This hilarious screw-ball comedy from Director Peter Bogdanovich stars Barbra Streisand as Judy Maxwell and Ryan O’Neal as Howard Bannister (“As in ‘sliding down the…'”). This is one of those 70’s films in the vein of “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World” that keep your sides split wide open. Don’t shy away from Babs playing the lead. She is at her peak in every way in the role of this girl who attracts, and looks for, trouble.
Howard Bannister and his maternally-bent fiance Eunice Burns, played by Madeline Kahn in her screen debut, stay at the Bristol Hotel in San Francisco for a musicologists convention at which Bannister is contending with Hugh Simon (Kenneth Mars) for a $20,000 grant from the Larabee Foundation. Sounds simple enough, until Judy Maxwell catches a glimpse of Bannister and proceeds to interfere in every avenue of his life. Bannister is the most scatter-brained man you’ve ever seen, but after Maxwell brings “havoc and chaos to everyone”, he appears a new man by the time the credits roll. This is not to mention the 4 identical overnight bags that hold Bannister’s igneous rocks, Maxwell’s underwear, a wealthy woman’s jewels, and top-secret government documents that get mixed up in nearly every scene and unite at the home of Mr. Larabee (Austin Pendleton) in a gun fight, pie fight, fist fight scene that culminates in a car chase, ending only when the cars drive off a pier into the San Francisco Bay.
This comedy doesn’t miss a beat. The funnies truly are funny and even the semi-funnies are hilarious. The cast of this film is perfect. John Hillerman and Randy Quaid even stop in for quick cameos. Bogdanovich got story credit, but screenwriting credit went to Buck Henry, who also wrote “The Graduate”, “Town and Country” and lots more.
The one who steals the screen, in my opinion, is Madeline Kahn. Eunice Burns is a “dangerously unbalanced woman” who needs to be needed more than anything in the world. When she takes a cab to 459 Durella Street and allows squeaks to slip from her throat when she sees the men, who are obviously not with the Larabee Foundation, threatening one another with Bannister’s rocks, I laughed out loud.
Again, don’t let Babs scare you away from this thoroughly enjoyable film. It’s this reviewers favorite comedy of all time.