We first watched this film several years ago, and it has become one of our perennials primarily because of the delicious department store disaster in the film’s final sequence. Dick Van Dyke was one the few actors from the 1960s who had successful roles both on TV and in movies.
Fitzwilly (Dick Van Dyke) is the butler to an eccentric woman (Edith Evans), whose wealth has vanished. He and the other servants contrive to keep her unaware of her financial problems by gentle larcenies from large luxury stores. When Evans hires a new secretary (Barbara Feldon) to help write a book, Fitzwilly’s elaborate schemes are disrupted. For a final grand caper, the clever crooks plan to steal $500,000 from Gimbel’s department store on Christmas Eve.
NEW YORK CONNECTION
The Woodworth mansion is on Riverside Drive, and you can see Grant’s Tomb in the background. The culminating caper takes place in Gimbel’s near Herald Square, not far from Macy’s, which is featured in the far more famous Miracle on 34th Street.
The movie concludes on Christmas Eve after a clever heist from the department store on the busiest evening of the holiday shopping season.
Many of the actors are better known for their TV roles. Barbara Feldon played Agent 99 in Get Smart. John McGiver played a butler in TV’s Family Affair, but also had important film roles in The Manchurian Candidate, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Midnight Cowboy.
I have yet to find any connection to Fred Astaire. Still looking though.
WHY WE LOVE THIS MOVIE
The New York scenery and that delicious department store caper.