Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Champagne for Caesar: Bubbling Over With Fun!

I don’t know what it is about bubbles but I like them. Glinda used a large bubble to transport herself in The Wizard of Oz. Doris Day sold Happy Soap in The Thrill of It All, which included a scene with a bubble-filled pool into which an unhappy James Garner drives his car. In Champagne for Caesar, bubbles are used on the set of the TV quiz show "Masquerade for Money” and fittingly call to mind the show’s sponsor, Milady Soap, which is advertised as “the soap that sanctifies.” But, bubbles are also reminiscent of champagne, so their use has a double meaning.

Champagne for Caesar is a fun, lesser-known film, in which neither champagne nor Caesar plays a critical role in the story. The latter is actually a parrot with some bad habits taught to him by college students. The former is one of the preferred habits of said bird.

The movie focuses on Beauregard Bottomley, a genius who has trouble finding work and shares a small bungalow with his sister Gwenn and the parrot. Beauregard is delightfully played by the versatile, silver-tongued Ronald Colman. The siblings observe a TV show aired on a small television in a store window around which a number of other people have gathered. The program is called “Masquerade for Money” where contestants dress up as a character about whom the host, Happy Hogan, then asks questions.

The following day, Beauregard is sent on a job interview to the Milady Soap Company. This company features a room with arms that hold various items, and reminded me a bit of La Belle et La Bete. Beauregard is introduced to the unforgettable company owner, Burnbridge Waters, who calls him a “dreamer,” doesn’t like his humor, and does not hire him.

Beauregard comes up with an idea. He knows that “Masquerade for Money” is sponsored by the Milady Soap Company and he figures the worth of the company to be approximately $40 million. He dresses as the Encyclopedia Brittanica and appears on the show. He welcomes any and all questions and answers them accurately and, often quite humorously, as well. Each time an answer is correct the amount won doubles. He then refuses to take the money and insists on coming back each week. Everyone loves him and the sales of Milady Soap soar. But then reality sets in: what if Beauregard never makes an error?

Milady Soap needs a secret weapon and they find one, in the beautiful and intellectual Flame O’Neill, who is presented to Beauregard as a gift from the Beauregard Bottomley Billings Montana Fan Club when he is sick with a cold. Flame arrives dressed as a saintly nurse and relieves neighbor Frosty (aren’t the names a hoot?) of her charge.

The story line is often predictable, but it is quite fun to see everything play out because of the talented, eclectic, and capable cast.

Vincent Price gives one of his best comedic performances as Burnbridge Waters, a character who occasionally leaves this plane of existence for a few moments at a time. When he is tempted to end his problems by pushing Beauregard into a vat making soap, Burnbridge’s devilish alter-ego appears on his shoulder to encourage him in the evil task.

Flame O’Neill is expertly performed by Celeste Holm, who offers a wicked little giggle when her ill charge is trying to sleep. She is the perfect temptation for Beauregard, but he does eventually cause her to have “Bottomley” trouble.

Gwenn Bottomley, the piano-teaching sister of Beauregard, is enchantingly portrayed by the gorgeous Barbara Britton, who may be best remembered for her twelve years as a Revlon Girl and for bringing Pamela North to TV in Mr. & Mrs. North.

Art Linkletter, who died this May at the age of 97, was quite good as the host of “Masquerade for Money” Happy Hogan.

The role of Frosty, the shapely neighbor who is ogled by all the men except Beauregard, was convincingly acted by Ellye Marshall, whose resume only includes five films.

Mel Blanc lent his remarkable voice to Caesar, the parrot.

Director Richard Whorf had a very successful career directing on TV including several episodes of Have Gun - Will Travel, Gunsmoke, My Three Sons, and The Beverly Hillbillies.

Champage for Caesar is available on DVD. Let the bubbles begin!


  1. Toto, Thank you for your bubbly review. I feel like such a bubble head for not seeing this movie before. Please pour me a tall glass of, Champagne for Caesar.

  2. Toto, how delightful to see a review of one of my favorites (and I'm pretty fickle about screen comedies). As you pointed out, the cast is impeccable; I was surprised and highly amused by Vincent Price's delectable villain. He has many wonderful scenes, but the one with the "bad little Burnbridge" (shown in your photo) is probably my fave. In addition to the cast, it's a marvelous premise--a genius winning huge on a game show. I won't give away plot details, but there's a very funny bit involving Albert Einstein. Thanks, Toto, for a bubblicious review of a little-known comedy gem!

  3. Utterly charming film, and a splendid review, toto! This movie is proof that Vincent Price was a versatile and talented actor, for all the people who thought he could only star in horror movies and play villainous characters. I think he steals the film, and my favorite part is when he "zones out" at his desk (which you mentioned and have pictured!). Thanks, toto, for your write-up. You've reminded me of a terrific film and put a smile on my face. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to sit back and go somewhere else and ignore people coming into the office.

  4. I had never heard about this film!!! Thanks for letting me know about it =)
    Great blog ;)

  5. Toto...with a reference to Glinda nonethless, I love Ronald Colman, so I am surprised I haven't seen this. It is supposed to be coming out on DVD soon, so I'll try to catch it. And, yes, the character names are a hoot.

  6. Vincent Price is awesome, but Celeste Holm owns for the movie for me. I want to marry a Flame O'Neill.

  7. Dawn, I loved your bubble-laden response! Thanks for a big smile :)

    Rick and Sark, it is always fun to see fans of this wonderful little comedy! Vincent Price is indeed fabulous.

    R e N a, thanks for joining the discussion! Sometimes it is just refreshing to see a light film. "Champagne for Caesar" and "The Court Jester" and "Lover Come Back" always make me smile.

    Kim, It is quite fun to see the multi-faceted Ronald Colman do comedy. Don't you just love his voice? And I knew you especially would love the names of the characters!

    Milton, Celeste is delightful! I hope you can find a Flame O'Neill!

  8. Sounds like a lot of fun, toto, I'll keep an eye out for it...