Gigot

Movie Information

In Brief: On the surface, the idea of a movie in which Jackie Gleason plays mute has its appeal. At least he can't bellow every line of dialogue, because ... well, he hasn't any. In practice, however, what we get in Gigot (1962) is a gooey vanity project for Gleason, who seems to think he's the heir apparent to Chaplin — an elephantine Chaplin, but Chaplin nonetheless. I was warned of this outburst of saccharine years and years ago by the critic Judith Crist in TV Guide, and I have spent those years avoiding any contact with it — until the Hendersonville Film Society opted (for whatever inexplicable reason) to show it. It is everything I thought it would be. Gleason mugs, he shambles, he pleads for our sympathy in his personal take on Chaplin's The Kid (1921) — here with the child transformed into a little girl. It is grim stuff, made all the more so by director Gene Kelly favoring his star with endless close shots. In its favor? The Parisian locations are nicely photographed. Whether that compensates for such things as Gleason punching himself in the face when he can't explain Jesus to the child is up to you. The Hendersonville Film Society will show Gigot Sunday, Nov. 30, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.
Score:

Genre: Comedy-Drama
Director: Gene Kelly
Starring: Jackie Gleason, Katherine Kath, Diane Gardner, Jacques Marin, Gabrielle Dorziat
Rated: NR

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To be honest, I’ve pretty much said all I had to say about this misbegotten mess in the lead-in. It really is nothing but a vanity project for Jackie Gleason. The concept and story is his. The overbearing musical score is his. He’s onscreen nearly all the time. My guess is that he believed that the little mime skits he did on his TV show qualified him to do an entire film in mime. Unfortunately, what works for three minutes does not necessarily work for 90. The whole idea of taking on Chaplin is grounded in a complete misunderstanding of Chaplin’s Tramp. The Tramp is clever, quick, resourceful — and not above petty acts of meanness. Plus — and this is key — the Tramp never begs for our sympathy, but lets it grow out of the story. Gleason’s Gigot (meaning “leg of mutton,” though “leg of ham” would be nearer the mark) is a simple-minded buffoon. He exists mostly to be tormented by the other characters in the film — nearly all of whom are mean beyond all reason.

 

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Gleason mostly plays the character as an oblivious blank, only becoming somewhat active with the introduction of the little girl (Diane Gardner) and her prostitute-without-a-heart-of-gold mother (Katherine Kath). The obvious idea is that the interplay between the little girl and Gigot will warm our hearts. (I have to note  that the film has amassed a number or ardent admirers on the IMDb, whose hearts were touched by this manipulative treacle.) Problem is they do nothing much to earn our sympathy. Gleason has a very limited repertoire of mime antics — mostly grounded in his lack of intellect with outbursts of really embarassing dramatics. The little girl, while cute, has even less range. No one gets much help from Gene Kelly’s direction, which is just as flaccid as it is in every movie where he didn’t have Stanley Donen as co-director. Kelly’s major contribution — apart from indulging his star — is to make the Parisian locations look good, which they admittedly do. Otherwise, this is strictly for Gleason’s most determined fans.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show Gigot Sunday, Nov. 30, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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16 thoughts on “Gigot

    • Ken Hanke

      I don’t think there’s much interest in the movie or the review.

  1. micky x

    saw it on tv when i was nine or ten years old. i was totally absorbed by it. as a child. anyway, i thought of seeing it again, as an adult, lo these many hard years later. but after these reviews, i dont know. or should I just just write the bad reviews off as being the meanness of people who were uncomfortable with THE GREAT ONE for making a movie in which they were forced to be as mean as the bar patrons were to GIGOT? I miss THE GREAT ONE. maybe its the micky in me.

  2. micky x

    and you ought not to be dismissive of gleasons mood music; the stuff arranged by syd feller is pretty something. i’m going out now to get a pack of smokes, a bottle of sparkly and a key to a private room: she’ll be there, and so will the music . with or without gleasons orchestra. yea. shell be there. my little mickette with the red lipstick and the fire-gold hair. yea shes there and so is the music. she is the music. ill be there, listening to everything i hear when she doesnt say a word. i guess youll be here, being pissed off at gigot. bon apetit.

    • Ken Hanke

      Until somebody mentions the thing I forget that Gigot even exists.

      • mickey x

        is it really that bad? like I said, i saw the thing on tv when i was about ten years old. but i remember gigot. would you say the cinematography is top shelf? is that why ive remembered this movie?

        ‘you will never forget gigot’…wasnt that one of the lines in the promo for the movie?

  3. mickey x

    ok. I see now. above you say they make paris look very good. hard to make paris look bad. why is that? light plus good architecture and landscaping equals a five star set for the ages? so what about joan of arc? whats the best film about joan of arc?

    • Ken Hanke

      Probably The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), but it’s not a lot of fun and it doesn’t take place in Paris.

  4. mickey x

    perhaps the hank has a series of reviews of movies about saints? speaking of, what is the hanks opinion of ‘ rublev’? does the hank have a review of same? the mickey says its maybe the greatest movie made. about saints, at least?

  5. mickey x

    luc besson. is that the one with dustin Hoffman channeling his inner pervert?

  6. Ken Hanke

    “The Hank” does not converse with people who call him “The Hank.”

    • mickey x

      pardon moi…je suis le mique; et vous? Le Hanque? Non?… il est posible. tout est posible.

  7. Christopher Steiner

    While I haven’t seen it in 20 years, when I first saw Gigot I was very moved. Maybe times have dated it? That is possible. But more likely I think that this reviewer has a problem with sentimentalism in general, and, judging by the reviewer’s comments, with Gleason in particular. The reviewer is a fan of horror films and Tim Burton—enough said.

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