Toni Simmons believes that the only reason her married lover won't leave his wife is because of the children. In truth, her lover, dentist Julian Winston, doesn't have any children. In fact, Julian doesn't even have a wife - he just tells women he does to avoid getting involved. When Julian does decide to take the plunge with Toni she insists on meeting the first wife and Julian enlists the aid of his long-time nurse/receptionist Stephanie Dickinson to play the part.Written by
Cactus Flower is what I call a "pizza movie" -A personal favorite that never fails to satisfy. Perfect for an evening at home with a pizza. Knowing all the lines (and what lines!) by heart only enhances the enjoyment.
Since so many others here have retold the plot, I'll simply add the correction that Bergman's character, Miss Dickinson, was a nurse-receptionist, meaning she was a skilled nurse -and therefore an educated person -not "just" a receptionist.
Bergman's performance in this film -and the film itself- was largely dismissed at the time, but today's audiences will marvel at her range; not just the impeccable comic timing, but the ability to make us believe her character is unaware of her own feelings while revealing them so clearly to Toni and to us. While the general plot stretches credibility, Bergman's performance is compelling: honest and utterly believable.
Also a standout is Jack Weston's performance as the Matthau's old friend and co-conspirator, Harvey. No one could deliver a zinger like Weston, and I.A.L. Diamond's script gives him plenty. For example: "That's such a big, dirty, rotten lie it has class." Weston excelled at slightly seedy characters because he exuded a warmth that allowed you to forgive his characters' flaws.
The film is a fairly straight adaptation of the Abe Burrows play (which was itself adapted from a French play by Barillet and Gredy). On Broadway Matthau's role was played by Barry Nelson. Bergman's by Lauren Bacall, and Hawn's by Brenda Vaccaro. It ran for 1,234 performances (three years) and was nominated for two Tony Awards (Vaccaro and Burt Brinckerhoff, who played Igor).
For me, the film's score, written and adapted by the legendary Quincy Jones is another highlight. The main theme (A Time For Love Is Anytime) is performed by Sarah Vaughn over the opening and closing credits. It is also insinuated in different arrangements throughout the film, most notably as the romantic piano music underscoring Berman's speech to Hawn in the record store. Jones also created covers of popular songs from the period (To Sir With Love, I'm A Believer) for the night club scenes. As with all of the film's elements, there is a tremendous amount of talent, taste, and professionalism evident.
In my opinion, few modern romantic comedies can hold a candle to this classic. It's great to finally have it available on DVD. Time to call for a pizza...
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