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The Prize / Not rated but would be PG-13 for adult themes, violence, smoking, drinking and Paul Newman calling attention to his naked elbow.

Released on Christmas Day 1963, The Prize is one of my most lasting Xmas gifts. It is based on the popular novel by Irving Wallace who wrote long, steamy thrillers. The Prize is about a group of Nobel Prize winners getting together in Stockholm to receive their awards.

Nobel week takes place each year from December 3rd to December 10th culminating on the birthday of Alfred Nobel. The ceremony ends with a bang. Google his name to find out why. I point this out as one problem with The Prize seems to be the unusually fine weather and long sunny days. You just know that Stockholm in December would be cold, dark and icy.

The Prize stars Paul Newman as a hard drinking novelist, Edward G. Robinson in a double role as a physicist and Elke Somner as PN’s embassy escort for the week. Written by Ernest Lehman, the script and storyline bear a lot of similarities to another great film, North by Northwest (directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant). EL wrote the script for both films.

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As the winners arrive in Stockholm, PN is immediately in the midst of intrigue as he spots an inconsistency with the EG Robinson character. This leaves Paul chasing all over Stockholm and chasing Elke S. with equal vigor. Everybody wants him to stop drinking, put on a happy face, accept his Prize and go home. He would, if it wasn’t for the fact that only he knows that something is amiss and he has limited time to set things right. Since he drinks about four martinis an hour this is not an easy task.

Directed by Canadian Mark Robson the film is a little long at 134 minutes, but is so full of charm and fun that it would have been fine with me if it went on for 234 minutes. This movie also features an early score by Jerry Goldsmith. By the time the film completed its initial theatrical run, I couldn’t talk anyone else in my circle of High School friends to see it with me, so I actually ended up going to the 99-E Drive-In Theater in Stockton, CA all alone to listen to the score one more time.

Other than an occasional TV showing, this film has been unseen following a short term limited release on VHS tape in the 1990’s. Now it’s finally available on DVD on-demand from Warner Bros. Ihighly recommend this film as it’s grandly entertaining and, if I had access to this sort of media in early 1964, it would have kept me from going all alone to the drive in.

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Frontier Ford

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