Only When I Laugh (1981)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama  |  25 September 1981 (USA)
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Reviews: 13 user | 4 critic

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 »



(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 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 ...
Peter Coffield ...
Mr. Tarloff
Mark Schubb ...
Adam Kasabian
Ellen La Gamba ...
Nurse Garcia
Nancy Nagler ...
Heidi Stanton


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) »


It'll make you laugh...'til you cry. See more »


Comedy | Drama


R | See all certifications »




Release Date:

25 September 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Neil Simon's Only When I Laugh  »

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Did You Know?


This movie marks the only ever time that a Neil Simon written film has had a different title to the Neil Simon play that it is based on. The source play was called "The Gingerbread Lady". See more »


When Georgia arrives home from re-hab she waits outside her apartment door holding a full bouquet of pink roses and baby's breath wrapped in green tissue paper. The grouping of the pink roses and the baby's breath changes remarkably after she enters her apartment. See more »


Toby: [as kids beat on her car] God damn them! Why do you live in this neighborhood? Why don't you move?
Georgia: Because, it only costs me $300 a month. It's a sublet from Mary Todd Lincoln.
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References The Merv Griffin Show (1962) See more »


Machine Gun
Performed by Storm
Courtesy of MCA Records
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User Reviews

Palpable Transition from Stage to Screen
23 October 2003 | by (Houston, TX) – See all my reviews

Only When I Laugh is the film version of Neil Simon's The Gingerbread Lady. Unfortunately, the title isn't the only difference. While the original play deals with the seriousness of substance abuse and co-dependancy, its film counterpart plays it more for laughs - think The Goodbye Girl II, complete with the lead character's change in occupation from cabaret singer to stage actress and the same neurotic frenzy Marsha Mason brought to the role of Paula McFadden. It's the story of Georgia, a recovering alcoholic fresh from rehab, who's teenage daughter Polly decides to come live with her. While the two are working out the whole mother-daughter bit, Georgia finds herself too caught up in the miserable lives of her gay, unsuccessful actor friend Jimmy and her vain yet insecure rich, female best friend Tobey. There are some fantastic performances in this film, especially Joan Hackett as Tobey. Neil Simon, known for memorable monologues, wrote some his finest for the play, and they transfer quite well to film.

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