Thursday, June 21, 2012

They All Laughed

There was a weirdly typical 1980s movie called Max Mon Amour. It was French, about a French yuppie couple. The wife is beautiful, the husband is good-looking and their son looks like a stereotypical movie French boy. The husband suspects that his wife is unfaithful. She finally admits that it's true. She had gone to the zoo one day. She was looking at the chimps. She noticed one chimpanzee. She could tell he was more sensitive than the others. She volunteered to work at the zoo so she could be near him. She started working in the monkey house and she and the chimp started seeing each other.

This is what went on in the '80s, or at least in '80s movies. Not with chimpanzees, of course. But adultery was presented as a sign of emotional depth.

So I watched Peter Bogdanovich's movie---it was his favorite of the ones he directed---called They All Laughed. A comedy about private detectives who are hired by husbands to follow their wives around, and then they sleep with them---the detectives sleep with the women they're paid to follow.

It was Audrey Hepburn's last starring role. She wanted to retire from acting and Bogdanovich had to coax her into doing it. It was Playboy centerfold Dorothy Stratten's first and last major role. She was murdered by her husband a month after filming ended.

And it was Glenn Scarpelli's first role. He looked to be about twelve. He played Audrey Hepburn's son. A few years later, he was Bonnie Franklin's adopted son on the sitcom One Day At A Time. He was pretty good. He had to use a British accent.

Audrey Hepburn's real life son was in it. Had a full beard even though he was only 19.

John Ritter basically plays Ryan O'Neal in Bogdanovich's What's Up, Doc.

And there was another guy, Blaine Novak----it was his first movie, too. He also co-wrote the script and was co-producer. He plays a long-haired pot-smoking rollerskating private detective who seems to have been inspired by '80s comedy sensation, Gallagher. Strangely, Audrey Hepburn lets her 12-year-old son ride away with this hippie in a taxi so she can sleep with Ben Gazerra.

Ben Gazerra plays an aging private detective who is implausibly irresistible to women.

At first, I had trouble telling the women apart. There were three of them other than Audrey Hepburn. One was a cab driver. This was her first movie. She was a model Bodganovich saw on the cover of a magazine. She looked like a fashion model pretending to be a cab driving tom boy. I thought maybe she was Dorothy Stratten at first. She drives along listening to country music and she instantly starts coming on to Ben Gazerra.

In the next scene some time later, Gazerra goes to a bar where we see this woman singing country music on stage. Gazerra talks to her back stage. I thought it was the same girl---the cab driver---and it took me a few minutes to realize it wasn't. It turned out to be Colleen Camp.

Then there was Dorothy Stratten who looked about the same as the others.

Bogdanovich's own daughters played Ben Gazerra's daughters.

There was a lot of kissing. People kissed as a form of greeting in those days. One of the women kisses a judge in a courtroom. It couldn't have been very pleasant since they all smoked constantly.

The movie wasn't funny. The characters were quirky but not quirky enough. They kept playing old songs and country western music for no good reason.

I listened to some of the director's commentary on the DVD which was mostly nostalgia for 1980s New York and his friends on the movie. Bogdanovich did say that they didn't employ any extras. They were filming on the streets of New York, but they didn't close off any of the streets or sidewalks. People walk around in the background. Occasionally someone would look at the camera but in general they ignored the film crew and actors. I didn't listen to the whole thing.

He mentioned that they knew nothing about private detective work when they wrote the script. This would have been fine, but the movie was too vague about what the detectives were doing. They don't need to know what real detectives do, but we should have had a clearer idea of what these guys were up to.

I'm not sure why Bogdanovich liked it so much. I don't think it was just that he enjoyed filming it or has a sentimental attachment to it. He really thought it would make money.

The studio didn't want to release it at all. Dorothy Stratten was horribly murdered shortly after filming was complete. The studio didn't think audiences would appreciate a comedy knowing this. So Bogdanovich used his own money to buy the movie. He released it himself and lost a fortune.

Well, back then, theatrical release was about all there was. Today, you could hold the film back and release it at some point on video.

I didn't care for the movie, but it was interesting that there were so many first-time actors in it. It says something for Bogdanovich as a director that he got these performances out of them. And there was the way they filmed it, on the streets of New York, which people milling around in the background ignoring them.

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