Tuesday, February 8, 2022


Rebecca Deniston at Taking Up Room is hosting The John Williams Blogathon to commemorate the occasion of the composer's 90th Birthday on February 8th. The celebration begins HERE

Dick Van Dyke plays the title character in Fitzwilly, 1967. Fitzwilly is an informal nickname for Claude R. Fitzwilliam, the very formal butler to Miss Victoria Woodworth played by Edith Evans. The beloved "Miss Vicky" was brought up in wealth and privilege by a father who had nothing left to bequeath at the time of his passing.

Miss Woodworth's staff led by that supreme organizer Fitzwilly intend to see that she continues to live in wealth and privilege. The money for Miss Vicky's charitable whims, as well as her project of a phonetic dictionary for those who cannot spell, is obtained through theft of high-end goods which are sold through their own thrift shop. Note: the thrift shop is named after St. Dismas, the penitent thief on the cross at Calvary. The conscience of our larcenous band remains clear as insurance firms take care of any "victims." 

Fitzwilly began his criminal organization with the best of intentions and while he does not stray into other areas of criminality, he does rather fancy himself quite the mastermind. There is no denying he enjoys the excitement that comes with his enterprise. When Miss Vicky hires an assistant to work on her dictionary things start to unravel in Fitzwilly's well-oiled machine. Barbara Feldon plays Juliet Nowell, an intuitive young woman who senses something is "off" in the household. Juliet's strong sense of morality and her burgeoning romance with Fitzwilly is not conducive to a well-oiled machine.

The Fitzwilly screenplay was written by Caftan Woman favourite Isobel Lennert (The Sundowners, Holiday Affair) based on Poyntz Tyler's 1960 novel A Garden of Cucumbers and was directed by Delbert Mann (Marty, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs).

The cast of the movie is filled with familiar and always welcome character actors from John Fiedler and John McIver to Anne Seymour and Helen Kleeb. Your favourite is probably among Miss Vicky's obliging staff including 26-year-old (Look at that baby face!) Sam Waterston.

The best of heist films always feature that one last job and the Fitzwilly gang's one last job is a doozy. They mean to rob Gimbels Department Store on Christmas Eve to offset possible losses from another job and assure Miss Vicky's continued comfort for the "rest of her natural." The Gimbels scene is a masterpiece of blocking and a nostalgic treat for those of us who remember that era of shopping. Read Jacqueline T. Lynch's take at Another Old Movie Blog

Fitzwilly is an amusing and clever movie set at Christmas.  Its appeal comes from the unique story, mid-century setting, and cast of character actor greats. A large part of its charm lies with the score by Johnny Williams.

Composer, conductor, arranger, performer John Williams accomplished all of those duties with the U.S. Air Force, jazz clubs, and Hollywood studios creating classic television scores for the likes of Wagon Train, Ben Casey, and Gilligan's Island garnering six Emmy nominations and three trophies for Heidi, 1969, Jane Eyre, 1972, and Great Performances, 2009.

His first film score was for Daddy-O, 1958, and progressed through the neo-noir The Killers, 1964, the contemporary western None But the Brave, 1965, How to Steal a Million, 1966, and the similarly themed good guy thieves comedy Fitzwilly. Fans can take it from there as the beloved movie scores and the awards racked up for John Williams.

The score for Fitzwilly has an underlying West Coast Jazz vibe layered with a quasi-martial swing which highlights the precision of the capers with the cheeky bounce of the comedy. When this theme is repeated later in the film in a more minor mood it supports the unlooked-for sleuthing of Miss Julia and the tension in the Gimbels heist. HERE is the main theme to whet your appetite for the engaging movie and score. 

Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, John Williams

The love theme for the movie is the delightful Make Me Rainbows by Johnny Williams with lyrics by Marilyn Bergman (November 10, 1928 - January 8, 2022) and Alan Bergman. If you recall or are a fan of this era of movie music, then you are a fan of the Bergmans with eight Emmy nominations, four wins, and 13 Oscar nominations, three wins.

Here is Make Me Rainbows performed by the studio singers from the soundtrack. It floats lazily behind Fitzwilly and Julia's first date and has become a jazz standard.

You may find another favourite version among these fine vocalists. Here is Nancy Wilson from her 1968 album, Easy, and a lovely version by Sue Matthews

Let's invite the gentlemen up to the microphone. Vic Damone took a turn in the 1967 album The Damone Type of Thing. Here is Frank D'Rone from his 1968 album Brand New Morning. You'll find many more versions available as singers love the tune and it is constantly being rediscovered.


Terence Towles Canote at A Shroud of Thoughts is hosting The 8th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon . The popular blogathon is runn...