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California Suite (1978)

Misadventures of four groups of guests at the Beverly Hills Hotel.




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Won 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Harry Michaels (as Herbert Edelman)
Denise Galik ...
David Sheehan ...
Michael Boyle ...


Four totally different and separate stories of guests staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Maggie Smith and Michael Caine come from England to attend the Oscars; Jane Fonda comes from New York, Alan Alda is her ex who lives in California; in the slapstick part Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor and their wives come to the hotel to relax and play tennis, only to find there is only one room vacant; in the fourth segment Walter Matthau arrives a day before his wife for his nephew's Bar Mitzvah while his brother (Herb Edelman) sends a prostitute to his room. Written by Jonathan (jrd@netvision.net.il)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The best two-hour vacation in town!


Comedy | Drama | Romance


PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

22 December 1978 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Neil Simon's California Suite  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film version had the luxury over any stage production, by being able to be filmed at the real-life Beverly Hills Hotel. The movie was shot extensively inside, and on the grounds of the hotel. Today, the hotel's inside looks rather different, having been renovated for a whopping 150 million dollars. Today, a very strict no-filming policy is being enforced by the management, sparing its camera-shy celebrity guests, of any media hassle. See more »


When Richard Pryor is on the phone with Bill Cosby during the water leak, his shirt gets wetter with each scene. However, when he gets off the phone, his shirt is completely dry. See more »


[first lines]
[a two-seater plane is flying over snow-capped mountains]
Harold: For heaven's sake, Wendy - look for an airport. Will you look for the airport?
Diana Barrie: Oh don't make such a fuss. Just put it down on a mountain.
Harold: What do you mean 'just put it down'? I'm lucky I can keep it up. I told you I never flew before.
Diana Barrie: Don't shout at me - I'm a first-class passenger.
Harold: You're a first class lunatic. It's all over Wendy - our relationship has a quarter of a tank to go.
Diana Barrie: Yes, but - you do love me, don't you Harold? ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the opening credits, famous 70s artworks of British artist David Hockney are featured. The painting before Elaine May's name is entitled "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with two figures), 1972" and features a swimming pool with the Hollywood hills in the backdrop. The "two figures", both male, one swimming and the other standing over watching have been mysteriously edited out of the picture for some unknown reason. See more »


Referenced in The '80s: The Decade That Made Us: Lift Off (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

The Brits Take California
6 May 2007 | by (Alexandria, VA) – See all my reviews

Despite a talented all-star cast, "California Suite," which was based on a hit Neil Simon play, is a wildly uneven film. The episodic story traces several unrelated couples from across the U.S. that check into a Beverly Hills hotel. Like a comedic "Grand Hotel," the film cuts between the stories, although the editing makes no comments, ironic or otherwise, between the episodes. Actually, the often foolish, self-centered characters make "California Suite" more a "Ship of Fools" in the sunshine than a "Grand Hotel" under the palms. The original play was a follow-up to the more successful "Plaza Suite" and demonstrated Simon's shakier take on the West Coast than on the East. For the most part, the hotel guests speak and behave like the transplanted or visiting New Yorkers that they are.

Jane Fonda portrays the ultimate New York snob, and her bitchy banter with ex-husband Alan Alda only underscores her arrogance and intolerance of anything that exists west of the Hudson. Alda is a New Yorker's stereotype of a Californian with pastel sweaters and perpetual tan. While a few amusing lines pass between the terminally mismatched couple, Fonda and Alda's episode is more grating than funny. However, the New York couple display Noel-Coward wit in comparison to the wasted talents and misfires in the scenes that involve Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby as vacationing doctors. The premise of two couples that arrive to find a reservation for only one has promise. However, director Herbert Ross should have studied Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd before he devised the broad, unfunny physical stunts that will leave viewers grateful that both Pryor and Cosby survived the mess and moved on to better material.

However, the film does have some fine moments between comedic experts Walter Matthau and Elaine May. When Matthau arrives in LA a day early, his brother surprises him with a prostitute, who passes out from too much tequila and cannot be awakened in the morning. Of course, Matthau's wife, the always-delicious Elaine May, arrives, and the comedy moves into high gear. The best episode in the film, however, involves an English actress, Maggie Smith, and her bisexual husband, Michael Caine. The couple arrives to attend the Academy Awards, because Smith is a Best Actress nominee. While Smith has some of the best-written lines in the film, her role also has a depth and poignancy that goes far beyond the cardboard characters in the other episodes. Although Caine is equally fine, Smith's role is showier, and she won a deserved Academy Award for the part. The film's special irony is that the part of an Oscar-losing-actress won an Oscar for the actress who played her.

"California Suite" is one of those films in which a few superior scenes make it worthy entertainment, and the Smith-Caine episode pulls the film several notches higher than it otherwise deserves. Add the sparkling Matthau-May scenes, and there is at least one-half of a good movie. Although the Fonda-Alda episode is bearable and occasionally amusing, the Pryor-Cosby scenes are often labored and unfunny. However, with a strong finger on the fast-forward button, there is a good hour of comedy and fine performances to be had in this inconsistent film.

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