Cash McCall (1960): Pevney’s Technicolor Romantic Business Drama, Starring James Garner and Natalie Wood

Produced by Henry Blanke, and directed by Joseph Pevney, Cash McCall is a romantic business melodrama, wasting the considerable talents of both James Garner and Natalie Wood.

Cash McCall
Cash Mc Call - Film Poster.jpg

Grade: C+ (*1/2* out of *****)

Lenore J. Coffee and Marion Hargrove’s trite script is based on the novel of the same name by Cameron Hawley. Hargrove had also written several scripts for Garner’s popular TV series, Maverick.

The protagonist is a wealthy entrepreneur who buys moribund businesses, refurbishes and then sell them at a profit. During his latest acquisition, he becomes attracted to the daughter of the company’s owner, which complicates his professional and private life.

Grant Austen (Dean Jagger), the head of Austen Plastics, yearns for retirement. So when Schofield Industries, his largest customer, threatens to take its business elsewhere, Austen considers selling his company. He hires a consulting firm, which finds an interested potential buyer in businessman Cash McCall (James Garner).

Cash meets with Austen and daughter Lory (Natalie Wood), who owns part of the company.  It turns out they met the previous summer and became instantly attracted to each other. However, when Lory showed up at his cabin soaking wet from rain storm, Cash turned her away. Mortified by the rejection, she fled back into the storm. Cash then realizes he had made a mistake, and he overpays for Austen Plastics in order to talk to her again.  (The incident is later shown in a flashback from Cash’s POV, with his narration)

Before the deal is finalized, Cash’s assistant Gil Clark (Henry Jones) discovers that Austen Plastics holds patents essential to Schofield Industries. Its alarmed boss, retired Army General Danvers (Roland Winters), tries to buy Austen Plastics. Cash then starts buying up the controlling interest in the second company.

Cash proposes marriage to Lory, and she accepts. However, the assistant manager of the hotel where Cash resides, Maude Kennard (Nina Foch), desires Cash and pretends to be Cash’s girlfriend.

Austen’s business acquaintance claims that Cash swindled him and paid less than the company’s worth, prompting Austen to sue Cash.  Eventually, however, everything is cleared up, and Cash and Lory reconcile.

All the figures are stock characters in this borderline banal, harmless melodrama that lacks conviction as a legal enterprise or romantic meller.

Cast
James Garner as Cash McCall
Natalie Wood as Lory Austen
Nina Foch as Maude Kennard
Dean Jagger as Grant Austen
E. G. Marshall as Winston Conway
Henry Jones as Gilmore Clark
Otto Kruger as Will Atherson
Roland Winters as General Danvers
Edward Platt as Harrison Glenn, Cash’s lawyer
Edgar Stehli as Mr. Pierce
Linda Watkins as Marie Austen, Grant’s wife
Parley Baer as Harvey Bannon

Credits:

Directed by Joseph Pevney
Produced by Henry Blanke
Written by Lenore J. Coffee and Marion Hargrove, based on Cameron Hawley’s novel
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography George J. Folsey
Edited by Philip W. Anderson
Distributed by Warner Bros.

Release date January 20, 1960 (LA); January 23, 1960 (US)

Running time: 102 minutes.

Note:

TCM showed the movie on August 15, 2020 as part of a tribute to Nin Foch.