After World War II, suburban developments saw a massive boom. Affordable single family houses were built efficiently and welcomed returning veterans and others to a place far from the roaring crowd in the city.
The reputation for suburbia was one of tranquility and peace. Hollywood enjoyed disturbing this idyllic world in the movies, not unlike a child stomping on your sand castle or your brother ripping off the heads of your dolls.
A story would present what seems to be a pleasant family, then it would reveal a secret, or tempt a suburbanite to break the law or marriage vows, or bring in an untrustworthy character to stir the plot. When it's played with gravitas, we here at Java's Journey call that a "Suburban Drama" (which we've discussed before). When a suburban story line is played for laughs, it's usually a "Sit-Com Movie."
Sit-Com movies are reminiscent of the lightweight, suburban situation comedies that would air on television in the mid-to late 20th century. The plot often involves a father who works outside of suburbia, a mother who stays home, children who learn important life lessons and a pet. Then something changes the normal routine.
Good Neighbor Sam (1964) is a sit-com movie starring Jack Lemmon as Sam. Sam is a married suburban man who helps his wife's friend and new neighbor Janet (Romy Schneider) by pretending to be her husband when her relatives make an unannounced visit.
Janet could become an heiress if relatives believe she is married until the will goes through. Complications arise when Janet's estranged and not-yet-divorced husband (Mike Connors) shows up.
Also, Sam is known for being a family man with no moral failings. This trait recently earned him a promotion at work and the favor of a wealthy client. Should his employers discover his tricks with the neighbor, Sam might lose his job.
Good Neighbor Sam is a wacky film that's a bit heavy-handed with the comedy. It shines in subtler moments with Dorothy Provine (as Sam's understanding wife Minerva), who pauses ever so slightly when Janet introduces Sam as her own husband. Minerva then regains her composure and goes with the scene.
The film has it's funny moments, as well, with Edward G. Robinson as the wealthy client who could cost Sam his job.
Good Neighbor Sam is recommended if you are a Jack Lemmon fan or Edward G. Robinson follower or a Romy Schneider completist (i.e.you feel compelled to watch all of her films), or if you enjoy 1960s sit-com movies.
- Read about The Restless Years with Sandra Dee and The Reckless Moment with Joan Bennett. Both are Suburban Dramas