Gazebo, The (1959): Marshall’s Mildly Entertaining Black Comedy Starring Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds

The Gazebo, George Marshall’s mildly entertaining but  overly verbose and overly plotted black comedy, concerns a married couple played by Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds, who are being blackmailed.

The script is based on a play of the same title by Alec Coppel. A comic subplot involves director Hitchcock inadvertently assisting Elliott in the murder plan via phone, while working on a script that Nash is writing for him. The play’s author Alec Coppel had written such a script for Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece, Vertigo.

Ford plays TV writer and director Elliott Nash, who’s blackmailed by Dan Shelby (voiced by Stanley Adams) over nude photographs of his wife Nell (Reynolds) taken when she was 18.

Elliott does not inform Nell, the star of a Broadway musical, trying to work hard to make enough money to pay off the ever-increasing demands.

Finally, Elliott decides that murder is the only way out, and to that extent listens to advice from his friend District Attorney Harlow Edison (Carl Reiner). When the blackmailer shows up at the Nashes’ suburban home to collect his payment,

Elliott shoots him, then hides the body in the concrete foundation being poured for the antique gazebo his wife has bought, wrapped in the shower curtains from his bathroom..

Meanwhile Sam Thorpe (John McGiver), the contractor hired to install the structure, and Miss Chandler (Mabel Albertson), the real estate agent trying to sell the Nashes’ house, are interfering with his scheme.

When Harlow informs that Shelby has been shot and killed in his hotel room, Elliott wonders who he murdered. Since Nell’s name is on a list of blackmail, both Elliott and she are suspects. (It turns out, Shelby approached Nell first, but was rejected; the publicity would have boosted the musical).

They are cleared when the found murder weapon is owned by Joe the Black, Shelby’s associate. Lieutenant Jenkins (Bert Freed) concludes that Joe decided not to split the money, and Elliott realizes that his victim was  criminal.

Other gang members, the Duke (Martin Landau) and Louis the Louse (Dick Wessel), kidnap Nell and take her to her home. They followed Joe the Black to the Nash house, looking for the briefcase containing $100,000 with which he was planning to disappear.

The body is in the gazebo’s foundation, now crumbling due to unexpected rains. They bring the body, wrapped in the shower curtains, Nash’s house, find the briefcase and leave.

Elliott then gets home, unties his wife and confesses what he has done, moving the body to the guest bedroom.

Lieutenant Jenkins shows up with his prisoners, the Duke and Louis, believing that Elliott is the murderer. Elliott is about to confess, when he sees that the bullet he fired missed Joe and instead hit a book. A doctor confirms that Joe actually died of heart problem.

Elliott’s pet pigeon Herman flies off with the bullet, and no evidence ties him to the death.

While Reynolds, for a change, underacts, Glenn Ford (possibly miscast) overacts.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Costume Design (black and white): Helen Rose

 

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