Sunday, 7 October 2018

The Girl and the Millionaire (Pigen og millionæren) (1965)


Off-List: Pigen og millionæren

A few ”years” ago I decided to select three additional movie to watch for each year. From 1965 and henceforth I am adding another criteria: One of those movies must be a Danish movie. 

Not because Danish movies are phenomenally great, nor because of some nationalistic imperative, but because these movies are a part of my heritage and my childhood and, well, they sort of drown out among the big international movies. So, I think it is fitting to allocate a spot for a select specimen for each year.

For 1965 that movie is “Pigen og millionæren”, which translates to “The Girl and the Millionaire”. It is in fact a remake of a Swedish movie called something like “With you in my arms”. However it is the Danish version I have been watching… for the hundredth time or so. In my childhood home this movie was something of a favorite. We would quote it and imitate it and watch it again and again. Not because it is great, but because it is hilariously funny.

Jens Møller (Dirch Passer) is the owner and manager of a trading company and very wealthy. One day while shooting clay pigeons he is knocked in the head and looses his memory. Waking up he must rediscover his life. After some confusion where he thinks he is some other guy with five children involved in a divorce and then a psychopathic prisoner on the lam, he learns that he is a rich playboy with a lot of girlfriends and a wasteful life. He lives in a penthouse apartment with his butler Morris (Poul Hagen) and his company is a mess. Jens is not very happy with what he finds and sets out to change this.

First of all he has met a pianist, Malene Brandt (Birgitte Price), who seems to know him, and he is instantly in love with her. Secondly, he sets out to recover his company from the lethargy his slacking has caused. But how do you pursue these two targets when everybody thinks you are a dick? Especially when it turns out Malene is married, apparently to a very confused impresario, Max, (Axel Strøbye) who knows a big, bad guy called Børge, or is it the other way round…?

It is silly, very silly. It is not great acting or technically advanced, but it is fantastically funny. Axel Strøbye’s Max is so ridiculously confused and on a tangent to everything around him that you cannot but laugh. For years we would use the term “Børge” for anything and all. “Lets have a little Børge”, “Do you have a writing Børge” etc. He is my favorite Danish actor of all time (closely followed by Ole Thestrup) and it probably started with this movie.

Dirch Passer was one of the most loved Danish comedians, but probably completely unknown to a foreign audience. If you were ever interested in old school Danish comedy, he would be a good place to start. He is the Danish version of Jim Carey; exaggerated, ridiculous and hilarious. The interesting thing with his role in this movie is that he is also a romantic lead, a part for which he was a fish out of water. The crazy thing is that he pulls it off, which would seem rather unlikely.

This is one of those movies where everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Where every mix up and misunderstanding will be exploited for all it is worth and no joke is too low. That means of course that there are misses, but most of the time it does work and for that it has become a classic that I enjoy just as much today as I did in my childhood.

Comedy translates very poorly and a movie like “The Girl and the Millionaire” is probably wasted on a wider audience, but it is a good representative of a subgenre called “lystspil” that was exceedingly popular in Denmark in the sixties and seventies and which won a faithful audience in some neighboring countries. For this alone I would recommend this movie.  

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