The Role of Women in Billy Wilder’s 'The Fortune Cookie'

Term Paper, 2006

19 Pages, Grade: 1,3




I. General Approach
A. Plot Summary
B. The Film’s Structure
C. Male Characters
D. Women’s Legal Status

II. Female characters in “the fortune cookie”
A. Hinkle’s Mother, Sister and Niece
B. The Nurses
C. Sandy Hinkle
D. Other Women

III. The function of feminity in the movie
A. Comical Aspects
B. Impact on the Plot




Billy Wilder can certainly considered to be one of Hollywood’s best known film directors. Many of his movies such as Sunset Boulevard and Some Like It Hot have gained international popularity up until today. The comedy being of interest to this term paper, The Fortune Cookie, however, is one of Wilder’s less famous productions. Still, it was nominated for the Screenplay Academy Award which it did not win.

On the following pages, I am particularly going to discuss the role of women in the movie. Therefore, the focus will lie on the individual female characters appearing as well as the ways in which they are presented. Since The Fortune Cookie is a comedy, some comical aspects in relation to women within the picture are going to be looked at. Finally, the air of females and their contribution regarding plot promotion will also be taken into consideration.

The paper’s structure is dominated by three main parts. In the first section, general background information such as a short synopsis, a description of non-female figures et cetera will be provided. The subsequent paragraph deals with the women staged in the motion picture describing their development as well as their significance to the story. For better understanding, some screenshots featuring women in typical situations during the film are added. Ultimately, the last main chapter gives a possible interpretation of the aforesaid information and also tries to analyze the progress of the plot in relation to the film’s female characters.

I. General Approach

The following chapters are going to draw near the film in a general way. In order to analyze the female characters’ roles in the movie, it goes without saying that a closer look at the overall plot is indispensable. Furthermore, the film’s episodic structure will be taken into consideration. When it comes to the examination of a story’s female characters, its male figures are of importance, too, since they represent the counterpart in a bipolar arrangement. Considering the age of the movie which was shot in 1966, it will also be useful to have a look at women’s legal situation in the United States during the time of the 60s.

A. Plot Summary

The story begins with the accident of Harry Hinkle[1], a cameraman who happens to be run over by football player Luther Boom-Boom Jackson[2] during a football game of the Cleveland Browns. Hinkle is admitted to hospital where he wakes up to find out that he did not receive any harm. However, when his brother-in-law, William Gingrich[3], learns about a former case of a compressed vertebra during Harry’s childhood, he convinces the latter to feign a spinal injury in order to sue the CBS, the Cleveland Browns and the municipal stadium for one million dollars.

At first, Harry does not want to participate; nevertheless, he changes his mind after Gingrich pointed at the opportunity to get Hinkle’s ex-wife[4] to come back to him. Meanwhile, Boom-Boom suffers from an extraordinary guilty conscience and when Harry is released from hospital in a wheelchair wearing a corset, he offers to care for him. Attracted by the possibility of wealth, Hinkle’s ex-wife Sandy visits him in their old apartment and pretends to have changed her attitude towards her ex-husband.

Devastated about Harry’s condition and the fact that he cannot help him anymore, Luther Jackson starts drinking and is even involved in a punch-up. After having been released on bail, he is fired from the football team.

Of course, the lawyers representing the insurance company do not believe in the setting made up by Gingrich and Hinkle, which is why they hire a private eye, Purkey[5]. Together with a second investigator, he keeps Harry’s apartment under surveillance by using a camera and audio-recording around-the-clock. When Gingrich realizes that they are being monitored, he tries another ploy and announces that Hinkle is going to donate all of the money from the insurance company to the Harry Hinkle Foundation to help the handicapped. Due to this piece of news, the adverse lawyers come around and Harry is given a cheque for $ 200,000. Since his mission has failed, Purkey turns up to collect his microphones from the Hinkle apartment. When he insults Boom-Boom Jackson in the presence of Harry, the latter goes mad, gets up from his wheelchair and punches Purkey in the face right in front of the camera. He then breaks up with Sandy and drives to the stadium in order to convince Jackson not to quit his football career. By doing this, he proves the Abraham Lincoln quotation which appeared earlier in the film to be correct: “It is true that you may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.”[6]

B. The Film’s Structure

The movie is organized in a clearly episodic structure. The story unfolds through sixteen chapters, each designated by a title and typical introductory music. Depending on the content, the mood and the main characters of the respective chapter, this music changes regarding tempo and vitality. Most of the chapters have been given metaphoric names related to the situation in the scene. Chapter six The Snake Pit where Harry Hinkle is examined by the team of medical expert or chapter nine The Goldfish Bowl where the around-the-clock surveillance is introduced, are examples for this.[7] Concerning the audience, these chapter titles also underline the film’s state of fiction and leave people guessing the coming actions in the plot.


[1] Played by Jack Lemmon.

[2] Played by Ron Rich.

[3] Played by Walter Matthau.

[4] “Sandy Hinkle” played by Judy West.

[5] Played by Cliff Osmond.

[6] Cf. Billy Wilder. The Fortune Cookie. MGM Europe Ltd., 2001. 00:35:35 / 00:44:33.

[7] Cf. Ibid., 00:44:57 / 00:56:06.

Excerpt out of 19 pages


The Role of Women in Billy Wilder’s 'The Fortune Cookie'
Dresden Technical University  (Sprach-, Literatur-, Kulturwissenschaften)
Film Comedies
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
1140 KB
Term paper on female characters and the function of feminity within the movie.
Role, Women, Billy, Wilder’s, Fortune, Cookie, Film, Comedies
Quote paper
Franziska Ventz (Author), 2006, The Role of Women in Billy Wilder’s 'The Fortune Cookie', Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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