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  Luck of Ginger Coffey, The Shaw Bothers
Year: 1964
Director: Irvin Kershner
Stars: Robert Shaw, Mary Ure, Liam Redmond, Tom Harvey, Libby McClintock, Leo Leyden, Powys Thomas, Tom Kneebone, Leslie Yeo, Vernon Chapman, Paul Guèvremont, Barry Stewart, Arch McDonnell, Ovila Légaré, Jacques Godin, Maurice Beaupré, Sydney Brown
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ginger Coffey (Robert Shaw) is an Irish immigrant who has been in Montreal for a while, trying to scrape a living with his wife Vera (Mary Ure) and their teenage daughter Paulie (Libby McClintock) in the same pokey apartment, and his big dreams of this land of opportunity not really coming to fruition despite his grand talk of securing a job with possibilities. He has the word from a friend that there is a job opening for the subeditor at the city newspaper, and instantly believes this is the post for him, no matter that he has no experience relevant to the newspaper industry. Nevertheless, he tells the employment office that this is where he is heading, and his optimism will be undimmed...

After Shaw was made a star internationally for playing the tough, bruising villain Red Grant in the James Bond movie From Russia with Love, he chose to make this small Canadian effort, presumably because he could be the lead and his wife Ure would be able to be his co-star. She did not make as many films as he did, partly because she was a stage actress in the main, but also because she died sadly young, and Shaw, with his notorious hellraising and hard drinking habits followed her to the grave not too long afterwards. Therefore here was a chance to see them interact as professionals and see if they had any chemistry to speak of that might have carried over from their real life.

Given that Ginger and Vera's relationship is not the best, and indeed she splits from him fairly early on in the course of the story, maybe this tells you more about the actors than perhaps they would be comfortable with, though Vera was very much the secondary character to her husband, as he was the focus throughout. For some, thanks to its multiple and generous views of a snowbound Montreal, this is a beloved Canadian film on a level with Goin' Down the Road, in that the locals were more likely to respond to it than the outsiders, but it was tale of an immigrant showing up full of the hopes that here, now, his life was going to be the best it could be as he always planned.

For that reason, the immigrant story was depicted here with some sympathy, but only really because Ginger never gets anywhere: his dreams play out as unfulfilled, and that's not a spoiler as the film unfolds and indeed ends precisely the way you would anticipate from the moment we see him going about his morning ablutions and talking his big talk to Vera, whose side we take when she is obviously unimpressed. This rendered the whole affair as the story of a loser, and without that ray of sunshine to look forward to - for the audience or for Coffey - there was little satisfaction in watching it when to no one's surprise, least of all your own, his continual bad choices and messing up of the opportunities he does get means he is difficult to get along with as a protagonist overall.

Ginger does manage to be hired by the newspaper, under an editor the staff call Hitler (though not to his face), but not in the reporter position he wants, as a proofreader. This does not pay tremendously well, but he has that promise he could be promoted, placing the thought in his deluded mind that within weeks he could be running the entire operation, and with that sense of inflated importance and destiny, of course he is heading for a fall. Meanwhile, he gets a second job to make ends meet (as a van driver with the "Wee Folks Diaper Delivery") and Vera is drastically drifting away, sick of his overambition and lack of realistic goals - but more than that, his lack of a decent amount of pay coming into their home. For capturing that winter bound city in stark black and white, this had value, similarly with the notable couple at its heart, but time has seen its subject matter done to death in a million indie dramas since, and the novelty has worn off as far as that goes. Music by Bernardo Segall.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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