The Magic Christian

From Academic Kids

The Magic Christian is

Guy Grand (Sellers in the movie) is an eccentric billionaire who spends most of his time playing elaborate practical jokes on people. A big spender, he does not mind losing large sums of money to complete strangers if only he can have a good laugh. All his escapades are designed to prove his theory that everyone has got their price - it just depends on the amount one is prepared to pay them. Episodic in character, The Magic Christian is an unrelenting satire on capitalism and human greed.

In one case, Guy Grand pays an actor playing a surgeon in a live television soap opera to deviate from the script, comment in drastic terms on the bad quality of the show, and walk off the set. In another episode, he secretly buys a respectable New York advertising agency, installs a pygmy as its president and has him "scurry about the offices like a squirrel and chatter raucously in his native tongue" in front of all the top executive staff and their prominent clients. In a third, he buys a cosmetics company and launches a big promotional campaign for a new shampoo which, as it turns out in the end, has a very detrimental effect on those who happen to use it. He also shows up at a safari in Africa with three natives carrying a howitzer. Grand's final adventure takes place on board the S.S. Magic Christian.

McGrath's film adaptation differs considerably from Southern's novel. Relocated to 60s London, it also introduces an orphan (Starr) whom Grand picks up in a park and whom, on a whim, he decides to adopt. The movie is usually remembered for its soundtrack by Badfinger, a British rock band promoted by Paul McCartney. McCartney also wrote "Come and Get It", the film's most popular song whose lyrics refer to Guy Grand's schemes of handing out money to strangers if they do as he pleases ("If you want it, here it is, come and get it").

Extremely notable are the appearances of pre-Monty Python John Cleese and Graham Chapman. (They had written an earlier version of the film script, of which very little survived except for the scenes they appear in.) Cleese is extremely funny as a Sotheby's art dealer named Mr. Dugdale who watches Sellers and Starr butcher a painting with scissors after paying $30,000 for it. Chapman plays a member of the Oxford rowing team who Guy Grand bribes to throw the race. Spike Milligan (writer and former star of The Goon Show, with Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe) also appears as a police officer who's bribed to not only take back a parking ticket, but also to eat it.

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