They All Laughed
|They All Laughed|
Promotional poster for They All Laughed
|Directed by||Peter Bogdanovich|
|Produced by||George Morfogen
|Written by||Peter Bogdanovich
|Editing by||William C. Carruth
|Release dates||14 August 1981|
|Running time||115 minutes|
They All Laughed is a 1981 film directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzara, John Ritter, Colleen Camp, Patti Hansen, and Dorothy Stratten. The movie was based on a screenplay by Bogdanovich and Blaine Novak. It takes its name from the George and Ira Gershwin song "They All Laughed."
A romantic comedy, They All Laughed is set in New York City, largely filmed outdoors on the streets, and tells the story of three private detectives investigating two beautiful women for infidelity. The detectives eventually wind up romantically pursuing the women, who turn the tables on them. They All Laughed is an updating of La Ronde, both in tone and theme. Detective John Russo (Ben Gazzara) attempts to cheat on his girlfriend, country singer Christy Miller (Colleen Camp), with a blonde taxi driver he calls Sam (Patti Hansen), with the connivance of his colleague Arthur Brodsky (Blaine Novak). He has met the taxi driver en route from a meeting in which he's been assigned to follow Angela Niotes (Audrey Hepburn), wife of a European tycoon. Detective Charles Rutledge (John Ritter) falls in love with Dolores Martin (Dorothy Stratten), whose husband has also hired him to spy on her. Charles is cautioned against this infatuation by his buddy Arthur. Feeling slighted by Russo's infidelity, Christy Miller throws herself at Charles, but she ultimately falls in love with Dolores Martin's extramarital paramour Jose, played by Sean Ferrer, who is Audrey Hepburn's son in real life. Russo's pursuit of Angela leads him to fall in love with her, and he is grief-stricken when she and her husband return to Europe, but the two women have arranged that Sam will take her place and nurse his broken heart. Dolores also falls for Charles and they plan to marry when her divorce is final, the only happy ending.
There are many hints at a relationship between the plot and real life in this picture, which has caused some commentators to question the discipline of the filmmakers but may, in time, actually contribute to the film's interest. Audrey Hepburn's son plays the part of Jose, though the part of her son in the film is played by Glenn Scarpelli. According to Bogdanovich, Hepburn and Gazzara had had an affair prior to the filming, though evidently this had fizzled out by the time filming began, and Gazzara's ongoing divorce made further contact inadvisable. (Commentators have not agreed as to whether Gazzara and Hepburn have good onscreen chemistry in They All Laughed). Bogdanovich's real-life daughters portray John Russo's daughters, who along with Arthur (pretending to be Russo's son in a crucial scene) are enlisted to win Angela Niotes's trust. More implicitly, Arthur, who acts primarily as a facilitator to the others' romances, is portrayed by one of the film's screenwriters, Blaine Novak. Charles, who pursues Dorothy Stratten's character, wears director Peter Bogdanovich's trademark oversized plastic-framed eyeglasses, perhaps a reference to Bogdanovich's initial guilt and subsequent acceptance of his love for Stratten.
Indeed, the theme of secret love surfacing is pervasive throughout. Even Russo's relationship with the taxi driver—possibly the least secretive and most above-board of all the couplings, so much so that Russo is brought to confess that he is aging and his sexual prowess is failing—takes place under a pseudonym (Russo calls Deborah "Sam" for obscure reasons). The theme of hidden desires is echoed in the soundtrack, which juxtaposes country music by Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Rodney Crowell—as well as by Camp—with visuals of the Manhattan skyline (the credits sequence follows a trek into Manhattan, notably focusing on the twin towers of the World Trade Center as Dorothy Stratten's credit appears) and songs by Frank Sinatra, including the eponymous hit "They all laughed when Christopher Columbus..."
There are no traditional villains in the film, with the only unpleasant character momentarily depicted in extremely brief appearances as an understandably frustrated husband whose wife (Stratten) cuckolds him with their next door neighbor.
They All Laughed was the last theatrical film in which Audrey Hepburn played a lead role (she would later star in a made-for-TV film entitled Love Among Thieves and a cameo role in Always). According to an interview conducted by Wes Anderson in the DVD features for the film, director Peter Bogdanovich claims Hepburn and Ben Gazzara fell in love and had an affair while shooting Bloodline (1979). Though the affair was short-lived, it inspired the characters they would each play in They All Laughed.
Dorothy Stratten was murdered by her estranged husband/manager Paul Snider before the film's release. Stratten had begun an affair with Peter Bogdanovich during filming, and Snider hired a private detective to follow her. They separated and Stratten moved in with Bogdanovich, planning to file for divorce. When Snider was certain he had lost his wife and protegé, he murdered her, and killed himself.
Along with Heaven's Gate, Cruising, and One from the Heart, They All Laughed is generally regarded as the end of the New Hollywood period, and the director-driven studio films of the 1970s. Since the very public failures of these four films, Hollywood studios have never again allowed directors to control the films that they finance.
In recent years the film has experienced a level of positive reappraisal, with the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson now praising the film. The movie was released to VHS on January 31, 1995; HBO Home Video released the film to DVD (as a 25th Anniversary Edition) on October 17, 2006.
- Audrey Hepburn .... Angela Niotes
- Ben Gazzara .... John Russo
- Patti Hansen .... Sam (Deborah Wilson)
- John Ritter .... Charles Rutledge
- Dorothy Stratten .... Dolores Martin
- Blaine Novak .... Arthur Brodsky
- Linda MacEwen .... Amy Lester
- George Morfogen .... Leon Leondopolous
- Colleen Camp .... Christy Miller
- Sean H. Ferrer .... Jose
- Willow Hale........Dancer in the Bar (uncredited)
The film was financed by a movie making section of Time Inc.
Before the film was released, Time decided to shut down its movie making division. Bogdanovich decided to distribute the film himself. His manager later claimed the director spent $5 million on it but it made less than $1 million in ticket sales. This contributed to the director declaring bankruptcy in 1985.
Bogdanovich later wrote about the making of the movie in The Killing Of The Unicorn - Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980.
- MOVIES: Bogdanovich: '70s' golden boy regains his screen sheen Lawson, Terry. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 17 Jan 1982: g18.
- "The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll: 2002". British Film Institute. 2002.
- BOGDANOVICH'S BANKRUPT MEMORIAL: BANKRUPT MEMORIAL Crook, David. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 19 Dec 1985: i1.