Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.5. USA, 1975. Copa del Oro, Twentieth Century Fox. Screenplay by Peter Bogdanovich. Cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs. Produced by Peter Bogdanovich, Frank Marshall. Music by Artie Butler, Lionel Newman. Production Design by Gene Allen. Costume Design by Bobbie Mannix. Film Editing by Douglas Robertson.
Peter Bogdanovich followed his successful run of hits (The Last Picture Show, What’s Up Doc, Paper Moon) with two films that caused irreparable damage to his career: he might have survived the failure of Daisy Miller, but his poorly conceived combination of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals with My Man Godfrey drew lethal fire from critics and audiences alike. Cybill Shepherd disingenuously plays a daffy heiress who has run out of cash and takes up with Latin lover Duilio Del Prete to fund her peppy lifestyle; Burt Reynolds is dull as a bored millionaire who takes up with a nightclub singer (a wonderful Madeline Kahn) for kicks. The foursome spend enough time together that they eventually switch partners, while Reynolds’ valet (John Hillerman) enjoys his own lovey moments with Shepherd’s maid Eileen Brennan and Mildred Natwick makes an appearance as his mother. This is a film that should have been much better considering the cast, the concept, and the sumptuous sets and costumes, not to mention the fact that Bogdanovich is paying tribute to an era of film that he knows so well, but there’s no denying the film’s flaws. The very bad musical direction, in which even Kahn gives uninspiring renditions of the Cole Porter songs on the soundtrack, is made worse by the fact that the songs are very poorly inserted into the shambles of a screenplay, while Shepherd, who isn’t light-hearted enough to be Carole Lombard, has a harsh singing voice that is very hard to listen to. It is wholly unfair that the filmmaker was roasted alive for this movie upon its release, a track record like his should have been permitted a misstep or two, but sitting through a movie that behaves like a comedy but is never actually funny is torture all the same. In truth, the drubbing Bogdanovich got was more for the fact that his real life romance with Shepherd (which caused the end of his marriage to Polly Platt) was a great opportunity to spin the narrative of a fool for love who basically pulled a real-life Heartbreak Kid over the same pretty girl (and the spoofing of this story in Irreconcilable Differences is, admittedly, hilarious).