director Peter Bogdanovich
Following our October horror film-a-thon, Felix suggested making November comedy month, a bit of a palate-cleanser, especially since he gets actually really scared in horror films. So, I went through my queue to pick out some comedies I thought the kids would like.
Peter Bogdanovich’s throwback screwball comedy, What’s Up, Doc?, was one of the movies that I grew up on, one I remember liking quite well as a kid, watching with my mom. I hadn’t seen it in years and years and years. It also has the notability of being filmed in San Francisco, and living here, that makes for another keen angle on a film, glimpsing the old streets of the city and on its ever-changing landscape.
Bogdanovich is an interesting director, perhaps in part because his career went downward almost immediately after he parted ways with his wife and collaborator Polly Platt, listed on this film as others as “Production Designer”. It’s been suggested that she was a significant creative force with him through his films and that it’s not really surprising that his work went to pot after they separated.
Barbra Streisand is the best single thing in the film, and I can say that in most cases that might really be an off-putting statement. But here she is in her youth and charm and beauty and her timing and patter are spot-on. Ryan O’Neal does an affable job as the ineffectual straight man, a musicologist who wants to get a grant to study igneous rocks to prove that cavemen made music. Madeline Kahn is utterly hilarious as his over-bearing frumpy fiancée, Eunice. And the film is packed with smaller character comedy roles played to a T, none better than Liam Dunn as the ever-suffering Judge Maxwell.
It’s a comedy of capers and mistaken identities, primarily a set of look-alike satchels containing secret documents, jewels, rocks and undies. And of course Streisand in her pretend Eunice role.
It all ends in a classic chase across those streets of San Francisco, madcap, and funny, winding up in the Bay and eventually in Maxwell’s courtroom. The kids both really enjoyed it. And I did too. Maybe not so side-splitting, but charming and fun, invoking the classics of screwball comedy and hitting the notes pretty well.
It’s a little weird to find yourself attracted to Barbra Streisand, but I remember liking her in this movie as a kid and, you know,…she really was something.