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  Nickelodeon You Ought To Be In Pictures
Year: 1976
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Stars: Ryan O'Neal, Burt Reynolds, Tatum O'Neal, Brian Keith, Stella Stevens, John Ritter, Jane Hitchcock, Harry Carey Jr, James Best, George Gaynes, Jack Verbois, John Chappell, M. Emmet Walsh, Priscilla Pointer, Jeffrey Byron, Don Calfa, Brion James
Genre: Comedy, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Chicago, 1910 and unsuccessful lawyer Leo Harrigan (Ryan O'Neal) is having trouble with his latest client - trouble which sees him being chased through the streets when their case falls apart. Harrigan manages to shake off his pursuer, and happens to notice men being thrown down the stairs of a nearby building. Sensing work, he sneaks up to a window and peers in, but before he can make sense of the scene inside, a group of men headed by movie producer H.H. Cobb (Brian Keith) abruptly emerge and accuse him of spying for the Patents men, a group financed by the major film studios to ensure independents like Cobb are not given a chance to take a piece of their potential market. Harrigan eventually clears up the misunderstanding, and a new job for him is on the horizon...

By 1976, the goodwill that director and writer (here with W.D. Richter) Peter Bogdanovich had earned with hits like What's Up Doc? and Paper Moon had dried up after the notorious flops of Daisy Miller and At Long Last Love, so he resorted to what many movie obsessed filmmakers do - nothing less than a love letter to the cinema he had grown up with. Well, actually it was the cinema his parents had grown up with, stretching far back to the beginning of the story of Hollywood movies, and from these early steps he fashioned an expensive, light hearted comedy that yet again won terrible reviews and little success at the box office.

That said, there is something goodnatured about the presentation that prompts you to want to like it more than you do, in spite of its more blatant "please like me" attempts to win the audience over. The film has a largely excellent cast who are all willing to look ridiculous or wring any laughs they can from the script, a script which has the tendency to resemble a history lesson more than one of the comedies that it pays tribute to (O'Neal is obviously dressed to look like Harold Lloyd, round spectacles and all). However, it is too reverent towards its subject matter when a more irreverent approach might have served the story better.

A series of misunderstandings has Harrigan not only hired as a writer by Cobb, but packaged off on a train to California to oversee the shooting of a film there. On the journey, he briefly meets short-sighted Kathleen Cooke (Jane Hitchcock, a model turned Bogdanovich protegé whose screen career seems to have been pretty much killed by this effort) and he is instantly attracted to her, but she is whisked away by fate. Although not before she has her suitcase mixed up with not only Harrigan's, but one belonging to a Southern gentleman, Buck Greenway (Burt Reynolds), hoping to break into show business. Yet fate intervenes once more to put them all in the same place...

...which is a farm in the middle of nowhere, shooting a feature for Cobb, Harrigan taking over the directing chores, Greenway being the leading man and Kathleen being his leading lady. In more ways than one, when a love triangle emerges between the three characters and the lovesick Harrigan has to stand back and watch Greenway and Kathleen get married. Bogdanovich fills the background with catchphrase-spouting persons and indulges in running jokes that aren't especially amusing the first time around, not helped by third-billed Tatum O'Neal here peculiarly charmless in a bid to recreate her Paper Moon role. And the film builds up to the premiere of Birth of a Nation, a landmark film but a morally reprehensible one too which, coupled with the general scenes of everyone being fed up by this time and the start of the First World War, is oddly depressing for a supposed laughter parade. It's a pity, Nickelodeon has a nice idea at its heart but is failed by lack of inspiration. Music by Richard Hazard.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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