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THEY ALL LAUGHED

        

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: Recently I wrote a short DVD review of a new documentary, ‘One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich & the Lost American Film’ (Warner Archive), which focuses on the filmmaker’s struggles with his 1981 romantic comedy  'They All Laughed' after one of the stars, Dorothy Stratten, was murdered before the film was completed. Today, the picture remains a largely forgotten unsung effort, and it’s undeniably quirky, but I quite liked it (it's available on DVD). So here’s my Deseret News review, originally published Jan. 29, 1982.

Amiable, engaging, funny, tender – and, like all of Peter Bogdanovich’s films – incurably romantic, “They All Laughed” is a delightful film that brings together a wide array of diverse characters whom we come to know so well it’s hard to leave them when the show is over.

In that way, “They All Laughed” reminded me of “Ragtime,” but Bogdanovich, best known for “The Last Picture Show,” “Paper Moon” and “What’s Up Doc?” isn’t nearly so ambitious. “They All Laughed” is as casual and upbeat as the characters it introduces to us.

Though Audrey Hepburn gets top billing and turns in a fine performance, she doesn’t speak a line until the middle of the film.

     

   Ben Gazzara, left, with Blaine Novak in 'They All Laughed.'

Her character is being followed by Ben Gazzara’s character, of the Odyssey Detective Agency, and fellow detectives John Ritter and Blaine Novak are following Dorothy Stratten.

During their travels they meet up with several other characters – and I do mean characters – who are all attracted to one another, and whose relationships, illicit and otherwise, make up the film.

Like Bogdanovich’s other works, “They All Laughed” brings to mind old movies (especially 1930s society comedies), but “Saint Jack” (1979) and now this picture have taken on an almost European style: low-key in development and in no hurry to get where they are going. Somehow it’s very appealing, and by the midway point we are swept up in this little story so that it’s almost as if we are watching friends.

That’s especially complimentary to Bogdanovich’s talent since there is little indication where the story is going for the first third or so. The script is full of surprises that are a joy to see unfold.

      

Colleen Camp, John Ritter, in Manhattan in 'They All Laughed.'

Most of the supporting characters are women, and each is unique and fascinating. In addition to Hepburn, who is not working nearly enough these days, Colleen Camp is great as a fast-talking, loud-mouthed country-western singer who comes on strong to meek John Ritter; Patti Hansen is sensual and kooky as a cab driver Gazzara dubs “Sam;” and Dorothy Stratten (in her last film before her tragic death) is deft and gorgeous as she is followed – and then pursued – by Ritter. And there are others, equally stylish and equally wonderful.

Ritter is very funny as a stuffy innocent, and he plays perfectly off Blaine Novak as his bushy-haired, hippie partner. Novak is a thorough delight, and if casting offices are smart we should see more of him in the future. There are also several children here who look and act like real children for a change.

Bogdanovich knows how to write characters and direct actors, but he’s equally at home making photographic overtures to downtown Manhattan, and the entire picture becomes a valentine of sorts to love, laughter and New York.