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Ira Levin's play Critic's Choice which ran 189 performances on Broadway
in the 1960-1961 season was expanded exponentially for the screen
version. It's Broadway origins are hardly noticeable.
Stepping into the roles played on stage by Henry Fonda and Georgeann Johnson are Bob Hope and Lucille Ball in their fourth and last film together. The more traditional Hope and traditional Lucy are to be found in their earlier films Sorrowful Jones and Fancy Pants. Still Critic's Choice works a whole lot better for them than The Facts of Life.
Bob Hope is a theater critic and he's got a son by his first marriage to Marilyn Maxwell, Ricky Kelman. He's married now to Lucille Ball and Lucy's taken it in her head to write a play about her family life growing up with two sisters, Marie Windsor and Joan Shawlee, and her mother Jessie Royce-Landis. Hope fluffs the idea off, but this only makes Lucy more determined especially when she's working with director Rip Torn and producer John Dehner.
There are a ton of characters not in the original play which took place in the Hope/Ball apartment. The addition of a lot of these people allowed Hope and Lucy to engage in some of their traditional comedy which they didn't do in The Facts of Life and paid dearly for it.
This has to be the only film I know where the 'other' woman is the first wife. Marilyn Maxwell who it was reputed Hope was involved with around 1950 and who appeared in The Lemon Drop Kid with him, sees her chance back with him as Rip Torn starts to get interested in Lucy.
Bob and Lucy get good support from a well chosen cast of familiar faces and Critic's Choice should please their fans.
Torturous farce based on Ira Levin's stage hit about nasty East Coast theater critic who insists on writing the review for his wife's new play. Bob Hope is utterly unpleasant throughout this ham-handed dud, which was apparently more sophisticated in its original form. Lucille Ball gets in a few choice moments, but the lousy finale cheats her and the viewer. An unmitigated disaster which probably looked more promising on the deal-table at Sardi's than it does on the screen. Don Weis is responsible for the flat direction; Charles Lang photographed, in blurry reds and depressing grays. If this is the continuation of "The Facts of Life", I'll stick with Hope and Ball from 1960. * from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I find the negative views of this film baffling. I saw it as a kid when
it first opened, and have seen it many times since. It's one of my
favorite Bob Hope films, and one of my favorite Lucille Ball films -
primarily because both of these fine actors are given deeper roles than
usual. The quips and comedic shenanigans are there, but rooted in
realistic characters and credible motivations. Which only makes them
funnier. This is a film that works as drama first, then finds the
I also appreciate this as one of the very few good films *about* writing. The various phases that Lucy goes through in 'finding her muse' are true to life, and even somewhat inspiring. The reaction of others - especially critic-husband Hope's subtle jealousy - will be familiar to anyone who's ever tried to do creative work.
But most of all, I love this film because it is often screamingly funny. Some of the dialog with Hope's ex-wife is very sharp. One of my favorite lines in any movie comes from Hope, after breaking the mainspring of his watch: "Symbolism. I cannot stand symbolism!" Hope spends almost the latter third of the film roaring drunk, delivering some of his best schtick. His scene in the theater balcony almost made me wet myself when I first saw it, and remains a classic slapstick moment. Again, all the funnier because it happens in such a believable context. (As Charlie Chaplin pointed out, when a clown takes a pratfall, it's not nearly as funny as when a pompous stuffed-shirt does it.)
If you haven't seen this film, keep an eye out for it; you've got a real treat in store. And if you have seen it but haven't enjoyed it... No, I'm sorry: I have no advice for you. You're too far gone.
I will assume that Ira Levin's original Broadway play was much better than this dull, tedious film. It has obviously been altered to fit the acting styles of Ball and Hope. Lucy's role comes across as a toned-down version of her Lucy-wants-to get-in-show-business character, and Hope hams it up as the husband. Scene after scene comes across as rather pedestrian. The sets and cinematography are fine, and Edith Head provides Lucy with great costumes. Perhaps fans of the then-running "Lucy Show" made this film a success. However, 1968's "Yours, Mine and Ours" is a much better vehicle for Ball, even if her advanced age made that role unrealistic. In retrospect, Lucy comes across as annoying and passive in this film. In addition, the child actor Ricky Kelman is extremely irritating as the son of Hope, and step-son of Ball.
BOB HOPE and LUCILLE BALL do okay in this mild comedy about a woman
(Lucy) who decides to show her theater critic hubby (Hope) that she can
create a play based on her family relatives.
RIP TORN is amusing as the director of Lucy's play, working on it night and day to put it into shape while Hope seethes with jealousy. Meanwhile, his ex-wife, MARILYN MAXWELL, is around often enough to keep Lucy irate enough.
The friction between theater critic and playwright comes to life whenever they trade barbs. The comedy aspects fall flat once in awhile with the more serious moments given more emphasis than usual in a Bob Hope/Lucille Ball comedy.
JESSIE ROYCE LANDIS does nicely as Hope's mother. This isn't the typical fare expected of Hope or Ball, but it has its moments where the plot elements have more dimension than usual in a caper of this sort.
Hope has his usual one-liners.
"What are you trying to do--drown your troubles?" a bartender asks him.
"No, I'm just teaching them how to swim."
Mention the name Lucille Ball, and what comes to mind for must of us is
the zany character in the long-running 1950s TV comedy show, "I Love
Lucy." But, I wonder if Lucy started out with a wish to be a
comedienne, or if she had her eyes on any other fields of stage or
screen. Comedy was part of her early roles, but she also had roles in
which she sang and danced ("Dance, Girl, Dance" of 1940). And there can
be no doubt about her acting ability from such dramatic and suspense
films as "Valley of the Sun" and "The Big Street" in 1942; or "The Dark
Corner" in 1946; or "Lured" in 1947.
On the other hand, there's little doubt about Bob Hope's aspirations. From his earliest days in vaudeville, Hope was a comedian, and he would always be a comedian. For all his kidding aside about earning as Oscar, Bob knew that he had little chance because Oscar very rarely went to a comedian. He even made his overt desire for an Oscar a part of his long- running comedy routines, and it was sure to get a laugh decade after decade
That doesn't mean that Bob Hope didn't do some very funny movies. But his type of humor wasn't the subtle, clever or zany type that usually involved great or very good acting. Clark Gable, James Stewart, Carole Lombard and Claudette Colbert were some of the very accomplished dramatic actors who could do Oscar-winning caliber comedy in movies. Bob's comedy forte was the one-liner. Or, make that, a string of one- liners, one after the other. And in that, he often aroused some great laughter.
So, that brings us to this movie, "Critic's Choice." This film is meant to be a semi-serious movie about Broadway and a critic's life, with a comedic outlook. And Lucy plays a serious character, a "straight man" to Bob's wisecracks and one-liners. I think it was intended as a light comedy to begin with, sans any zaniness on Lucy's part. The very funny parts are in the last half with Bob. He has some zany scenes himself, and a few strings of one-liners that bring out loud laughter. Some examples are: "This is the drunkenest room I've ever been in." "This apartment's all uphill." And, "I'd just like to be there when we get where I'm going."
"Critic's Choice" is a nice film for an evening of light entertainment, and worth watching just to see two of the great comics of all time together.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie seems to have sparked an almost even mixture of highly favorable and downright negative reviews. I'm afraid I agree with the negative brigade. After the box office disaster of "Beau James" (1957) in which Hope invested his own money and literally lost his shirt, he seems to have taken any assignment that came along. (Personally, I thought "Beau James" was an absolutely terrific movie. I loved it, but hardly anyone agrees with me). Anyway, for whatever reason, I think most of us would agree that Bob Hope made some very poor films in the 1960s, starting with the verbose but unfunny "The Facts of Life"; continuing with "Bachelor in Paradise" (which starts amusingly, but the promise of its sprightly opening scenes is unfortunately not realized); recovers a lot of momentum with "Road to Hong Kong" (even though it's one of the least amusing of the "Road" pictures); then really plumbs the depths with "Critic's Choice". For me, it's a movie with no virtues at all. The characters are not just unsympathetic, they're thoroughly unpleasant. As a result, everything they do and say is negative. Maybe it worked well on the stage, where the audience is less involved, less close to the venal, utterly selfish, self-promoting characters. Maybe?
This movie has possibly the lowest entertainment value/star power ratio
I've ever seen. Bob Hope and Lucille Ball, two of the 20th century's
greatest comedy geniuses. Plus the legendary Jim Backus, Rip Torn, and
a surprise uncredited cameo from a television comedy icon of the 1950's
and 1960's who has a brief part as a hotel clerk. You almost have to
give the writing, directing, and production team credit for taking a
cast this spectacularly talented, and making them so dull and unfunny.
A major problem is the casting. The lovable Bob Hope as a mean-spirited, psychologically abusive husband? Lucille Ball as a mousy, milquetoast-ish wife who mostly takes the abuse her pathetic husband dishes out? The real life Lucille Ball would have kicked Bob Hope's character to the curb after the first 30 seconds -- and we all would have cheered!
But another major problem is that everyone seems to be sleepwalking through their parts. You would expect Jim Backus and Rip Torn to breathe a little life into their characters, but quite untypically, they seem to be phoning in their lines and waiting for their paychecks. Although I am quite impressed with Rip Torn's ability to do handstands in his younger days.
If you are a fan of any of these stars, they ALL have done better films. I'd suggest checking those out first.
I saw the video in the library and the box advertising certainly made
the movie sound good, as well as the all-star cast listed. But on
bringing it home and watching it, neither my mother or I cared for it
or bothered to see it to the end. There were hardly any laughs and the
whole thing was basically unappealing.
Perhaps the play it was based on was much better. But theater critic Parker was simply a mean-spirited and unlikable man, destroying theater productions by his bad reviews, being obnoxious to family and friends, sneering at his wife's creative efforts, yet expecting people to like him anyway. He also attaches too much importance to his job, saying he would lose his self-respect if he didn't review things as he did. If Lucille Ball, who played his wife, acted as she did in her other roles, she would have reacted far more strongly to him. This is one of the dullest performances of her career.
Broadway theatre critic Bob Hope (as Parker Ballantine) is known for
his stinging reviews of bad plays. When beautiful red-haired wife
Lucille Ball (as Angela "Angie " Ballantine) decides to become a
playwright, Mr. Hope decides he will be completely objective in
reviewing her work. Hope doesn't like the first draft and refuses to
help Ms. Ball during re-writes and run-throughs. Ball is encouraged by
a producer's interest and works closely with younger director Rip Torn
(as Dion Kapakos); a romance, or the potential for one, develops.
Meanwhile, Hope is perused by still-interested first wife Marilyn
Maxwell (as Ivy London)...
With all the re-writes, it's odd nobody re-wrote "Critic's Choice"...
Hope's character is unlikable, and he's not a competent reviewer; he walks out of the opening play, which the audience enjoys, and declares it bad. Hope writes a review of Ball's play even though he was too drunk to see anything. Hope should have helped Ball and excused himself from reviewing her play. The relationship between Ball and Mr. Torn is confusing. Little Ricky Kelman (as John) should have been Ball's son; in the original play, the character "Angela" was too old to have a 12-year-old son. By the way, young Kelman and older Jessie Royce Landis (as Charlotte "Charlie" Orr) do well in supporting the legendary co-stars.
**** Critic's Choice (4/3/63) Don Weis ~ Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Ricky Kelman, Rip Torn
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