Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
|Directed by||Blake Edwards|
|Produced by||Tony Adams|
|Written by||Blake Edwards|
|Music by||Henry Mancini|
|Cinematography||Harry Stradling Jr.|
|Edited by||Ralph E. Winters|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$14.8 million|
S.O.B. is a 1981 American comedy film written and directed by Blake Edwards. It stars Julie Andrews, Richard Mulligan, Robert Preston, Larry Hagman, Robert Vaughn, Robert Webber, Loretta Swit, Shelley Winters and William Holden in his final film role before his death in November that year. The film was produced by Lorimar and was released by Paramount Pictures on July 1, 1981.
The story is a satire of the film industry and Hollywood society. The main character, Felix Farmer (Richard Mulligan), is a phenomenally successful film producer who has just made the first major flop of his career, to the dismay of his movie studio, resulting in the loss of his own sanity. Felix attempts suicide four times: He attempts to die of carbon monoxide poisoning in his car, only to have it slip into gear and drive through the side of his garage, down a sand dune and into the Pacific Ocean. He then attempts to hang himself from a rafter in an upstairs bedroom, only to fall through the floor, landing on a poisonous Hollywood gossip columnist standing in the living room below. Subsequently, he tries to gas himself in his kitchen oven, but is prevented from carrying out his intent by two house guests with other things on their mind.
Thereafter he spends most of the time heavily sedated while his friends and hangers-on occupy his beach house. The occupation leads to a party which degenerates into an orgy. Finally, he tries to shoot himself with a police officer's gun, but is prevented from doing so by the ministrations of a young woman wearing only a pair of panties. The experience gives him a brainstorm that the reason for his film's failure was its lack of sex.
Felix resolves to save both the film and his reputation. With great difficulty he persuades the studio and his wife Sally Miles (Julie Andrews), an Oscar-winning movie star with a squeaky-clean image, to allow him to revise the film into a soft-core pornographic musical in which she must appear topless. He liquidates most of his wealth to buy the existing footage and to finance further production. If he fails, both he and Sally will be impoverished, at least by Hollywood standards.
At first the studio's executives are keen to unload the film onto Felix and move on, but when Sally goes through with the topless scene and the film seems a likely success, they plot to regain control. Using California's community property laws, they get the distribution and final-cut rights by persuading Sally to sign them over. An angry and deranged Felix tries to steal the movie negatives from the studio's color lab vault, armed only with a water pistol. He is shot and killed by police who think the gun is real.
Felix's untimely death creates a crisis for his cronies Culley (William Holden), the director of Night Wind; Coogan (Robert Webber), Sally's press agent; and Dr. Finegarten (Robert Preston), who plan to give him a burial at sea. They steal his corpse from the funeral home, substituting the body of a well-known but underrated character actor who died in the first scene of the movie. Felix gets a Viking funeral in a burning dinghy, while the other actor finally gets the Hollywood sendoff many thought he deserved.
The epilogue later reveals that Felix's revamped film was a box office smash, and Sally won another Academy Award for her performance.
The movie within the movie
Little is seen of the movie which is the focus of the plot, except for an extended dream sequence and a brief shot close to the end. The title is Night Wind, which provokes the headline "Critics Break Wind" seen on a copy of Variety at the start of S.O.B. after the initial flop. The plot of Night Wind is kept vague; it involves a frigid businesswoman (played by Sally) whose inability to love a "male chauvinist" rival executive stems from a childhood trauma that led to her sexual detachment.
The climax of Night Wind is the first scene of S.O.B., an elaborate song and dance sequence set to "Polly Wolly Doodle", in which Sally wanders through a room full of giant toys (several of which come to life), singing the song while dressed as a tomboy. The implication is that her father's death caused Andrews's character to renounce childhood and become a cold, frigid person.
A second scene, taking place at the end of the film, has Andrews' character arrive at the home of her would-be lover after the dream, where he reveals that he still loves her, "despite everything."
When Felix rewrites the film to make it into soft porn, changes are made: Sally's character goes from sexually frigid to being a nymphomaniac. Her lover goes from male chauvinist to being a secret cross dresser. Felix axes the entire song sequence, turning it from a dream to a hallucination "... caused by a powerful aphrodisiac put into her Bosco" and replacing the regular version of "Polly Wolly Doodle" with a more haunting version. He has the "toys" dress in more erotic outfits, and includes a carnival barker-type muscle man (portrayed by S.O.B.'s choreographer, Paddy Stone), who tempts Andrews' character before she rejects him by flashing her breasts.
- Julie Andrews as Sally Miles, the star of Night Wind and the wife of film producer Felix Farmer
- William Holden as Tim Culley, the director of Night Wind and Felix's best friend
- Richard Mulligan as Felix Farmer, the producer of Night Wind and the husband of Sally Miles
- Robert Preston as Dr. Irving Finegarten, Felix and Sally's physician
- Robert Webber as Ben Coogan, Sally's press agent
- Robert Vaughn as David Blackman, the president of Capitol Studios
- Marisa Berenson as Mavis, the actress-girlfriend of David Blackman
- Larry Hagman as Dick Benson, a Capitol Studios executive and Blackman's right-hand man
- Stuart Margolin as Gary Murdock, Sally's personal secretary and an aspiring producer
- Loretta Swit as Polly Reed, a Hollywood gossip columnist
- Craig Stevens as Willard Pratt, Polly Reed's husband
- Shelley Winters as Eva Brown, Sally's agent
- Robert Loggia as Herb Maskowitz, Sally's lawyer
- Jennifer Edwards as Lila, a young hitchhiker picked up by Culley
- Rosanna Arquette as Babs, Lila's friend, also picked up by Culley
- John Lawlor as the Capitol Studios Manager
- John Pleshette as the Capitol Studios Vice-President
- Ken Swofford as Harold P. Harrigan, a studio security guard
- Hamilton Camp as Lipschitz, an executive at Capitol Color Lab, where the negative of Night Wind is stored.
- Paul Stewart as Harry Sandler, Felix's agent
- Benson Fong as Felix and Sally's personal chef
- Larry Storch as Swami, Sally Miles' spiritual guru, who officiates at the funeral.
- Mimi Davis as Joyce Benson, Dick's wife ans Sandler's daughter
- David Young as Sam Marshall, a popular actor
- Byron Kane as the Funeral Director
- Virginia Gregg as the Funeral Director's Wife
- Herb Tanney as Burgess Webster (as Stiffe Tanney)
- Joe Penny as Officer Buchwald, a police officer called to the Farmer residence
- Erica Yohn as Agnes, the costume designer of Night Wind
- Colleen Brennan as Tammy Taylor (as Katherine MacMurray)
- Charles Lampkin as Felix and Sally's Butler
- Bert Rosario as the Mexican Gardener
- Gene Nelson as Clive Lytell
"S.O.B." (in the film) stands for "Standard Operational Bullshit" and refers to misinformation being the norm. The abbreviation also means "sexually oriented business" (if pertaining to strip clubs) and more generally "son of a bitch" (a ruthless person).
A Spanish dub of the film keeps the abbreviation S.O.B., claiming that it stands for "Sois hOnrados Bandidos" (You Are Honest Crooks). The Argentine title for the movie was changed to Se acabó el mundo (The World is Ended), having no relation to the original title.
When writing the screenplay, Edwards drew upon several of his own experiences as a film maker. The character of Felix Farmer is a person not unlike Edwards, while actress Sally Miles bears certain similarities to real-life wife Julie Andrews (who plays her).
The story of S.O.B. parallels the experiences of Edwards and Andrews in their infamous, but Academy Award-nominated, failure, Darling Lili. Intended to reveal Andrews' heretofore unseen wicked and sexy side, that film had a troubled shoot, went significantly over budget, and was subjected to post-production studio interference. The early 1970s brought more bad news for Edwards; he made two more films, Wild Rovers, a western with William Holden, and The Carey Treatment with James Coburn. Once again, the studio interfered in the post-production of both films, which were edited without any input from Edwards. Both movies opened to negative reviews and poor business. Hit hard financially and personally by these events, Edwards moved to Europe to work independently, away from the meddling and restrictions of the Hollywood studios. The plan worked, leading to several successful projects including three very profitable Pink Panther sequels starring Peter Sellers.
In S.O.B., Andrews's character agrees (with some pharmaceutical persuasion) to "show my boobies" in a scene in the film-within-the-film. For this scene, comedian Johnny Carson thanked Andrews on the Academy Awards for "showing us that the hills were still alive," alluding to a famous line from The Sound of Music opening sequence.
S.O.B. was released in July 1981, with critical opinion of the film sharply divided. Remarkably, the screenplay was nominated for both a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen and a Razzie Award for Worst Screenplay. It was also nominated for a Razzie for Worst Director and a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical.
The film currently holds an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 22 reviews with the consensus: "A sustained blast of unbridled vitriol from writer-director Blake Edwards, S.O.B. is one of the blackest – and most consistently funny – Hollywood satires ever put to film."
S. O. B., Blake Edwards' newest, most manic, most bitter farce, is about the Hollywood you didn't see in the screen adaptation of Nathanael West's Day of the Locust. It's not about the smalltime failures, hustlers and nuts living on the sleazy fringes of the movie industry. Instead, S.O.B. has the class consciousness of a snobbish press agent. It's about sleazy, big-time wheelers and dealers who run the studios, who hire and fire people who make a million dollars per picture, and who cut a throat one day and the next day attend a gaudy, sentimental tribute to the fellow whose throat was so untimely cut. It's a nasty, biased, self-serving movie that also happens to be hilarious most of the time. It opens today at the Coronet. Mr. Edwards, the man principally responsible for the string of successful Peter Sellers-Pink Panther comedies, is here pouring out his heart – which pumps pure bile – about his own ups and downs with the Hollywood establishment of the early 70's. It was then that he made a string of flops, the biggest, most spectacular being his funny, stylish Darling Lili, which went so far over its budget that it almost sank the financing studio, Paramount Pictures, which also, by chance, is releasing S.O.B. But that's S.O.P. in Hollywood. It's difficult to remember a film as mean-spirited as S.O.B. that also was so consistently funny. The battling lovers in the Sidney Lumet-Jay Presson Allen Just Tell Me What You Want are Romeo and Juliet compared to the people in S.O.B., none of whom pays much attention to love anyway, unless it will have some effect on the box-office grosses.
Broadcast television prints of the film contain alternate takes and edits of several scenes originally containing sex and nudity, such as the party and orgy scenes and Night Wind's erotica dream sequence where Julie Andrews exposes her breasts. The television version contains a scene where Robert Vaughn, as studio head David Blackman, receives a phone call while in bed with his mistress, and is simply seen naked from the waist up. In the original theatrical print, he is wearing a bustier, nylon stockings and other transvestite paraphernalia.
The original video release was made by CBS Video Enterprises in 1982, on both VHS and CED Videodisc, and was later reissued on VHS by CBS/Fox Video in the mid-1980s. Warner Bros. bought ancillary rights in 1989 with their purchase of Lorimar, and the film was released on Laserdisc through Warner Home Video in 1990. Warners released a DVD edition in 2002 and reissued in 2012.
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- S.O.B. at Box Office Mojo
- Capua 2009, p. 180.
- "S.O.B." Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved December 7, 2016.
- New York Magazine staff 1981, p. 62.
- Ginibre, Jean-Louis; Lithgow, John; Cady, Barbara (2005). Ladies or Gentlemen: A Pictorial History of Male Cross-Dressing in the Movies. New York City: Filipacchi Publishing. ISBN 9781933231044.
- "Nude scenes on the big screen". New York Daily News. New York City: Daily News, L.P. Retrieved December 20, 2010.
- Rooney 2002, p. 129.
- "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (1982)". Dailymotion. Paris: Vivendi (90%) and Orange S.A. (10%). Retrieved July 2, 2016.
- "S.O.B." Rotten Tomatoes. United States: Fandango. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
- Canby, Vincent (July 1, 1981). "Blake Edward's 'S.O.B.,' A Farce". The New York Times. New York City: The New York Times Company. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
- "S.O.B." Warner Home Video. Burbank, California: Warner Bros. June 4, 2002. ASIN B000063K2P. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
- New York Magazine staff (July 20, 1981). "Julie Andrews in 'S.O.B.'". New York. New York City: New York Media, LLC. p. 62. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
- Paietta, Ann Catherine; Kauppila, Jean L. (1999). Health Professionals on Screen. Mishawaka, Indiana: Better World Books. p. 271. ISBN 978-0810836365.
- Rooney, Andy (2002). Common Nonsense (1st ed.). New York City: PublicAffairs. p. 129. ISBN 978-1586481445.
- Capua, Michelangelo (2009). William Holden: A Biography. New York City: McFarland & Company. p. 180. ISBN 978-0786444403.
- Greenman, Robert (2000). Words That Make a Difference: And How to Use Them in a Masterly Way. New York City: Levenger Press. p. 323. ISBN 978-1929154050.