It’s difficult to try and label this next movie with a genre.
If I had to, I’d definitely say it is a comedy. There are others though that would label it as a western. Like “McLintock!,” I feel that it is a comedy and the American West happens to be the backdrop.
I remember this movie being one that I laughed at as a child, and that my parents laughed at as adults. That is quite a feat for a contemporary comedy (at that time) to be able to throw enough adult humor in, and not cross the line so that your children can enjoy it with you.
That is what I remember doing. Watching “The Frisco Kid” with my parents, multiple times.
A Polish rabbi, Avram (Gene Wilder) has been chosen to run a synagogue in San Francisco, CA. He takes a boat from Poland to Philadelphia, PA where he runs into a small group of bandits that rob him and throw him alongside the road. Beaten down, he is however determined to get to San Francisco.
Along the way he runs into the Amish who aid him, works along the railroad line for enough money to buy a horse and supplies, and eventually he runs in with his guardian “angel,” Tommy (a very young and wily Harrison Ford).
To divulge on the history and character of Tommy would spoil you of some effective storytelling. Let’s agree that he is a man that knows who he is.
The majority of the humor comes from Gene Wilder’s Avram.
His thick accent is quite humorous, and his uncanny world view on doing the right thing without judging others is a characteristic to envy in such a goofy protagonist. There is also some major culture clash along the way that sets up some funny situations when Tommy’s style and Avram’s beliefs don’t see eye-to-eye.
It is nice to watch a very young Ford fresh off his fame from Star Wars interact in a comedy with the brilliant timing of Gene Wilder. I feel that Ford learned a lot on this picture and shows his comedy skills (even in moments of his dramas) after this movie debuted in 1979.
For me I will always remember this as a movie we watched as a family when we wanted a laugh. There are a lot of them, and watching Wilder carry a picture was a joy. It’s a shame he’s not seen much anymore. Great talent.