Where's Poppa?

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Where's Poppa?
Where's Poppa poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byCarl Reiner
Produced byJerry Tokofsky
Marvin Worth
Written byRobert Klane (novel & screenplay)
StarringGeorge Segal
Ruth Gordon
Ron Leibman
Music byJack Elliott
CinematographyJack Priestley
Edited byChic Ciccolini
Bud Molin
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • November 10, 1970 (1970-11-10) (United States)
Running time
82 minutes
CountryUnited States

Where's Poppa? is a 1970 American black comedy film based on the 1970 novel by Robert Klane and starring George Segal, Ron Leibman and Ruth Gordon.[1] The plot revolves around the troubled relationship between a lawyer (Segal) and his senile mother (Gordon). The film was directed by Carl Reiner, whose son Rob Reiner had a role in an early performance. Others in the cast are Paul Sorvino, Trish Van Devere, Vincent Gardenia and Garrett Morris. The film was re-released in 1975, under the title Going Ape, and maintains a cult following.[2]


Gordon Hocheiser's mother, an 87-year-old widow, is ruining her son's love life. He resents her so much that he tries to scare her to death by donning a gorilla suit and attacking her in bed, only to end up on the receiving end of her cane. An attempt is made to persuade Sidney, his brother, to take their mother off Gordon's hands. Sidney has troubles of his own, though, repeatedly getting mugged in Central Park.

Gordon, a lawyer, made a deathbed promise to his father not to place his mother in a rest home. She continuously asks, "Where's Poppa?" His repeated response is, "Still dead."

Gordon locates a nurse, Louise, whose patients have a peculiar habit of dying in her care. He hires Louise to be his mother's companion, hoping for the worst, and falls in love with Louise in the process.

Sidney borrows the gorilla costume and wears it home. Rather than scaring off muggers, they force him to attack a woman in the park, who turns out to be an undercover police officer. At the end of his rope, with Louise unable to stand the mother one minute more and threatening to leave Gordon, he drives to a rest home and drops off his mother at the entrance, telling her that Poppa is there. Then he drives away.

In a post-credits scene removed from the movie but still seen in cable prints, Gordon's ruse to keep his mother at the rest home has failed, and she is once again home with him, with Louise following through on her threat to leave him. Resigned to the belief he will never be rid of her, he dejectedly climbs into bed with his mother, saying, "Here's Poppa."[3]



Filming took place in New York,[4] including Brooklyn.[5] Other filming locations included sound stages on the West Side, streets in Manhattan, Central Park, and several sites in Long Island. Filming was concluded as of June 1970, after seven weeks of filming in and around New York.[4] Director Carl Reiner's son Rob Reiner had an early role in the film.[6] The film's original ending, featuring Gordon in bed with his mother, was considered too risqué and was removed before the theatrical release.[7][8][9]


Where's Poppa? was released in the United States on November 10, 1970, by United Artists.[10][11][12] The film was a box office disappointment, but subsequently gained a following, prompting United Artists to re-release it nationally in 1975 under the title Going Ape.[13][14][15] United Artists chose the title because the film involved various gorilla-related shenanigans.[7] Where's Poppa? was released on DVD in 2002, and on Blu-ray in 2016.[16]


Roger Greenspun of The New York Times wrote that if the film "doesn't succeed all the time, or even most of the time, it succeeds often enough, if only by energy and will, to satisfy a taste for comedy that has not had much nourishment this season."[11] Roger Ebert rated the film three stars out of four and recommended it to those "who want to laugh and like being offended."[17] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote that Klane "has written his screenplay as tho he thought it would be his last (a position which can be self-enforcing). He's crammed the short story (only 83 minutes) with comments on the Army, little-league baseball and Central Park. He should have stayed with his major story premise which is wickedly funny."[18] Variety wrote that "Many ... will be offended by this black comedy," but "Many others will feel it only hurts when you laugh, and that director Carl Reiner, with a maniac zeal, has pulled off one of the most outrageous and funniest comedies this year."[19] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times called the film "irreverent, foul-mouthed, vulgar, tasteless, indecent and—for reasons I'm not sure I fully understand—riotously funny."[20] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote that George Segal was "in really brilliant form" but the film's mix of "self-consciously outrageous" scenes and charming scenes "don't blend, and often the tendency of one style warps or undermines the tendency of another."[21] Tom Milne of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "Flawlessly scripted, acted and directed, and hovering somewhere between Lord Love a Duck and Little Murders in its delightfully eccentric humour, Where's Poppa? is one of the nicest black comedies in years, as well as the funniest."[22]

Award nominations[edit]

Year Award Result Category Recipient
1971 Laurel Awards Nominated Star of Tomorrow, Female Trish Van Devere
Writers Guild of America Award Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium Robert Klane

Television pilot[edit]

In 1979, a half-hour television pilot was aired on ABC for a proposed series titled Where's Poppa?, starring Steven Keats (Gordon), Elsa Lanchester (Momma), and Allan Miller (Sidney). The series was never picked up.[23][24][25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Where's Poppa?". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2015-05-08.
  2. ^ https://www.backstage.com/magazine/article/poppa-26033/
  3. ^ "Where's Poppa?". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2018-10-17. The film's incest-themed original ending (trimmed from the video version but still included in cable prints) finds Gordon climbing into bed with Mrs. Hocheiser, only to be greeted with a "Here's Poppa."
  4. ^ a b "Ruth Gordon With 'Poppa'". The Baltimore Sun. 1970-06-16. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  5. ^ "News". Redlands Daily Facts. 1970-05-28. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  6. ^ "Son Follows 'Poppa'". The Pittsburgh Press. 1970-07-10. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  7. ^ a b "Movie by Any Other Name Is Same Film". The Atlanta Constitution. 1975-06-15. Retrieved 2018-10-17 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ "Here and There". The Pittsburgh Post. 1970-11-03. Retrieved 2018-10-17 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ "Dick Van Dyke Needs Pretty Girl For Phoenix". The Evening Sun. 1970-11-17. Retrieved 2018-10-17 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ "Where's Poppa? (1970) - Overview". TCM.com. Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  11. ^ a b Greenspun, Roger (1970-11-11). "Screen: 'Where's Poppa?' Aims to Remove Bachelor's Momma". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  12. ^ "Ruth Gordon Has Gone Full Circle". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 1970-11-15. Retrieved 2018-10-17 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ "Who can figure out big business?". The Pittsburgh Press. 1975-03-05. Retrieved 2018-10-17 – via Newspapers.com.
  14. ^ "More Movie News". Los Angeles Times. 1975-05-25. Retrieved 2018-10-17 – via Newspapers.com.
  15. ^ "Film Notes". Chicago Tribune. 1975-07-01. Retrieved 2018-10-17 – via Newspapers.com.
  16. ^ "Where's Poppa? releases". AllMovie. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  17. ^ Ebert, Roger (1970-12-29). "Where's Poppa?". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  18. ^ Siskel, Gene (December 21, 1970). "...Where's Poppa?" Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 9.
  19. ^ "Film Reviews: Where's Poppa?" Variety. November 11, 1970. 15.
  20. ^ Champlin, Charles (December 16, 1970). "'Where's Poppa?' Opens". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 22.
  21. ^ Arnold, Gary (December 28, 1970). "Where's Poppa?" The Washington Post. C6.
  22. ^ Milne, Tom (January 1972). "Where's Poppa?". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 39 (456): 19.
  23. ^ O'Connor, John J. (1979-07-17). "TV: 'Where's Poppa?' May Be Series". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  24. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2014). Encyclopedia of Television Pilots, 1937–2012. McFarland & Company. pp. 321–322. ISBN 9781476602493. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  25. ^ Goldberg, Lee (2015). The Best TV Shows That Never Were: 300 Memorable Unsold Pilots. Lee Goldberg. ISBN 9781511590747. Retrieved 2018-10-17.

External links[edit]