Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"The Fortune Cookie"

The 1966 movie "The Fortune Cookie" is rich in film history, regardless of its ties to Northeast Ohio. It was the fourth of seven collaborations between Jack Lemmon and director Billy Wilder (following "The Apartment," "Some Like It Hot" and "Irma La Douce"). It was the first screen pairing of Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and Matthau won the Oscar for best supporting actor for his performance. You can have fun just looking at the cast, with large "MASH's" William Christopher as a doctor and Keith Jackson as the football announcer, among others.
It's a sharp, often bitter comedy. And it's set in Cleveland ...
The movie has Lemmon as Harry Hinkle, a cameraman for CBS, who is shooting a Browns-Vikings game at Municipal Stadium. When Browns player Boom Boom Jackson (Ron Rich) runs into Harry on the sidelines, the cameraman is injured enough to be taken to the hospital. Enter his brother-in-law, Willie Gingrich (Matthau), an unscrupulous lawyer, who sees gold in Harry's potential injuries. Willie immediately announces plans to sue CBS, the Browns and the stadium for $1,000,000. And things spiral out from there.
You get footage of the old Browns stadium, of Browns football (including Jim Brown scoring) and of the old urban landscape of Cleveland; in one shot, my eyes were drawn away from the action to the smoke pouring out of the chimneys of a factory in the background.
The people of Cleveland are shown as devoted football fans -- even the nuns in Harry's hospital bet on games -- and the fans as good sports (cheering Harry when he stands up after the Jackson hit) but tough as well (Jackson gets vigorously booed as his playing skills fall apart after the accident with Harry). Harry, we learn at one point, grew up in Toledo. And, according to a couple of Web sites, the St. Mark's Hospital in the film is Cleveland's St. Vincent Charity Hospital.
You could build an entire Web site around this movie.


  1. This was on Turner Classics tonight. Did you notice the first play called in the huddle after Boom Boom took down Harry? "Red Right!" No "88," but still enough to cause Cleveland fans to go into convulsions of agony.

  2. Nice observation. And weirdly prescient moment.