Ironically, one of the first efforts by both Richard Fleischer (Dr. Dolittle, Soylent Green) and Stanley Kramer (High Noon, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner) has never made it to the screen in the city for which it was named. But that hasn't stopped So This Is New York, based on a novel by Ring Lardner, from becoming a cult classic among filmmakers and cinema buffs who've caught it on late-night movie programs and classic film cable networks. This lighthearted take on the "country-come-to-town" theme is narrated by Ernie Finch (radio star Henry Morgan), whose wife's inheritance leaves her suddenly wealthy and demanding of more than their small-town Indiana life offers. She also wants to find a rich suitor for her sister, who is happily attached to a hard-working butcher before it's decided that a wealthy woman such as herself deserves a wealthy man. The travails this bumpkin trio encounter in the big city are made hilarious by the wordplay and innuendo of screenwriters Herbert Baker and Carl Foreman, the kind of verbal stylings that decades later would grace the work of such quintessential New York storytellers as Woody Allen, Nora Ephron, and Ed Burns. And the depictions of New York in the Roaring '20s -- with its crazy cab rides, colorful characters and unrelenting pace -- were as familiar to post-war audiences as they are today. Now those antics finally return home for the special big-screen New York premiere of a comedy that could only be about one city.
Stanley Kramer's (1913-1991) career in film began in the mid-'30s when the aspiring writer landed a job as a researcher at MGM. After becoming an editor and writer, he served three years in the Army Signal Corps during World War II, and returned to Hollywood, where he soon set up an independent film company. Champion (1949) established Kramer as a major producer, and was followed by Home of the Brave (1949), The Men (1950), High Noon (1952) and The Wild One (1954). His directorial debut, Not As a Stranger (1955) launched him on an increasingly successful career defined by such "message films" as The Defiant Ones (1958), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), Ship of Fools (1965), and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967). Richard Fleischer's 1994 autobiography, Just Tell me When to Cry, is one of Hollywood's best, filled with fascinating stories, perceptive insights about the industry and its players, and a self-deprecating sense of his career that, nonetheless, makes a strong case for reassessing the work of a director all-too-often dismissed as impersonal. The son of Betty Boop's creator, Max Fleischer, Richard won a 1948 short subject Oscar for Design for Death, and proceeded to direct such films as The Narrow Margin (1952), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), The Vikings (1958), Compulsion (1959), Fantastic Voyage (1966) and Doctor Dolittle (1967). In the aftermath of the release of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Fleischer's sadly neglected Barabbas (1961) deserves another look.