Wheeler Dealers The (1963)
Directed by Arthur Hiller (Love Story (1970)) with a screenplay co-written by Ira Wallach (Hot Millions (1968)) this average romantic comedy spoofs Texans and their wild(cat) investment schemes. The cast includes many recognizable faces though mostly supporting players who made their names on television including its stars James Garner (Murphy’s Romance (1985)) and Lee Remick (Days of Wine and Roses (1962)) whose characters form the basis of the film’s romance.
Henry Tyroon (Garner) is a Texas wildcatter who’s just come up dry on his fifth hole in a row. So he needs to go to New York to land some new investors to pay a $1.2 Million note that’s due. Robert Strauss (Stalag 17 (1953)) plays an NYC cabbie that serves as Henry’s first scheme there; John Marley (Love Story (1970)) & Donald Briggs play investors he scores. Phil Harris Chill Wills and Charles Watts play three crazy Texans who follow Henry wherever he goes because of his past success and in order to get in on the ground floor of anything Henry decides to try. Molly Thatcher (Remick) is a woman trying to make it on Wall Street downtown instead of trying to land a husband uptown like her roommate Eloise (Pat Crowley – Please Don’t Eat the Daisies). Since she assumes every male she meets only wants sex Molly maintains a platonic relationship with a troubled art critic Leonard (Elliot Reid) who sees a psychiatrist. Molly’s boss at the investment firm Bullard Bear (Jim Backus – Gilligan’s Island) and his eye-rolling assistant Whitby (Alan Sues uncredited – Laugh-In) decide they must trim overhead and let Miss Thatcher go. So they hatch a plan to give her an impossible assignment make a dead stock rise from the ashes to make it less obvious. Of course one of the potential investors Henry visits is Mr. Bear who points the Southern drawl speaking yokel or so he assumes towards Molly. Howard McNear (The Andy Griffith Show) plays a condescending businessman who speaks at the women’s investment club Molly attends during lunch.
Molly thinks that Henry is just a stereotypical Texan and Henry’s initial actions don’t do anything to dispel her notions. However he soon impresses her with his lavish expenditures which she later learns are investment schemes. For instance at one of Leonard’s affairs an art exhibition Henry meets the artist Stanislas (Louis Nye – The Beverly Hillbillies) who he then uses to speculate in the art world and practically corners the German impressionists’ market. Additionally Henry’s mastery of tax law enables him to turn losers into winners or at least limit his losses. Henry then makes a deal to use his financial savvy to help Molly become president of her investment club if she’ll agree to spend 6 months in Texas with him. She agrees so they drive to Massachusetts to visit the owner of the widget business whose stock she’d been given to promote. Once there they learn that the widget factory burned down the widget market being long since defunct and Mr. Whipple (Vaughn Taylor) invested what was left of the company’s assets in AT&T stock those many decades ago. But the trip does serve to establish a romantic relationship between Henry and Molly.
Not easily dissuaded Henry decides to promote the widget company as a communications entity using Yarrow (Joey Forman – various) & Zack (Pat Harrington Jr. – One Day at a Time) public relations specialists and other means. Soon the company is on the lips of investors throughout New York assisted by a typo mentioning widgets instead of midgets in a Communications Industry trade rag. For tax reasons Henry negotiates to buy the subsurface rights at the widget factory site and sends Bo (H.M. Wynant uncredited) & his Texas crew there to begin drilling. In the Federal Securities Commission offices an ambitious employee (John Astin – The Addams Family) is dismayed that stocks continue to go “up up up”. So when the widget company’s stock begins to rise rapidly it comes to his attention such that he hatches an investigation in hopes that he can find fraud. At the same time Leonard is upset that he’s lost Molly to Henry which he discusses with Stanislas who informs him that Henry is really a Yale graduate. Also the three crazy Texans are so happy with the money they’ve made investing in Henry’s schemes that they want to do something for their friend. They decide that the only thing he seems to want is Molly so they conspire to have her boss fire her. When he does Bear lets slip some mention of Texas which makes Molly believe that Henry had something to do with it. This is compounded by the fact that Leonard then calls her with news of Henry’s Yale degree.
Of course things will work out for them in the end though most will find the “getting there” unsatisfactory (e.g. the trial) & dated especially women.
In addition to all the (TV) actors mentioned above: James Doohan (Star Trek) Percy Helton (The Beverly Hillbillies) Bernie Kopell (The Love Boat) Charles Lane & William O’Connell (Petticoat Junction) Walter Burke and Hoagy Carmichael also appear uncredited.