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One, Two, Three (1961) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • Berlin is the epitome of political and economic polarization. A microcosm of that polarization is the life of American C.R. MacNamara, known as Mac to his friends. He is Coca-Cola's head of West Berlin operations, although he feels he deserves to be Coca-Cola's head of European operations based in London. Mac's wife, Phyllis, wants him instead to get a steady and stable job back in head office in Atlanta. His West Berlin staff are all still used to treating him like their old master, the Fuhrer. The one exception is his secretary, Ingeborg, who is the latest in the long line of his secretary mistresses. And he's working on a trade agreement of getting Coca-Cola into the Russian market. His life goes into a tailspin when he hosts Scarlett Hazeltine in his home for two weeks. She is the seventeen year old spoiled and party-loving daughter of his Atlanta based boss, Wendell Hazeltine. Unlike most of the stops she's made on her European trip, Scarlett seems to like West Berlin and stays longer than expected. On the day that Mac learns that Mr. & Mrs. Hazeltine will be in Berlin in 24 hours to retrieve their daughter, he also learns that Scarlett has married Otto Ludwig Piffl, a staunch East German Communist. Mac feels this marriage will ruin his career and does whatever he can to get rid of Otto for good and wipe any record of the marriage off the official books. But when Mac further learns that Scarlett is pregnant, Mac has to get Otto back, which is more difficult than it was to get rid of him, and to make him respectable in the eyes of Otto's father-in-law and Mac's boss. Meanwhile, Phyllis has her own ideas of what are right and wrong in both Scarlett and Mac's lives and takes appropriate action.

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  • C.R. "Mac" MacNamara is a high-ranking executive in the Coca-Cola company, assigned to the corporate office located in West Berlin. Mac's dreams are to climb the corporate ladder in the company to eventually become the head of Western European Coca-Cola Operations. One day, Mac receives a call from his boss, W.P. Hazeltine, to look after his 17-year old socialite daughter, who is coming to West Berlin, while he is on a trip. Soon enough, Mac finds himself in the undesirable circumstances of trying to take care of this young whirlwind and manage all of the problems she brings on.

  • Berlin, after the Second World War: C.R. MacNamara presides over the Coca-Cola branch of Germany. He is working hard and trying his very best to impress the Atlanta headquarters, since he has heard that the European headquarters in London will soon be looking for a new head. Now, Coca-Cola boss Mr. Hazeltine asks MacNamara to take care of his daughter Scarlett, who is going to take a trip to Europe. Scarlett, however, does not behave the way a young respectable girl of her age should: Instead of sightseeing, she goes out until the early morning and has lots of fun. Finally, she falls in love with Otto Piffl, a young man from East Berlin and a flaming Communist, and marries him surprisingly. When MacNamara hears of this, he intrigues quite a bit with the help of his assistant Schlemmer to get Piffl into an East German prison, but when he also gets note of his Boss and wife coming over to visit their daughter in Berlin, he needs to get Piffl out again, convert him to Capitalism and present him as a fine young and noble husband in order to get his London post, and all of that very quick!

  • MacNamara is a managing director for Coca Cola in West Berlin in 1961, just before the Wall is put up. When Scarlett, the daughter of his boss, comes to West Berlin, MacNamara has to look after her, but this turns out to be a difficult task. After MacNamara has found out that Scarlett is seeing an East German communist named Otto, he goes to extreme lengths trying to conceal this from the girl's father in order to save his job.

  • In West Berlin during the Cold War, a Coca-Cola executive is given the task of taking care of his boss' socialite daughter.


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Synopsis

  • In his last starring film, James Cagney plays Coca-Cola executive C.R. MacNamara. Assigned to manage Coke's West Berlin office, MacNamara dreams of being transferred to London, and to do this he must curry favor with his Atlanta-based boss, Hazeltine Thus, MacNamara agrees to look after Hazeltine's dizzy, impulsive daughter, Scarlett, during her visit to Germany. Weeks pass, and on the eve of Hazeltine's visit to West Berlin, Scarlett announces that she's gotten married. Even worse, her husband is a hygienically challenged East Berlin Communist named Otto Piffl. The crafty MacNamara arranges for Piffl to be arrested by the East Berlin police and to have the marriage annulled, only to discover that Scarlett is pregnant. In rapid-fire "one, two, three" fashion, MacNamara must arrange for Piffl to be released by the Communists and successfully pass off the scrungy, doggedly anti-capitalist Piffl as an acceptable husband for Scarlett. MacNamara must accomplish this in less than 12 hours, all the while trying to mollify his wife, who has learned of his affair with busty secretary Ingeborg. Seldom pausing for breath, Billy Wilders film is a crackling, mile-a-minute farce, taking satiric scatter shots at Coca-Cola, the Cold War (the film is set in the months just before the erection of the Berlin Wall), Russian red tape, Communist and capitalist hypocrisy, Southern bigotry, the German "war guilt," rock music, and even Cagney 's own movie image. Not all the gags are in the best of taste, and most of the one-liners have dated rather badly, but Cagneys mesmerizing performance holds the whole affair together.

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