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There's a Girl in My Soup

There's a Girl in My Soup(1970)

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teaser There's a Girl in My Soup (1970)

Goldie Hawn proved she was no mere flash in the pan with the 1970 romantic comedy, There's a Girl in My Soup. Following her comic turn on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In as the ultimate in dumb blondes and her Oscar®-winning performance in Cactus Flower (1969), she proved she could hold her own against manic scene stealer Peter Sellers and play a smart cookie capable of outfoxing his lecherous character.

Terence Frisby's story of a self-centered TV cooking show host who meets his match in a no-nonsense hippie had become London's longest running stage comedy in the '60s, with Donald Sinden and Barbara Ferris in the leads. It also ran a year on Broadway with Ferris and Gig Young, though some critics complained that the British wit had been coarsened for the U.S. version.

Columbia Pictures bought the film rights and originally considered casting Yves Montand opposite either Brigitte Bardot or Britt Ekland. When they couldn't come up with a suitable screenplay, however, they put the production on hold. Then England's John and Roy Boulting proposed making the film for Columbia, partly to provide a showcase for Hawn. Roy Boulting may also have been attracted to the film's May-December romance since he had recently made headlines by marrying former child star Hayley Mills, eleven years his junior. Their leading man choice, Peter Sellers, met with immediate resistance. Columbia had produced Casino Royale (1967), a chaotic film shoot partly because of Sellers' erratic behavior. After an open feud with co-star Orson Welles and numerous walk-outs during shooting, Sellers had been fired, requiring costly re-shoots and a new plot to accommodate his absence from several scenes. The Boultings, who had helped launch Sellers' career with I'm All Right Jack (1959), assured co-producer Mike Frankovich that they could control the star. Nonetheless, they were only allowed to offer Sellers $350,000, much less than his fee for Casino Royale.

There's a Girl in My Soup came at a sensitive time in Sellers' career. The actor's insecurities, which were legendary, were at a fever pitch after the box-office failure of The Magic Christian (1969) and the break-up of his marriage to Ekland. The chance to play a sexually successful, debonair character like those played by one of his idols, Cary Grant, boosted his morale. It also helped that when he asked Roy Boulting to suggest somebody on whom to model the character, the director suggested Patrick Litchfield, a famed photographer who was a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. The suave aristocrat, noted for his dashing appearance and well-groomed hair, proved particularly attractive to Sellers because he was currently dating Ekland. Sellers even modeled his character's hair on Litchfield, though he included a joke revealing that it was a toupee.

The actor's insecurities surfaced on the first day of filming, when he insisted that Boulting fire the script girl, convinced from the way she stared at him that she hated him. Improvising, the director lied that the woman stared at him because she was a huge fan and had specifically asked to work on the film to be near him. From that point on, Sellers treated her like one of his dearest friends, even though his behavior came as something of a surprise to the woman.

For Hawn, working with Sellers was a welcome challenge. She refused to let herself be shaken by his improvisations or his idiosyncrasies, instead matching him every step of the way. She also endeared herself to him personally by throwing him a birthday party during shooting. He was so touched by her generosity and the beauty of her home that he told her he wanted to put a little bit of himself into it and sent her an antique French armoire she still owns. She would later tell Larry King, "Peter Sellers was great to work with. A lovely man. A little bit crazy... It was sort of balancing a very delicate spirit on a needle. You know, because you never know where he was going."

There's a Girl in My Soup met with mixed reviews, particularly in the U.S., where the New York Times' Roger Greenspun declared it "competent to no purpose." In contrast, Variety labeled it "a delightful surprise: a rather simple legit sex comedy...transformed into breezy and extremely tasteful screen fun." In England, the film did somewhat better, winning the British Writer's Guild award for Best British Comedy Screenplay and earning Hawn a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress. It would help propel her career upwards, though it would be Sellers' last commercial success for years.

Producer: John Dark, John Boulting, M.J. Frankovich
Director: Roy Boulting
Screenplay: Terence Frisby, Peter Kortner
Based on the play by Frisby
Cinematography: Harry Waxman
Art Direction: John Howell
Music: Mike d'Abo
Cast: Peter Sellers (Robert Danvers), Goldie Hawn (Marion), Tony Britton (Andrew), Nicky Henson (Jimmy), Diana Dors (John's Wife), Nicola Pagett (Claire the Bride), Thorley Walters (Manager of Carlton Hotel), Christopher Cazenove (Nigel), Mark Dignam (Wedding Guest), Caroline Seymour (Nigel's Girl Friend).
C-95m.

by Frank Miller

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