Our first guest post in the Forgotten Disney series takes a look at Dick Van Dyke in 1968’s “Never a Dull Moment.” It comes to us courtesy of Brian Saur…in the picture below he’s the one that ISN’T Eddie Deezen.
Brian has been a movie fan since he was very young, but he came of age in the late 80s/early 90s when he got his first video store job. He worked in and out of video stores for almost 10 years. Whiling away the hours talking movies every day kind of got into his head in a big way. As a result, he still live, eats and breathes films and is always on the lookout for interesting stuff, new and old. He shares his love of movies at his blog, Rupert Pupkin Speaks, and by way of his Twitter, @BobFreelander.
Never a Dull Moment
Growing up as I did in the late 70s and early 80s, I was indoctrinated into movies in large part via home video. My family started out with a Betamax player and eventually graduated to VHS. Our video store of choice was also our local grocery store. They had a wonderful selection of Disney films there. And we rented pretty much ALL of them. From “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” to “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” to “The Love Bug” films and “The Devil and Max Devlin.” I recall all those clamshells fondly. One of the early ones I recall seeing was “Never a Dull Moment.” It starred Dick Van Dyke and Dorothy Provine (who I had first seen in “That Darn Cat”) as well as many other actors I didn’t know at the time (Edward G. Robinson, Henry Silva, Slim Pickens and Tony Bill among others).
Van Dyke plays a two-bit tv actor who is mistaken for a big time hit man from out of town by the name of Ace Williams (played by the amazing Jack Elam). He’s taken to the mansion hideout of a gangster named Leo Smooth (Robinson) and brought in on Smooth’s plan to pull off one last big art heist. Hilarity ensues as our hero tries play the role of the hardened killer whilst all the while trying to find a way to escape the mansion.
As with all of these live-action Disney features from my youth, we watched them over and over and over. Though I had come to know Dick Van Dyke best through his role in “Mary Poppins,” this quickly became and remains my favorite role of his. His portrayal of ‘Jack Albany: crummy actor truly stands up against anything he’s ever done as far as I’m concerned. The character allows for a sort of ‘meta’ scenario where Albany puts his acting skills to the most important use, the preservation of his own life. And make no mistake, Albany is a coward through and through, which makes him quite entertaining. An early scene shows Albany (fronting as Ace Williams) introduced to another hit man played by Henry Silva. They have a short stand-off during a handshake that is rather humorous and sets up Van Dyke’s character quite well. Throughout the film, there is plenty of that trademark Van Dyke slapstick as well.
Let’s talk about Dorothy Provine for a second. In a word: adorable. Her career is an interesting and varied one. She seemed to be primarily a TV actress starting in the late 50s. Her one early feature, “The Bonnie Parker Story” is quite worthwhile and I know Quentin Tarantino is a fan. She also starred in another QT favorite, “Kiss the Girls and Make them Die” which is a spoofy spy thriller from the mid 60s(also worth tracking down). And last but not least (for me anyway) she was in the wonderful “Who’s Minding the Mint?” which is a favorite old 60s comedy for me. Anyway, she’s her usual spunky, charming self in “Never a Dull Moment” and I think my crush on her started here.
All in all it’s a truly sad thing for me that this film has pretty much disappeared into obscurity, but for fans of the actors involved and Disney comedies in general, it is absolutely worth digging this one out.