Smile (1975 film)

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Smile (1975 film).jpg
Original theatrical poster by John Alvin
Directed byMichael Ritchie
Screenplay byJerry Belson
Produced byMichael Ritchie
CinematographyConrad L. Hall
Edited byRichard A. Harris
Music byDan Orsborn
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • July 9, 1975 (1975-07-09)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States

Smile is a 1975 DeLuxe Color satirical comedy-drama film directed by Michael Ritchie with a screenplay by Jerry Belson about a beauty pageant in Santa Rosa, California.

It stars Bruce Dern and Barbara Feldon and introduced a number of young actresses who later went on to larger roles, such as Melanie Griffith. The film satirizes small-town America and its peculiarities, hypocrisies and artifice within and around the pageant.

The film was subsequently adapted into a 1986 Broadway musical with songs by Marvin Hamlisch and Howard Ashman.


Big Bob Freelander is a used car dealer, and the head judge of the Young American Miss Pageant held in Santa Rosa, California. Brenda DiCarlo is the pageant's Executive Director, and her husband Andy is a resentful alcoholic. Andy is unhappy as he is about to become an exhausted rooster aging out of the local Jaycee chapter, which requires a humiliating ritual. Little Bob, Big Bob's son, conspires with his friends to photograph the contestants in various states of undress.

Wilson Shears, the pageant producer, clashes with Tommy French, a choreographer brought in from Hollywood, who is cynical and blunt.

Andy refuses to go along with the induction ceremony, which involves kissing the behind of a dead chicken. Brenda discovers him at home, apparently about to commit suicide with a gun. She tries to talk him out of it, and he decides she is the real problem and shoots her, wounding her. He is jailed, but she refuses to press charges and Andy is released. Big Bob tries to convince him to not move from town.

The show becomes more expensive than was anticipated, and Shears pressures French to remove a ramp, because it is taking up seating. This results in an injury to a contestant, and French agrees to reinstate the ramp and to make up the difference out of his fee.

The pageant concludes successfully, though the contestants that have been the focus of the film's attention do not win.



Smile was filmed on location in and around Santa Rosa, with the pageant held at Veteran's Memorial Auditorium.


Smile was well received upon release, with praise for the humor, satire and performances. Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film a "pungent surprise, a rollicking satire that misses few of the obvious targets, but without dehumanizing the victims. It's an especially American kind of social comedy in the way that great good humor sometimes is used to reveal unpleasant facts instead of burying them."[1] Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, saying that though "Ritchie has so many targets that he misses some and never quite gets back to others," the film still "does a good job of working over the hypocrisy and sexism of a typical beauty pageant."[2] John Simon described Smile as "funny, sobering, and strong".[3]

In 2014, Indiewire listed Smile as one of the "ten great overlooked films from the 1970s." Indiewire said the film was "overlooked even within Ritchie’s canon: a gentle, occasionally caustic but mostly warm satire." Indiewire called the performances "uniformly top-notch," and said "Subsequent beauty-pageant movies like Drop Dead Gorgeous and Little Miss Sunshine have tended to feel like pale imitations next to it."[4]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 100% based on reviews from 17 critics, with an average rating of 7.80/10.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vincent Canby (9 October 1975). "'Smile,' a Film Satire on Having Fun". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  2. ^ Roger Ebert (1 January 1975). "Smile". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  3. ^ Simon, John (1982). Reverse Angle: A Decade of American Film. Crown Publishers Inc. p. 204. ISBN 9780517544716.
  4. ^ "10 Great Overlooked Films From The 1970s". IndieWire. 2014-04-24. Retrieved 2019-11-01.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ "Smile (1975)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. 1 January 1975. Archived from the original on 21 November 2021. Retrieved 21 November 2021.

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