Monday, July 29, 2013

Movie Monday: The "See a Sixties Movie" Edition

I've been sitting here for awhile trying to figure out what to write about for this week's Movie Monday post. The problem is, I haven't seen many movies lately, certainly no new films, and nothing I have seen has really been worth writing home - or anywhere else - about.

But then, while I was looking at the onscreen cable guide during a break for ads in the "Criminal Minds" marathon I was watching (I've been watching a lot of "Criminal Minds" lately; good show), I saw that "Cactus Flower" was going to be on Turner Classic Movies in about half an hour. It took no time at all to decide that the "Criminal Minds" marathon could go on without me for a couple of hours.

I first saw "Cactus Flower" when it was originally released in 1969. I loved it then and I've loved it ever since. It is a flat-out funny movie, for all that it starts with Goldie Hawn's character attempting suicide by turning on the gas in her kitchen. Her neighbor quickly smells the gas, however, and puts a stop to the attempt by kicking out the window and coming to the rescue with a little mouth-to-mouth (this is where the comedy begins). Talk about a "meet cute" beginning; this is definitely an unexpected twist on that tired old concept.

It turns out that Hawn's character was trying to kill herself because her boyfriend, a womanizing dentist, won't leave his wife to marry her. The boyfriend (portrayed by Walter Matthau), as it turns out, isn't even really married; that's only what he tells the girls he dates so that he won't have to get seriously involved with them. Hawn's character gets the idea that the only reason he won't leave the (nonexistent) wife is for the sake of their (equally nonexistent) children. So, the girlfriend insists on meeting the wife. The dentist enlists his assistant/receptionist (portrayed by Ingrid Bergman) to pose as his wife, and she in turn borrows her nephews so that it will appear that they have children. The receptionist enjoys the role; it turns out she has been nurturing on the dentist for some time. Lie builds on hilarious lie until things get quite out of control.

I'll admit that "Cactus Flower" is a film of its time, being made as it was when the world was quite a bit different than it is today. I still find it very, very funny. And it is notable for a couple of reasons. First of all, this was Ingrid Bergman's first Hollywood role in twenty years (she'd been, in effect, banished from Hollywood in the late 1940s for having had a child out of wedlock, something that one just didn't admit back then, even in Hollywood - maybe especially in the Hollywood of the time), and she is wonderful as the receptionist. Additionally, it was Goldie Hawn's first real role in a film (she'd been in one film previously, but only as a chorus dancer in a Disney film), having previously been known only for her featured role as a ditzy blonde in the sketch comedy series "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" on television. It was an impressive performance, winning her an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress her first time out.

Here is the original trailer for the film, from 1969:

Well, I'm going to finish watching the movie now.

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