The Honeymoon Machine
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Although he was making a name for himself as a gritty young character actor in such movies as Never So Few (1959) and The Magnificent Seven (1960), Steve McQueen was a couple of years from genuine stardom when he appeared in MGM's The Honeymoon Machine (1961), a fast-paced comedy based on a play by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. McQueen accepted this script after losing the lead in Pocketful of Miracles (1961), a role for which director Frank Capra had requested him after Frank Sinatra turned it down. Executives at United Artists didn't think McQueen had sufficient box-office appeal to justify hiring him, and Glenn Ford ended up with the role.
In The Honeymoon Machine McQueen plays a Navy lieutenant who programs his ship's computer, nicknamed "Max," to beat the odds at a casino in Venice, Italy, by receiving signals showing results at the roulette wheel. Farcical complications ensue when the fleet's admiral (Dean Jagger) believes the signals mean his ships are about to be attacked. McQueen's costars included the popular comedy team of Jim Hutton and Paula Prentiss. According to MGM press releases, the computer in the film was the real thing, with 4,000 vacuum tubes and 175 miles of wiring.
Playing in a film comedy for the first time, McQueen felt that his attempt to create a zany character had backfired. According to biographer William F. Nolan, the young actor walked out of an MGM executive preview shortly after the screening began. Dismayed by his own overacting, McQueen was convinced that he simply couldn't play comedy -- a notion he would disprove in such films as The Reivers (1969). He later said, "I decided to go after something gutty for my next one." So he signed up to play "a real mean son of a bitch" in Hell Is for Heroes (1962). The year after that he hit the big time with The Great Escape (1963).
Producer: Lawrence Weingarten
Director: Richard Thorpe
Screenplay: George Wells, from play The Golden Fleecing by Lorenzo Semple, Jr.
Cinematography: Joseph LaShelle
Art Direction: Preston Ames
Film Editing: Ben Lewis
Original Music: Jack Brooks, Leigh Harline
Costume Design: Helen Rose
Principal Cast: Steve McQueen (Lt. Fergie Howard), Brigid Bazlen (Julie Fitch), Jim Hutton (Jason Eldridge), Paula Prentiss (Pam Dunstan), Dean Jagger (Adm. Fitch), Jack Weston (Signalman Burford Taylor), Jack Mullaney (Lt. j.g. Beau Gilliam).
C-88m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Roger Fristoe