I’m conflicted, because I’m a c**t who’s trying not to come across as a c**t particularly through the United Press Association of VultureHound. But when Michael Dickinson, the Emperor at the very top of the VultureHound empire, steps off his Death Star walks over to my desk and slaps films like Never Say Goodbye down in front of me, then (I’m not going to use the c word again. It was just for effect to “hook you in”), my “nasty nature” comes uncontrollably to the fore.
Never Say Goodbye should be retitled Never Watch This Film Ever. I apologise to the film intelligentsia of VultureHound but on this occasion there isn’t a more eloquent way to put it.
Never Say Goodbye is the story of ex-army doctor and prominent surgeon Michael Parker (heartthrob Rock Hudson) who unexpectedly runs into his German born wife Lisa (Cornell Borchers) who he met ‘during the war’, whom he thought was dead. The film begins in the present (1956) with Dr Parker about to go on a business trip to make a speech at a prominent surgeon’s convention. After the speech Parker is invited by some ‘ol’ buddies to a very good bar for ‘just one glass’ of beer. At this bar is an annoyingly charming sketch artist called Victor (George Sanders- voice of Shere Khan in the original Jungle Book) who goes around drawing caricatures of the patrons for tips. Victor works as a double act with the pianist, who happens to be Dr Parker’s wife! Whom he thought was dead!! Which is made clear at the beginning of the film in a scene with Parker’s daughter Suzy (Shelly Fabares) admiring the shrine of her dead mother- who isn’t really dead, she just plays piano at bars in New York. This unexpected meeting between Parker and his ‘wife’ leads (flash)back to Vienna 1945 where Parker is stationed as an army doctor and where he first meets Lisa in a bar playing piano whilst her trusted sidekick Victor draws caricatures of Austrian society.
It is a bizarre story made even more bizarre by the pace of the film, the on-the-nose dialogue, the ridiculous coincidences that occur to keep everything moving forward, and, particularly, because of Parker’s daughter Suzy. Suzy is portrayed as the perfect child: organised, sensible, caring, polite and whatever other feathers the scriptwriter tried to fit into her overstuffed cap. These feathers don’t advance Suzy’s appeal, in fact they do the reverse. Any sympathies we have towards the betrayed, confused child, lied to by her father abandoned by her mother, are eradicated by her perfect demeanour and constant chipper attitude making her as likable as say…Regan MacNeil of The Exorcist? Suzy is simply too nice, too punch-able in the face, too one dimensional to ever be deemed a heroine.
My last review of one of these “classic” films was Joe Butterfly, and whilst I didn’t expect much, what surprised me about Butterfly was it acknowledged issues which are relevant today: war, diplomacy, respecting different cultures. Never Say Goodbye does not do this making it an irrelevant piece of poorly conceived melodrama that belongs to the past. The whole production is more akin to the ludicrous soap dramas so popular in Middle America where the doctor miraculously brings back the dead father for the third time due to the latest developments in genitalia reconstructive surgery.
But perhaps I’m being too harsh, mainly due to the fact I’m reviewing this after a long day mowing lawns in the rain. Maybe there is a message in Never Say Goodbye– something about the untenable bond between a daughter and her dead bar performing pianist mother? This message never communicated with me though, partly because the end of the film just cuts off at 90 minutes, but predominantly because the film is shit.
If there is one message I can take from Never Say Goodbye it is we all have to start somewhere. And we do all have to start somewhere, even the great Clint Eastwood, who makes a brief cameo as Will, Dr Parker’s assistant who takes over the reins of the surgery as Parker heads for his convention.
Funny isn’t it? We find lessons even in the most stupid of circumstances.
Dir: Jerry Hopper
Scr: Luigi Pirandello, Bruce Manning
Cast: Rock Hudson, Cornell Borchers, George Sanders, Shelly Fabares
Prd: Albert J. Cohen
DOP: Maury Gertsman
Music: Frank Skinner
Run Time: 90 minutes
Never Say Goodbye is available on DVD now.