Lo and behold, the duo that delights in My Best Friend’s Wedding — Julia Roberts and Rupert Everett — may make another picture together, playing similar but not identical roles. Are would-be producers wising up and realizing it’s the stars of a movie hit, not its plot, that audiences want to see a second time? Recently it’s been only mavericks like John Cleese and his cadre who dare to make the nonsequel to a big hit. Fierce Creatures might look and sound like A Fish Called Wanda 2 — same cast, same sensibility — but the characters and plot are new. Hollywood used to be better at bait and switch.
Across the Pacific (1942, MGM/UA) IS NOT A SEQUEL TO The Maltese Falcon (1941) EVEN THOUGH BOTH star Humphrey Bogart as a trench-coated hero, Sydney Greenstreet as his urbane nemesis, and Mary Astor as a romantic interest who may or may not be a femme fatale. Both were directed by John Huston, who post-Pearl Harbor opted for Japan-bashing jingoism in Pacific rather than Falcon’s sentiment-bashing toughness.
On the Town (1949, MGM/UA) IS NOT A SEQUEL TO Anchors Aweigh (1945) EVEN THOUGH BOTH concern musically minded sailors on leave played by Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. For once the nonsequel is clearly the more vibrant, thanks to Adolph Green and Betty Comden’s buoyant script and lyrics and some exuberant music by Leonard Bernstein.
Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1965, FoxVideo) IS NOT A SEQUEL TO What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) EVEN THOUGH BOTH showcase Bette Davis as a crazy old shut-in paired with a second aging star (Olivia de Havilland substituted for Baby Jane’s Joan Crawford). Charlotte may deliver some gothic chills, but don’t expect the catfighting intensity of the Davis/Crawford combo.
The Sting (1973, Universal) IS NOT A SEQUEL TO Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) EVEN THOUGH BOTH rely on the powerhouse team of Paul Newman and Robert Redford as charismatic rascals. A real sequel, however, did follow. The Sting II starred, believe it or not, Jackie Gleason and Mac Davis in, respectively, the Newman and Redford roles.