Tag Archives: Arthur Hiller

Author! Author! (1982)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Playwright has family issues.

Ivan (Al Pacino) is a playwright struggling to get his next creation ‘English with Tears’ financed and produced. While he has managed to attain the necessary funding he still has a second act that everyone feels ‘needs work’, but before he can tackle that his wife Gloria (Tuesday Weld) leaves him for another man (Frederic Kimball). Now he must contend with raising the five kids alone with four of them being hers from a previous relationship.

The screenplay was written by Israel Horovitz and loosely based on his own experiences as a single parent. Horovitz has written many plays, over 70 of them, several have been considered at least in their day as groundbreaking, so this thing seems incredibly contrived by comparison. The scenes dealing with Ivan’s struggles in regards to his play and the politics that ensue in order to get it made are the most interesting aspects of the movie and the story should’ve solely focused on this angle while the home-life stuff proves sterile and better suited for a sitcom.

The kids seem too connected to the adult world around them. Children can certainly be astute at times, but they still dwell in their own little bubbles and this film shows no awareness of that and instead has them saying lines that more likely would’ve been uttered by an adult. Benjamin H. Carlin has a few cute moments as the young Geraldo, but Ari Meyers, who would later go on to star in the TV-show ‘Kate and Allie’ gives the best performance when she breaks down into tears as she describes the hardships of being booted around from one household to the next.

It’s nice seeing Pacino doing light comedy, which is a real change of pace for him, but he’s too intense and does not play off of Weld, who is more emotionally restrained, well at all. The scene where he tries to physically drag her into a taxi cab isn’t funny, but scary instead and most likely would’ve had those who were standing around witnessing it trying to intervene, or calling the cops.

Dyan Cannon is not effective as the kooky actress who stars in his play and then later moves in with him. Had her character’s eccentricities been played up more she might’ve at least been amusing, but the script doesn’t go far enough with this and having her call him up out-of-the-blue and ask to go to bed with him seemed too outrageously forward. There was some dramatic potential when, after she moves in with him and his kids, she is then asked to move out when Weld’s character comes back into the picture. This could’ve opened the door to a lot of dramatic fireworks and given the film a real lift, but instead she just leaves quietly and is essentially forgotten, which then begs the question why even bother introducing her character at all?

The scenes where Ivan frets about his play and the audience reactions to it are the best parts of the film because it shows the inner anxieties of just about any playwright or screenwriter out there, which is why this should’ve been the central point of the movie as it is the only thing that helps the story stand out. By comparison the family life stuff is generic and filled with too much manufactured cutesiness. It also wastes the talents of Alan King who is mildly amusing, at least at the beginning, as the play’s producer as well as the legendary comedy team of Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding who play the part of the play’s financiers.

The film’s title song ‘Coming Home to You’, which plays over the opening credits as well as the closing ones is so overly sugary that it is enough to make you want to turn the movie off before it’s even begun. It got nominated for a Razzie award for worst original song and it should’ve won as there could not be anything that would be worse, but what is even more amusing is that no one gets credited for singing it, which should’ve been a signal to director Arthur Hiller not to feature it in the film because if the song’s own singer is embarrassed by it then who else would like it.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: June 18, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Arthur Hiller

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: DVD

Promise Her Anything (1966)

promise her anything

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bachelor becomes a babysitter.

Harley (Warren Beatty) is a struggling filmmaker living alone in a rundown Greenwich Village apartment where he makes low-grade blue movies to pay the rent. Michele (Leslie Caron) moves into the apartment next door. She is a recently widowed mother who has Harley babysit her 2-year-old (Michael Bradley) while she romances the child psychologist (Robert Cummings) that she works for whom she feels will also make for a good father. The problem is that Harley falls for Michele and soon makes a play for her affections as well.

After recently reviewing other bachelor themed films from the ‘60s I felt this was a definite upgrade. Instead of portraying young single men living in plush pads and having cushy jobs this one shows a more realistic side with a character that struggles to make ends meet while also harboring a beatnik philosophy that young men of that time were starting to embrace. Arthur Hiller’s direction has shades of the offbeat and irreverent while Tom Jones’ singing gives it hipness.

I also enjoyed Beatty’s presence and felt this was one of his better comedies as the scenario takes full advantage of his detached, glib manner while also tapping into his notorious lady’s man image. The scenes where he talks about enjoying  the benefits of marriage, but without being married or expounding on the virtues of socialized medicine made the character seem downright ahead-of-his-time.

Cummings, in one of his last film appearances, is also fun and his stuffy, uptight ways makes for a great contrast to Beatty. Why someone who hates kids would ever decide to become a child psychologist makes little sense, but it’s still funny as is his banter with his more modern thinking mother (Cathleen Nesbitt).

Caron seemed miscast as she was already in her mid-30s at the time and an actress who was in her 20s and more Beatty’s age would’ve been a better fit. I also didn’t care for the character’s dated, old-school ways of thinking including the idea of marrying a man simply for the security that he could offer even if she didn’t love him or that children must have a father figure in their life or they will turn out ‘psychologically abnormal’ if raised only by a single parent. Her attempts at hiding the fact that she had a child until after the Cummings character had proposed to her and she’d securely ‘snared’ him is equally offensive.

The plot is paper thin and I’ll admit I watched this on my Amazon fire tablet and halfway in I accidently kicked the table it was sitting on and in my attempt to catch the tablet before it dropped to the ground I inadvertently jumped the film ahead by 20 minutes, but had no idea I had done so until it had ended. When I went back to review what I had missed I realized it hadn’t been much.

The undernourished script by William Peter Blatty has a few amusing bits, but nothing that’s laugh-out-loud funny. The climactic sequence in which Beatty tries to heroically save the child who’s trapped on a moving crane might’ve been more exciting had it not been so obviously done in front of blue screen.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: February 22, 1966

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Arthur Hiller

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

The Tiger Makes Out (1967)

tiger makes out 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Mailman kidnaps suburban housewife.

Ben Harris (Eli Wallach) is a middle-aged mailman living in a crummy, rundown basement apartment. He is bitter and angry at the world around him, which he feels is filled with a lot of vapid followers to a rigid and dehumanizing system. When his upstairs neighbor puts a hole in his roof and both his landlord and the housing authority refuse to do anything about it he decides to kidnap a young beautiful women as a form of insurrection. Instead he mistakenly nabs middle-aged housewife Gloria (Anne Jackson) who has similar issues and the two slowly form a budding friendship.

The screenplay is written by Murray Schisgal and is based on his one-act, two-character off-Broadway play ‘The Tiger’. The film is filled with a lot of diverting, offbeat humor some of which works and some of it doesn’t. I liked the part where Gloria’s neighbor Leo (John Harkins) gets his entire family on their knees to pull out crabgrass from their otherwise ‘perfect’ lawn and we eventually see them tear the entire lawn to bits from a bird’s-eye view and in fast-motion. Wallach’s confrontation with Sudie Bond inside the housing authority office is also amusing, but his attempts at kidnapping a woman come off too much like Wiley E. Coyote trying to get the roadrunner and turn the film into an ill-advised live action cartoon.

Director Arthur Hiller does a fabulous job of disguising the fact that this was originally a play. The editing is quick and the locales varied particularly at the beginning. The pace has a kinetic late 60’s feel, which gives it a certain time capsule quality. However the choice of music, which includes a studio group singing the film’s theme, is quite sterile.

Wallach gives a flawless performance and Jackson is also good. The two have been married since 1948 making them Hollywood’s longest lasting couple. Unfortunately the scenes of the two of them inside the apartment are rather stagnant and the one-time that the film gets boring.

There are also some great supporting performances including Rae Allen as a paranoid woman who thinks every man is a potential stalker and Charles Nelson Reilly as a goofy college registrar. The film also marks the film debuts of Dustin Hoffman and Mariclare Costello as his jilted girlfriend, Bob Dishy as an exasperated husband and John P. Ryan as an escort to a female impersonator. You can also spot a young Joe Santo inside the housing authority office and Frances Sternhagen as a passenger on a bus as well as Barbara Colby who in 1975 ended up getting murdered in mysterious and yet unsolved circumstances.

The one error that I noticed in the film is the gaping hole in Ben’s apartment ceiling somehow gets strangely taken care of and is nonexistent when he comes back to the place with his victim. I realize this movie borders on the bizarre and quirky to begin with, but I still felt there needed to be some explanation for that and none is given.

tiger makes out 2

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: August 18, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 34Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Arthur Hiller

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: None at this time.