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Barefoot in the Park began as a Neil Simon Broadway play in 1963. A romantic comedy about a couple of newlyweds trying to make it in New York, it was Simon's first solo effort, and it was an astounding success. Robert Redford starred as Paul Bratter in the play, and Elizabeth Ashley played his free-spirited wife Corie. When the decision was made to adapt the play to the screen, Simon wrote the screenplay himself so it would be as true to the original version as possible. Redford, who was also cast as the lead in the film, was surprised by the offer. He believed it was standard for Broadway actors to be passed up by Hollywood for the role they originally created on the stage. Still, Redford wasn't completely sure he wanted the role - he didn't like to repeat himself.
Fortunately, Barefoot in the Park turned out to be Redford's first commercially successful movie and the start of a great film career. Paul Bratten was actually not a favorite character of Redford's. Gene Saks, the first-time director of the film, later said that Redford hated wearing a suit and tie all day. He wanted people on the set to know that he wasn't really like Paul, and would wear a black western hat and cowboy boots off-camera. He did enjoy making the film, however, partly due to the rapport he developed with his leading lady.
Jane Fonda was chosen to play Corie in the film version of Barefoot in the Park (1967). At the time she was fighting a losing battle against being typecast: She was promoted as a sexpot in Europe in films like Roger Vadim's remake of La Ronde (1964), and as the girl next door in U.S. movies such as Any Wednesday (1966). Luckily, the role in this film would allow her to play off both screen images, with some comedy thrown into the mix. Noted by many was the great onscreen chemistry Fonda shared with Redford. The two leads became close friends during the filming, sharing a mutual interest in liberal politics. "Bob and I", Fonda later said, "We share the same causes."
The film focuses on conventionality versus unconventionality. Corie, the unconventional woman, is constantly trying to get Paul to loosen up a little, to go "barefoot in the park." Charles Boyer stars as Victor Velasco, the kooky neighbor of the Brattens who must go through their apartment in order to enter his own. Mildred Natwick, who appeared in the stage version with Redford, stars as Mrs. Banks, Corie's mother, who gets a second chance at romance, thanks to her daughter's matchmaking efforts. Natwick's delightful performance was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar®for her performance in this film. The film's popularity later inspired a TV series with an all-black cast.
Director: Gene Saks
Producer: Joseph H. Hazen
Screenplay: Neil Simon
Cinematographer: Joseph LaShelle
Editing: William A. Lyon
Music: Neal Hefti
Cast: Robert Redford (Paul Bratter), Jane Fonda (Corie Bratter), Charles Boyer (Victor Velasco), Mildred Natwick (Mrs. Banks), Herb Edelman (Harry Pepper).
by Sarah Heiman