What's Up, Doc? (1972 film)

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What's Up, Doc?
What's Up Doc poster.jpg
What's Up, Doc? poster
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Produced by Peter Bogdanovich
Written by Peter Bogdanovich
Buck Henry
David Newman
Robert Benton
Starring Barbra Streisand
Ryan O'Neal
Madeline Kahn
Austin Pendleton
Michael Murphy
Kenneth Mars
Edited by Verna Fields
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • March 10, 1972 (1972-03-10)
Running time 94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4 million
Box office $66,000,000[1]

What's Up, Doc? is a 1972 screwball comedy film released by Warner Bros., directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, and Madeline Kahn in her first feature film role (for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe). It was intended to pay homage to comedy films of the 1930s, especially Bringing Up Baby,[2] as well as old Bugs Bunny cartoons (another WB product).

The film was a success, and became the third-highest grossing film of 1972. The film won the Writers Guild of America 1973 "Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen" award for writers Buck Henry, David Newman and Robert Benton. It was ranked number 61 on the list of the 100 greatest comedies published by the American Film Institute, and ranked number 68 on 100 Years... 100 Passions.

Synopsis[edit]

The story, which takes place in San Francisco, centers on four identical plaid overnight bags and the people who own them.

  • One of the bags belongs to Howard Bannister, Ph.D. (played by Ryan O'Neal), and is filled with igneous "tambula" rocks that have certain musical properties. Bannister, a musicologist from the Iowa Conservatory of Music, and his tightly wound, overbearing fiancée, Eunice Burns (Madeline Kahn), have come to San Francisco to obtain a grant offered by Frederick Larrabee (Austin Pendleton). Howard has a theory that ancient man may have used rocks to create music. Howard's rival for the grant is the ethically challenged, dubiously-accented Hugh Simon (Kenneth Mars), who apparently is from Yugoslavia (Croatia) but seems to be doing work in Western Europe.
  • The second bag belongs to Judy Maxwell (Barbra Streisand) and is filled with her clothes and a large dictionary. No matter where Judy goes, trouble happens, from car crashes to spontaneous combustion of hotel rooms. She never finished college, but nevertheless has amassed a considerable amount of knowledge from all of the courses she took at the many institutions of higher learning from which she was expelled.
  • The third bag belongs to Mrs. Van Hoskins (Mabel Albertson), a rich woman who is using it to store her valuable jewels.
  • The fourth and last overnight bag belongs to the mysterious "Mr. Smith" (Michael Murphy) and contains top-secret government papers. There is at least some indication that he has them illegally and wishes to make them public. The equally mysterious "Mr. Jones" (Philip Roth) identifies himself as from the government, and is on a mission to recover the documents.

Howard, Eunice, Mrs. Van Hoskins, and Mr. Smith all happen to check into the Hotel Bristol at the same time, whereupon Judy lodges herself there without paying and begins pursuing Howard (to his bewilderment). Two hotel employees (Sorrell Booke and Stefan Gierasch) attempt to steal the jewels belonging to Mrs. Van Hoskins, while Mr. Jones attempts to get the bag belonging to Mr. Smith. Over the course of the evening, the bags get switched haphazardly from room to room as the four parties unwittingly take one another's suitcases. Without realizing it, Howard ends up with the jewels, Judy with the documents, Mr. Smith with the clothes, and the thieves with the rocks. Meanwhile, Judy manages to secure the grant for Howard while masquerading as Eunice, and then accidentally destroys his hotel room. The following day, everyone makes their way to Mr. Larrabee's home where a major fight scene occurs. Howard and Judy take all the bags and flee through San Francisco pursued by the thieves, Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones, Eunice, Simon, Larabee and a few roped-in bystanders. They go through Chinatown, down Lombard Street, and eventually into San Francisco Bay. All the protagonists finally end up in court, under the gavel of a world-weary and curmudgeonly judge (Liam Dunn) who, improbably, turns out to be Judy's father., whom at the shock of seeing his daughter in trouble, suffers a fatal heart attack, causing the desk to collapse.

In the end, everything is cleared up: Howard gets his rocks back, Mrs. Van Hoskins pays the considerable damages in Howard's name with the reward money he would have received for the return of her jewels, the hotel thieves are forced to flee the country and the papers are put back in the hands of the government. Judy exposes Simon as a fraud and plagiarist (thus getting Howard the grant), Eunice leaves Howard for Larabee, and Judy announces she is taking one more pass at college, studying Music History at the Iowa Conservatory of Music. The film ends on a suitably romantic (and silly) note as Howard and Judy share an airborne kiss while their in-flight movie shows the Bugs Bunny cartoon that gave the film its name.

Cast[edit]

The movie features a number of actors who have appeared in Mel Brooks films, including Madeline Kahn (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, History of the World Part I), Kenneth Mars (The Producers, Young Frankenstein), Liam Dunn (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie), and John Hillerman (Blazing Saddles).

Cultural references[edit]

The final scene in the film makes fun of "Love means never having to say you're sorry," a famous line from Love Story, a highly successful drama film in which O'Neal had starred two years earlier. Howard reacts to the line when Judy says it by replying, deadpan, "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard."

Ryan O'Neal's mannerisms, from the very first shot of him staring vacantly into space, are modeled on those of Harold Lloyd.[citation needed]

Also in the final scene is an oblique tribute to actor Cary Grant, star of the screwball classic Bringing Up Baby. As Howard looks for Judy, he says "Judy?....Judy?....Judy?", a phrase often used by impressionists "doing" Cary Grant (although Grant never actually said the line).[3]

Locations[edit]

The opening and ending scenes were filmed at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in what was known as the South Terminal (now Terminal 1). The opening scene was filmed in the downstairs TWA Baggage Claim area. The next to last scene was filmed in the upstairs departure area beneath the arrival/departure board and at the flight insurance counter.

The San Francisco Hilton was the shooting location for the "Bristol Hotel". Part of the movie was filmed in Paramus, New Jersey.

The exterior of the hotel, where Streisand is hanging out on a ledge, was shot in the Westwood section of Los Angeles.

The San Francisco setting was chosen to allow an elaborate comic spoof of the San Francisco car chase in the hit 1968 movie Bullitt.[4] Bogdanovich claims the rousing chase sequence accounted for one-fourth of the film's $4 million budget.[5][6] The classic "plate glass" scene was filmed at Balboa and 23rd Avenue in the Richmond District. The director did not get permission from the city to drive cars down the concrete steps in Alta Plaza Park in San Francisco; these were badly damaged during filming and still show the scars today. At the end of the car chase, almost everyone ends up foundering in San Francisco Bay — except O'Neal and Streisand, comfortably afloat in their Volkswagen Beetle. This was a play on Volkswagen print and TV ads from a few years earlier that championed the Beetle's remarkable (and real) ability to float on water. During the making of this scene, the actor Sorrell Booke almost drowned in the Bay.[citation needed]

The final scene on board the airplane shows O'Neal looking out the righthand window showing the Marina District and the (now demolished) Embarcadero Freeway.

Music[edit]

Although What's Up, Doc? is not a musical, there is some singing and other musical interest. The song "You're The Top" from the musical Anything Goes is sung for the opening and closing credits by Streisand and by Streisand and O'Neal, respectively. The same Cole Porter musical supplied at least two other tunes played as background music: "Anything Goes" and "I Get a Kick Out of You," heard during the first hotel-lobby scene.

About two-thirds of the way into the film, Howard accompanies Judy at the piano as she sings the beginning of "As Time Goes By" (made famous in the film Casablanca). The scene includes Streisand imitating Humphrey Bogart with the line, "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world....he walks into mine. Play it, Sam."

Musical in-jokes abound throughout the film. Over-the-top Muzak-styled elevator music featuring Cole Porter's songs is used throughout the hotel elevator scenes. In the chase scene, a Chinese marching band is inexplicably playing the Mexican tune "La Cucaracha" on German glockenspiels. At the American Musicologists' banquet, themes from Thoinot Arbeau's Orchésographie can be heard in the background, incongruously played on a Hammond organ and a sitar.

George Gershwin's "Someone to Watch over Me" is whistled by Streisand outside the hotel drug store.

The Bugs Bunny number — derived from his characteristic tagline — that gives the movie its title appears as well, with the original animation, in the last scene. "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone", an old Tin Pan Alley hit which had appeared in Looney Tunes cartoon One Froggy Evening, can be heard instrumentally during the opening scene in the airport.

Box office[edit]

In North America, the movie was a massive commercial success, grossing $66,000,000[1] against a budget of $4 million.[5][6] It became the 3rd highest grossing film of the year, ranking behind The Godfather and The Poseidon Adventure.

The film was re-released in North America in 1973 and earned an additional $3 million in theatrical rentals.[7]

Home Video/Blu-ray Release[edit]

"What's Up, Doc?" was originally released on VHS in 1982 and made $28,500,000 in video rentals.

As part of a collectors box set, it was finally released on DVD in July 2003 and then on Blu-ray in August 2010.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Box Office Information for What's Up, Doc?". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  2. ^ Peter Bogdanovich's commentary on the Bringing Up Baby DVD
  3. ^ Many citations available on Factiva, but "Ask The Globe," 2 September 1992, The Boston Globe gives credit to Larry Storch as the impressionist who originated the line.
  4. ^ What's Up Doc DVD review http://www.bjsmusic.com/fawk-tv23.html
  5. ^ a b Screwball Comedy Is Revisited in This Sparking Blu-Ray Version of What's Up, Doc?. PopMatters. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Trivia for What's Up, Doc? IMDb. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  7. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974, pg 19.

External links[edit]