Only When I Laugh


2h 1981
Only When I Laugh

Brief Synopsis

An alcoholic actress fights to come back while trying to raise her teen daughter.

Film Details

Also Known As
It Hurts Only When I Laugh
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
1981
Location
New York City, New York, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h

Synopsis

When successful actress Georgia gets out of rehab for alcohol addiction, she faces several crises. First, her teenage daughter, with whom she has a rocky relationship, asks to move back in with her. Then her ex-husband approaches her about starring in a new drama he has written about their less-than-perfect marriage. And Georgia is also dealing with the drama of her best friends, a bitter socialite and an actor who self-medicates with food.

Crew

Richard Adee

Property Master

Richard Adler

Song

Seth Banks

Costumes

Bill Beasley

Assistant Director

Martin Beazell

Assistant Camera Operator

Kathryn Blondell

Hair

Albert Brenner

Production Designer

Norman Buck

Key Grip

Tom Case

Makeup

Bob Edesa

Camera Operator

Sheryl Gold

Production Assistant

David Haber

Art Director

Norman Harris

Gaffer

Michael Hilkene

Sound Editor

Dennis Jones

Boom Operator

Thomas Kane

Unit Production Manager

Ron Kenyon

Electrician

Richard Kratina

Camera Operator

Robert Krume

Construction Coordinator

Frank Lambers

Dolly Grip

Gregg Landaker

Sound

Les Lazarowitz

Sound

Harry Leavy

Transportation Captain

Erma Levin

Sound Editor

Jack Lietzke

Transportation

Pat Logue

Other

Bill Macsems

Props

Dennis Maguire

Production Assistant

Mary Malin

Assistant

Marvin March

Set Decorator

Shirley Margus

Production Coordinator

Vince Martinez

Auditor

Steve Maslow

Sound

Richard Moran

Key Grip

Mike Nash

Assistant Camera Operator

Tommy Overton

Sound

Michele Panelli-venetis

Assistant

Roger Paradiso

Location Manager

Wendell Powell

Property Master Assistant

Howard Poyourow

Dialogue Coach

Ray Quinlan

Gaffer

Jerry Ross

Song

Ann Roth

Costume Designer

Warren Rothenberger

Director Of Photography

Roger Rothstein

Producer

June Samson

Continuity

June Samson

Script Supervisor

David Shire

Music

Jennifer Shull

Casting

Neil Simon

Play As Source Material

Neil Simon

Producer

Neil Simon

Screenplay

Shirlee Strahm

Wardrobe

Jim Van Wyck

Assistant Director

Bill Varney

Sound

Kathy Virkler

Assistant Editor

David M. Walsh

Director Of Photography

Stephen Wertimer

Dga Trainee

Barry Wexler

Dolly Grip

John Wright

Editor

Film Details

Also Known As
It Hurts Only When I Laugh
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
1981
Location
New York City, New York, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
2h

Award Nominations

Best Actress

1981
Marsha Mason

Best Supporting Actor

1981
James Coco

Best Supporting Actress

1981
Joan Hackett

Articles

Only When I Laugh


The Oscars® were frequently a family affair for Marsha Mason, who scored three of her four Best Actress nominations for films written by then-husband Neil Simon. All of their collaborations were written with her in mind. In Chapter Two (1979), she even played a character based on herself, a Broadway actress who cuts through a grieving widower's reserve to help him rediscover happiness. For their final film collaboration, Simon challenged her to step outside her comfort zone to play an aging, recovering alcoholic in the 1981 comedy-drama, Only When I Laugh.

Simon's story of a woman fighting to find her footing in life while dealing with a teenaged daughter and two loving but emotionally demanding friends had been inspired by the life of Judy Garland. He originally wrote it in 1970 as the play The Gingerbread Lady and created the leading role of Evy Meara for Maureen Stapleton, who had scored a hit in his three-play collection Plaza Suite. The first of the three plays, "Visitor from Mamaroneck," had been Simon's first attempt at a serious piece. With The Gingerbread Lady, he moved into more dramatic territory again. Though the play won raves and brought Stapleton a Tony Award for Best Actress, it ran only l93 performances, one of the shortest Broadway runs in Simon's amazingly successful career.

Eleven years later, Simon revisited the material and decided to produce the film version himself. At the time he announced, "...to avoid any of the confrontations I've had with producers in the past over casting, I've decided to do this one myself. I didn't want anyone telling me we had to have superstar names." The non-superstar name he selected to star is more obvious. Simon re-wrote the leading role for Mason, changing the leading lady from a singer to an actress and even changing the character's original Irish name to Georgia. But though he cast his wife in the lead, critics could hardly charge him with nepotism given their successful collaborations on their earlier films and the depth of her dramatic work in Cinderella Liberty (1973), the film that brought her an Oscar® nomination before she started making movies with her husband.

With his favorite director, Herbert Ross, busy on other productions, Simon turned to Glenn Jordan, an Emmy-winning television director making his big-screen debut. For the role of Mason's precocious daughter, whose desire to get to know her estranged mother helps trigger the character's crises, Simon cast one of the most respected and popular young actresses of the day, Kristy McNichol; she already had a history with Jordan, who had directed episodes of her acclaimed television series Family. James Coco, who had starred on Broadway in Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers, took the role of Jimmy, Georgia's gay actor friend, while Joan Hackett, a highly respected stage, screen and television actress who never made the break to stardom, played Toby, a socialite friend fighting a losing battle with aging.

Composer David Shire, who scored Only When I Laugh, wrote a title song that never made it into the movie. Nonetheless, Brenda Lee released a recording which was promoted as "From the Columbia Motion Picture," and the song was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Original Song from a movie.

Not surprisingly, when Only When I Laugh premiered it won its best reviews for its ensemble acting, particularly from the establishment press. Rex Reed wrote, "I rarely leave a film wanting to take the people I've just seen home to Mother, but I'd be proud to know everyone in this one." More trenchant was Roger Ebert, who awarded the film one star and slammed Simon for cardboard writing that "uses misfortunes as a way of creating characters. If he can create an 'alcoholic,' then he doesn't have to create a three-dimensional person for his film. He can just fill out the person's life with predictable crises from the disease." But even he had to acknowledge the quality of McNichol's performance.

The powerhouse cast generated considerable Oscar® buzz that was borne out when Mason, Hackett and Coco all scored nominations. Yet even though Hackett captured the Golden Globe (and McNichol won the Young Artist Award for Best Young Motion Picture Actress), their Oscar® fates were pretty much sealed. John Gielgud in Arthur and Maureen Stapleton in Reds were considered locks for the supporting awards. In Best Actress, the front-runners were Diane Keaton in Reds and Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant's Woman. As sometimes happens when there are two equally strong contenders for the Oscar®, Keaton and Streep cancelled each other out. But the beneficiary of their splitting the votes was not Mason, but Katharine Hepburn, who won a record fourth Oscar® for On Golden Pond.

Only When I Laugh achieved one distinction in awards history. James Coco managed to score a Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actor, making him the only actor ever to be nominated for the Oscar® and the Razzie for the same performance. Coco lost that dubious distinction, too, as Steve Forrest claimed the award for delivering some of the year's worst dialogue in Mommie Dearest.

Producer: Roger M. Rothstein, Neil Simon
Director: Glenn Jordan
Screenplay: Neil Simon
Based on the play The Gingerbread Lady by Simon
Cinematography: David M. Walsh
Art Direction: Albert Brenner, David M. Haber
Music: David Shire
Cast: Marsha Mason (Georgia), Kristy McNichol (Polly), James Coco (Jimmy), Joan Hackett (Toby), David Dukes (David), Peter Coffield (Mr. Tarloff), Kevin Bacon (Don).
C-120m.

by Frank miller

SOURCES:
Inside Oscar® by Mason Wiley and Damien Bona
Only When I Laugh

Only When I Laugh

The Oscars® were frequently a family affair for Marsha Mason, who scored three of her four Best Actress nominations for films written by then-husband Neil Simon. All of their collaborations were written with her in mind. In Chapter Two (1979), she even played a character based on herself, a Broadway actress who cuts through a grieving widower's reserve to help him rediscover happiness. For their final film collaboration, Simon challenged her to step outside her comfort zone to play an aging, recovering alcoholic in the 1981 comedy-drama, Only When I Laugh. Simon's story of a woman fighting to find her footing in life while dealing with a teenaged daughter and two loving but emotionally demanding friends had been inspired by the life of Judy Garland. He originally wrote it in 1970 as the play The Gingerbread Lady and created the leading role of Evy Meara for Maureen Stapleton, who had scored a hit in his three-play collection Plaza Suite. The first of the three plays, "Visitor from Mamaroneck," had been Simon's first attempt at a serious piece. With The Gingerbread Lady, he moved into more dramatic territory again. Though the play won raves and brought Stapleton a Tony Award for Best Actress, it ran only l93 performances, one of the shortest Broadway runs in Simon's amazingly successful career. Eleven years later, Simon revisited the material and decided to produce the film version himself. At the time he announced, "...to avoid any of the confrontations I've had with producers in the past over casting, I've decided to do this one myself. I didn't want anyone telling me we had to have superstar names." The non-superstar name he selected to star is more obvious. Simon re-wrote the leading role for Mason, changing the leading lady from a singer to an actress and even changing the character's original Irish name to Georgia. But though he cast his wife in the lead, critics could hardly charge him with nepotism given their successful collaborations on their earlier films and the depth of her dramatic work in Cinderella Liberty (1973), the film that brought her an Oscar® nomination before she started making movies with her husband. With his favorite director, Herbert Ross, busy on other productions, Simon turned to Glenn Jordan, an Emmy-winning television director making his big-screen debut. For the role of Mason's precocious daughter, whose desire to get to know her estranged mother helps trigger the character's crises, Simon cast one of the most respected and popular young actresses of the day, Kristy McNichol; she already had a history with Jordan, who had directed episodes of her acclaimed television series Family. James Coco, who had starred on Broadway in Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers, took the role of Jimmy, Georgia's gay actor friend, while Joan Hackett, a highly respected stage, screen and television actress who never made the break to stardom, played Toby, a socialite friend fighting a losing battle with aging. Composer David Shire, who scored Only When I Laugh, wrote a title song that never made it into the movie. Nonetheless, Brenda Lee released a recording which was promoted as "From the Columbia Motion Picture," and the song was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Original Song from a movie. Not surprisingly, when Only When I Laugh premiered it won its best reviews for its ensemble acting, particularly from the establishment press. Rex Reed wrote, "I rarely leave a film wanting to take the people I've just seen home to Mother, but I'd be proud to know everyone in this one." More trenchant was Roger Ebert, who awarded the film one star and slammed Simon for cardboard writing that "uses misfortunes as a way of creating characters. If he can create an 'alcoholic,' then he doesn't have to create a three-dimensional person for his film. He can just fill out the person's life with predictable crises from the disease." But even he had to acknowledge the quality of McNichol's performance. The powerhouse cast generated considerable Oscar® buzz that was borne out when Mason, Hackett and Coco all scored nominations. Yet even though Hackett captured the Golden Globe (and McNichol won the Young Artist Award for Best Young Motion Picture Actress), their Oscar® fates were pretty much sealed. John Gielgud in Arthur and Maureen Stapleton in Reds were considered locks for the supporting awards. In Best Actress, the front-runners were Diane Keaton in Reds and Meryl Streep in The French Lieutenant's Woman. As sometimes happens when there are two equally strong contenders for the Oscar®, Keaton and Streep cancelled each other out. But the beneficiary of their splitting the votes was not Mason, but Katharine Hepburn, who won a record fourth Oscar® for On Golden Pond. Only When I Laugh achieved one distinction in awards history. James Coco managed to score a Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actor, making him the only actor ever to be nominated for the Oscar® and the Razzie for the same performance. Coco lost that dubious distinction, too, as Steve Forrest claimed the award for delivering some of the year's worst dialogue in Mommie Dearest. Producer: Roger M. Rothstein, Neil Simon Director: Glenn Jordan Screenplay: Neil Simon Based on the play The Gingerbread Lady by Simon Cinematography: David M. Walsh Art Direction: Albert Brenner, David M. Haber Music: David Shire Cast: Marsha Mason (Georgia), Kristy McNichol (Polly), James Coco (Jimmy), Joan Hackett (Toby), David Dukes (David), Peter Coffield (Mr. Tarloff), Kevin Bacon (Don). C-120m. by Frank miller SOURCES: Inside Oscar® by Mason Wiley and Damien Bona

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1981

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1981