Hot Millions (1968)

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By Scott Ross

This movie is a sure test of any potential friendship. If I show it to a new acquaintance and he or she doesn’t love it, there’s no point in going any further.

Peter Ustinov and Maggie Smith, two of the most effortlessly charming performers who ever appeared before a movie camera, play a pair of painfully lonely misfits who connect in this charming comedy co-written by Ustinov (with Ira Wallach). He’s a bright, if unworldly, embezzler whose dream is to conduct a symphony orchestra. She’s his incompetent secretary, who happens to play the flute. Bob Newhart is the thorn in their side, and Karl Malden is surprisingly funny as the ulcer-ridden executive. (Robert Morley also shows up early on, and Cesar Romero has a hilarious cameo in the Rio airport.)

The dialogue is refreshingly quirky, and every scene is a small gem of comic observation. The final freeze-frame is among the sweetest and most moving of any comedy.

Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross

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