On paper, The One and Only must have looked like a surefire hit. After all, the 1978 romantic comedy starred Henry Winkler, aka The Fonz -- resident icon of television's hugely successful Happy Days -- and was helmed by Carl Reiner, who had scored box-office gold the year before with Oh, God! How could it possibly go wrong?
Easy, at least when your hero is an unlikable and untalented clod. Try as he might, Winkler was unable to make The One and Only's uber-obnoxious protagonist anything beyond insufferable.
He stars as Andy Schmidt, a supremely cocky (to say nothing of delusional) actor whose self-confidence is exceeded only by his sheer intolerability. After a mildly amusing prologue showing Andy as a little kid in the late 1930s, we shift to his collegiate life. He meets sweet Mary Crawford (Kim Darby) and inexplicably woos her with his brashness. The young woman is drawn to his arrogance. "Do you ever have doubts?" she asks rhetorically. "Yes," he says, "Thursdays." Rim shot.
In the process, Andy sabotages Mary's engagement to a pipe-smoking pre-med student (presumably the pipe makes him an uptight ass), tosses her out of the car for not sufficiently stroking his ego and alienates himself from her justifiably concerned parents (William Daniels and Polly Holiday). But Andy's stalker-like tenacity wears down Mary's resistance. "What I am is great!" he tells her, eyes a-blazin'. "I know it, and you're afraid of it!"
Andy drags Mary to New York City so he can pursue his dreams of stardom. Unable to find work, he eventually meets up with another wannabe actor, a womanizing dwarf named Milton Miller (Hervé Villechaize)., who introduces Andy to the over-the-top theatrics of professional wrestling.
The One and Only was written by Steve Gordon, who would have better luck with a challenging hero a few years later when he wrote and directed Arthur. That film benefited mightily from Dudley Moore's impish charm. Henry Winkler cannot breathe life into Andy Schmidt.
A romantic comedy does not necessarily require a hero we love, but at the very least he or she should be interesting. Andy isn't just all hat, no cattle - he isn't even beef bullion. He's a ham, not a thespian, and his pro-wrestling shtick -- a Hitler clone, a Gorgeous George parody -- is disappointingly bland. Subsequently, it stretches suspension of disbelief to swallow that Mary sees much redeemable in this nutjob.
In the end, The One and Only actually has a few funny moments. Reiner and Gordon are too clever not to eke out some humor, particularly from such dependable supporting players as Villechaize, Holiday, Daniels and Gene Saks as a grizzled rasslin' promoter. But it ain't enough.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1, the picture quality is serviceable but inconsistent. The beginning minutes reveal slight grain and flecks, but the remainder of the print transfer appears devoid of noticeable artifacts such as combing or ghosting.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 is adequate for this dialogue-driven film. There is no distortion or drop-out.
Nada. Nothing. Zilch.
The One and Only ... rental. And that's being generous.