Walter Eckland (Cary Grant) is an unshaven beach bum bamboozled into working for the British navy during World War Two by Commodore Frank Houghton (Trevor Howard). Eckland is forced to spot enemy Japanese planes from a remote desert island, with bottles of whiskey as his only reward. The relative calm is shattered, however, when schoolteacher Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron) and her seven female charges are stranded on the island.
penultimate feature before retirement was this cheerful 1964 effort to overturn his career-long image of urbane sophistication. As the unshaven, messy misanthrope Walter Eckland, a World War II-era beach bum who monitors Japanese air activity for the Australian navy in exchange for booze, Grant makes a convincingly hard-bitten, hard-drinking antihero. Until, that is, a pretty French schoolmistress (Leslie Caron) and her seven little charges (all girls) survive a nearby plane crash and invade Eckland's raunchy isolation. Directed by 1960s hit-maker Ralph Nelson (The Lilies of the Field, Charly
), Father Goose
is a glossy comedy that also does justice to its more suspenseful scenes (a deadly snakebite suffered by Caron's character is especially memorable) and leaves plenty of room for Grant to indulge in some entertaining if atypical screen behaviour. All in all, this is a minor treat in the actor's magnificent filmography. --Tom Keogh