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"House Calls" is a wonderful romantic comedy that can best be described as
"how they used to make them." It stars Walter Matthau (in one of his best
roles) as a recently widowed doctor who goes out on the dating scene again
and hits paydirt as he seems to have a different woman every night. He then
meets hospital patient Glenda Jackson and soon develops a relationship with
her. But it's one that will be severely tested as she informs him she is a
one man woman and expects him to be a one woman man.
This is a sweet, very funny film also starring Art Carney as the senile hospital administrator and Richard Benjamin as Matthau's friend and fellow doctor. It's a must see for any Matthau fan or any fan of light comedy.
You won't be disappointed.
I remember seeing this 1978 comedy at one of the bargain matinees I
took in when I was looking for a study break from my college courses.
Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson do some effective Tracy-Hepburn-style
thrusting-and-parrying in this featherweight romp directed by the
reliable Howard Zieff (he did "Private Benjamin") about a newly widowed
doctor's aggressive re-entry into the dating game. It all breezes by
quickly primarily thanks to the clever script by veteran screenwriter
Julius J. Epstein ("Casablanca") along with Alan Mandel, Max Shulman
and future director Charles Shyer.
Dr. Charley Nichols has just come back from Hawaii after his wife's death. Upon his return, he becomes aware that he is instant catnip to any and all the single women in LA. He works in a hospital run by an increasingly senile chief-of-staff, Amos Willoughby, whom Charley has to pacify to keep his residency. Enter Ann Atkinson, a transplanted Englishwoman who bakes cheesecakes for a living and has certain concrete opinions about the medical profession, which she expresses freely on a PBS talk show. Of course, Charley is on the show's discussion panel, and sparks, as they say, fly. This leads to the standard complications about how serious Charley is willing to become about Ann. At the same time, the hospital has to deal with a potential wrongful death lawsuit from the widow of a rich baseball team owner who died at the hospital under Willoughby's careless supervision.
It's just refreshing to see such a mature yet bracing love story between two characters inhabited by actors who deliver lines with the scalpel-wielding skill of surgeons. Matthau is his usual 1970's curmudgeonly swinger and quite a sight waddling with his gangly arms held akimbo in his power walk. Away from her heavy, award-winning Elizabethan roles, Jackson is crisply sardonic and charmingly vulnerable as the feisty Ann, who thinks all doctors should aspire to be Albert Schweitzer. Art Carney plays Willoughby with predictable bluster, while Richard Benjamin provides amiable support as Charley's colleague, Dr. Solomon. It's all very compact with a few nice jabs at the greed within the medical profession. There are no extras on the 2005 DVD.
when I know that Walter will never grace another set.I was in my 30's when I first saw this sweet,endearing and unabashedly romantic film.I loved it from the first scene,and all the way through to the end.Art Carney was his usual daft self; Glenda matched Walter step for step in the witticisms;and Richard Benjamin supplied the sarcastic voice of reason that he does so well.Along the way there were many actors whom we all recognize,doing their usual brilliance. There are a couple of lines in the movie which my SO and I have used throughout the years,but I won't say anything about them here.I'm pretty sure you will know which two I am talking about. Just get this movie.Make some popcorn,grab your squeeze(if he is as sappy as mine is,for which I am thankful),and enjoy this standout romantic comedy from the 70's. You will not be disappointed. However,I have the feeling that I am preaching to the choir here because anyone who loves Walter will already own it.I'm very glad it's out on DVD now,finally.
A great, small, simple comedy that works because of the terrific cast. And
it's not only Glenda Jackson and Walter Matthau but Art Carney and Richard
Benjamin. And the story actually works because all the characters are
involved. There isn't any arbitrary stories. Matthau meets Jackson because
she's made to wear a ridiculous head bandage provided by Carney and Matthau
removes it and performs surgery on her. Carney becomes angry/upset over
this and blackmails Matthau into supporting him for Chief Resident even
though Carney's obviously "crack pot". Jackson and Matthau become lovers
but she eventually becomes angry with him for (among other things) not
standing up to Carney. That's what makes this an almost perfect film
comedy: the characters, plot and situations all seem to spring naturally
from the events in the plot. There's nothing forced. And the actors seem
to be having a ball.
Matthau and Jackson are superb together.
Late one night on Tom Snyder's "Tomorrow" Show, I watched Tom ask his guest Henry Morgan what he considered to be 'perfect.' Morgan responded, "Anything with Glenda Jackson." And although I wouldn't consider this film to be perfect, it does bear out that notion very well. I was about to use the cliché' about Hollywood not making pictures like this anymore, but then I just saw, "Up in the Air," another intelligent film about 2 people over the age of 35 who fall in love. That's where the similarities end, though. "House Calls" is just sheer fun watching 2 pros like Matthau and Jackson hit it off and seem completely natural while they're at it. I saw this film in the theater in 1978 (at the ripe old age of 18) and it took me another 20 years to get all of the jokes. Any film that can make punch lines out of 1920's tennis great Bill Tilden, and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain wouldn't play too well at the megaplex these days. One other thought: the original theatrical release featured a 'walk on the beach / fall in love' montage set to The Beatles/George Harrison tune, "Something." It seemed a bit forced at the time, but that song has since been swapped out for a rather generic Henry Mancini music cue for subsequent home video and cable release. Too bad, because that scene just lays there now, another victim of music licensing Hell.
Near-wonderful mixture of comedy, romance, and medical chaos has a 50-ish swinging-single doctor, tired of going to rock concerts with nubile airheads, dating a patient his own age whom he met on his rounds. Screenplay by Julius Epstein shows a fair amount of sophistication, though he doesn't have enough material to fill out the picture's last third, and one can almost feel the movie slipping. The subplot about the hospital being investigated for its shoddy business affairs isn't worked out satisfactorily, and it feels highly concocted anyway. Still, Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson are a terrific team, Richard Benjamin and Art Carney very funny in support. Director Howard Zieff keeps it all popping, and even when Epstein's one-liners feel like Neil Simon rejects, Zieff zips right along happily. The results are dryly engaging and occasionally quite sweet. Followed by a failed TV series. *** from ****
It's a shame House Calls isn't better known. Is it perhaps because the
romantic leads are middle-aged, shopworn, and gun-shy, rather than
oversexed teen-stars? Could be. If you're over 35, you'll probably get
this comedy. If you're over 45, you're really going to get this comedy.
If you're 25, wait until you're older to see it.
The unlikely pairing of Matthau and Jackson works precisely because it is so unlikely. There's a wonderful line of Matthau's that sums up what is happening between the two of them--"I like old broads because you don't have to explain who Ronald Coleman is." (If that's not the exact line, it's close...)
The premise of a sub-par hospital run by incompetents rings true. Art Carney's portrayal of a senile head surgeon is absolutely brilliant. It is impossible not to laugh out loud at his delivery. Subplots, if you can call them that, are fun too, like the one with Jackson's teenage son and Matthau. Everything hits just exactly the right tone.
Okay, there's the bit where Matthau has to wear women's clothing that's a bit over-the-top and an easy mark. But, still--it's Walter Matthau in drag! It's funny!
HOUSE CALLS was an amusing 1978 comedy about a widowed doctor (Walter Matthau) who now wants to play the field but can't help but be drawn to a patient of his (Glenda Jackson) who refuses to be just another notch on his bedpost. Matthau likes the woman but does not really want to make the commitment that she insists upon so he agrees to date her exclusively for two weeks and then make a decision as to whether or not he wants to commit; however, other complications make it difficult for Matthau to make a decision when the two weeks are up, even though he is clearly in love with the woman. Matthau and Jackson have surprisingly effective chemistry as a screen couple and are given strong support from Richard Benjamin, Candice Azzara, Dick O'Neill, and especially Art Carney as the inept and senile Chief of Staff at the hospital where Matthau is employed. Matthau even has a brief scene with his real-life son, Charlie, who appears as Jackson's son. This engaging comedy still holds up pretty well after all these years. If you've never seen it, it's worth the rental.
Matthau is a widowed hospital doctor enjoying his single status and the
footloose and available nurses on the staff whilst colleague and friend
Richard Benjamin looks on with amusement and amazement. Their boss is
hard-of-hearing going on senile Chief of Staff Art Carney who is up for
re-election to that post.
Matthau is content playing the field without commitment until he meets single mother Glenda Jackson who insists upon being the only woman in his life while she is in his life. At the same time, he comes under pressure to respond to the amorous advances of a potential litigant in a malpractice suit, and to support the shambolic and incompetent Carney in his attempt to be re-elected Chief of Staff.
This is a superior old-fashioned romantic comedy graced by four Grade-A actors and an excellent supporting cast working with a first-rate dry, caustic and sarcastic script. Carney steals every scene he's in and, in the parlance of IMDb, has us rolling on the floor laughing out loud whenever he appears on screen. We are otherwise entertained by the on-off relationship of the two leads and various sub-plots.
Lacks the ambition to be a great film, but remains one of the best of its kind and watchable and re-watchable for its comedic value alone. Deserves more attention than it seems to have received and well worth the cost of the DVD or video cassette.
Walter Matthau is best remembered for the long series of comedies he
did with his equal comedy partner Jack Lemmon from THE FORTUNE COOKIE
to THE ODD COUPLE II. But people tend to forget that in the late 1970s
he appeared with another partner in two films - a female partner. This
was Glenda Jackson, the English double Oscar winner, who demonstrated
her comic abilities against Matthau's first in HOUSE CALLS and then in
HOPSCOTCH. Matthau's role was slightly larger in both films, because
his characters were more central to the plots, but the chemistry
between them was quite good. If you ever want to see two pros
demonstrating how sexual intercourse can be crazily funny watch Walter
and Glenda as Dr. Charley Nicholson and Ann Atkinson experimenting to
see if two people could have sex on a bed under the old movie code rule
of the two parties each having one leg on the floor! Never has sex been
looked at from such a clinical and mechanical point of view.
Matthau's Charlie has just been widowed before the film began. He has only had one woman in his life - his wife. So now he's the eligible bachelor. He also is the leading surgeon in the hospital he works out of, but the chief surgeon is Dr. Amos Weatherby (Art Carney). Carney is apparently senile (there are moments later in the film that show he turns his senility on and off - see the scene where he rams Richard Benjamin's car). Amos is up for re-election (Charlie is his closest competitor for the post - if he wants it). However, Amos manages to convince Charlie to let him keep the job for reasons of self-esteem.
One day Charlie notices Ann in the hospital. She has had a slight accident and is resting in bed, but Amos has put her into a cage like apparatus (which Charlie remarks has not been used since about 1920). He gets her out of the device, and soon is romancing her. She joins the staff of the hospital, but she is critical of Charlie's willingness to cater to Amos, and she is critical of certain selfish tendencies she sees among the doctors in the hospital.
Amos' bungling causes the death of a wealthy patron of the hospital (Lloyd Gough), who owned a baseball team (his greatest innovation being separate admission costs for double headers). Amos tries to calm down the young widow of the team owner, delivering the eulogy at the burial service (the line in the summary above is the peroration line of the eulogy). However she is still determined to sue (her lawyer Thayer David says the hospital is the most incompetent he's ever seen). So Amos suggests that Charlie romance the widow to satisfy her from that expensive lawsuit. But how will Ann react to this? The film is quite amusing, and was so successful that besides causing a sequel for Jackson and Matthau, it led to a television series as well.
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