A boozy Broadway actress comes out of a 12-week cure to face the problems of her best friends as well as her needy daughter. She tries to balance the terrors of returning to work with the ... See full summary »

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(screenplay), (based on the play "The Gingerbread Lady")
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Georgia Hines
...
Polly Hines
...
...
Toby Landau
...
David Lowe
...
Vincent Heller (Lou)
...
Man in Bar
Ed Moore ...
Dr. Bob Komack
Byron Webster ...
Tom
Peter Coffield ...
Mr. Tarloff
Mark Schubb ...
Adam Kasabian
Ellen La Gamba ...
Receptionist
...
Nurse Garcia
Nancy Nagler ...
Heidi Stanton
...
Jason
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Storyline

A boozy Broadway actress comes out of a 12-week cure to face the problems of her best friends as well as her needy daughter. She tries to balance the terrors of returning to work with the demands of all around her with humor and insight, while staying off the booze. Written by Ed Lorusso

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

new york city | based on play | See All (2) »

Taglines:

Kristy McNichol is a daughter who never had a childhood. Marsha Mason is a mother who never grew up. And when they get together, they're the most mismatched roomates since "The Goodbye Girl". See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

25 September 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Neil Simon's Only When I Laugh  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Metrocolor)
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was made and released about a decade after its source play "The Gingerbread Lady" by Neil Simon was first performed in December 1970. The play opened on Broadway on 13th December 1970 and played 193 performances until 29th May 1971 when it closed. Thomas S. Hischak in his book "American Theatre: a Chronicle of Comedy and Drama 1969-2000 (2001)" said the play ran "a disappointing five months, the shortest run yet for a Simon play." "The Gingerbread Lady" is considered one of Simon's few flops, Simon extensively re-wrote it for this feature film adaptation. Susan Fehrenbacher Koprince, Associate Professor of English at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, has said that the movie "is radically changed" from "The Gingerbread Lady" and used "less than half" of the play for the film. See more »

Goofs

Jimmy is arranging a bouquet of orange flowers to welcome Georgia home from re-hab. He is shown adding a stem of eucalyptus to the bouquet and two branches of orange flowers that stick up much further than the other flower stems in the vase. When the delivery boy comes and Jimmy turns to get the money to pay for the groceries, the bouquet of orange flowers has no eucalyptus stem and the flowers are all the same height again. See more »

Quotes

Georgia: What is that crap you're putting on your face?
Toby: It is from Vienna. It is ninety dollars a tube, do you notice you never see a pore on my face.
Georgia: I've never even seen your face. Who are you, anyway?
Toby: [looking at Jimmy]
Georgia: Who is she? Do you know who she is?
Toby: They take it away form you soon enough. Hold onto it while you can.
See more »

Connections

Features Gilda (1946) See more »

Soundtracks

I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan
(uncredited)
Music by Arthur Schwartz and lyrics by Howard Dietz
Sung by Marsha Mason and Kristy McNichol
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Mason's Finest Hour
30 November 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Much has been written over the years regarding the 'one-note" performances of Marsha Mason. Four of these "one-note" performances earned Mason Oscar nominations and IMO this is the best of those four. ONLY WHEN I LAUGH is Neil Simon's big screen re-working of his own play THE GINGERBREAD LADY. Marsha Mason plays Georgia Hines, an actress recently released from rehab, trying to get her career going again, trying to re-establish a relationship with her daughter (Kristy McNichol) and trying to stay sober and not really doing a great job with any of them. Mason hits all the right notes here and makes Georgia a flawed and realistic human being. Some of Mason's best moments involve no dialogue at all...there is a wonderful scene about 2/3 of the way through the film where an on-the-edge Georgia is walking the streets of Manhattan around dusk and it seem like every other storefront she passes is a bar. She then stops at an interior pay phone to call her doctor from rehab; however, he is not present and Georgia doesn't want to talk to the doctor who does answer the phone. This scene is extremely well-played by Mason and I think it's the scene that probably nailed the Oscar nomination for her. Kristy McNichol charms, as always, as Polly, Georgia's self-sufficient daughter who still yearns to be Mommie's little girl sometimes. James Coco and Joan Hackett also deliver Oscar nominated performances as Georgia's best friends, Jimmy, an unemployed actor and Toby, a vain, society beauty trying to cope with the fact that her best years have passed her by. Hackett is particularly impressive as the fading beauty whose fragile ego doesn't keep her from kicking Georgia in the ass when she needs it. Though Simon definitely has stronger screenplays under his belt, ONLY WHEN I LAUGH is worth seeing if for no other reason, the strong performances by the four leads, three of which earned Oscar nominations.


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