“Fitzwilly” is a silly story told with a sophisticated sense of humor, largely thanks to Dick Van Dyke’s portrayal of classy, intelligent butler Claude Fitzwilliam, nicknamed Fitzwilly. Fitzwilly is the head of the staff working for elderly heiress Victoria Woodworth (Edith Evans). Miss Woodworth believes she is rich, her father having left her a large inheritance. In fact, her father only left her $180. She’s dirt poor, but Fitzwilly can’t bring himself to tell her, so he and the household staff regularly engineer robberies of stores led by large corporations to keep Miss Woodworth living a life of luxury, and also allow her to indulge in one of her favorite hobbies: giving large amounts of money to charity. Fitzwilly’s operations are disrupted, however, when Miss Woodworth hires a secretary, Juliet Nowell (Barbara Feldon), who inadvertently ruins several of their heists.
“Fitzwilly” is a charming and hilarious holiday comedy that culminates on Christmas Eve, when Fitzwilly and the gang organize a robbery of the famous Gimbels department store to make up for funds the household is short on. The soundtrack includes several Christmas standards and is accented by an early score by composer John Williams, which features the love theme “Make Me Rainbows”.
One of the great aspects of “Fitzwilly” is how well-developed the supporting characters are. The fun cast includes John McGiver as Albert, one of the household staff, and Harry Townes as Juliet’s father. But Dick Van Dyke, who is effortlessly charming in the lead role despite his questionable moral code, and Barbara Feldon carry the movie with their great chemistry, humorous exchanges, and spot-on comedic timing. This was actually Feldon’s first feature film role, despite having already been a big success on television; by the time “Fitzwilly” was released, Feldon had already been playing her most well-known character, Agent 99 on the sitcom “Get Smart”, on TV for two years.
“Fitzwilly” is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and Epix. It will also be airing on Turner Classic Movies on Saturday, December 19th at 12 PM EST. Runtime: 102 minutes.