MISS VICKI IS THE WORLD'S GREATEST PHILANTROPIST. SHE IS ALSO FLAT BROKE
Dick Van Dyke plays the title character of this 1967 comedy, a butler whose full name is Claude Fitzwilliam. He is in service to Miss Victoria Woodworth (Edith Evans), who comes from old money, which has now run out. Even worse, Miss Vicki is committed to a lot of philantrophic endeavors. However, Fitzwilly and the rest of the staff are dedicated to making sure she does not find out and towards that end they come up with creative (okay, criminal) ways of making money. Now, servants taking care of their mistress is an effrontery to Marxist thought if you are talking Karl, but if your leanings are more towards Groucho then you can appreciate the humor.
There is also a romantic subplot between Fitzwilly and Juliet Nowell (Barbara Feldon, in a credible first screen appearance for the co-star of television's "Get Smart"). But the part of this film that I remember most fondly is the "Dictionary for Dopes" that Miss Vicki is working on. Her idea is that people who do not know how to spell need a dictionary that makes it easier for them to find the correct spelling, working from all the possible phonetic spellings of a problematic word. The idea always appealed to me since my spelling is so atrocious that even spellcheckers are thwarted by my creativity, but there is also a nice little twist regarding Miss Vicki's dictionary as well. The project is what requires the hiring of Juliet, who cannot be entrusted to know what the rest of the staff is up to with their fun little capers.
This is an enjoyable film, mainly on the strength of Van Dyke's charming performance, which overcomes the dubious morality of the shenanigans that are going on. You will recognize a host of well-known character actors such as John McGiver, Cecil Kellaway, Norman Fell, Laurence Naismith and John Fielder. The score and song "Make Me Rainbows" are the work of young composer John Williams, who, for the last time, was credited as "Johnny Williams." Speaking of variations on a name, this film was known as "Fitzwilly Strikes Back" in the United Kingdom and was also released as "A Garden of Cucumbers."