Cold War Cool

One, Two, Three

Billy Wilder was one of our most observant and hilarious film-makers.  He also happens to have been very mobile throughout his long and productive life.  Born in 1906, he was an Austrian-born Jewish-American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist and journalist whose career spanned more than five decades.  

His stunning screenplay for One, Two, Three finds C.R. MacNamara, a high-ranking executive in the Coca-Cola Company assigned to West Berlin after a business fiasco a few years earlier in the Middle East.  One day, he receives a call from his boss, W.P. Hazeltine, in Atlanta.  Scarlett Hazeltine, the boss’s hot-blooded but slightly dim 17-year-old socialite daughter is coming to West Berlin and Mac is assigned the unenviable task of taking care of this young whirlwind.

An expected two-week stay develops into two months, and Mac discovers why Scarlett is enamored of West Berlin.  She surprises him by announcing that she’s married to Otto Piffi, a young East German Communist with ardent anti-capitalist views.  Since Hazeltine and his wife are coming to Berlin to collect their daughter the very next day, this is obviously a disaster of monumental proportions.  Mac deals with it as any good capitalist would – by framing the young Communist firebrand and having him picked up by the East German police.

Ultimately, everything works out, in a Wilder sort of way.  Mac contrives with his Soviet business associates to turn Otto (the communist) into Otto (the capitalist).  Mac winds up as VP of Procurement back in Atlanta.   At the airport, as he and his family celebrate his promotion, Mac notices that the ‘Cokes’ he has just bought are really from Pepsi.

Wilder manages to wrap the narrative up with a wry humorous twist.  Although his views on Communism and Capitalism aren’t necessarily known, this guy loved to laugh!


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