The Owl and the Pussycat (1970)
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and it is very amusing to see him try to adjust to it. What's so interesting to watch is that although Doris shows herself in the beginning to be loud, self-assertive and bold, she later shows herself to be vulnerable and sweet. Where as George Segal's character Felix, showing himself to have a nose up in the air, "I'm too intellectual for you" attitude in the beginning, later shows that although he wants success in his life, not at the expense of pretense. With himself, or what he genuinely wants. I say pretense because Felix's thinking was that he would marry an "intellectual" such as he thought himself to be, and live this "proper" life. Doris, although loud, and believes she is a legend in her own mind, is genuine and real. Felix is very much attracted to her for this reason. It's a quality that she has that he sees that he wants to be more like himself. But what is so amusing is that Doris feels that after meeting and getting to know Felix, that she needs to become more like him! More "intellectual". What's truly so charming about this movie is how it shows the facades that we can portray and the masks that we can wear are truly just that; facades and masks. How no matter how confident we can "look" on the outside, how smart we may "appear", that it can be a totally different story once you start actually getting to know someone. What's most charming of all,(actually wonderful),is that by the film's end they both decide to drop these facades, take off the masks, and "start fresh". But...all along from the beginning of this movie til it's end, until they get to this level, it can be quite hysterical. A great comedy with heart. Enjoy it.
#10- The Owl and the Pussycat
Herbert Ross' "The Owl and the Pussycat" is a prime of example of how to do a "Battle of the Sexes" romantic comedy right. Most modern romantic comedies are either drowning in their syrupy sentimentality ("Serendipity")or in crude hatred of one and/or both sexes ("Tomcats", "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood").
The film stars Barbra Streisand as Doris, a part-time hooker/actress who doesn't go anywhere without her TV. George Segal plays Felix Sherman, a would-be writer whose life consists of writer's block and rejection slips. One fateful evening, Felix complains to the landlord about the constant noise coming from Doris' apartment. He goes to bed and is awakened by a loud knock. It's Doris, who was evicted from her apartment and has several bones to pick with Felix. It's the beginning of a battle that lasts for most of the film's 97 minute running time.
What makes The Owl and the Pussycat such a standout film is the care that went into the production. Buck Henry has successfully transplanted Bill Manhoff's play from L.A. to New York and the film is better for it. New York is a much livelier town than L.A. and the city itself becomes a character that the others bounce off from. Herbert Ross proves he can handle comedy as well as he can handle musicals and choreography. His direction doesn't overwhelm the script and acting but compliments it in a way most people write off.
On paper, I suppose the Barbra Streisand-George Segal pairing doesn't look promising. But when you see the film, you will not think of more perfect casting. Streisand and Segal have good chemistry together and it makes some of the later events of the film more believable. Streisand has a gift for delivering brisk, snappy dialogue. Segal has a gift for being able to make his characters instantly likable.
The score is by Blood, Sweat and Tears. Made in between their second and third albums, the score doesn't feel like a time-filler throwaway. Dick Halligan's music fits the film like a well worn glove. I cannot imagine the movie without the music. It does like all good scores do, enhance the movie without giving it away. There is a mix-up in regards to the lyrics (credited to BS&T, but David Clayton-Thomas has said they were given to BS&T before the music was composed), but still, as sung by DC-T, the songs have a wonderful quality to them.
All people who even want to attempt a romantic comedy should watch "The Owl and the Pussycat". It shows how to make a movie like this without resorting to misogyny, chauvinism or drippy sentiment.
**** out of 4 stars
It was an historic word also, the first time a star had ever
said it in a major film. F***!! The only time anyone has
ever censored Barbra to this day! Still a great comedy!
Sexy, funny and way ahead of its time! One of Bab's best! George's too!
Second, it is not a rip-off of anything else. It isn't derivative of anything else. It was a book. Then it was a play, starring Diana Sands and Alan Alda. Then it became this movie, with some significant changes, the main one being the elimination of the interracial pairing that had existed in the play.
Third, George Segal has been working in comedies for his entire career.
Fourth, this is a seriocomedy, with easily as much pathos as comedy. The comedy is broad and rapid-fire, and the pathos is very intense. There are moments of intense pain along with some really hearty laughs.
Fifth, this is a time capsule. New York was a violent, dirty, impoverished, scary place in 1970, and never did people on the fringes struggle more. This is a time where you could be thrown out of your apartment in the middle of the night for making too much noise, before ATMs and when people had recordings of vicious dogs next to their front doors to deter all-too-common burglars. This is a time of a seedy 42nd Street, where you could go to one of 40 porn houses and watch full- length dirty movies all night, surrounded by drunks and bums and perverts. This is a movie of a place and time that doesn't exist any more, and these were the people who tried not to lose themselves while trying to make their dreary lives a little more than the reality they were trapped in.
When people take themselves and this site too seriously, and run off at the mouth about movies they don't understand in language that is imprecise and improperly used, it makes me annoyed.
Watch this film. It is unlike others. You will find things to love in it.
With this in mind, one has to consider the development which the comedy genre underwent during this time: from the mildly risqué sophisticated antics of the Doris Day/Rock Hudson films of the early 1960s to the cynical anxiety-ridden variety that started emanating towards the tail-end of the decade with which the likes of Jack Lemmon, George Segal (the male lead of this film) and, in particular, Woody Allen (since he was his own writer and mostly directed himself as well) are forever associated.
THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT is also notable for giving the current female singing sensation Barbra Streisand her first non-musical role; in fact, it led to other wacky comedy vehicles: foremost among them WHAT'S UP, DOC? (1972; Peter Bogdanovich's updating of the Howard Hawks classic BRINGING UP BABY ) and FOR PETE'S SAKE (1974; whose trailer, included on the Columbia R2 DVD of the film under review, makes it seem like a good deal of fun). Thanks largely to his role in the film, Segal went on to do his fair share of sex comedies up till the early 1980s with the most successful among them being A TOUCH OF CLASS (1973), which I should be acquiring shortly.
Anyway, to get to the main item: the film can be seen as a modern variation on the perennial "Pygmalion" theme with Segal as intellectual but, at the same time, neurotic and Streisand the uncouth yet liberated woman. There's no plot to speak of instead, we follow the two stars on a logical pattern of location-hopping around New York throughout which their relationship blossoms: from his apartment when she's evicted because of his snitching (which leads to both of them being given the gate by the landlord), to them shacking up at the flat of Segal's pal (who drives them out because of their constant bickering), then going their separate ways till they meet again (after he has learned about her movie experience a hilarious scene and a 'colleague' of hers has gone to see him at his workplace) and go out together (where they're harassed by a band of thrill-seekers), after which they find themselves at the house of Segal's fiancée (a scene with an unexpectedly ironic punchline), to finally deciding to be completely honest with one another (beginning with their real names).
In this respect, the film emerges to be overly talky (betraying its stage origins) but there is a reasonable amount of invention and wit in the undeniable comedy highlights: Segal dressing up as Death to scare the hiccupping Streisand; Segal using an aquarium as a TV set with him delivering an impromptu news flash to humor the insomniac Streisand (her addiction to TV is illustrated by a surprising reference to the Lionel Atwill/Lon Chaney Jr. horror pic MAN MADE MONSTER ); the couple's argument over "the sun spat morning" line in the opening paragraph of a book by aspiring novelist Segal; Streisand's account of the sordid activities her clients invariably came up with (prompting Segal to describe her as "a sexual Disneyland"), etc. The film's soundtrack is highlighted by several songs from jazz/rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears.
In the same year he made two greatly underrated films, the mature "Loving" and the manic "Where's Poppa?", George Segal makes Felix a lovably insecure schlub and provides great chemistry with Streisand in her first non-singing role. They have a great scene in the bathtub where both are completely stoned as his fiancée and her parents walk in, and he has a funny scene where he pretends to be the TV to help Doris get to sleep. For Streisand's part, she wears a hysterically tacky negligee, dances in a go-go cage, appears in a soft-porn flick called "Cycle Sluts" (we only hear the riotous audio - "Where are you putting THAT?") and says the "F" word (unfortunately cut out of the DVD version though it's obvious when she says it). It's not her best screen performance, but it's one of her funniest. Henry's sharp dialogue and Ross' quick pacing help considerably in making this an enjoyably vulgar romantic comedy. The 2001 DVD had no extras other than three trailers, none for this movie.
This is a remake of "The Divorce of Lady X" (which I also found more annoying than funny) with some 70s pop culture add-ins, like miniskirts, marijuana smoking, self-analysis and, most surprisingly, Barbra Streisand's potty mouth, and without the beauty of Merle Oberon to provide at least some reason for watching.
Barbra is ultra-abrasive throughout, with a maturity level slightly below that of the average three-year-old, so self-absorbed that it genuinely never occurs to her that other people in the world might have needs, or even feelings. Certainly my idea of the perfect mate!
I did watch it all the way to its non-comedic "let it all hang out - tell it like it is" ending, although I don't really know why. The thing I liked best about it was that it was finally over.
This movie is VERY loud (basically because Streisand yells nonstop), the humor is pretty caustic (Streisand thinks Segal is gay and throws quite a few homophobic jokes at him) and is pretty risqué--it was edited from an R rating but there's still plenty of swearing and sexual sequences. Still it is fun. Segal and Streisand work well together--the script is full of one liners that they throw at each other full tilt. And it might seem strange that Streisand could convincingly play a prostitute--but she actually looks very attractive here and pulls it off (she played another one in "Nuts" in 1987).
This isn't perfect however. It seems a little bit too long and some of their arguing gets repetitive. Also there is annoying edit when Streisand says the word "f***". I'm guessing it was cut to get a PG rating but it renders one scene incomprehensible and I DID hear it in the video version released in the 1980s. What's the story? Also there's a very ugly scene at the end where Segal humiliates Streisand in Central Park. Segal also shot some nude scenes which never made it into the final print.
Still this is worth catching. I wouldn't let the kids see it though. This is pretty strong for a PG film.
Buck Henry adapted this from a play. Another notable is the famed porn actress Marilyn Chambers with an early role without dialogue. Streisand has great sass. Segal is like an english professor. They have a good chemistry. There are a couple of great laughs and general good fun. It's essentially a two person play but this is able to incorporate some NYC street life. There are some good interplay and then there is the climax. It gets a little dark and then a little poignant and then lets you leave with a smile.
In the female lead, Barbra Streisand gives a refreshingly unsentimental performance as Doris, the semi-illiterate hooker who (for once) does not have a heart of gold. George Segal was primarily known as a dramatic actor before he was cast as Felix, the snotty book clerk/writer-wannabe. His performance is so convincing that he has been known as an expert comic ever since. The chemistry between Streisand and Segal ignites from the beginning, and it stays aflame throughout their relationship's many ups and downs. Robert Klien has a funny supporting role - and plays it expertly - but THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT remains a showcase for the chemistry between Streisand and Segal. I think well-respected film critic Pauline Kael said it best when she wrote, "Were Tracy and Hepburn ever this good. . . maybe, but they were never better." High praise indeed!
Seldome have I seen two great actors paired in a funny movie that really clicks.
Barbra is doing this film soon after winning an Academy Award for Best Actress in her first film (Funny Girl). She is a riot as a prostitute that absolutely drives Felix (Segal) nuts! It has to be added that this is the first major film in which a major actress says f*ck. (I hear this has been cut from all but the VHS version.) Segal chose to go the comedy route, rather than drama, for which he is equally qualified (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). He starred with Jane Fonda in the original Fun With Dick and Jane. Here he is a perfect match for Doris (Streisand) as an uptight writer.
I am not stretching the truth even the slightest bit to say that these two will crack you up.
I used to think it was too loud, abrasive and most certainly claustrophobic....and at that time it really turned me off. Well, it is all those things...but, it is brilliantly acted by both Segal and Streisand. I don't think I have seen Streisand more natural or convincing than in this role....and in my opinion she's extremely sexy.
Originally I faulted George Segal for being so annoying (as Felix)...now, I applaud him for acting the part.
There are some hysterically funny lines and situations in this movie.
She raises such a fuss in Segal's apartment that the super throws both of them out. Segal takes her to the apartment of a friend, Robert Klein, but their loud arguments and queer garb (don't ask) arouse and disturb Klein and he leaves the apartment. Segal winds up in the lethal embrace of the raptorous Streisand.
They separate unamicably for a few weeks but the encounter has taught each of them something and they have another date at the apartment of Segal's rich fiancée, a pianist. She and her family happen to be in Boston, where the fiancée is giving a performance with the Boston Symphony. In the sybaritic apartment, Streisand produces some marijuana which the bookish Segal smokes on a dare and they end up in the bath tub together. The apartment doesn't remain empty of others for long.
It's really a familiar story of two nutty, idiosyncratic, mismatched New Yorkers, each of whom teaches the other to overcome pretensions. But it's so slickly done, adapted by Buck Henry from somebody's play, that it succeeds in a wild and uneven fashion.
I think it might help a viewer to be at least a little familiar with the geographic and chronological milieu. I mean -- this is New York City in the late 1960s. Times Square is filled with porno shops and sleazy clothing outlets and beggars. And there is the conflict of subcultures -- the bourgeois on the one hand (Segal) and the iconoclastic on the other (Streisand). The use of grass was a daring enterprise for the middle class.
But you don't really need to have been there to enjoy the gags. They come thick and fast, both verbal and physical. I'll give an example. During their separation, Segal is passing a dirty movie theater in Times Square (this was pre-video tape) and notices that the movie playing -- the pornographic "Cycle Sluts" -- stars Streisand. Writhing with disgust and curiosity, Segal buys a ticket and as he's passing through the lobby, an attendant asks, "Raincoat?" Segal: "I don't have a raincoat." Attendant: "You want to RENT one?" I don't particularly like Barbra Streisand's personality. She has an ego the size of Greenland. But she's phenomenal in this comic role and looks utterly pinchable too, despite that prominent proboscis. Segal is even better as the put-upon author who's work has been turned down by every publisher in New York. His role is the more difficult because he's basically the straight man, but he does wonders with it. Watch his expression when he's stoned and naked in the tub with Streisand and they hear the doors open and close as his fiancée and her family arrive unexpectedly. His face turns crimson. "You're about to meet Miss Weyderhaus," he says with a mischievous smile, as if they were two kids about to be discovered playing hookey from the third grade.
The movie collapses on itself in the last ten minutes or so, trying to turn "serious," but only managing to achieve "off-putting." They may wind up married but I wouldn't bet on its lasting.
There's no real plot to The Owl And The Pussycat. In fact the additional characters are a creation strictly for the film version. It was a two character play when it ran on Broadway and starred Alan Alda and Diana Sands in the Segal and Streisand parts.
Segal is busy trying to write the great American novel. Streisand says she's just hooking to pay the rent when she's short, she's really a model and an actress. Until that faithful night all they knew about each other was his typewriter clacking all night and the various sounds of lust being fulfilled.
The two leads seem to work well together, their comic timing and reactions to each other are perfect. I'm not sure how the future will work for these two, but it would be interesting to speculate.
A must for fans of both these players.
The biggest shock here: this movie is absolutely filthy! Be curious to read the Parents Guide on this one. Kids maybe wouldn't get a lot of it, like I didn't watching Grease when I was young, because its mainly sexual references.
The whole thing takes place I'm one or two rooms, and excursions outside are unconvincing attempts to disguise the fact that its based on a play. So, its claustrophobic, like all stage adaptations, but really lifted by the chemistry of the Odd Couple characters, and the terrific charm and energy of Barbara Streisand.
She reminds me of this one specific friend I knew during uni, so I found the character quite adorable and well rendered. I like how people like this get written off by everyone as stupid but they're often cleverer than the people dismissing them. The other appeal here is the witty dialogue and how gorgeous she is in these ridiculously revealing outfits.
The grand dame of modern gay icons. Babs is a bit shocking as she makes the assumption that her nebbish neighbor (George Segal) is gay, something she throws in his face with great relish and venom. Of course, it's only a matter of time before she learns the truth, parading around in lacy and racy pajamas, certainly not meant to sleep in. It seems out of character for her very flamboyant character to be so verbally hateful towards gay men, especially one she has no proof to back her claim. For most of the movie, Streisand is a bit of a harpy, but manages to instill a level of humor that makes her at least somewhat tolerable. She's particularly funny in a scene where you only hear her voice acting out a porno.
The lack of major supporting players makes it a bit tough on Streisand and Segal to hold all the attention. Their chemistry is iffy at best, although the final confrontation between the two on Central Park locations brings out a lot more vulnerability in each of the characters. Still, the obvious stage origins of the set up detract from the wide screen and makes it truly feel dated.