On the fourth day of Christmas, TMP teaches you… criminals can have hearts of gold, too! Today’s holiday flick is Fitzwilly, starring Dick Van Dyke as a well-meaning con artist. On to the review…
Victoria Woodworth (Edith Evans) is a kind, wealthy woman living in a fancy Manhattan brownstone. Actually, that’s only partially true. She is kind, and she does live comfortably in Manhattan, but she only thinks she’s rich.
Practically penniless, her charitable donations come not from her inheritance, but from her faithful house staff, who are willing to do anything to help her maintain her lifestyle and reputation. Her butler, Fitzwilliam (Dick Van Dyke) — or “Fitzwilly,” for short — has masterminded several brilliant but criminal schemes to keep the money flowing in. All of this happens unbeknownst to Victoria, who thinks she inherited a hefty load of money.
When Victoria hires a secretary (Barbara Feldon) to help with her new dictionary-writing venture, however, Fitzwilly’s schemes are put in jeopardy.
Delbert Mann directs Fitzwilly, a criminal Christmas Eve comedy. The film was written for the screen by Isobel Lennart.
Fitzwilly is kept light by the fact that the crimes committed aren’t particularly harmful, and aren’t ill-intentioned. Fitzwilly orchestrates it all for the sake of his elderly boss, who in truth only inherited a grand sum of $180 from her father.
The fact that the crimes are committed to help an elderly woman, and that some of the crimes (such as the bible-selling scheme) provide comfort to people, makes Fitzwilly and his gang some of the most likable criminals to ever grace the screen! It helps, also, that Dick Van Dyke is so incredibly charming.
Though it’s more of a crime-comedy that just happens to take place around Christmas than a full-on Christmas flick, there are some lovely holiday decorations to enjoy throughout the film. Gimbal’s on Christmas Eve will also be a familiar scene to anyone who has ventured out during the busy holiday shopping season, particularly on Black Friday. It’s a total frenzy, especially when Fitzwilly puts up a fake offer for free television sets!
Fitzwilly is not a riotous comedy, but a highly enjoyable film, with a great cast and lovable characters. A fun and light watch for the Christmas season.