Ronald Colman, Celeste Holm and Vincent Price star in a thoroughly delightful comedy from 1950 called “Champagne for Caesar.” Colman plays Beauregard Bottomley, a voracious reader who cannot find a job. He rails against the threats to the country’s intellectual standards when he sees the television quiz show “Masquerade for Money,” sponsored by the Milady Soap Company and starring glib pitchman Happy Hogan (Art Linkletter). Contestants must dress up in ridiculous costumes for a chance to answer tough questions. Each correct answer doubles the amount of money won, but contestants can quit and go home with their winnings at any time.
Beauregard lives with his sister Gwenn (Barbara Britton), who pays the rent by giving piano lessons. She provides very little pressure on Beauregard to get a job, but he nevertheless forges out to apply at the Milady Soap Company. The company is run by the eccentric Burnbridge Waters (Vincent Price), who discovered Happy Hogan and surrounds himself with yes men. Burnbridge hires Beauregard but then fires him almost immediately when he makes a joke about soap. Already critical of the soap company’s sponsorship of the mindless drivel of the quiz show, Beauregard decides to take revenge on Burnbridge for firing him. He comes up with an ingenious plan: Get on the quiz show and win enough money — $40 million — to put the soap company out of business.
After Beauregard wins for a couple of weeks on the show, the arrogant Burnbridge tries to buy him off. Beauregard refuses and tells him he plans to go on winning until he can take over the company. Burnbridge fires back with a plan of his own. He sends Happy Hogan to take piano lessons from Gwenn so Hogan can discover Beauregard’s weakness. This backfires when Hogan falls in love with Gwenn. Burnbridge then sends a con woman named Flame O’Neill (Celeste Holm) to put Beauregard off his game. Flame shows up dressed as a nurse while Beauregard recuperates from a bad cold and he quickly becomes smitten with her. Beauregard’s infatuation with Flame makes him a bit addled. This seriously jeopardises Beauregard’s plans as the quiz questions get harder to answer.
Price provides comic gold in his portrayal of Burnbridge, a thoroughly ruthless character who pulls out every trick to prevent Beauregard from ruining his company. Holm is terrific as Flame, a woman Beauregard should easily mistrust but he nevertheless falls in love with her against his better judgement. The Caesar in the title refers to a noisy parrot, who provides a series of one-liners based on his supposed love for alcohol. The movie also provides an funny take from the movies on television, and especially vacuous quiz-show hosts. This movie kept me laughing.