The Star-Spangled Girl
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The Star-Spangled Girl is a comedy written by Neil Simon. The play is set in San Francisco in the 1960s.
The Star-Spangled Girl opened on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre on December 21, 1966 and closed on August 5, 1967 after 261 performances. The original cast featured Anthony Perkins as Andy, Richard Benjamin as Norman and Connie Stevens as Sophie. The scenic design was by Oliver Smith, the lighting was by Jean Rosenthal and the costumes were by Ann Roth.
The production was directed by playwright George Axelrod.
In an interview, Neil Simon was asked whether The Star-Spangled Girl would have been better with direction by Mike Nichols. Simon replied: "Yes. He would have given the actors a different attitude; we would have gone much more for reality than the superficial comedy that came out. That's not to knock George Axelrod....He couldn't do it because he was busy with 'Virginia Woolf' but it isn't true that he advised me not to do it; as a matter of fact he came to Philadelphia, and he liked it. He gave me some advice on it which helped."
The story is a love triangle, mixed with politics. Andy and Norman are radicals who barely make a living working on their magazine, Fallout, which is dedicated to fighting "the system" in America. Sophie, a former Olympic swimmer, is an all-American, Southern girl who moves into the apartment next door. It's love at first sight (or, as the play has it, first smell) for Norman, but his feelings are not reciprocated. Norman's obsession with Sophie makes Andy hire her just to keep the magazine going. Then Sophie falls for Andy, though they are at odds politically, threatening to destroy the magazine and the men's friendship.
History and reception
The play was inspired by a political argument Simon witnessed between liberal writer Paddy Chayefsky and a conservative woman. While it features Simon's lively comic style—still on display on Broadway in Barefoot in the Park and The Odd Couple when The Star-Spangled Girl debuted—it was not well received.
In an interview, Simon said that The Star-Spangled Girl "was written 'from an emotional identity rather than personal identity...I knew this one didn't have the body of the others. I knew it never had a chance to be a powerful comedy....I didn't make it'".
There were laughs, but to many the plot seemed unbelievable and the characters contrived. Furthermore, while Simon could write about people—especially New Yorkers—he seemed out of his element writing about politics.
The play was adapted into a movie in 1971. Jerry Paris directed and the screenplay was by Arnold Margolin and Jim Parker. The cast starred Tony Roberts as Andy, Todd Susman as Norman and Sandy Duncan as Amy (renamed from Sophie). The New York Times reviewer wrote: "Time and Hollywood have not done wonders for his exuberant but still essentially lightweight comedy....The uninspired adaptation of Simon's antic is a basically contrived affair that may get a share of chuckles but not many hearty laughs."
- "Simple Simon - TIME". www.time.com. December 30, 1966. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
- Simon, Neil. Script The Star-Spangled Girl (1967) (books.google.com), Dramatista Play Service, Inc., ISBN 0-8222-1073-8, pp.1-4
- Barthel, Joan. "Life for Simon -Not That Simple", The New York Times, February 25, 1968, p.D1
- Kerr, Walter. "The Theater: Neil Simon's 'Star-Spangled Girl': Comedy Has Premiere at the Plymouth Anthony Perkins Stars Staged by Axelrod" The New York Times December 22, 1966, p. 37
- Funke, Lewis. "News of the Rialto Simon Says", 'I've Learned', The New York Times, January 1, 1967, p. 57
- The Star-Spangled Girl Internet Movie Database listing, accessed April 10, 2012
- Weiler, A. H., " 'Star Spangled Girl' on the Screen", The New York Times, December 23, 1971, p. 20