Elliott Nash (Glenn Ford) is a writer and director for a television station. He has just about everything. A good job, a beautiful wife named Nell (Debbie Reynolds) who is a star in a musical on Broadway and a lovely home in the country in Connecticut. He’s also being blackmailed by a slimly scoundrel named Dan Shelby (Stanley Adams).
Years ago when Nell was 18 some nude photographs were taken of her. Shelby has them and has been blackmailing Elliott threatening to send them to the newspapers. Like most blackmailers Shelby has expensive needs and the cost for Elliott has been increasing. Elliott is basically out of money and the stress has been affecting his health.
Elliott’s friend Harlow Edison (Carl Reiner) is a lawyer and the district attorney. In a hypothetical conversation Elliott asks Harlow about a person’s choices when they are being blackmailed. He tells Harlow that it is for a script he is writing. Harlow says the script’s character can pay the blackmail, call the cops or kill the blackmailer. This last statement gets Elliott’s attention. It is something to mull over.
In the meantime, Nell is unaware of the blackmail and going about her happy life. In an estate auction she buys a gazebo. When it is delivered she hires contractor Sam Thorpe (John McGiver) to install it. He is getting the site ready to put in the cement foundation. Passing by Harlow mentions that the gazebo looks like a cemetery memorial. Elliott sees the gazebo and the bags of cement the contractor plans to use to make a foundation for the structure and thinks it looks like a cemetery memorial too. Elliott has an idea.
Elliott’s plan is detailed and specific. Things don’t exactly go smoothly but he gets the job done. Shelby is dead. When the plastic tarp he bought to wrap up the body rips to shreds he uses the ugly shower curtains his wife bought. Curtains he’s mentioned before that he hated. Now they serve a purpose appropriate for their appearance. He buries the body in the ground where the cement foundation is going to be laid the next day.
Unfortunately Elliott’s luck doesn’t last long and he ends up with more problems than he expected. Yes, Shelby is dead but he was found in his hotel room and now Elliott is wondering who is under the gazebo. Adding to Elliott’s problems are two hoods named Duke (Martin Landau) and Louis the Louse (Dick Wessel) looking for $100,000 in cash.
“The Gazebo” was released in 1959 and was directed by George Marshall. It is an American black comedy thriller. The film is based on the play by the same name by Alec Coppel. It is the standard mix up style dark comedy but done in a compelling and engaging way. It’s a great movie that somehow got lost in the history of time.
The acting is great and the characters in the film are enchanting and eccentric, especially the contractor played by John McGiver. Martin Landau has a small part as a hood named Duke. He’s the most charming criminal ever. Glenn Ford as the nervous bumbling Elliott is perfect and Debbie Reynolds as Elliott’s extremely patient and adorable wife rounds out a list of talent that makes the film uniquely entertaining.
The plot has some clever twists and turns that send Elliott down a rabbit hole and you are more than happy to go along. I saw this movie on TV ages ago. My strongest memories of it were the gazebo, the ugly shower curtain and Herman the pigeon. It’s every bit as funny now as it was then.