Sunday, February 20, 2022

The Barefoot Executive ( 1971 )

"He's gonna make it!"

Steven Post ( Kurt Russell ) is a young mailroom clerk with high ambitions and a lot of enthusiasm. He wants to see UBC, the faltering television studio that he works for, become the leading network but his boss Mr. Wilbanks ( Joe Flynn ) won't listen to any of his suggestions, one of which is making a series called Abraham Lincoln's Doctor's Dog

Steve's girlfriend Jen ( Heather North ) recently found herself caring for a chimp named Raffles who loves watching television. Steve thinks the shows that Raffles likes to watch are awful, but they seem to be what the public enjoys as well. After a few days of studying his primetime TV picks, Steve is convinced that the chimp knows the public's taste and can predict which pilot shows will become the next top-rated series. He is clever enough to know that he cannot go to his boss with this information, so Steve pretends that he himself has the knack for picking winners. This plan works well for a time, but Steve soon begins to feel undeserving of all of the praise that he is receiving for being the boy wonder of the studio. 

Kurt Russell began his film career with Walt Disney Studios as a child star and, when he got older, he played the leading man in a number of great comedies for the studio. The Barefoot Executive was released right in the midst of a series of college-themed comedies ( beginning with The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes ) that featured the recurring character Dexter Reilly ( Kurt Russell ). Instead of attending college, Steven Post goes to the Moonrise Night School, something that his rival Roger ( John Ritter ) finds laughable. 

Like most Disney films, the movie has a lot of humor, most of which is delivered by the straight-faced character actors. In The Barefoot Executive, it is Joe Flynn and Wally Cox who steal all the funny moments. These two comedians made a great team and are especially entertaining when they are walking on the ledge of a high-rise building attempting to steal Raffles the chimp. 

"Maybe I shouldn't say this, but you've been complaining ever since we've been up here. If you don't like the way I wheeze and hiccup, why don't you go find your own ledge to stand on?" - Wally Cox

Incidentally, Raffles was making his film debut in this movie and then took a hiatus from Hollywood before returning for one last film in 1975 - an X-rated sex comedy called Sodom and Gomorrah ( he needed a better agent ). Raffles has such a sweet and expressive face and looks especially cute in the plumber's outfit that Steve dresses him in. 

John Ritter's role is rather small and, as Roger, he does not have any of the charms of Jack Tripper. All of the charisma belongs to Kurt Russell who was a wonderful clean-cut role model for young teenagers. It's no wonder he had such a long career at Walt Disney Studios. Not just any actor can build a convincing rapport with a chimp co-star. 

Also worth mentioning is Heather North, who is adorable as his girlfriend Jen. This lovely girl is best known for voicing Daphne for the Scooby-Doo franchise. Harry Morgan, Alan Hewitt, Hayden Rorke, and Iris Adrian round out the cast on this fun family classic. 

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