan-scanned, the picture becomes
incomprehensible. A pan-scan version is included on the disc, and it does indeed look claustrophobic;
we can't appreciate the constricted floor plan of the Tokyo apartment. The sound is simple and nicely recorded, even
Grant's sly humming of the themes from Charade and An Affair to Remember as inside
There are subs in English, French and Japanese, and a trailer as an extra.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Walk, Don't Run rates:
Movie: Very Good
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: May 8, 2003
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson