REVIEW: “Love in the Afternoon”


Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn. Folks, that’s all I needed to hear to be interested in 1957’s “Love in the Afternoon”. And as if I needed any more prodding, this romantic comedy was directed, produced, and co-written by the great Billy Wilder. And then to add even more personal intrigue, “Love in the Afternoon” is set in the magical city of Paris. So you have an unlikely love story filled with good humor, some really strong central performances and the City of Lights. Sounds good.

One of the first things you’ll notice when watching the film is the dramatic age difference between Cooper and Hepburn. Cooper was 55 years old at the time and there were some people who had a problem with his casting. Hepburn plays a beautiful (and much younger) girl named Ariane. She lives in Paris with her father Claude (brilliantly played by Maurice Chevalier) who works out of their home as a private investigator. Watching Hepburn and Chevalier is pure joy. They have an adorable father/daughter chemistry which shows itself in her playful curiosity about his work and his father-like encouragement of her cello playing.


One day Ariane eavesdrops as her father reveals to a client that his wife is having a fling with a wealthy American named Frank Flannagan (Cooper). She hears the trysts are taking place in Flannagan’s hotel room and that the husband plans to kill him. The curious and adventurous Ariane decides to go warn Flannagan of his upcoming demise. In doing so she finds herself smitten by the millionaire playboy’s charm. Her innocence and inexperience with love creates new feelings within her. On the other hand Ariane is initially just another victim of Flannagan’s globetrotting womanizing. But she leaves him in the dark about many things including her name and her far-fetched tales of her many boyfriends intrigues him. But is that enough to cure him of his playboy ways?

Wilder does a great job of getting us to love Hepburn and her character. She instantly comes off as pure and sweet and her childlike curiosity is adorable. That’s one reason we dislike Gary Cooper and his Flannagan character. We see that she is enamored with him but he sees her as just another toy. We genuinely worry for her as this unusual story plays out. But Wilder also shows that she’s not just a child with a bout of puppy love. She’s clever and, as Flannagan finds out, she can be abstruse. All of this is key to developing what is a well conceived love story.

This was the first of many screenplay collaborations between Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond. As you would expect from anything that Wilder has a hand in writing, the dialogue is slick and smart and his two lead actors handle it nicely. Hepburn was Wilder’s one and only choice to play Ariane but he wanted Cary Grant to play Flannagan. Grant turned down the role (as he did with several other Wilder offerings) which opened the door for Cooper. I admit, Cooper was an unusual choice and at first I wondered if he was going to fit. But as things move along, I think he captures what the role calls for.


The film also features some good bits of humor. The dialogue itself can be quite funny and there are several running gags that become pretty outrageous. There’s a hilarious reoccurring bit with gypsy musicians who Flannagan pays to play for him whenever he has a woman over. But we later see them popping up in some of the most absurd locations. It’s very funny. I also have to again mention the fun moments between Hepburn and Chevalier. She is her usual peppy and sprightly self. But Chevalier is a real scene stealer and for me some of the best moments featured him on screen.

“Love in the Afternoon” is a movie I’m glad I finally caught up with. This is another energetic and intelligent Wilder film that hits the romance and humor it shoots for. “Love in the Afternoon” may not be up there with the great romantic comedies of its time, but it’s still a solid film featuring a wonderful cast, beautiful Paris locations, and a smart director who has no problem putting all of his pieces together.




With the baseball season not even a week old, I decided to celebrate the sport I love by changing plans and doing a Phenomenal 5 on baseball movies. At first I thought this was an easy, easy assignment. But before long I had more movies on my short list than I expected. So needless to say this was tougher than I thought it would be. There are some really good baseball movies that aren’t just for fans of the game. Many of these are just good quality movies that any film lover can enjoy. So here’s my list. As always, I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, but there’s no doubt that these five baseball movies are absolutely phenomenal.


Major League” came out back in 1989 and was a big success. It was followed by two sequels but neither could match the original. “Major League” was a genuinely funny movie that mixed straight comedy with baseball satire. After a self-absorbed heiress inherits the Cleveland Indians from her deceased husband, she decides she wants to move the team to Miami. To do this she would have to show a worthwhile reason to take the city’s team away. So she fields the worst possible team in hopes of losing games and losing interest from the local fans. The team of misfits features pre-nutcase Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes, Corbin Bernsen, and more.  Add the hilarious Bob Uecker as the voice of the Indians and you’ve got a baseball comedy that truly delivers the laughs.


Gary Cooper’s performance as “The Iron Horse” Lou Gehrig in 1942’s “The Pride of the Yankees” is still one of my favorite roles of his. This is a film that was nominated for 11 Oscars including a Best Actor nomination for Cooper. In it you’ll see several real baseball players including Babe Ruth and Bill Dickey as well as a great story about an amazing player and individual. This movie really doesn’t pay close attention to the baseball part of Gehrig’s life. Instead it’s a biography of the highly accomplished yet tragically short life of a man many came to know through the game they loved. “Pride of the Yankees” has a few flaws but it also has a lot of heart and I  just have to include it on any list of phenomenal baseball movies.


I know that “Moneyball” just came out last year but it really impressed me. Bennett Miller’s baseball movie about Billy Bean and the 2002 Oakland A’s actually made sabermetrics and salary caps engaging cinema. Brad Pitt does a nice job fleshing out Bean and even the usually annoying Jonah Hill manages to keep his performance under control. It’s the story of a miracle team built around a system that should have never worked. Against the wishes of his scouts, coaches, and owners, Bean created a team that made a miraculous run that eventually put them in the playoffs. Again, this isn’t a traditional baseball picture. It looks at a different side of the game that I haven’t seen much of before. But it’s still very much a baseball movie and I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Obviously this movie was going to show up on a list about baseball movies, right? “The Natural” is one of those movies that I can stop and watch anytime I come across it on TV. How can you not like Robert Redord as Roy Hobbs and his bat simply called “Wonderboy”? Roy learns about baseball and life the hard way but finally gets his shot with the New York Knights. Sure, a lot of convenient things fall into place that allow him his opportunity but when he gets it, he makes the most of it. Redford is helped by a nice supporting cast and a story that’s sure to leave you with a smile on your face. And I can still hear that music as Roy clobbers a home run that shatters the lights and send sparks raining down on the field. A classic moment.


This is a baseball movie that lifts the game up as an almost mystical force. “Field of Dreams” celebrates the game of baseball as the true American pastime. I paints baseball as something beyond just a sporting event that we enjoy watching. But even while it has the most reverent perspective on the game of all the films on my list, it’s really about family and baseball is that link that brings a father and son together. There are so many memorable things about “Field of Dreams’. Who can forget the whispers in the cornfields? “If you build it, he will come”. Who can forget “Shoeless” Joe Jackson first stepping onto the baseball field that was built on a leap of faith? Who can forget James Earl Jones’ speech on baseball? I could go on and on. For me, “Field of Dreams” is the quintessential baseball movie. It’s unique but it still brings out my love for the game.

Like my list? Do you have a baseball movie that you think should be on here? Did I include a film that you disagree with? Take time to add your comments and don’t forget to share your top 5 baseball movies.