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The Goodbye Girl

The Goodbye Girl(1977)


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teaser The Goodbye Girl (1977)


Paula is a 33-year-old former dancer whose life takes an unwelcome turn when her live-in boyfriend suddenly dumps her, leaving Paula and her 10-year-old precocious daughter Lucy (Quinn Cummings) in the lurch. If that weren't enough, Paula soon discovers that her New York apartment has been sublet without her knowledge to Elliot Garfield (Richard Dreyfuss), an eccentric struggling actor from Chicago who is making his off-Broadway debut in an ill-conceived production of Richard III. Both desperate and at war over the apartment, Paula and Elliot come to a compromise: they will share the apartment under a set of strict rules and regulations. At first they drive each other crazy. Over time, however, it seems that the two might be more compatible than they thought.

Director: Herbert Ross
Writer: Neil Simon
Producer: Ray Stark
Cinematography: David M. Walsh
Editor: John F. Burnett
Production Designer: Albert Brenner
Set Designer: Jerry Wunderlich
Music Composer: Dave Grusin
Special Effects: Al Griswold
Costume Designer: Ann Roth
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss (Elliot Garfield), Marsha Mason (Paula McFadden), Quinn Cummings (Lucy McFadden), Paul Benedict (Mark Morgenweiss), Barbara Rhoades (Donna Douglas), Theresa Merritt (Mrs. Crosby), Michael Shawn (Ronnie), Patricia Pearcy (Rhonda Fontana)

Why THE GOODBYE GIRL is Essential

One of prolific writer Neil Simon's rare works written directly for the screen, The Goodbye Girl is one of his finest scripts. The fully realized characters and zippy dialogue lend weight to the warm story that perfectly defines the best of modern romantic comedies.

Richard Dreyfuss' delightful portrayal of struggling actor Elliot Garfield won him the Academy Award for Best Actor. The victory set a record at the time, as Dreyfuss became the youngest actor in history to win the coveted statuette.

The Goodbye Girl was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress (Marsha Mason), Best Actor (Richard Dreyfuss), Best Original Screenplay (Neil Simon) and Best Supporting Actress (Quinn Cummings).

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser The Goodbye Girl (1977)

A TV movie remake of The Goodbye Girl aired on TNT in 2004 starring Patricia Heaton as Paula and Jeff Daniels as Elliot.

Actors Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfuss co-starred together in a 1999 stage production of Neil Simon's play The Prisoner of Second Avenue in London's West End.

Music artist and former lead singer of the group Bread, David Gates, recorded the theme song to the film, titled "Goodbye Girl." The hit single spent 24 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and peaked at number 15.

A musical version of The Goodbye Girl debuted on Broadway in 1993 starring Bernadette Peters and Martin Short in the lead roles. It ran for 188 performances and was nominated for 5 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Richard Dreyfuss hosted the May 13, 1978 episode of Saturday Night Live during the show's third season. It was shortly after the Academy Awards, and Dreyfuss carried his Oscar® from The Goodbye Girl onstage with him and held it while delivering his monologue. Throughout the monologue, Dreyfuss was teased by cast member John Belushi that the Oscar® should have gone to Richard Burton instead. During that same episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Dreyfuss, John Belushi and Gilda Radner played the Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason characters in a parody of The Goodbye Girl during the Weekend Update segment.

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser The Goodbye Girl (1977)

At 29-years-old, Richard Dreyfuss became the youngest person to ever win the Best Actor Academy Award in history. It was a record he held until 2003 when a slightly younger Adrien Brody won for his performance in The Pianist (2002).

During the production of The Goodbye Girl, actress Marsha Mason, who plays Paula, was married to the film's writer, Neil Simon. The pair were married from 1973-1983.

Sylvester Stallone, who had scored a triumph the previous year with Rocky (1976), handed Richard Dreyfuss his Academy Award when he announced the winner of the Best Actor category at the Oscars®. After reading the nominees, Stallone said, "The new heavyweight champ is...Richard Dreyfuss."

Oscar®-winner Mike Nichols was originally slated to direct The Goodbye Girl when it was still known as Bogart Slept Here.

The Goodbye Girl was one of two films directed by Herbert Ross in 1977 that were nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture. The other was The Turning Point. Both films lost to Woody Allen's Annie Hall.

Co-stars Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfuss have maintained a special bond over their experience making The Goodbye Girl. "To this day," said Mason in her autobiography, "whenever I see Richard, we just break into big smiles and I hug'm and kiss'm till he laughs."

The ill-fated eccentric production of Richard III in which Elliot performs in The Goodbye Girl was inspired by a real-life production of the play that co-starred Marsha Mason as Lady Anne and Michael Moriarty as Richard. "I was and am a fan of Michael Moriarty and find him to be an enormously intelligent and sensitive actor," said Simon in his 1999 memoir The Play Goes On. "I do not believe his Richard was conceived by Michael but rather was the choice of the director, whose name fortunately escapes me. I sat in my seat opening night, aware that Marsha had been uncomfortable all during the rehearsal period. The house lights dimmed and slowly Richard III appeared, hunched over slightly, showing a trace of his deformed hand. He spoke in a voice that was higher than I anticipated and seemed somewhat effeminate...Moriarty spoke his first line, 'Now is the winter of our discontent,' and before he finished 'discontent,' I said to myself, 'Wrong! This production is doomed.'...Little did I realize that Lady Anne and an effeminate Richard III would soon be playing a major role in The Goodbye Girl."

Actress Quinn Cummings, who scored an Oscar® nomination for her memorable portrayal of Marsha Mason's daughter Lucy in The Goodbye Girl, eventually quit acting and reinvented herself as a writer. Her popular blog The QC Report generated Cumming's first book Notes from the Underwire, published in 2009.

Memorable Quotes from THE GOODBYE GIRL

"I'm paying the rent. I'll make the rules. I like to take showers every morning, and I don't like the panties drying on the rod! I like to cook, so I'll use the kitchen whenever I damn well please. And I'm very particular about my condiments, so keep your salt and pepper to yourself. Plus, I play the guitar in the middle of the night whenever I cannot sleep, and I meditate every morning complete with chanting and burning incense, so if you've got to walk around, I would appreciate a little tiptoeing. Also, I sleep in the nude--buffo--winter and summer, rain or snow, with the windows open. And because I may have to go to the potty or the fridge in the middle of the night, and because I don't want to put on jammies, which I do not own in the first place, unless you're looking for a quick thrill or your daughter an advanced education, I'd keep my door closed. Them's my rules and regulations. How does that grab you?"
-- Elliot Garfield (Richard Dreyfuss) to Paula McFadden (Marsha Mason)

"May I come in?"
"Door's open."
"Are you decent?"
"I am decent."
"Do you realize it's 3:00 in the morning, and my daughter--Jesus Christ, you're naked. I thought you said you were decent."
"I am decent. I also happen to be naked."

--Paula and Elliot

"Miss McFadden, I am a person of health. I do not put unnatural things in my body. Music is one of nature's sedatives. If you will just listen to it instead of fighting it, we would all be asleep in five minutes. However, if you insist, take two sleeping pills and stick one in each ear."
-- Elliot to Paula

"Get your old mother a Coke."
"Mm-mmm. It's fattening."
"Get me the Coke. Mother doesn't want to beat the crap out of you."
-- Paula and her daughter Lucy (Quinn Cummings)

"My carrereth is over. I am making a horseth asseth out of myselfeth!"
--Elliot to Mark (Paul Benedict), the director of Richard III

"Of all the 'right-up-front girls I know, you are the right-up-frontest."
-- Elliot, to Paula

Compiled by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser The Goodbye Girl (1977)

The Goodbye Girl began as nothing more than a notion inside a cozy restaurant in Florence, Italy. Famed writer Neil Simon and his new wife, actress Marsha Mason, were visiting Florence on a belated honeymoon following their marriage in 1973. Simon, who had already enjoyed a string of successful plays and films including Barefoot in the Park (1963), The Odd Couple (1965) and The Sunshine Boys (1972), had married Mason after a whirlwind courtship that lasted all of two weeks. In order to strengthen their relationship, according to Simon in his 1999 memoir The Play Goes On, Mason decided to temporarily give up any roles in her bourgeoning acting career until the marriage was on firm ground. "I knew I had to make it up to her in the only possible way I knew how," said Simon, "by writing a film for her considerable talents."

During dinner one night in Florence, Simon and Mason began to talk about the idea of working together on a film. "There was no thought as to career or profit or even success in this joint venture we talked about," said Simon. "Our discussion was mostly about the joy of spending our days together on a project that was of our making, and that joy wouldn't end at the finish of each day's work. It would continue until our heads hit the pillows next to each other as sleep finally overtook us. 'It's got to be a love story,' Marsha said between bites of bread sticks and pasta. 'A funny love story,' I said, scribbling notes on the bill instead of a spiral notebook. 'Like one of those old Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn movies,' she said...'Old-fashioned but contemporary,' I added. 'Kind of corny but smart. These should be really bright people,' I mumbled...'Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan,' Marsha said with a giggle...We wandered out onto the curved streets, back to the hotel, and having had two bottles of wine, I'm not positive the hotel was ours. When you're in Florence and in love, details aren't really important."

At home back in New York, Simon began to think about a film idea for the two of them while at the same time they prepared for a major relocation to Los Angeles. The move to California was a thought that caused major anxiety for Simon, a native New Yorker. Gradually, as a result, California began to emerge as a central character in the film project he was working on for Mason. He called the film Bogart Slept Here, which ultimately became The Goodbye Girl.

Bogart Slept Here was a reference to the Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood where numerous actors of the Golden Days lived before getting their big break. "The basic idea of the story," said Simon, "was that Marsha, an ex-dancer, was married to a very promising but struggling off-Broadway actor who gets discovered in a small play and is whisked out to Hollywood, where he reluctantly moves with his family. He feels very out of place there...and they have trouble adjusting, especially after his first film makes him an international star...and it creates chaos in their marriage. The story was coming out a little darker than I had imagined, but I envisioned the character of the wife as a very good role for Marsha."

Marsha Mason was surprised and thrilled when Simon finally handed her some pages of Bogart Slept Here. According to Mason, Simon had been partly inspired by a conversation he once had with Dustin Hoffman about how much Hoffman's life had changed when he had been tapped as a young struggling actor by director Mike Nichols for the lead role in The Graduate (1967). "[The story] was also about what happens to you and your family when you become an overnight sensation," said Mason in her 2000 autobiography Journey.

Excited, Neil Simon sent the finished first draft of Bogart Slept Here to his friend Mike Nichols, who loved it and agreed to direct. Nichols in turn set up a deal with Warner Bros. to make the film with Ray Stark producing. To star opposite Marsha Mason, Nichols hired a young up-and-coming actor named Robert De Niro. The intense De Niro was still on his way to stardom when tapped by Nichols, having just come off his Oscar®-winning portrayal of the young Don Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part II (1974). According to Marsha Mason, De Niro was the second choice after Dustin Hoffman took too long to get back to Neil Simon and Ray Stark when they originally offered him the part.

Before beginning rehearsals on Bogart Slept Here, Robert De Niro wanted to squeeze one more film into his already tight schedule: Taxi Driver (1976). "He would finish Taxi Driver on a Saturday in New York," said Mason, "and be in Los Angeles for rehearsals on Bogart Slept Here on Monday."

By the time rehearsals began, according to Mason, tensions were already beginning to build between Simon and Nichols, who were friends, but having trouble seeing eye to eye on some aspects of the production. To make matters worse, De Niro had no down time between playing the iconic Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and moving into a light romantic comedy, and he was having trouble finding the right tone for his character. "He seemed a bit at sea when he tried to connect to the funny, sunny, upbeat, and ebullient nature of his character in our movie," said Mason. "He needed time to 'live' the character he was to play...I could feel the tension coming from Mike, from Neil, and from Robert. So there we all were, trying valiantly to have a good time, when a good time was not being had by anybody."

When cameras rolled on Bogart Slept Here, it became clear that there were serious problems. "The powers that be didn't think Bobby understood the humor in the script," said Mason. "Worse, they were worried he might not have a sense of humor."

As Neil Simon explains in his memoir, " was clear that any of the humor I had written was going to get lost. It's not that De Niro is not funny, but his humor comes mostly from his nuances, a bemused expression on his face or the way he would look at a character, smile and then look up at the ceiling." Simon and Mike Nichols privately worried over what to do. While no one doubted his enormous acting talent, De Niro was taking what was supposed to be a light romantic comedy and giving it a far more serious tone. It wasn't working. Marsha Mason, who also admired De Niro, could not find a rhythm with her co-star and found herself getting angry and frustrated along with everyone else.

It was clear to everyone that De Niro needed to be replaced. When screening the first week's footage for Warner Bros. executives, Mike Nichols declared that he wanted to stop production on the film, find someone else to play Elliot and reshoot the whole thing. "The next day the picture was shut down and De Niro learned he was going to be replaced," said Neil Simon. "He was, of course, livid, and luckily I was not in the room when he was told. It made headlines in Variety and in the major papers across the country, and no one could quite understand it."

Mike Nichols began the search for a new actor to play Elliot, but was never able to find the right one. "Eventually Mike took another film," said Simon, "De Niro went off to do something else that was no doubt brilliant, and Marsha and I were left with no movie and our dreams and hopes in Florence sadly dashed. The seven days on film was relegated to a small shelf in the Warner Brothers archives. I only met De Niro a few times in all the years that passed, but it was very hard to look him in the eye when I saw him again."

It was a huge disappointment to have so much work go into a film and have it die a slow painful death. However, producer Ray Stark refused to give up on it. "These two characters are wonderful and there's some really great writing in the script," said Stark according to Neil Simon. "We'll look and we'll find someone else."

The "someone else" emerged a short time later when actor Richard Dreyfuss expressed interest in playing the part. Dreyfuss, another up-and-coming young actor who had recently made a splash in the hugely successful Jaws (1975), was a completely different type than De Niro. Ray Stark decided to have a script reading at his office with Dreyfuss, Mason and Neil Simon. "The door opened," recalled Mason, "and this bundle of sexy energy came through the door...As soon as he reached out to shake my hand, I felt something. Chemistry was afoot. We all said hello and then sat down and began to read. And it was chemistry, pure and simple. He was wired with intelligence and rhythm and the quickness of response that made Neil's script crackle with wit. Richard and I were a match. We read as if we'd known each other for years. Our timing was in tune. We didn't have to question; we didn't falter. We just flew through the material. When we stopped, we spontaneously hugged each other and got downright giddy."

Neil Simon, however, felt that there was still something that wasn't working. "Although I realized they were right for each other," said Simon, "I thought the script was not right for them. It had to be funnier, more romantic, the way Marsha and I first imagined the picture would be. What I wanted to do was a prequel. In other words, instead of an off-Broadway actor, married with a child, why don't I start from the beginning? I'd start when they first meet. Not liking each other at first and then falling in love. I told them both to hang in while I rushed to the typewriter to write an entirely new script. As a tentative title, I put down The Goodbye Girl."

Simon emerged from his desk a short time later with a fresh reworked script that came to life with the sharp wit that the new chemistry of his leading actors now brought to the table. With Mike Nichols off the project, Herbert Ross (The Sunshine Boys [1975], The Turning Point [1977]) came on board to take over the directing reins.

Before the new production could begin shooting, there was still the important role of Paula's precocious young daughter Lucy to cast. "Every agent submitted every aspiring actress from eight to twelve years old," recalled Simon, "plus sneaking in an occasional sixteen-year-old who was short and who had a high-pitched voice." Simon was distressed at the number of polished little girls who would give the overly rehearsed and wooden readings of children who were being pushed into a career by overbearing parents. "But then there were the kids who didn't care if they missed the audition," said Simon, "and cared even less if they got the part. Invariably they were looser, more relaxed; for them, going into an audition was simply a great way of getting out of school for that day. When one of them walked in, you couldn't help but sit up and pay attention."

Ten-year-old actress Quinn Cummings was one of the auditioners who did just that. "...she didn't seem to care which way we saw her," said Simon. "She was neither impolite nor blas, but she also made no effort to charm us. There was, however, an intelligence in her eyes. And she laughed loudly when we said something funny, and squirmed a little when we talked down to her, as adults have a way of doing...The reading was perfect." Cummings was offered the part.

After all the headaches that had come during the journey between Bogart Slept Here and The Goodbye Girl, Simon was thrilled that things were finally looking up for the romantic comedy he had written especially for his new wife. Finally, the cameras were ready to roll again, this time with all the elements working together in perfect harmony.

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser The Goodbye Girl (1977)

The experience of making The Goodbye Girl was so easy and pleasant that it left everyone breathing a huge sigh of relief after the nightmare that Bogart Slept Here had become. "The making of the film gave rise to very few problems thanks to the wonderful chemistry between Richard and Marsha," said Neil Simon in his 1999 memoir The Play Goes On, "and best of all, I got to see Marsha every day on the set."

Simon likened the experience to collaborating on a play. "During the shooting, if I felt a line or even a word was needed," said Simon, "I'd just call it out. When Elliot (Richard) confronts Paula (Marsha) about keeping herself and her daughter out of his way in his newly acquired apartment which he has agreed to share with his two new tenants, he warns her that he likes to walk around the house at night without pajamas, which he doesn't own in the first place. I called out to Richard, 'buffo!' Richard, without blinking an eye, said the speech again and threw in 'buffo' at the end of the sentence, putting, as we say, a button on it. Marsha and Richard were a perfect match and you could practically see the sparks between them lighting up the screen."

Marsha Mason concurred. "Richard was fast and funny," she recalled in her 2000 autobiography Journey. "I was thoughtful and more serious. Richard was wild and free. I was a responsible wife and mother and an actress. I wanted so much to be like him. He was so sure of himself, so sure of his place and space, and he moves forward accordingly. He's bright, bright, bright, incredibly well read, and comfortable with his intelligence."

The only thing that annoyed Mason about Dreyfuss was that he always "reeked of fish." According to Mason, Dreyfuss had decided early on during the shooting that he needed to lose weight. His food of choice to accomplish this task? Sushi. "Day in and day out the man ate nothing but sushi," said Mason. "He had sushi brought to his trailer; he had sushi brought to the set. He had sushi sent to his home. The man lived and breathed--and reeked--sushi. I think he even slept with it."

"Acting with [Richard] was so easy--at least, once he stopped eating raw fish--there was so much to react to," said Mason. "We were in synch without even trying." An example of this, she described, was the famous scene in the bathroom where Elliot confronts Paula about their obvious attraction to each other. Director Herbert Ross wanted to shoot the whole thing in one take, utilizing their sparkling old-fashioned chemistry. "We rehearsed with the camera operator working out some tiny moves, necessary because the bathroom was small," said Mason. "And then we shot it. We did it fast and wild and funny without a lot of rehearsal because Richard and I connected so's still one of my all-time favorites."

Mason also recalled the joy of working with Quinn Cummings, the remarkably talented young actress who played her daughter Lucy. "One of my favorite actresses to work with was nine years old going on twenty-seven," said Mason. "She made 'precocious' a wonderful word. Quinn Cummings was a little girl with a very big intelligence. She knew her lines, was as quick and almost as smart as Richard, could land a joke with the best of them, and she was a professional."

There was a scene between Cummings and Mason in which Cummings was supposed to say her line and move to a chair and sit down. "I noticed that she did it exactly the same way every time," said Mason. "Acting that way shows good discipline, but the freshness can go away pretty quickly." Mason decided she wanted to try something different just to see how it might change the scene. "Quinn and I started the scene again and when it came time for her to move to the chair," said Mason, "I sat in it instead. Naturally, she was thrown by this and looked to Herb. He carefully and quietly explained to Quinn that in life we never know what another person is going to do and we don't always know how we are going to respond to someone or something. She listened intently, nodded her head, and said, 'I got it.' She was extraordinary in her ability to go with it. At nine!"

Even though everything was working this time around, no one expected anything special at the box office from The Goodbye Girl. "It had only one real star, Richard Dreyfuss; one rising star, Marsha Mason; and one cute ten-year-old, Quinn Cummings," said Neil Simon, "with a slight love story directed extremely well by Herbert Ross and a rather nice script by me, if I have to say so probably wouldn't have been made were it not for Ray Stark's faith in it." Warner Bros. owned the underlying rights to The Goodbye Girl since it had begun at the studio first as Bogart Slept Here, and the studio had the choice to stay on board or drop out of the project and let MGM take the reins. "Since the head of Warner Brothers at the time had little faith in my script," said Simon, "he wanted MGM to buy him out. Others at Warners figured, however, in for a penny, in for a pound, and so decided to split the costs and profits (if any) with MGM, then run by Daniel Melnick."

It was a smart move on both the studios' parts, as The Goodbye Girl turned out to be one of the biggest surprise box office hits of the year. It opened sluggishly at first, but thanks to some strong reviews and positive word of mouth, business for the film exploded during the 1977 Christmas holiday season. "Sometimes you just need to allow a little time for the word of mouth to spread before a movie catches on," said Neil Simon. "...At the beginning of the second week, lines started to form at the box office...and then down the street...and then down the street and around the block."

The Goodbye Girl was a film that was and is dear to the hearts of those who worked on it. When Richard Dreyfuss was asked in a 2000 interview what made the film so special, he replied, "Goodbye Girl was a wonderful script. Wonderful. And as actors we never got tired of it. Never...It was funny and loving. And the actors and actresses in the show--especially Marsha and Quinn--were perfect. Like God had said these are the actors to work with. I once said that I'd like to play Elliot until I retired and got a Swiss watch because he was great. I wanted to be him, and I wanted to acquire his personality for my own."

For Marsha Mason and Neil Simon, the film's success was a personal victory that helped solidify their relationship both personally and professionally. What had begun as an idea the two had talked about over dinner in an obscure restaurant in Florence, Italy had turned into a triumph for both of them. "We even thought about going back to Florence," joked Simon, "finding the restaurant again, ordering the same dishes, just to see if it produced another film."

by Andrea Passafiume

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teaser The Goodbye Girl (1977)

The Goodbye Girl (1977), a romantic comedy starring Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason, is probably playwright Neil Simon's biggest box office hit next to The Odd Couple, an earlier Simon comedy that shares a plot similarity - mismatched roommates - with this film. Simon was nominated for Best Original Screenplay by the Academy for The Goodbye Girl and it marked his third nomination in that category. The tale begins with Paula McFadden (Mason), whose lover suddenly abandons her and her daughter Lucy (Quinn Cummings). Aspiring actor Elliot Garfield (Dreyfuss) arrives at their apartment as the new tenant but Paula and Lucy have nowhere to go and no money. Luckily, Elliot and Paula reach an agreement where they can all share the apartment together. After an initial clash of personalities, a mutual attraction develops between the two roommates and eventually they fall in love. The big obstacle in their relationship is Paula's fear of abandonment, which was reinforced by previous lovers who ran out on her and Lucy.

Simon preferred to write a script knowing who was going to play each part so he could tailor the roles to the actors' abilities. He had written a script called Bogart Slept Here, with his wife Marsha Mason and Robert DeNiro cast in the leading roles. Mike Nichols was set to direct. The filming only lasted a week because of unresolved creative differences between a few key players in the production. Simon then arranged for Richard Dreyfuss, seen earlier that year in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, to read from the script with Mason. From that meeting, Simon chose to write a new story around the two actors, and Herbert Ross was chosen to direct his new script, The Goodbye Girl.

The acting in this film was recognized by the Academy with nominations for Richard Dreyfuss (Best Actor), Marsha Mason (Best Actress), and Quinn Cummings (Best Supporting Actress). Dreyfuss won the Oscar, beating out Richard Burton (Equus), Woody Allen (Annie Hall), Marcello Mastroianni (A Special Day), and John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever). One of his many highlight scenes is one where Elliot wins the lead in the play Richard III, and is then ordered to portray the king as a flamboyant homosexual.

The Goodbye Girl was also nominated for Best Picture, but lost to Annie Hall in that category. The combination of Simon's script with its wisecracking, fast-paced dialogue and the comic timing of all the actors involved make for a heartwarming romance with lots of laughs.

Director: Herbert Ross
Producer: Ray Stark
Screenwriter: Neil Simon
Cinematography: David M. Walsh
Film Editing: John F. Burnett
Production Design: Albert Brenner
Original Music: Dave Grusin
Costume Design: Ann Roth
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss (Elliot Garfield), Marsha Mason (Paula McFadden), Quinn Cummings (Lucy McFadden), Paul Benedict (Mark Morgenweiss), Barbara Rhoades (Donna Douglas).
C-111m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Sarah Heiman

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teaser The Goodbye Girl (1977)


The Goodbye Girl was nominated for 5 Academy Awards: Best Actor (Richard Dreyfuss), Best Actress (Marsha Mason), Best Supporting Actress (Quinn Cummings), Best Picture, and Best Original Screenplay (Neil Simon). Richard Dreyfuss took home the film's only award for Best Actor. At 29-years-old Dreyfuss became the youngest person to ever win the Best Actor Oscar® in history. It was a record he held until 2003 when a slightly younger Adrien Brody won for his performance in The Pianist (2002).

Richard Dreyfuss won the BAFTA Film Award for Best Actor for his work in The Goodbye Girl. Marsha Mason was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress, and Neil Simon was also nominated for Best Screenplay.

The Goodbye Girl was nominated for 5 Golden Globe awards including Best Motion Picture - Comedy, Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy (Richard Dreyfuss), Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy (Marsha Mason), Best Screenplay (Neil Simon), and Best Supporting Actress (Quinn Cummings). It won in every category except Best Supporting Actress.

Richard Dreyfuss won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Goodbye Girl.

Neil Simon's screenplay for The Goodbye Girl was nominated for a Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen.

In 2002 the American Film Institute ranked The Goodbye Girl number 81 on its list of the 100 Greatest Love Stories of All Time, "100 Years...100 Passions."


"...a movie that has the form of a romantic comedy but which is so relentlessly wisecracked that it finally has the very curious effect of seeming to be rude to its own characters...The Goodbye Girl...may be the perfect American comedy for an age in which opportunism is not only an acceptable way of getting ahead in the world, but also a fashionable style of conversation, patterned largely, I suspect, on the manners of television talk-show guests who trample one another for the camera's attention...Miss Mason and Mr. Dreyfuss are enthusiastic farceurs who manage to keep their wits about them even when they are doing absurd things. Miss Mason's Paula is especially funny in her early scenes with her daughter when she creates a genuinely comic portrait of a woman who has prepared herself for every possible treachery except the one that turns up." -- The New York Times

"Performances by Dreyfuss, Mason and Cummings are all great, and the many supporting bits are filled admirably." -- Variety

"...Dreyfuss grows up before our eyes. For once he is the least insecure character in a film; he is mature and sensitive at the same time--not to mention sexy and compassionate. Of course he gets the girl in the end, but he gets the audience first. Dreyfuss aside, The Goodbye Girl is not without its unpretentious merits, the most notable of which is Neil Simon's script. Though the film relies heavily on the mechanical plot devices of '40s boy-meets-girl movies, Simon keeps gratuitous punch lines to a minimum and shows an open-hearted concern for his fetching characters...It is rare that an actor can move an audience from hilarity to sorrow in a matter of seconds, but that is what Dreyfuss does in The Goodbye Girl. Astoundingly enough, a small movie has given birth to a major star." -- Time magazine

"Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl is a funny movie with its heart finally in the right place, but all sorts of unacknowledged complications lurk just beneath its polished surface. The surface is pure Simon, which means that it's a funny-sad-tough-warm story about basically nice people who are given just three snappy one-liners too many to be totally human." -- Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times

"Neil Simon's warmest comedy to date...High-caliber script and performances to match..." -- Leonard Maltin, Movie and Video Guide

"It is just the kind of lump-in-the-throat comedy we need now. No nudity, violence, tragedy, killings or bloodshed. Just pure joy and happiness and vanilla-flavored escapism." -- Rex Reed

"[Marsha Mason] takes her place with the great screen comediennes." -- The Los Angeles Times

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