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  They All Laughed A New York Minute
Year: 1981
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Stars: Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzara, John Ritter, Patti Hansen, Dorothy Stratten, Blaine Novak, Linda McEwen, George Morfogen, Colleen Camp, Sean H. Ferrer, Glenn Scarpelli, Vassili Lambrinos, Antonia Bogdanovich, Sashy Bogdanovich, Sheila Stodden, Elizabeth Peña
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: In the Odyssey Detective agency, their private eyes are more in need of help than their clients, especially when it comes to affairs of the heart. Take John Russo (Ben Gazzara) who has been hired to follow Angela Niotes (Audrey Hepburn), the wife of a wealthy Italian businessman who is in New York and whose husband suspects her of infidelity: John has been around the block a few times romantically but has never found the right woman to settle down with. Oh, he tried, he even has a couple of daughters from his first marriage who he doesn't see as often as he should, but in the main he drifts from woman to woman without anyone really latching onto him. And his bumbling colleague Charles Rutledge (John Ritter) isn't much better...

They All Laughed was a film inescapably haunted by the ghost of one of its stars, the Playboy Centerfold Dorothy Stratten to whom it was dedicated after she was horribly murdered by her insanely jealous husband not long after her scenes had been completed. Reasoning that nobody would want to watch her now since the lurid details of what had happened to her would be inextricably linked with her screen presence in the minds of the audience, none of the studios wanted to distribute it, and it nearly wasn't released at all if it hadn't been for director Peter Bogdanovich's faith in the project, as much a desire to pay tribute to Stratten (who he was having an affair with at the time of her death) as it was down to being a movie he was very proud of.

Indeed, Bogdanovich has gone on to claim this as the favourite of all his films as it is the one he feels encapsulates his best qualities, though there's a definite air of unease that comes with watching it after all the hubbub died down. Take Ritter's role: he was plainly set up as a surrogate for the director, a supposedly endearing, clumsy romantic who yearns for the woman he is tailing professionally to find out if she is having an affair. He sported a look very reminiscent of the director, so much so that the similarities were difficult to ignore, which made the character's insistence on using his job in essence as an excuse to stalk the woman more than a little creepy. And then you note the woman was Dolores Martin, played by one Dorothy Stratten...

But there were others in what turned out to be an ensemble cast, and they included Audrey Hepburn who would have garnered most of the publicity were it not for the subsequent tragedy in what would be her final lead in a movie. That said, to call her the leading lady was a shade dishonest, as she had at least as much screen time as Colleen Camp who was further down the credits but was about as important to how things turned out, essaying an eccentric country singer who was apparently based on... Colleen Camp. If she really was like this, she would be very hard to read given her mannerisms that with a less appealing performer would be too close to offputting, though she could carry a tune, which was presumably another motive for her casting.

Of course, naming a movie after the song They All Laughed is asking for trouble, and it was too irresistible to counter that title with a stern "au contraire" for there wasn't much to giggle at here. With a dearth of actual jokes, we were served up instead character comedy where the behaviour of the folks populating the plot was intended to bring out the chuckles more than any snappy one-liners, which in light of the director's love of Golden Age Hollywood would seem baffling. Mind you, he had tried that recently with At Long Last Love and that had broken his winning streak, one which he never really reclaimed: after this flopped too, it was around five years before he managed to direct again with the sensitive true life tale Mask, though even the success of that was not enough to propel him back to where he used to be. It was obvious he had cast the women here to be as attractive as possible, which left the blokes they ended up with second division at best, so the male gaze was well and truly in effect, but Hepburn made the most of her poignant last scenes at least. Music by Douglas Dilge.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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