The Prize (1963)

May 24, 2014

The Prize (alternate title: Paul Newman, Where Have You Been All My Life?) is a 1963 comedy-thriller that takes place at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm. I had seen it described as Hitchcock-esque -- one Amazon reviewer even said it was more Hitchcockian than the Paul Newman movie that Hitch actually did direct, Torn Curtain. I think these comparisons are kind of thrown around a lot and (with the notable exception of Charade) rarely hold up. In the case of The Prize, there were a lot of similarities plot-wise, but not so much style-wise. The cinematic perfection that defines a Hitchcock movie is clearly absent here; the direction even feels a little bit sloppy at times. But the plot should definitely delight fans of the Master of Suspense.

An alcoholic American writer finds out that he's won the Nobel Prize for literature and reluctantly attends the ceremony in Stockholm to collect his 50,000 dollars. Less than 24 hours pass before he's caught in a web of international intrigue with his beautiful blonde escort. There are definitely shadows of North by Northwest here (the screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman, who also wrote NXNW) -- ominous, lanky henchmen; Leo G. Carroll; even a nudist convention scene (I'm serious) that's clearly reminiscent of the auction scene where Cary Grant summons the police. I'm pretty sure they made it take place at a nudist convention just so Paul Newman would have a reason to remove his shirt. (Not that I'm complaining.)

The movie got off to a slow start, setting up the plot and introducing the characters as tediously as possible, but once it got going it was really fun! A couple of the suspenseful scenes actually startled me so much that I jumped in my seat! And (needless to say?) Elke Sommer and Diane Baker have some pretty fantastic 60's outfits in the movie. It's no Hitchcock... but it's pretty close.

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