The Goodbye Girl
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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