Prepare to smile a lot — after all, the last actor credited is “Herman, the pigeon.”
Glenn Ford flexes his comic chops as stressed-out live TV director Elliott Nash, who’s suffering from an “overapplication of work and an underapplication of common horse sense,” per his doctor. He’s happily married to new Broadway star Nell Nash (Debbie Reynolds), but there’s one problem: Elliott’s being blackmailed by someone in possession of nude photos of Nell, and the guy’s threatening to release them to the scandal sheets.
Trying to come up with the money without letting Nell know about the threats becomes a comedy of errors for Elliott. At first, it begins with sabotaging the plumbing to convince her to sell their house; before long, it’s all about trying to get rid of a dead body as they remodel.
Playing to the strengths of the play on which it was based, the cleverly written “The Gazebo” keeps one guessing how — or even if — Elliott will succeed as each successive curve ball is thrown his nerve-addled way. It’s the charm of Ford and Reynolds that keeps the rather grim idea feeling effervescent; lesser actors may have turned audiences against these characters.
Having pornographic pictures — er, “art studies” — be the spark of the story’s flame had to be ballsy for the buttoned-up, black-and-white days of ’59, especially with America’s sweetheart as their subject. It’s hardly the only spoonful of sauce “The Gazebo” gets away with; Carl Reiner’s district attorney has fun suggesting another meaning for “dictation,” while Doro Merande’s maid reacts to a toilet turned into a bidet with an alarmed “talk about taking the berry off a bush!” And how! —Rod Lott