They All Laughed (Peter Bogdanovich, 1981)

Discuss films and filmmakers of the 20th century (and even a little of the 19th century). Threads may contain spoilers.
Message
Author
User avatar
zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

#26 Post by zedz » Wed Jul 02, 2008 8:04 pm

Well, I've done my bit for domino harvey's bond drive. I doubt They All Laughed will come anywhere near my 80s list, but I probably never would have seen it otherwise, so thanks for the tip.

It's a deft and charming film, with some great performances and chemistry. The scene near the end in the club where everything gets tied up gesturally is really a great scene that justifies all the hard work put into it and its set-up throughout the film.

It's a rare semi-recent film that gets what was so essential about classic Hollywood comedy - the reliance on an ensemble, the mixing of registers, the speed and detail. Altman also gets this in his best comedies, but he goes about delivering on it in a completely different way.

That said, I was let down by a few weak links. John Ritter's slapstick schtick was pretty feeble, and he was completely at sea in the romantic subplot. Blaine Novak was twice as funny expending half the effort. And - oh, the mysteries of screen chemistry - I detected no spark whatsoever between Gazzara and Hepburn, despite their offscreen shenannigans. Gazzara and Patti Hansen: a completely different story.

Stratten was competent and decorative, but for me the movie belonged to the second-billed: Novak, Hansen and the brilliant comic performance of Colleen Camp, who, like many a noble character actor before her, hits on a persona that is intrinsically funny, whatever the context, while playing everything completely straight. Despite the hyperactive mechanics of the plot, most of the actors managed to deliver convincing, lived-in characters, a rare enough pleasure to make this a great find.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

#27 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jul 02, 2008 8:30 pm

Glad to hear you were able to get plenty out of it even if it didn't completely knock your socks off.

What's interesting (maybe, who knows) is that Bogdanovich was involved with all the female stars of the film who weren't Hepburn, and knew most of the rest of the actors beforehand. He dated Camp and Hansen before the film started and of course Stratten during and after. Ritter had already worked on Nickelodeon and Gazzara on Saint Jack. Linda MacEwen (Morfogen's secretary) was Bogdanovich's assistant at the time (who then ran off with Hepburn's son, who played Jose!) and Novak and Morfogen were his co-producers on the film. He definitely knew how to write all these roles to suit the strengths and weaknesses of the people he knew would be playing them.

Camp actually pops up again in Unfaithfully Yours, which I already got taken to task for praising in another thread. Unfortunately, Bogdanovich inexplicably places her in a passive role for most of the movie and it's not until the last thirty minutes or so that she gets close to the chatterbox she is in this film. But there's some good material in a courthouse scene when she takes the stand and basically commands everyone.

As for Ritter, I've heard that complaint before but I guess you either go with it or don't. I think he's a perfect sparring partner for Camp during that extended sequence in the middle of the film, and as I've said earlier in this thread, the skating rink sequence is by far my favorite part of the film.

And you've definitely singled out the most important scene of the film, that final "everyone gets someone" moment-- upon my first viewing, that was when I knew this was more than just a very good film but a seemingly impossible one: a classical Hollywood narrative accurately updated and yet not updated for 1980.

User avatar
Cosmic Bus
Joined: Mon Sep 11, 2006 10:12 pm
Location: Seattle, WA
Contact:

#28 Post by Cosmic Bus » Thu Jul 17, 2008 10:47 pm

Got this from Netflix last night (again, thanks entirely to domino's mention(s) of it in the '80s topic) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Zedz's comments reflect my thoughts on the movie almost to a tee, and he said it all much better than I ever could have.

Happy to have taken the time to see this, and it made me want to further explore three things I don't particularly know much about: Bogdanovich's work, non-Cassavetes Gazzara and '80s flicks in general -- back into the decades list project for the latter, I guess! :)

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

#29 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jul 18, 2008 1:54 am

Cosmic Bus wrote:Happy to have taken the time to see this, and it made me want to further explore three things I don't particularly know much about: Bogdanovich's work, non-Cassavetes Gazzara
Though it's by a wide margin my least-favorite of Bogdanovich's films from his productive period, you could kill two birds by watching the Gazzara-fronted Saint Jack. All of his films are more or less pastiches of other directors, and Saint Jack is his Cassavetes film. Unfortunately, I'm not over the moon about Cassavetes, so his homage doesn't do much for me. It's a film that lacks much of the beauty you tend to find in a Bogdanovich film, but it still has its moments, with highlights including a gang's wonderfully twisted method of revenge and Denholm Elliot's sweaty performance.

Glad to hear you enjoyed They All Laughed!

User avatar
Matango
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2005 1:19 am
Location: Hong Kong

#30 Post by Matango » Fri Jul 18, 2008 5:28 am

Saint Jack is my favourite film for several reasons that I won't go into. Domino, have you read Kinda Hot: The Making of Saint Jack in Singapore ?

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

#31 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jul 18, 2008 5:38 am

Matango wrote:Saint Jack is my favourite film for several reasons that I won't go into. Domino, have you read Kinda Hot: The Making of Saint Jack in Singapore ?
No, but Amazon recommended it to me! Is it a good read?

User avatar
Matango
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2005 1:19 am
Location: Hong Kong

#32 Post by Matango » Fri Jul 18, 2008 5:44 am

I thought it was a great read. I bought mine in Singapore, and read it in a day so I could go and explore the locations. Even if you don't know or visit Singapore, though, it's still a great book, especially if you like the film. Not sure you'd get any extra insight into PB, but there are plenty of anecdotes about him from all the cast and crew whom the writer (a British expat resident in Singapore) tracked down. There's lots of photos, too.

User avatar
Binker
Joined: Thu Jun 19, 2008 4:53 am
Location: Tucson

#33 Post by Binker » Sat Aug 02, 2008 5:56 am

I rented this on domino's recommendation as well, and yeah, it's pretty damn magical. So many charming moments. The sequence of shots from Stratten's gorgeous closeup against the moving bus to Ritter placing his hand inside his jacket, imitating a beating heart, just radiating pure desire, is absolutely striking.

I have to echo zedz comments about the lack of chemistry between Gazara and Hepburn though. Honestly, those two alone together were by far the weakest scenes in the film for me. It suddenly becomes sad and serious. Hepburn has a certain bleak quality here, even as she smiles and laughs. She looks old and she's trying to hide it with makeup. Obviously she's playing a sad character, but that's no excuse for delivering an absolutely charmless performance, especially in a film like this. Gazara, on the other hand, is able to exude both genuine happiness and genuine melancholy in the very same moment, in a way that never weighs the movie down. He loves the company of his friends and girlfriends, but he's missing something. Not even missing, but rather just constantly aware that there's something more out there.

It really is a shame that Patti Hansen and Blaine Novak didn't do more. Like domino said, both are naturals.
Last edited by Binker on Sat Aug 02, 2008 11:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Matango
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2005 1:19 am
Location: Hong Kong

#34 Post by Matango » Sat Aug 02, 2008 11:02 am

"Gazara, on the other hand, is able to elude both genuine happiness and genuine melancholy"

Elude or exude?

User avatar
Binker
Joined: Thu Jun 19, 2008 4:53 am
Location: Tucson

#35 Post by Binker » Sat Aug 02, 2008 11:46 am

Oops. Exude, thanks for the catch.

User avatar
Gregory
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

#36 Post by Gregory » Sat Aug 02, 2008 1:42 pm

Well, I know I'm not the only one who had a generally negative experience with this film, but I guess I'm going to be the first to spoil the party in the dedicated thread by saying so. One of the main problems was that I was never convinced that I should really care about any of these characters, let alone whether they would end up paired off with each other romantically at the end. It would not have been all that hard to make Ritter and Gazzara sympathetic and likeable, but I don't think the film pulled this off. The culprit here was the writing rather than the acting. I was unconvinced by much of the dialogue, which seemed a very calculated hommage to that of Hawks and perhaps to a lesser extent Mankiewicz. As for chemistry, which a couple of others mentioned, there was certainly more between Gazarra and Hansen than with Hepburn. What undermined this was that the idea of Gazzara's character hopping into a taxi in New York and encountering a young blonde with an extremely warm and flirtatious personality, and who falls in love with him almost at first sight, struck a bit of a false chord with me, to put it lightly. A lot of Ritter's bumbling also seemed too much of an act, a blatant set-up.
These particular criticisms probably make it seem like I'm too cynical to suspend my disbelief sufficient to enjoy a romantic comedy in the earlier tradition of classic Hollywood. I'm not. It's hard to put my finger on the reason so many things about this film rang so false to me.
And in case anyone surmises that I'm biased against Bogdanovich's films: I also recently watched Paper Moon for the first time since I was young, and even in a fairly skeptical mood following They All Laughed I found it (Paper Moon) pretty much flawless.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

#37 Post by domino harvey » Sat Aug 02, 2008 2:53 pm

Binker, I'm glad you came out of the film able to experience some of if not most of its magic! There is a certain wavelength to the film, and if you can't give yourself over to it, the magic will allude you. So Gregory, while I appreciate that you at least gave it a shot, I understand that it won't work for everyone. I mean, this isn't the Everyone Agree With Me Or Else I Throw A Fit and Tell You You're Wrong Wrong Wrong Thread. Mainly because that's way too long a title for a thread. I too love Paper Moon, but the pleasures I get from it are different than those I get from his films from the second half of the decade, such as Nickelodeon or At Long Last Love, when his obsessive love of cinema history began to cloud the populist aspects of his work and his output became more esoteric. And honestly, I prefer those later 70s works, and naturally my love of this trend in Bogdanovich's films finds the most satisfaction in this, his most dependent film.

Haggai
Joined: Wed Jun 25, 2008 9:31 am
Location: San Diego

#38 Post by Haggai » Sat Aug 02, 2008 5:22 pm

I pretty much agree with DH's post. I love They All Laughed, which I first saw at a special screening where Bogdanovich was signing copies of his book Who The Hell's In It. But it's definitely a "wavelength" movie, one where it kind of flops if you're not buying into the particular idiosyncratic thing they're going for. I think Paper Moon is definitely his best film; it's hard to imagine almost anyone not getting plenty of enjoyment out of that one.

User avatar
swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

#39 Post by swo17 » Sun Aug 17, 2008 10:57 pm

I really liked this film, and agree with much of what has already been said here. I seem to like Bogdanovich the most when he's willing to be at least a little bit silly, and this film was a great opportunity for him to do just that. So lighthearted, and yet, there is a certain sadness about it all, and not just because of the tragedy involving Dorothy Stratten. Both the title being in the past tense, and the ease with which the characters seem to be able to find happiness together nag at us that it is not actually this easy, and that this is only really possible in the movies. But still, even that least credible scene at the end with the marriage proposal is done just so cinematically and so brilliantly that the film, I think, is forgiven for it. Granted, Hepburn did maybe lack a bit of her usual charm, and I actually found Colleen Camp's performance to be a bit much at times, trying a little too hard to ape something out of a madcap Hawks comedy (though apparently, she's really like that, and Bogdanovich wrote the part to fit her personality), whereas the other characters seemed to fit more in both the classic Hollywood sense and in the more modern sense.

Really though, I loved a lot of the film's throwaway lines ("How are you? I am Jose." or "Puzzles, puzzles.") And not enough can be said about Ritter's prowess for physical comedy (love the skating scenes) and, especially, Gazzara's utterly cool screen persona. I've only seen him in a few other films (Happiness, Chinese Bookie, Anatomy of a Murder) but I really want to see more now, if anyone has some good suggestions.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

#40 Post by domino harvey » Sun Aug 17, 2008 11:40 pm

swo17 wrote:So lighthearted, and yet, there is a certain sadness about it all, and not just because of the tragedy involving Dorothy Stratten. Both the title being in the past tense, and the ease with which the characters seem to be able to find happiness together nag at us that it is not actually this easy, and that this is only really possible in the movies.
What a great pair of observations! Of course, the film is named after the Sinatra song ("They all laughed at Christopher Columbus... who's got the last laugh now") but I still think you're dead right and pinpointed some aspects of the film that I hadn't yet considered fully. Glad you came out of it with so much!

User avatar
swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

#41 Post by swo17 » Mon Aug 18, 2008 12:31 am

Thanks to you for the recommendation. Reading back through my post, I feel like I've forgotten to mention another big part of this take on the film: every move Ben Gazzara makes. He always looks like he's so in control of the situation (even when being violently chased by his past spurned conquests!) and yet at the same time, he always just looks coolly miserable, even when he's slyly smiling, even when he's genuinely falling for Hepburn's character. I don't know how he pulls this off but it was one of the best aspects of the film for me--a great balance to Ritter's generally more slapstick approach. He is absolutely up to the task of sharing the screen with a presence as daunting as Hepburn's (even if she isn't quite at her best here).

User avatar
Matango
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2005 1:19 am
Location: Hong Kong

Re: They All Laughed (Bogdanovich, 1981)

#42 Post by Matango » Wed Dec 10, 2008 4:41 am

For hardcore Gazzara/Cassavetes fans, an unlikely scenario: MGM's new DVD of If It's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium features both in bit parts, right before they made Husbands.

User avatar
GringoTex
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 5:57 am

Re: They All Laughed (Bogdanovich, 1981)

#43 Post by GringoTex » Wed Dec 10, 2008 11:50 am

This is like the great epic of romantic comedies. Someone mentioned Bogdanovich doing Hawks in this; I disagree- he's definitely channeling Renoir. The mix of fantasy and verisimilitude is breathtaking and I've never seen anybody shoot NYC this way- most of the time I don't think Bogdanovich even blocked off the streets and sidewalks. The emotional sincerity and almost complete lack of cynicism of everything from the performances to roller skating rink sequence to the country music soundtrack is so rare and reminded me alot of Junior Bonner.
Last edited by GringoTex on Wed Dec 10, 2008 12:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: They All Laughed (Bogdanovich, 1981)

#44 Post by domino harvey » Wed Dec 10, 2008 12:00 pm

GringoTex wrote: I've never seen anybody shoot NYC this way- most of the time I don't Bogdanovich even blocked off the streets and sidewalks.
Bogdanovich actually hired extras to walk on either side of the camera so that they could shoot in the middle of the city without people noticing they were filming. I'm not sure they even had a permit half the time. And seeing as how Bogdanovich is very nearly as obsessed with Renoir as Hawks, I think your observation is a very interesting and apt one. Glad to see the film hit its mark with you!

User avatar
swo17
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

Re: They All Laughed (Bogdanovich, 1981)

#45 Post by swo17 » Wed Dec 10, 2008 12:12 pm

Every time this film has been brought up since I watched it, I think of Gazzara saying "Puzzles, puzzles" and it makes me smile.

User avatar
Gregory
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

Re: They All Laughed (Bogdanovich, 1981)

#46 Post by Gregory » Wed Dec 10, 2008 1:06 pm

I just referred to an attempt to pattern the writing of dialogue after certain Hawks films (or perhaps Hollywood comedy writing of the 1930s more generally), not the way it was filmed or anything else. GringoTex, if you find that the dialogue owes more to Renoir, I'd be interested in how this is the case.

User avatar
tojoed
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2008 11:47 am
Location: Cambridge, England

Re: They All Laughed (Bogdanovich, 1981)

#47 Post by tojoed » Mon Dec 15, 2008 5:42 am

I finally watched this as my part of the deal with Domino Harvey. I thought it was a lovely comedy, though a little long. It would have been zingier at about an hour and a half. Like others, I liked the way it all tied up as in a classic comedy.

I think partly what made it work so well was that Bogdanovich didn't appear to be consciously trying to remake a picture from the past, as he has before. It all came together, it seems to me, without being forced.

I don't think it will rank along side "Blow Out" or "Shooting Stars" for me, but 50 is a very long list and there might be a place for it somewhere. Thanks again for the opportunity to watch this, which I probably wouldn't have done if it hadn't been for Domino's enthusiastic wager.


Numero Trois
Joined: Sun Sep 20, 2009 5:23 am
Location: Florida

Re: They All Laughed (Bogdanovich, 1981)

#49 Post by Numero Trois » Wed Jan 25, 2012 4:32 pm

Marvelous film. I was previously only familiar with his early 70s work and Texasville. Given the latter film, I stayed away from the rest. I didn't think he had something of this caliber in him after all his flameouts.
zedz wrote:the brilliant comic performance of Colleen Camp, who, like many a noble character actor before her, hits on a persona that is intrinsically funny, whatever the context, while playing everything completely straight.
She was terrific, but she wasn't completely "straight." Her vocal approach definetly evoked thirties comedies without going over the top. Maybe it wasn't conscious on her part, but the feeling of it was certainly there. No doubt she would've been a great thirties comedian.
GringoTex wrote:Someone mentioned Bogdanovich doing Hawks in this; I disagree- he's definitely channeling Renoir. The mix of fantasy and verisimilitude is breathtaking and I've never seen anybody shoot NYC this way- most of the time I don't think Bogdanovich even blocked off the streets and sidewalks
To echo what Gregory said, the dialogue is certainly Hawks-inflected. PB's script wasn't going 100 mph like Hawks but it hit a fairly quick beat nonetheless. I can see where the Renoir influence comes in, but for me there's a certain Altman-vibe showing through. To a degree, anyway. I don't know, maybe "mumblecore" dudes don't think about Altman. It's just that anytime you have an interlocking ensemble doing extensive location shooting like this that's who one thinks of.

Contra to the other posters, Patti Hansen got on my nerves. She's appealing, but her performance was too raw and self-conscious. Surely PB could've minimized those tics of hers. For me though, one of the biggest surprises of the film was John Ritter, who I never paid much attention to before. He's always been likeable, but based on this film one could make the case that he's a terrific comedian.

User avatar
Roger Ryan
Joined: Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:04 pm
Location: A Midland town spread and darkened into a city

Re: They All Laughed (Bogdanovich, 1981)

#50 Post by Roger Ryan » Wed Jan 25, 2012 5:11 pm

I feel that Bogdanovich was aiming for a vibe similar to the one he went for in WHAT'S UP DOC? which was a big success for him. Since DOC? was inspired by Hawks, the similarity carried over to THEY ALL LAUGHED. Still, this film is obviously meant to be quite personal. Ritter's character is clearly representing Bogdanovich himself (even more than the character he played in NICKELODEON - another good Ritter performance even though the film was fairly weak). Given this, THEY ALL LAUGHED strikes me as similar to Truffaut's more autobiographical efforts.

By the way, THE CAT'S MEOW (2001) is a decent late career comeback for Bogdanovich if you wonder if there was anything left after TAL.

Post Reply