The rosy glow of nostalgia permeates Papa's Delicate Condition, a fact which may cause more trouble for modern audiences than for viewers who sampled the film upon its original 1963 release. That trouble is related to the "delicate condition" of the title, namely the tendency of the character played by Jackie Gleason to imbibe a bit more alcohol than is good for him. Even in 1963, alcoholism was becoming too much accepted as a problem to generate easy laughs and comfort, but setting the film in the turn of the century helped to distance the audience from the issue. Modern audiences may not accept that device so readily, and may therefore be less willing to accept and forgive Gleason's actions. That said, however, Gleason's performance is so fine that he may very well break down many viewer's resistance. It's a beautifully controlled turn, full of star power and charisma, but also nuanced and detailed, creating a much more complex portrait that one might expect. There's a wonderful chemistry between Gleason and young Linda Bruhl that also helps overcome the tendency to cloying sweetness that keeps poking up in the screenplay. Glynis Johns and Charlie Ruggles also make the going much smoother than it might otherwise have been, and the Oscar-winning theme song, "Call Me Irresponsible," will certainly win over some people. Those who watch Papa for its star and cast and are willing to forgive its screenplay its many flaws will have an enjoyable time.
by Craig Butler review