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July 26, 1972 - Image 2

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1972-07-26

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Page Two


Wednesday, July 26. 1972



Mr. 1's What's up Doc tries too hard

The last decade or so of
American films has been a very
unusual one (in case you haven't
noticed). Never before has there
been such a profusion of thema-
tically ambitious, ostensibly
thoughtful, intellectual Ameri-
can movies. Not that the "New
American Cinema" was of a
particularly higher quality than
earlier films, they just con-
sciously attempted more.
Within the last year or two,
though, several directors seem
to be taking a temporal step
backward. Neo-Classicism in
movies, as some critics have
called it-young directors skip-
ping past the abberation of the
60's to study the work of the
Certainly, the most strictly
Neo-Classical director around
today-the one who is most
scornful of the pretentious New
American Cinema and the most
enamoured of pre-1960's movies
-is Peter Bogdanovich.
Why does Mr. B. so faithfully
Mixed Bowling Leagues

copy "classic" American films?
Because Peter Bogdanovich
just likes movies. Lots of movies.
Soap operas, comedies, westerns,
etc., etc., etc. And since Mr. B.
is in the business of making
movies, he simply aims to make
good people-pleasing films (the
two adjectives are inextricably
linked in the Bogdanovich aes-
thetic) by juggling the various
good movies.
An aimiable, well-intentioned
goal, perhaps, but, to my mind,
a slightly ridiculous one. Movies
about movies just aren't as im-
mediate, interesting, or affecting
as movies about life. But I'll
stop my theorizing; Bogdano-
vich's goals just seem to me
difficult, probably impossible to
realize. Take a dead genre of
another era, try to inject new
life into it, and chances are
you'll get a cinematic Franken-
Which is exactly what Bog-
danovich's "screwball comedy"
("Remember Them?"), What's
Up Doe, to my mind, is. Now I
have nothing at all against
screwball comedies. In fact, I
like them'a hell of a lot. Frank
Capra's movies, in my opinion,
are among the great American
films of all time. It's just that
in a culture that avidly patron-
izes black stuff like C 1 a c k-
work Orange, that optimistically
zany spirit that believes unin-
hibited good intentions will over-
come all evil, if such a spirit
still exists, will probably have a
hard time finding the necessary
inspiration to produce a great
screwball comedy.
Not that you can't produce a

passable screwball without this
sort of spirit. Take Bringing up
Baby, the 1938 Howard Hawks
film What's Up Doc borrows
most from, for example. Hawks,
like Bogdanovich, was simply
interested in producing a public-
pleasing movie. So he chose a
screwball comedy plotline: in-
hibited, absent-minded zoologist,
about to simultaneously marry
a dominating, passionless co-
worker and win an important
grant, encounters a crazy free
spirit who ultimately liberates
him. Zany yet rational Ameri-
can individualism overcomes
overwhelming obstacles and
wins out in the end. Hawk's
film was not nearly as con-
vincing, 'but it was nevertheless
a well-handled, enjoyable movie.
What's Up Doc does not come
off as well. For one thing, Bog-
danovich's tale of an introverted
musicologist (Ryan O'Neal),
about to both marry a castrating
prude (Madeline Kahn) and try
to win an important research
grant, who runs up against a
modern day zany (Barbara
Streisand) is not nearly as well
directed as its predecessor, Mr.
B. lacks the self-assurance and
comic know-how of Hawks. He
directs his actors incredibly
broadly-the right thing to do in
a Carry On movie, "perhaps, but
not a screwball comedy. Then
too, the plastic modernity of
many of the films sets-a brand
new hotel, pharmacy, and air-
port-seems incompatible with
the spirit of a screwball comedy.
But these faults seem to me to
be secondary to the film's great-
est flaw-its actors. Movie stars
were the very heart and soul of
1930's comedies. Jean Arthur,
Gary Cooper, James Stewart,
Miriam Hopkins, Herbert Mar-
shall, Cary Grant, Katherine
Hepburn, all carried with them
from film to film well-known, -
endearing screen personalities.
DIAL 8-6416
75c unto 5 p.m.
Vincent Canby, N.Y. Times:
"Fritz is a far cry.from Disney.
It is an intelligent social satire."
"Fritz is a ball for the open
mind." Judith Christ
pit /o

Maybe our American love of
the individual is dissipating.
Perhaps no one any longer has
the self-confidence and nature
to be a star personality. Or it
could simply be that lack of
demand has cut down the
Bogdanovich probably did the
best he could in a tough predi-
cament by choosing Barbara
Streisand to play Judy Maxwell.
Though she has often been over-
bearing, narcissitic, a bit too
much to take, she is an undeni-
ably unique screen personality.
Barbra's at her best in Doe; her
quintessential Jewishness has
been toned down somewhat
(something I, Jew though I am,
am very thankful for), she de-
livers seeming ad libs quite
comically, and, in a role that
constantly verges on bad taste,
comes off very inoffensively. No
Jean Arthur, but still one of the
funniest forces in the film.
It's in casting Ryan O'Neal as
Howard Bannister, the musicol-
ogist, that the lack of a first
rate star really shows. True,
Bannister's absent-minded per-
sonality, as delineated in the
script, is (like most everything
else in the movie) drastically
exaggerated. But a Cary Grant
might have gotten by. Ryan
O'Neal, though, is no Cary
Grant. His double takes are
awful, his comic timing atro-
cious, and his occasional pleas
to the camera ("Help!") down-
right nauseating. Of course, he's
extremely good looking, but
since when does a mousy intel-
lectual have a perfectly bronzed,
muscular body?
Bogdanovich seems almost to
realize his stars' inability to
carry the movie, so he throws in
every piece of slapstick shtick
ever projected on the big screen
(something, once again, inap-
propriate to the character and
situation oriented - screwball
comedy). Not necessarily well-
conceived shtick, but tons of it.
All of which makes the movie
fun in a very forgettable, un-
impressive way. I mean, when
Mr. B. and friends seem to be
trying soooo hard to make us
laugh, even a grouch like me
chuckles once in a while. As
Barbra tells Ryan at the-end of
the movie, "Listen kiddo, you
can't fight a tidal wave."
So if, after all, I enjoyed the
movie, why have I been so hard
on it? Partially, as a reaction to
the inordinate amount of praise
Bogdanovich has received. Paul
Zimmerman, in Newsweek, com-
See 'DOC', Page 7
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UNTILL 9:00 P.M.
paved with white is
one of summer's
SCoolest sights,
T he n avy/brown/wh ile
plaid is Arnel jersey
as easy to care for
as it is to look at,
By Patty O'Neil.
5-13P sizes. $24.


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611"2 03

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