Prize, The (1963)

MGM
(A Roxbury Production)

For “The Prize,” a tale of Nobel Prize winners in Stockholm who get involved in sexual escapades, international intrigues, and misunderstandings, Paul Newman reteamed with Mark Robson, who directed him in another ambitious but unsuccessful picture, “From the Terrace.”

The disappointing screenplay by Ernest Lehman (who wrote the great Hitchcock adventure, “North by Northweest,” among many achievments), from Irving Wallace's best-selling novel, tries to combine elements of comedy, melodrama, mistaken identities and chases, resulting in a hodge-podge of a movie that doesn't really work on any level.

It's noteworthy that several Swedish officials protested the film, claiming that it denigrated the dignity of the prizes.

The story deals with a colorful group of Nobel winners, who convene in a Stockholm hotel prior to the Award ceremonies. Andrew Craig (Newman), a hard-drinking womanizer, is about to receive the literature prize. Dr. Max Stratman (Edward G. Robinson) is up for the physics award. John Garrett and Carlo Farelli (Kevin McCarthy and Sergio Fantoni) are winners in medicine, and Dr. Denise Marceau (Micheline Presle) is honored for chemistry. Dr. Stratman, whose companion is his niece Emily (Diane Baker), is kidnapped by the communists and spirited to a Russian ship in Stockholm’s harbor. His twin brother is substituted. The communists plan to take the real Doctor Stratman back to Russia, so that the communist-indoctrinated brother will criticize the U.S. in his acceptance speech.

Craig, who has met the real Doctor Stratman, becomes suspicious of the imposter and begins a personal investigation, and soon, communist countermeasures are threatening his life. The Swedish police and Lisa Andersen (Sommer), who has been assigned to him by the hosts, discredit his claim that “Stratman” is an imposter. Newman’s search for Stratman takes him around Stockholm, in and around odd byways, including a nudist colony where he hides to avoid the communist agents. Followed by them, he is forced to mingle with the nudists. To escape, he pretends to heckle the speaker at a nudist meeting and is rushed out.

Back on his travels again, he manages to find the ship where the real Stratman is held prisoner. Singlehandedly, he smuggles him off and back to the hotel where, exhausted from his ordeal, Stratman suffers a heart seizure. Garrett and Farelli revive him. Later, the real Stratman joins the other prizewinners at the ceremony and the imposter flees; he's later killed by a Russian agent to conceal the aborted plan.

In the end, it's disclosed that the dead man was not Stratman’s brother, but a professional actor. Stratman’s brother had actually died years before in Russia. The award ceremonies proceed with dignity and pomp, and the winners, including Craig, go up to King Gustav to accept their awards. Craig, who during the action had dallied with Denise and Emily, decides that Lise is the real girl for him.

The adventure sequences showcase Newman to mild advantage. The “highlight” of his performance was running around semi-naked in a nudist colony. However, lacking a natural flair for comedy, Newman was criticized by most reviewers, who also dismissed the film as silly.

Cast

Paul Newman
Edward G. Robinson
Elke Sommer.
Diane Baker
Micheline Presle
Gerard Oury
Sergie Fantoni
Kevin McCarthy
Leon G. Cararoll
Sacha Pitoeff
Jacqueline Beer
John Wengraf
Don Dubbins
Virginia Christine
Rudolph Anders
Martine Bartlett
Karl Swenson
John Qualen
Ned Wever

Credits

Produced by Pandro S. Berman.
Directed by Mark Robson.
Screenplay by Ernest Lehman.
Based on the novel by Irving Wallace.
Music by Jerry Goldsmith.
Photographed by William Daniels.
Assistant Director, Hank Moonjean.
Set Decoration, Henry Grace and Dick Pefferle.
Film Editor, Adrienne Fazan.
Special Visual Effects, J. McMillan Johnson, A. Arnold Gillespie, Robert R. Hoag.
Hair Styles, Sydney Guilaroff.
Makeup, William Tuttle.
Associate Producer, Kathryn Hereford.
Art Directors, George W. Davis and Urie McCleary.
In Panavision and MetroColor.

Running time: 135 minutes.