I just saw Telly Savalas – Kojak a little later in his life, with considerably less hair – riding a bike and hanging onto a car being driven by character actress Cara Williams, and then losing his balance and falling off his Raleigh Sports. It’s a heart-stopping moment (ha!) near the exciting climax (ha!) of the 1963 Danny Kaye comedy, The Man from the Diners’ Club. I happened to be watching this screwball gem (not quite) on YouTube early this Sunday morning (dubbed in Hungarian, of course) -- because I’d recently acquired a publicity still from the film, an image of Kaye exiting an establishment with an awning that says “Your Loss is Our Gain,” pedaling furiously on his bike, and I wanted to know what was going on, plot-wise.
Well, the black-and-white Columbia release is about a timid credit card company clerk (Kaye) who inadvertently approves a card for a mobster (Savalas) and has to get it back, or lose his job. There are G-men and gangland goons, and a lot of the action happens at the Sweat Shop Gym (hence the awning with the motto). At one point, a fleet of gangsters, disguised as florist deliverymen, quit the gym en masse on bikes. And at the same time Savalas is busy crashing his two-wheeler, Kaye is cycling at high speed trying to get to a church so he can marry the girl he loves (Martha Hyer). Lots of rear-projection and backlot stunt doubles.
It turns out that William Peter Blatty, who would later publish a little horror thing called The Exorcist, wrote The Man from the Diners’ Club screenplay (credited as Bill Blatty). Be sure to store that info for a particularly challenging round of Quizzo!
I promise my next blog post won’t be about movie stars on bikes…. Anyone have a photo of Wallace Stevens riding around on a Schwinn?Steven Rea is the movie critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the author of Hollywood Rides a Bike: Cycling with the Stars (Angel City Press). He is an adjunct professor at Drexel University, where he teaches film studies, and also the creator of the archival photo blog, Rides a Bike. Long ago, he was in the poetry program at the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop and published in The Paris Review, the George Garrett-edited anthology Intro 6, and numerous little magazines and literary journals, most of them now defunct.