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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars style and class, 13 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Smile Jenny Youre Dead [DVD] [1974] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
Smile, Jenny, You're Dead is still excellent. It is mood and plot and characterization and dialogue. It's David Janssen as private detective Harry O. He is perfect. Every word, every move, every inflection, it's his alone. You hear him thinking, and he's every bit as good at this as he was as Richard Kimble. And that's really saying something too. From his very first scene, he is hypnotizing. He could convey with the slightest gesture.

He makes Harry funny, iconoclastic, wry and deeply human, deeply compassionate. The cast is impeccable. The storyline riveting. The writer was Howard Rodman. One of the best. John Anderson, Andrea Marcovicci, Clu Gulager, Jodie Foster and Howard de Silva put their interpretations on the words and make them their own. When Harry says to Jenny, "You move me, I want you," our hearts go out to him, and when it's his duty to tell of death a second time to a person whose world has just ended, what else could you do but hold her through the night, let her cry, admit to yourself that you fell in love with her then and knowing of course, it can lead in only one direction.

I'm told David Janssen always gave credit to his writers. As he should, but also for himself, and for this ensemble cast, and superb direction by Jerry Thorpe, this is a minor miracle or a major one. His character and the film fit beautifully. Everything is so eloquent and eloquent, and you feel like crying because there's been a point of life touched here, and we have the honor, thanks to very talented people, to see such a good and fine thing.

It is suspenseful and has an excellent framework, so you won't be disappointed in that either. That boat Harry O was constantly working on, name of THE ANSWER, and the bus he rode " because you can sit and look out the window and think. Try it sometime." And because his car was always in the shop and we just had to get David Janssen on the bus again. All of these things and more became endearing to us.

And when he smiled, the whole world is incandescent. This is a treasure trove, this movie, and it is all life-giving, every word and every scene with these actors saying Howard Rodman's lovingly crafted, thoughtful, profound dialogue, with such relish, and how because it's been for something.

And sometimes all you can do for a person in pain is to hold them through the night, admit to yourself you have fallen in love with them, and prepare to say goodbye. And maybe this is as close to the answer as you can get. Smile Jenny, You're Dead, you move me.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Jul 2013 10:17:14 BDT
Last edited by the author on 14 Jul 2013 10:24:54 BDT
Algy says:
I believe the character of Harry Orwell was specially written for David Janssen (yes ?) - it certainly looked that way as both character & actor had ALOT in common !
years of being a 'man on the run' in 'The Fugitive' had left DJ in some considerable physical pain I understand - most notably back pain - after all the running, jumping, etc that he'd done plus the strain of four gruelling seasons ALWAYS featured as the mainman in 120 episodes....

...plus still finding time for some excellent underrated mid sixties films such as; 'Warning Shot' etc...

so by the early seventies DJ was prematurely grey haired and looked like a guy who had run through 120 episodes !

yet despite his stresses (which I think sadly led to his tragically early demise in his forties - wot a loss !) DJ was PERFECT as a 'world weary' Ex-cop who had taken a bullet in the back & been pensioned off to an enforced early retirement with still so much life left ahead of him...

thus DJ & Harry were 'kindred spirits' in many ways, & DJ made that work so brilliantly as Harry O

DJ COULD still play other roles well ('O'Hara Treasury Agent', 'Marooned', 'The Golden Gate Murders' 'Swiss Conspiricy' etc) but as Harry O he looked & felt so right in the part, forever fixing up his boat and trying to keep faith in a often cynical world...

Harry O's character is 'mellowed' a bit after the first pilot, and has a string of young lovelies (Farrah Fawcett is one) who drop by to distract him in his beach house

season one saw him 'laid back' in San Diego, later they relocated him to the more bustling L.A. scenario as the show proved so popular - with strong support from notably co-stars Henry Darrow (as the likeable Lt. Manny Quinlan in season one) & later Anthony Zerbe as Lt. Trench the far more on the surface reserved tho' underneath reluctant admirer of Harry in truth....

DJ really shone in this TV series & this the second pilot movie I believe (following 'Such Dust As Dreams Are Made of' which is in the first season box set) sees Harry Orwell really coming into his own as the recognisable character from the TV series...

this is a strong testament to a wonderfully intense actor who always left a memorable impression in all his TV shows, rare guest roles (Naked City, Cannon, etc) and some very underrated films....who we lost far too early...!
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