Romanoff and Juliet (1961)


Plot Summary:

New York during the cold war: When at the United Nations a voting ends in a deadlock, the formerly unnoticed President of Concordia speaks up. He could end the deadlock by voting either way, but as neither the US delegate nor the soviet delegate managed to make him understand what they were talking about, he regretfully abstains. This act reverberates both in Washington and Moscow: Where is Concordia, and why does it belong neither to the western nor to the soviet sphere?

Concordia is a sleepy country only a few miles across somewhere in Europe. Little has changed there since the ancient Romans left. But now the Concordian President stirred up a hornet's nest: While he flies back home with the only Concordian plane (accompanied by Juliet Moulsworth, daughter of the American ambassador in Concordia), Washington and Moscow make up plans how to win Concordia over to their sides. Concordia's vote is to be bought with oil, bridges, missiles, grain, or a visit of the Bolshoi Ballet.

The President of Concordia discusses the offered help with his "secretary of foreign affairs" Otto. But as the entire Concordian wealth consists of liquor, a few Japanese cameras and a library of forbidden books confiscated by the customs, they decide to refuse the aids, as Concordia is to poor to afford help.

At a dance the President informs the American and Russian ambassadors. Each ambassador insists that there must be something that Concordia needs and gives the President an ultimatum. To add to his troubles the Concordian President makes lieutenant Igor Romanoff, the son of the Russian ambassador, meet Juliet Moulsworth. Romanoff and Juliet fall in love at first sight, and undyingly. However when they find out who they are, they are shocked and desperate because of the great gulf between them.

More complications arise from a telegram which announces the arrival of Juliet's former fiancé Freddie. The Russians intercept the telegram and misinterpret it as the encoded announcement of an American secret operation. The Russians decide to fight to preserve peace, if necessary. When Juliet confesses her love to Igor Romanoff, her parents are exasperated: A communist! Meanwhile the Russian ambassador's assistant denounces Igor for being in love with the American ambassador's daughter. The Romanoffs fear to be sent to Sibiria, if this news reaches Moscow.

America and Russia both threat to conquer Concordia if it does not become either's ally immediately. To counter this, the President of Concordia announces, that in the evening there will be a play to celebrate the historical wedding, which led to the country's independence, centuries ago. All diplomats are invited. He further announces a national air raid practice for the afternoon and declares a state of general mobilization.

The President visits the American ambassador who tells him, that there are soviet troops massing nearby and that Concordia needs protection. A visit to the Soviet ambassador unveils, that American aircraft carriers are approaching. With further visits, the President manages to convince each ambassador that "they know you know they know you know ..." the other side's secret code. This eventually leads to a one day delay of the military actions.

Otto's son produces a large explosion with a home chemistry set ("Do you want to pretend that you have the technical efficiency to produce a bomb ?" "No, but we have technical inefficiency that it sometimes amounts to the same thing!"). The general mobilization proceeds. During the air raid practice the President rescues Igor from suicide, and he makes Igor and Juliet come with him, as this is the only way to prevent war and be married.

Later everybody assembles to watch the medieval wedding ceremony. The bride' s veil and the groom's armor obscure their identities. Too late the ambassadors realize, that this is not a play, but that their children have just been married. When Concordian infantries cannot stop the ambassadors protesting, the President orders his infantry to shoot them. The rifles' shutters shut but there is no shot: Concordia never found the formula for ammunition. Everybody bursts out laughing, peace is restored, and Juliet's and Igor's parents make friends.


This farce on the cold war is a Peter Ustinov film through and through: He wrote the screenplay, was producer and director, and he acted as the President of Concordia. Ustinov set sail to overcome cold or hot war with laughter and love. The film has some funny moments and ideas, yet sometimes one cannot escape the impression that Ustinov got stuck in a lull, and that maybe he should have delegated one or two jobs. If you want to watch an entirely different comedy with Sandra Dee and John Gavin falling in love, you can opt for wonderful Tammy Tell Me True, which was also produced in 1961.

Thanks to Arnold Stark for his review!

Go here to see a large B&W still of Sandra and Peter Ustinov

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