Surprise Package (1960)

99-100 mins | Comedy-drama | November 1960

Director:

Stanley Donen

Writer:

Harry Kurnitz

Producer:

Stanley Donen

Cinematographer:

Christopher Challis

Editor:

James B. Clark

Production Designer:

Don Ashton

Production Company:

Stanley Donen Enterprises, Ltd.
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HISTORY

The working title of the film was Surprise Party . The film’s onscreen credits roll as the head of Yul Brynner, attached to a stick-figure body, dances across the screen and collides with the head of Mitzi Gaynor, which is also attached to a stick figure body. The pair dances to the left side of the screen, where they collide with the head of Nöel Coward, wearing a crown and attached to a stick figure body. The three then dance until their bodies swirl together and ascend out of the frame. Their heads then plop down into a box where they dodge the animated lines of gunfire spraying across the screen. The title Surprise Package is then superimposed over the gunfire. The opening credits end as their legs sprout out of the bottom of the box and they run offscreen as the volley of gunfire increases, finally ending in an explosion.
       Columbia production notes in the film's file at the AMPAS Library note that filming began in Oct 1959 on the Isle of Rhodes, near the ancient town of Lindos, and at the thermal springs at Kalithen. According to an interview with director Stanley Donen printed in a modern source, Donen chose to make the picture because he was in need of money and already owned the rights to Art Buchwald’s book. As a favor to Donen, Harry Kurnitz, who wrote the screenplay for Donen’s film Once More with Feeling (see above) then agreed to write the screenplay. Surprise Package was the first of five collaborations between Donen and director of photography Christopher ... More Less

The working title of the film was Surprise Party . The film’s onscreen credits roll as the head of Yul Brynner, attached to a stick-figure body, dances across the screen and collides with the head of Mitzi Gaynor, which is also attached to a stick figure body. The pair dances to the left side of the screen, where they collide with the head of Nöel Coward, wearing a crown and attached to a stick figure body. The three then dance until their bodies swirl together and ascend out of the frame. Their heads then plop down into a box where they dodge the animated lines of gunfire spraying across the screen. The title Surprise Package is then superimposed over the gunfire. The opening credits end as their legs sprout out of the bottom of the box and they run offscreen as the volley of gunfire increases, finally ending in an explosion.
       Columbia production notes in the film's file at the AMPAS Library note that filming began in Oct 1959 on the Isle of Rhodes, near the ancient town of Lindos, and at the thermal springs at Kalithen. According to an interview with director Stanley Donen printed in a modern source, Donen chose to make the picture because he was in need of money and already owned the rights to Art Buchwald’s book. As a favor to Donen, Harry Kurnitz, who wrote the screenplay for Donen’s film Once More with Feeling (see above) then agreed to write the screenplay. Surprise Package was the first of five collaborations between Donen and director of photography Christopher Challis. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
10 Oct 1960.
---
Daily Variety
11 Oct 60
p. 3.
Film Daily
13 Oct 60
p. 6.
Filmfacts
1960
pp. 273-74.
Hollywood Citizen-News
27 Oct 1960.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 1959
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Nov 1959
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Dec 1959
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Oct 60
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
15 Oct 60
p. 884.
New York Times
8 Nov 1959.
---
New York Times
15 Oct 60
p. 26.
Variety
12 Oct 60
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Miss Gaynor's ward
MUSIC
Mus under the dir of
Mus comp and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Main title des
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair styles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel A Gift from the Boys by Art Buchwald (New York, 1958).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Surprise Package," words and music by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Surprise Party
Release Date:
November 1960
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 14 October 1960
Los Angeles opening: 26 October 1960
Production Date:
early October 1959 on the Isle of Rhodes
19 October--23 December 1959 at Shepperton Studios, London
Copyright Claimant:
Stanley Donen Enterprises, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
1 October 1960
Copyright Number:
LP17297
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
99-100
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19508
SYNOPSIS

When gambling czar Nico March is deported by the United States government, and scheduled to be sent back to his homeland of Greece, Nico absconds with a percentage of the syndicate's money for his nest egg. Aware that the customs department will confiscate any funds he tries to take out of the country, Nico arranges for his right-hand man, Johnny Stettina, to hide the money until Nico sends for it in Greece. When an attack is made on his life right before he leaves the country, Nico forbids his long-time girl friend, Gabby Rogers, to accompany him because he fears for her life. In Greece, Nico is confined to a tiny, isolated island, where he is met by the corrupt police chief, Stefan Mirales, who immediately solicits a bribe. After Nico is quartered in a rundown inn, Mirales stations his men around the harbor to make sure he is unable to leave the island. Soon after, King Pavel II of Anatolia, a fellow exile, invites Nico to his villa. There the king explains that as he was being crowned, revolutionaries who opposed his reign exploded a hidden bomb in a pipe organ and seized power. The king fled the country carrying only his jeweled scepter and the Crown of Jupiter that had just been deposited on his head. The king sold the scepter to pay for the villa and support a harem of Greek beauties whom he recruited from the surrounding hillsides. Because he has run out of money, the king offers to sell Nico the crown, which contains three diamonds worth over a million dollars. Upon returning to ... +


When gambling czar Nico March is deported by the United States government, and scheduled to be sent back to his homeland of Greece, Nico absconds with a percentage of the syndicate's money for his nest egg. Aware that the customs department will confiscate any funds he tries to take out of the country, Nico arranges for his right-hand man, Johnny Stettina, to hide the money until Nico sends for it in Greece. When an attack is made on his life right before he leaves the country, Nico forbids his long-time girl friend, Gabby Rogers, to accompany him because he fears for her life. In Greece, Nico is confined to a tiny, isolated island, where he is met by the corrupt police chief, Stefan Mirales, who immediately solicits a bribe. After Nico is quartered in a rundown inn, Mirales stations his men around the harbor to make sure he is unable to leave the island. Soon after, King Pavel II of Anatolia, a fellow exile, invites Nico to his villa. There the king explains that as he was being crowned, revolutionaries who opposed his reign exploded a hidden bomb in a pipe organ and seized power. The king fled the country carrying only his jeweled scepter and the Crown of Jupiter that had just been deposited on his head. The king sold the scepter to pay for the villa and support a harem of Greek beauties whom he recruited from the surrounding hillsides. Because he has run out of money, the king offers to sell Nico the crown, which contains three diamonds worth over a million dollars. Upon returning to his hotel room, Nico is visited by Dr. Hugo Panzer, an envoy from the People's Republic of Anatolia, and his hulking enforcer, Igor Trofim. Panzer, who wants the crown returned to the People's Republic, warns Nico that it carries the curse that “he who buys it will die.” When Nico relates his conversation with Panzer to Pavel, the king scoffs at the curse, and thus reassured, Nico offers to buy the crown. Because Mirales’ men have him under surveillance, Nico sends petty thief Klimatis to Athens with instructions to cable Johnny for the money. Johnny wires back that the “shipment” will arrive on the boat Nemesis , and on the day the boat is to arrive, Nico eagerly waits on the beach. Instead of a satchel filled with cash, however, Nico is met by Gabby, who informs him that the “boys” sent her as a present and decided to keep the money for themselves. Broke and furious, Nico is approached by Tibor Smolny, a down-on-his-luck Hungarian spy who offers to sell him classified secrets that are so sensitive the United States government will welcome him back with open arms. Deriding Tibor as a “halfwit Hungarian spy,” Nico decides to steal the crown and use Gabby as bait for the womanizing king. Feeling sorry for the penniless, hungry Tibor, Gabby gives him ten dollars and he takes her sightseeing on the island. While Gabby is with Tibor, Nico visits the king at his villa, and pretending an interest in renting the place, asks for a tour so that he can case it in search of the crown. Soon after, as the king strolls through the town plaza, he spots Gabby’s shapely legs as she sits at the hotel’s café and stops to introduce himself. When Gabby explains that she is Nico’s “secretary,” the king invites them to dinner the following evening. Meanwhile, Nico asks Klimatis to procure a small boat and meet him after dark. Once night falls, Nico and Klimatis row to the cliffs below the king’s villa. After attaching a grappling hook connected to a rope to the cliffs, Nico climbs the rope and sneaks onto the roof of the villa so that he can observe the action below through a skylight. He then deliberately sets off the burglar alarm and watches as the king scurries to a closet in his bedroom. Nico is puzzled when the king peers inside at racks of suits and hats and seems reassured that the crown is safe. Upon returning to the hotel, Nico remembers seeing a silk hat in the closet and, concluding that the crown must be hidden inside, sends Tibor to Athens to purchase an identical hat which he will then switch with the one in the king’s closet. The next day, Gabby visits a church where a man welcomes her inside. Introducing himself as Stavrin, the man tells her that the crown was stolen centuries ago from a monastery on a nearby island and should be returned, then cryptically adds “Do you want to save your friend?” When Tibor returns with the top hat, Nico arranges for it to be hidden in a vase of flowers, which he then has delivered to the villa. Shaken by Stavrin’s warning, Gabby tells Nico that the crown must be restored to its rightful owners, but he ignores her. That night, Gabby and Nico dine at the king’s villa, and while Gabby dances with the king, Nico sneaks into the hallway to extract the hat from the vase. Just as Nico discovers that the hat is missing, Panzer and Igor appear, knock him out and climb the steps to the king’s bedroom, where they locate the crown hidden in the hat. Igor then climbs down the trellis, but upon reaching the ground is knocked out by Tibor, who has been hiding in the bushes. Unaware of the situation, Panzer tosses the crown out the window to Igor, and Tibor catches it and flees. Realizing what has happened, Panzer fires his gun at Tibor, sounding the alarm. By the time the king finds Nico lying unconscious in the hallway, Panzer, Igor and Tibor have escaped. While searching the grounds for the thieves, Nico slips on a piece of salami of the type favored by Tibor and deduces that Tibor is involved in the disappearance of the crown. Back in town, Gabby goes to Tibor’s room where he proudly displays his treasure. Gabby convinces Tibor to follow her, but as they leave the building, they are spotted by Igor and Panzer, who start shooting at them. Nico then arrives, and although he tries to hold off the thugs, Tibor is shot. Gabby takes the wounded Tibor to the church, where he collapses on the floor, crown in hand, and gasps “I am dying a millionaire.” Stavrin picks up the crown and is about to give it to Gabby when she knocks it out of his hand. The newly installed police captain then hauls them all to the police station, where Mirales has been arrested for corruption. After ascertaining that Igor and Panzer are the thieves, the captain releases Gabby and Nico. Furious at losing the crown, Nico is busily packing Gabby’s bags to send her back home when he blurts out a marriage proposal. Some time later, the king, Gabby and Nico have transformed the villa into the Silk Hat Casino where they separate the rich from their money. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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