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Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?

Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? is a 1969 British musical film directed by and starring Anthony Newley.[3]

Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?
Directed byAnthony Newley
Produced byGeorge Fowler
Anthony Newley
Written byAnthony Newley
Herman Raucher
StarringAnthony Newley
Connie Kreski
Joan Collins
Milton Berle
George Jessel
Bruce Forsyth
Music byAnthony Newley (lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer)
CinematographyOtto Heller
Edited byDorothy Spencer
Distributed byUniversal Pictures (USA)
Release date
  • 1969 (1969)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$2.1 million (US/ Canada rentals)[2]

Newley played the autobiographical title role of Merkin, an internationally successful singer approaching middle age who retells his life story in a series of production numbers on a seashore in front of his two toddlers (played by Newley's actual children Tara and Alexander) and aged mother. Merkin focuses on his promiscuous relationships with women, particularly Polyester Poontang (played by Newley's wife Joan Collins) and the adolescent Mercy Humppe (Playboy centerfold Connie Kreski). Merkin compares the relationship with Mercy Humppe to that of Humbert Humbert and Lolita.

Merkin is constantly surrounded by a Satan-like procurer, Goodtime Eddie Filth (Milton Berle), and an angelic 'Presence' (George Jessel) who interrupts Merkin's biography with cryptic Borscht Belt-level jokes to denote births and deaths in Merkin's life. Newley periodically steps out of character to complain about his 'Merkin' role with an unseen director (voiced by Newley), two screenwriters, the film's producers and a trio of blasé movie critics who are turned off by the story's eroticism and lack of plot.



In 1970 Newley and his co-writer Herman Raucher won the Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award for Best British Original Screenplay. The film's original music was written by Newley with lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer (Les Misérables). The film was controversial because it was X rated in its original release, meaning many newspapers in the US would not take advertising for it.

In 2006 the movie won a readers' poll in the Chicago Tribune as "The Worst Movie Title Ever."[4]

The film was a commercial, and generally a critical, failure. Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times that Newley "so over extends and overexposes himself that the movie comes to look like an act of professional suicide . . . The movie is as self-indulgent as a burp. It's also as pretentious as its form... The movie is not so free and loose as it is simply out of control."[5] In The Sunday Times Guide to Movies on Television, Angela and Elkan Allan asked "Can Anthony Newley ever remember that he is just a pleasant light comedian and settle down to earn an unpretentious living?"[6] Michael Billington of The Illustrated London News opined, "The kindest thing for all concerned would be that every available copy should be quietly and decently buried." Rex Reed also savaged it, writing, "If I'd been Anthony Newley I would have opened it in Siberia during Christmas week and called it a day."[7]

Roger Ebert's review in the Chicago Sun-Times, on the other hand, praised the film's ambition: "It is strange, wonderful, original, and not quite successful. It is just about the first attempt in English to make the sort of personal film Fellini and Godard have been experimenting with in their very different ways. It is not as great as but it has the same honesty and self-mocking quality."[8]

Collins later cited the film as contributing to her divorce from Newley.[9]


The movie songs were released on a record album but (as of 2011) not been released on CD.

  1. Overture
  2. If All the World's a Stage
  3. Piccadilly Lily
  4. Oh, What a Son of a Bitch I Am
  5. Sweet Love Child
  6. Instrumental
  7. Chalk and Cheese
  8. I'm All I Need
  9. On the Boards
  10. Lullaby
  11. Piccadilly Lily (reprise)
  12. Once Upon a Time
  13. When You Gotta Go
  14. I'm All I Need (reprise)
  15. If All the World's a Stage (reprise)

All of the songs except the instrumental and "Piccadilly Lily" are included in the 2010 CD Newley Discovered.

Production notesEdit

The film was shot in Malta.[10] The set designer for the dream sequences was Loudon Sainthill, who died shortly after finishing his work on the film.

Awards and honorsEdit

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1970 Writers Guild of Great Britain Best British Original Screenplay Anthony Newley and Herman Raucher Won


  1. ^ Alexander Walker, Hollywood, England, Stein and Day, 1974 p346
  2. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1969", Variety, 7 January 1970 p 15
  3. ^ "Can A. Newley Get over the Hump?" Sunday Times [London, England] 2 June 1968: 47. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. Web. 5 Apr. 2014.
  4. ^ "Readers' Poll: The Worst Movie Title Ever". Chicago Tribune. 20 March 2006.
  5. ^ Canby, Vincent (20 March 1969). "Movie Review: Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (1969)". The New York Times.
  6. ^ The Sunday Times Guide to Movies on Television, Times Newspapers, London 1973.
  7. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (28 May 1969). "Movie Review: Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? ". Chicago Sun-Times.
  9. ^ Tudor, Silke (28 May 2008). "Do Not Attempt Sober". SF Weekly. p. 1. Retrieved 8 October 2010.
  10. ^ IMDb. Retrieved 2011-07-11.

External linksEdit