This 1950 movie tells the story of Beauregard Bottomly (Ronald Coleman), an eclectic know-it-all who lives quietly with his books and the company of a foul-mouthed parrot, Caesar (voiced by Mel Blanc). In an attempt to bolster the family budget, he applies for a position with Milady Soap Company and when he is summarily dismissed without consideration by it's eccentric president, Burnbridge Waters (Vincent Price), Bearegard does not let it lie. Beauregard's sister, and the family bread-winner, Gwenn (Barbara Britton), is the key to his plans. She informs Beauregard of the radio and television quiz show that's all the rage. He enters the contest and is soon the darling of listeners and viewers and the thorn in the sides of Burnbridge and Happy Hogan (Art Linkletter), the show's smug and smarmy host. It seems everyone is on Beauregard's side, even Einstein, who calls the program to tell them that although the answer given doesn't match the one on the card, it is still correct. With the prize money doubling for every right answer and the future ownership of Milady Soap Company in the balance, Burnbridge turns to the charming and heartless Flame O'Neill (Celeste Holm) to sidetrack the "human encyclopaedia." With the tension mounting, nobody wants to miss the next question, especially not Beauregard. And what about Burnbridge's past association with Caesar?

With an engaging plot and superb acting from everyone involved, this is a definite must-see for any fan of Coleman or Price. In interviews, Price said that of all the movies he'd been in, this was his favorite. And while it is not my favorite, it is definitely near the top of my list.

Champagne for Caesar (1950)
B & W, Comedy, 99 minutes
Released by RKO Pictures
Directed by Richard Whorf
Produced by George Moskov
Screenplay by Fred Brady and Hans Jacoby

Principal Cast (in order of appearance):

Ellye Marshall . . . . . . . . . Frosty
Ronald Colman  . . . . . . . . . Beauregard Bottomley
Barbara Britton  . . . . . . . . Gwenn Bottomley
Byron Foulger  . . . . . . . . . Gerald
Vincent Price  . . . . . . . . . Burnbridge Waters
Art Linkletter . . . . . . . . . “Happy” Hogan
Gabriel Heatter  . . . . . . . . himself
Celeste Holm . . . . . . . . . . Flame O’Neill

Spoilers ahead!

Here’s one that got lost in the shuffle. This is a nifty little comedy in which you’ve got Ronald Colman, a debonair leading man of the 1930s now moved on to character parts; leading B-movie girls Celeste Holm and Barbara Britton; and, in a surprise comedic turn, that great master of horror, Vincent Price, as the pompous and strange owner of the Milady Soap Company.

Champagne for Caesar starts out with an acerbic comment on radio quiz shows of the day. Colman plays Beauregard Bottomley, a character obviously modeled after Clifton Webb’s famous ‘Mr Beauregard’ (funny those choice of names, eh!). Beauregard is a bookish man who, by his own admission, “knows everything”. One night he and his sister Gwenn are discussing the many quiz shows popping up on the radio.

Gwenn thinks the shows are little more than harmless entertainment, but not Beauregard. He believes they’re ruining the intellect of America and launches into a tirade against them. Anyone of average intelligence, he asserts, could appear on a quiz show, win, and walk away with the prize. Wanting to test his pompous theories, Gwenn challenges Beauregard to do just that.

Beauregard agrees to become a contestant on Milady Soap’s quiz show, hosted by “Happy” Hogan (played by Art Linkletter, later to become famous as the host of TV’s “House Party” show). Not surprisingly, he whizzes through the questions each week, until he’s reached the maximum prize amount. Hogan is all set to wish Beauregard well, and usher in a new contestant … but Beauregard has another idea. Using the overwhelming audience reaction he receives, Beauregard convinces Hogan to let him continue appearing on the program. By returning each week, and draining the sponsor of prize money, Beauregard intends to ultimately ruin the show and thus make a statement about quiz shows in general.

Week after week, Beauregard returns and answers tougher and tougher questions, and each time is victorious. After a few months, he’s won so much money that the sponsor has only one thing left – the Milady Soap Company itself. Scheming to stop Beauregard from winning one more time and taking over his company, Burnbridge Waters unleashes his “secret weapon” – a beautiful, highly intelligent, unscrupulous woman named Flame O’Neill.

Posing as a nurse to take care of Beauregard (who’s caught a cold), Flame works her way first into his confidence and then into his heart. She proves to be just enough of a distraction for his finely tuned mind – or does she? Will Beauregard answer the final question and take over the Milady Soap Company? Is Burnbridge Waters all washed up? Is Happy Hogan really in love with Gwenn, or just leading her on?

These questions and more can be resolved by getting a copy of Champagne for Caesar on VHS and settling back for a bit of harmless movie fun!


The Internet Movie Database.<>. (November 2003).
repeated viewing of the film

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