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California Suite (1978) Poster

Trivia

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Diana Barrie (Dame Maggie Smith) says that she wishes David Niven could accept her award for her because he would be witty and charming. In the play on which the movie is based, she says Michael Caine, but it was changed when Caine was cast as her husband.
According to an interview with Dame Maggie Smith on 60 Minutes (1968), Herbert Ross was very difficult to work with. She also stated that she was told that Ross reduced Walter Matthau to tears.
Dame Maggie Smith and Michael Caine's scenes arriving at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Oscars were filmed before The 50th Annual Academy Awards (1978). Herbert Ross, who shot the scenes outside, was nominated that year as Best Director for The Turning Point (1977) but lost. Caine and Smith were presenters on the night. In fact, if one stares at the television during their pre-bar scene, an image of Richard Burton (nominated that year) is on the screen.
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The artworks with California themed motifs that are featured during the opening titles were painted by pop artist David Hockney.
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Walter Matthau was the only cast member from Neil Simon's earlier "Suite" movie Plaza Suite (1971) that appeared in this film.
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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.
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The play featured four acts with the four main actors doubling-up, playing two or three parts each. In this movie version, ten actors play the ten main roles.
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This movie was made and released two years after its source play, by Neil Simon, was first performed in 1976.
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The suites, lobby, entrance, and polo lounge were not filmed at the Beverly Hills Hotel, but were recreated on studio soundstages to allow flexibility in shooting with removable walls. The lobby, entrance, and polo lounge set, measuring 6,176 square feet, was recreated on one massive soundstage at the Burbank Studios' Columbia Ranch. The hotel rooms and suites were shot on Stage 4 of the Burbank Studios. However, tennis court, and swimming-pool scenes, were shot at the real-life hotel.
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Walter Matthau's son David Matthau appears in a small role as a bellboy.
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The production notes for this film suggested the following promotional ideas and marketing concepts for the picture to cinemas showing the movie: "Contact the manager of your town's most luxurious hotel and tell him about the inspired entertainment in CALIFORNIA SUITE. In exchange for promotional support, arrange for the hotel to rename its most opulent suite the CALIFORNIA SUITE. Then provide the hotel with theatre passes to offer to the first patrons who stay in these glamorous accommodations. As a twist on the idea, you might suggest that a series of rooms be rechristened in honor of the stars of CALIFORNIA SUITE. For example, the Jane Fonda Suite, the Walter Matthau Suite, the Bill Cosby Suite, etc. The designated rooms might be decorated with your one sheets and pictures of the chosen stars, and the hotel would then be expected to advertise the tie-in by mounting an eye-catching lobby display that links their 'California Suite' to yours".
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Neil Simon wrote the play, and later film script, when he moved to California, to be closer to the Hollywood film industry.
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Reportedly, the film's eight lead actors were all the first choices of Neil Simon, Herbert Ross, and Producer Ray Stark.
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One of the film's stars, actress-writer-director Elaine May, previously directed another Neil Simon written film, The Heartbreak Kid (1972), but did not appear in it. Also a writer, May though never worked as a screenwriter on one of Simon's works.
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Teamed together for their scenes, Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor had previously starred together in Uptown Saturday Night (1974).
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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.
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The film's four segments, the same as in the source play, were titled: "Visitors from New York", "Visitors from London", "Visitors from Philadelphia" and "Visitors from Chicago". Herbert Ross once said, it was like filming four movies: "It was like making four films in one. It was like the play, in that we shot the four stories separately. But in the finished film, the episodes are edited together so that the action cuts back and forth between the episodes".
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The movie was selected to be the 1979 Royal Film Performance at London's Odeon Theatre, with proceeds going to benefit the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund.
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Fourth of sixth appearances by Walter Matthau in a Neil Simon written film. The others were The Odd Couple (1968), Plaza Suite (1971), The Sunshine Boys (1975), and I Ought to Be in Pictures (1982), with The Odd Couple II (1998) being his last.
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When Herbert Ross attended the 1978 Academy Awards, he directed the arrivals sequence for this picture at the actual event. Coincidentally, Ross had two films in contention on the night, The Turning Point (1977) (eleven nominations) for which he was nominated for both Best Director and Best Picture (Ross won neither) and The Goodbye Girl (1977) (five nominations), another film written by Neil Simon which Ross had directed but was not Oscar nominated for. Ross once said: "It was so bizarre, the whole thing. I was glad to be working on the California Suite (1978) scenes. They kept my mind off the doom I knew I was going to follow. It was eerie".
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The original stage production of "California Suite" by Neil Simon, opened on April 2, 1976 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, and ran until June 5, 1976. The Broadway production of "California Suite" opened at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on June 10, 1976, and ran for 445 performances, until July 2, 1977.
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One of eleven movies made by Neil Simon and Ray Stark. The films, most made at Rastar Pictures with film studio Columbia, include Murder by Death (1976), The Cheap Detective (1978), California Suite (1978), Chapter Two (1979), The Sunshine Boys (1975), Seems Like Old Times (1980), The Goodbye Girl (1977), The Slugger's Wife (1985), Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986), Biloxi Blues (1988), and Lost in Yonkers (1993).
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Herbert Ross directed five films written by Neil Simon. They were Max Dugan Returns (1983), California Suite (1978), The Goodbye Girl (1977), The Sunshine Boys (1975), and I Ought to Be in Pictures (1982).
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The room number of the suite in the film's source play was Suite No. 203-04 in the Beverly Hills Hotel. The film features the characters in four different hotel suites as the action cuts between the four episodes which in the play were set in the one hotel suite at different times, one per act.
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The second of Neil Simon's "Suite" movies, the others being Plaza Suite (1971) (remade as Plaza Suite (1987)) and London Suite (1996).
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The movie featured several veterans of Neil Simon movies. Jane Fonda had starred in Barefoot in the Park (1967); Dame Maggie Smith had ensembled in Murder by Death (1976); Elaine May had directed The Heartbreak Kid (1972), while this was Walter Matthau's fourth Neil Simon film, after Plaza Suite (1971), The Sunshine Boys (1975), and The Odd Couple (1968). Ray Stark and Herbert Ross previously collaborated on The Sunshine Boys (1975) and The Goodbye Girl (1977).
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The character name of Diana Nichols was changed from the play to Diana Barrie (played by Dame Maggie Smith) for the movie. Similary, Sidney Nichols became Sidney Cochran (Michael Caine). Moreover, Stu Franklyn and his wife Gert and Mort Hollender and his wife Beth in the play became respectively in the movie Dr. Chauncey Gump and his wife Lola and Dr. Willis Panama and his wife Bettina.
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First of two 'Neil Simon' written films starring Alan Alda. The second would be Jake's Women (1996).
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The name of the Diana Barrie (Dame Maggie Smith) movie, for which she was Oscar nominated, and starred with James Coburn, (which is seen on the plane at the start of the film, and again referenced on a plane at the film's end), was "No Left Turns". The name of the Oscar winner of the short documentary at the Academy Awards was "The Midgets of Leipzig".
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Jane Fonda and Michael Caine previously starred in Hurry Sundown (1967), but they shared no scenes together in this movie.
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Herbert Ross once likened this movie to being in the style of the Hollywood classic Grand Hotel (1932).
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One of three films that Michael Caine appeared in, in 1978. The movies were The Swarm (1978), California Suite (1978), and Silver Bears (1977).
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Walter Matthau and Elaine May had previously starred in A New Leaf (1971).
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The "Diana and Sidney" one-act segment from Neil Simon's "London Suite" play features the Diana and Sidney characters from Simon's California Suite (1978) play and film. In California Suite (1978), Diana is portrayed by Dame Maggie Smith (who won an Oscar for the part), while Sidney is played by Michael Caine. In London Suite (1996), Diana is played by Patricia Clarkson, while Sidney is played by Kelsey Grammer. The London Suite (1996) Diana and Sidney characters are based on the California Suite (1978) Diana and Sidney characters, except the names have been changed slightly. In London Suite (1996), they are called Diana Nichols and Sidney Nichols, whereas in California Suite (1978), they were known as Diana Barrie and Sidney Cochran.
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The movie was made and released four years after the similarly titled California Split (1974).
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The film cast includes five Oscar winners: Jane Fonda, Walter Matthau, Michael Caine, Dame Maggie Smith, and James Coburn; and three Oscar nominees: Alan Alda, Elaine May, and Richard Burton.
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Cameo 

James Coburn: Uncredited, as the pilot in Diana Barrie's (Dame Maggie Smith's) in-flight movie on the airplane.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Dame Maggie Smith's character, Diana Barrie, is nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award, but loses the Oscar, but Dame Maggie Smith actually won an Oscar for portraying her, an Oscar loser. Moreover, Dame Maggie Smith is the only actress to ever win an Oscar for playing an Oscar nominee/Oscar loser. Cate Blanchett would later win an Oscar for playing four-time Academy Award Winner Katharine Hepburn.
Michael Caine plays a character named Sydney Cochran, whose bi-sexuality/homosexuality is revealed to his wife in the film. Caine would also later play in another film, a bisexual, whose bi-sexuality/homosexuality is also revealed, and also named Sidney (Sidney Bruhl). This film was Deathtrap (1982).
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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