Tennis, Anyone…?: Kirk Fox, Danny Trejo, and Donal Logue pay a visit to Salvation Mountain before hitting the courts.
It’s game, set, and match with these three tennis-related films.
Tennis, Anyone...? (2005) trailer
Tennis, Anyone...? (2005)
Things you learn at the movies: next time you’re at a strip club, walk up to the first exotic dancer you see and ask, “Do you work here?” That’s just one of the dozens of durable laughs to be found when marginal small screen sensation Danny (co-screenwriter and director Donal Logue) meets Gary (co-screenwriter Kirk Fox), a tennis instructor to the stars who is looking to act, but is unwilling to read the script because, as he tells his director, “I don’t like working that way.” Then a series of off-screen actions (though it’s hard to swallow a guy as savvy as Danny peppering his standup routine at a Jewish charity event with antisemitic tropes) cost Danny a lucrative network gig. Easygoing Gary is up for anything, so the two follow Plan B by hitting the courts to conquer the competition on the celebrity tennis tournament circuit. No doubles were harmed during the filming of the doubles match: the film is helped immensely by casting four leads to play their own tennis. Even more convincing is the caustic insider showbiz humor spewed by an A-list comedy star and bred-in-the-bone jagoff played with exuberant arrogance by an unmatched Jason Isaacs.
You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (1939) trailer
You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (1939)
Paramount in the ‘30s was the breeding ground for a potent trio of talking cinema’s most unique mayhem-raisers. First came the Marx Bros. who, after 5 pictures, sued the studio and fled the Bronson gate, only to be somewhat declawed by Leo the Lion over at Metro. Mae West’s career was slowly powered down by the censors. And W.C. Fields’ work at Universal revealed moments of divine tumult, but his curmudgeonly grumblings always worked better when grounded in the real world. Rather than playing the disparity for laughs, the studio instead tried to make the location as funny as the star, proving Never Give a Sucker an Even Break’s mythical kingdom of Klopstokia to be no match for the back porch of a three-story tenement. In his first picture under contract with the studio, Fields stars as a circus owner in hock up to his elephant’s ears. There are those comedians who refuse to share the spotlight with fellow tummelers. Not Fields, who affords radio rival Charlie McCarthy — and his ventriloquist sidekick Edgar Bergen — ample room to deliver sock after sock to his goodly proboscis. (My Little Chickadee, a western-pairing with West, didn’t live up to its promise.) Flashes of Fields’ mean-spiritedness continually shine through as when the disagreeable union rep asks for a match, so Fields strikes one and tosses it on his shirt. But the screaming little brat (gratifying though she may be) who cons our star out of money by pretending that his elephant squashed her dog is not enough to compensate for the sickeningly sweet sentiment found in the de rigueur loving daughter, a studio-spanning character that Fields’ felt took the edge off his rampant crabbiness. As for the table tennis match, second-hand smoke spewing Mrs. Sludge (Jan Duggan) pulls up a wall, and no sooner does she question Fields’ ability to handle a “beaver tail” — she obviously didn’t recognize the one-time champion of the Tri-State League and the lesser Antilles — than out of nowhere appears opponent Ivan Lebedeff, and the game is on. It’s a match so big it takes two rooms to house it. Rather than listening to me rattle off on how much mileage is milked from the game — or try and describe the sounds that come out of Sludge each time Fields returns a volley — why not download a copy and let the laughs land untainted?
The Woman Next Door (1981) trailer
The Woman Next Door (1981)
We open and close on the same aerial shot of a police car arriving on the scene. Madame Jouve (Véronique Silver) — the owner of a tennis club in need of the service of a leg brace, for reasons that will soon become painfully apparent — handles the narrator’s chores, going so far as telling the cinematographer where to place his camera. It’s one of the few light touches in Francois Truffaut’s otherwise heavy-hearted (not handed!) romantic melodrama. The facade of happily married Gérard Depardieu’s idyllic family life begins to show signs of cracking when the house across the way is one day occupied by a tempestuous former lover (Fanny Ardant) and her older husband. (In the theatrical version, Depardieu refers to his ex as the type “who borrows other people’s trouble” as opposed to the DVD pressing, in which she’s simply referred to as “trouble.”) If only the former lovers had taken their own advice and come clean with their spouses about their past involvement... but then, that wouldn’t allow for passionate makeup sex and the complications to follow. When Truffaut’s name comes to mind, it’s generally in reference to one of cinema’s chief romanticists. One forgets there was a tragic side to his work, and it’s never more sorrowful than in this doomed romance.