Film: One, Two, Three

One, Two, Three is a comedy movie by Billy Wilder from 1961. Set in West Berlin shortly before the wall was built, it's about James Cagney as the boss of Coca-Cola Germany who has to care for the daughter of his boss spending her holiday there. And trying to do business with some Communists, to expand Coca-Cola beyond the Iron Curtain. And to him trying to prevent his marriage from falling apart. Hilarity Ensues (lots of!).

Thing seem to be going fine for MacNamara (Cagney), Coca-Cola (the company he works for) is doing well, and he's about to seal a deal with the Russian trade commission to get Coca-Cola past the Iron Curtain. Hoping this will earn him the prized position in London, sadly Mac has to jump through one more hoop. The daughter of his boss is on a tour of Europe and said boss insists that Mac look after her. So for over a month Scarlet Heseltine is a guest of the MacNamara's. Thankfully her parents have made plans to come and take her home. Unfortunately, Scarlet's new husband Otto has other plans. It seems that Scarlet had been sneaking out of the house the whole time she was with the MacNamara's and slipped behind the Iron Curtain to have fun on the town. Which is where she ran into the young Communist, and naturally, they fell in love...naturally. So now Mac must make Otto acceptable to Scarlet's conservative high society parents or he'll be thrown out into the streets.


  • The Alleged Car: The Soviet agents' Moskvitch 407.
    "Is exact replica of 1937 Nash!"
    • It isn't. It's a much smaller car with up-to-date late '50s styling. How the Vopos wound up with a French Simca Aronde instead of an East German or Soviet model is pure movie magic, too...
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Played with. MacNamara has a former S.S. member as his assistant; one scene shows his employees acting like complete robots when issued orders. This comes in handy when Schlemmer gives away that the investigative reporter who threatens to expose the whole deal is a former SS officer.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: And during Cold War, no one was worse than a Commie.
  • Bait and Switch: The very movie starts with it. James Cagney starts talking how the world was looking to Washington, DC on August the 13th of 1961... for a sports game. Oh, by the way, on the same day the Commies built The Berlin Wall.
  • Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word: The aforementioned Intrepid Reporter is unable to be put off even with extravagant bribes until Schlemmer does a Nazi salute to him in front of MacNamara. The reporter quickly backs off.
  • Clumsy Copyright Censorship: Completely and utterly averted. Joan Crawford, at the time a major stockholder of Pepsi, was enraged by what she saw as blatant product placement. In response, the very last gag in the film involves Pepsi — MacNamara puts a nickel in a Coke machine at Templehof and is rather annoyed that he receives... a bottle of Pepsi.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    Peripetchikoff: We have emergency meeting with Swiss Trade Delegation. They send us twenty car-loads of cheese. Totally unacceptable... full of holes.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment/Loud of War: The communist who married the daughter of Coca Cola's CEO is being tortured in East Germany... by being forced to listen to "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polkadot Bikini" on repeat for hours on end. With the record spindle off-center. He writhes in pain.
  • Cross Dresser: Schlemmer disguises in Ingeborg's dress to fool the Russians, so they'll let Otto free.
  • Deadpan Snarker: MacNamara's wife Phyllis.
    (after MacNamara comes up with a wild story about Otto being a secret agent with a posthumous medal) "Why don't you give one to yourself? First-class heel with oak leaf cluster!"
  • Dirty Commies
  • The Ditz: Scarlett, definitely.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: This time the other way round. Before August 1961, people could cross the border between West and East Berlin quite easily - which millions of East Germans used to move to the promised golden west. The movie was based on this premise and suffered when the wall was built.
  • Guile Hero: MacNamara.
  • History Marches On: When production commenced in Berlin, there was no wall. Halfway through production, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik decided, quite inconveniently, to erect the first layers of what would eventually become Die Mauer. This threw a monkey wrench in the plans of the filmmakers, especially when they had obtained permits to shoot near the Brandenburg Gate. It also meant that as mentioned above, that the movie entered theaters already dated with a side of Too Soon.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Graf von Droste-Schattenburg, currently working as a restroom attendant. He is paid to adopt Otto.
  • Improbably Cool Car: MacNamara's "Adenauer" Mercedes; a regional Coca-Cola plant manager in Germany in 1961 would have had at most a smaller, near-taxi-spec "Ponton" Mercedes, but more likely an Opel Rekord or Ford Taunus or even a VW Beetle as a company car. Mac's independently wealthy, though, so maybe he bought it with his own money at a better price than he could've gotten back home in the US.
  • It's All About Me: MacNamara is quite happy to feed newlywed Otto to the East German secret police to save his career, flips out when it's discovered that Scarlet is pregnant because of what the boss will do to him, and completely ignores the fact that his wife has completely had it with globetrotting and his behavior.
  • Kicked Upstairs: The fate that MacNamara is trying to avoid for most of the film: reassignment to the home office in Atlanta. It happens in the end, but he faces it with equanimity, since it will let him be closer to his family.
  • Large Ham: James Cagney's performance here exhausted him so much that he retired.
  • Lzherusskie: The Russian characters are played by Austrian and German actors.
  • Misplaced Nationalism: Parodied when Jimmy Cagney is upset with Coca-Cola heiress Scarlet for taking part in a "Yankee, Go Home" rally: "But back home, everybody hates the Yankees!" ("Ami, Go Home" would have been a completely different thing, of course...)
  • On Second Thought: After the Russians realize Otto has been arrested as a spy, they start to waver on rescuing him:
    Peripetchikoff: Do you know what happens if I defect? They will line up my family and shoot them! My wife, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, my sister-in-law...(Beat)...Let's do it!
  • Only Sane Woman: Phyllis, who pokes holes in MacNamara's Zany Scheme logic, and is generally unimpressed with the absurd goings-on.
  • Product Placement: No wonder, if the main character is a Coca-Cola exec.
  • Pygmalion Plot: MacNamara has ten hours to turn Otto from a slovenly Communist to a dapper businessman worthy of the boss's daughter.
  • Sexy Secretary: Ingeborg, played by Lilo Pulver.
  • Shout-Out: To Little Caesar, Gone with the Wind, Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Public Enemy, Ninotchka.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Otto about Communism. He even thinks it's a capitalist lie that Siberia is cold, and is happy that the Communists assigned them "a magnificent apartment, just a short walk from the bathroom!".
  • You No Take Candle: The Russians.
  • Zany Scheme: At one point, they need a Zany Scheme to revert the effects of another one. Which they are responsible for.

Alternative Title(s):

One Two Three