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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Groovy Movies #13: Howard! Howard Bannister!

"Love means never having to say you're sorry" - Judy Maxwell
"That's the dumbest thing I ever heard" - Howard Bannister

I adore the 1972 screwball comedy, What's Up, Doc? It's one of my favorite films. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, the movie stars Barbra Streisand (who's never been funnier), Ryan O'Neal (who's never been hunkier), and the delightful Madeline Kahn in her first full-length film role. Bogdanovich intended to pay homage to such past screwball films as Bringing Up Baby--and he definitely succeeds in doing so in my humble opinion.

Doc's plot isn't easy to synopsize because there's a lot going on. But I'll do my best: Set in San Francisco, the movie is about four identical plaid bags and the people who own them--Howard Bannister (O'Neal), a musicologist whose bag is filled with rocks that possess certain musical properties; Judy Maxwell (Streisand), whose bag contains her clothes and a large dictionary; wealthy Mrs. Van Hoskins (played by the wonderful Mabel Albertson, who was best known as Darrin's mother on TV's Bewitched and Donald's mother on That Girl), who keeps her valuable jewels in her bag; and the mysterious "Mr. Smith" (Michael Murphy), whose bag contains top-secret government papers. Once all of them check into the same hotel, the bags, of course, get mixed up and all hell breaks loose. And it isn't easy to steal a movie away from Streisand, but Kahn does as "THE" Eunice Burns, Howard's shrill fiancee. Words really can't describe how perfect she is in this role, but I'll do my best: She's absolutely fabulous!

What's Up, Doc? was a huge box office hit, becoming the third highest-grossing film of 1972. It took a month to film the final chase scene, which cost $1 million. And apparently Streisand didn't want to make the film because she didn't think it was funny and predicted it would be a flop. I guess even big movie stars like her can be wrong once in awhile.

So if you're looking for a film with a lot of laughs, some brilliant performances (Streisand and Kahn), and one of the best hairy chests in cinematic history (O'Neal, whose gorgeous body is worth the price of admission--and his acting ain't bad either), then you must watch What's Up, Doc? Anyone who lists this movie as one of their favorites automatically becomes an instant friend of mine. It's that good. Really.


swivek said...

This is actually one of my favorites as well - I'm not a big Streisand fan but she is great in this and well Madeline was just a genius.

burning sensation said...

couldn't agree more.

kahn was robbed, robbed when she failed to win the oscar for this. and at eight years old, watching o'neal in this role was a, shall we say, revelatory experience for me. so many classic performances.

more than an homage, one of the best comedies ever.

thanks for the stills.

Deep Dish said...

Hey, Burning Sensation, Kahn was nominated for an Oscar for Paper Moon and Blazing Saddles. Unfortunately, her fab performance in Doc was not.