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Berlin: City in the Movies
Posted February 19, 2010 to photo album "Berlin: City in the Movies"
Scott Macaulay clicks through the various characters this city has played.
Slide 4: One, Two, Three - City of the West
Two of Billy Wilder’s best films were set in Berlin. There was his 1948 romantic comedy A Foreign Affair and then, in 1961, his hilarious, breakneck-paced political satire, One Two Three. Set in a city divided among the Allied powers but before the erection of the Berlin Wall, the film stars James Cagney as a Coca Cola executive sent to open the German soft drink market to the U.S. fizzy stuff. Along the way he’s given the task of shepherding the boss’ daughter on her visit to the city. Political comedy and screwball farce blend when she reveals that she’s in love with an East German Communist and that they plan to decamp to Moscow. The film’s comic vision of Berlin as a melting pot of flustered company men and hapless apparatchiks was tempered upon its release by the film’s collision with real-life events. The Wall was built shortly after the film shot. When it was released, the New Yorker wrote that Wilder had built a “circus tent on grounds that threaten to become a cemetery.” But when interviewed by Playboy later about the film’s production challenges, Wilder was defiantly irreverent. He said, “We got to Berlin the day they sealed off the Eastern sector and wouldn’t let people come across the border. It was like making a picture in Pompeii with all the lava coming down. Khrushchev was even faster than me and [co-writer I.A.L.] Diamond. We had to make continuous revisions to keep up with the headlines. It seemed to me that the whole thing could have been straightened out if Oleg Cassini had sent Mrs. Khrushchev a new dress. But we weren’t afraid of creating an incident like Mr. Paar. We minded our manners and were good boys. When they told us we couldn’t use the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, we went to Munich and built our own.”