Cast & Crew
The annual beauty pageant in Santa Rosa, California is being supervised by local woman Brenda DeCarlo and the event is the most important thing in the world to her. She is undetered in her duties even when her husband lashes out violently over his neglect. As the preparations for the contest are made, the outwardly cynical choreographer pays with his own money to make sure the rickety stage is made safe for the participants; the head judge learns that his son has voyeuristic tendencies; and the contestants try to upstage each other in various ways.
Gene S Cantamessa
Nat King Cole
Richard A Harris
David V. Picker
Director Ritchie's approach to his subject matter in Smile follows the same semi-documentary approach that made his other explorations of American culture so convincingly realistic - the world of competitive sports in the ski drama, Downhill Racer (1969), and the creation, packaging and selling of a state senator in The Candidate (1972). Like both those films, Smile is more interested in observing how the characters respond to and deal with competition rather than who wins or loses. While there are plenty of humorous scenes where we do laugh at the contestants - a very bad, off key rendition of "Delta Dawn," an impersonation of Lily Tomlin's Ernestine creation - the director also enlists our sympathies for them through intimate scenes where they reveal their fears and skepticism. In one telling scene, Doris explains her philosophy to Robin, "Boys get money and scholarships for making a lot of touchdowns, right? Why shouldn't a girl get one for being cute and charming?" Robin ponders this for an instant before responding, "Yeah, but maybe boys shouldn't be getting money for making touchdowns." Equally memorable is this opening argument between the judges that sets the tone for the entire film.
1st judge: "Packing a suitcase? What the hell kind of talent is that? I can pack a suitcase."
2nd judge: "It's the only thing she can do without falling off the stage."
3rd judge: "She is cute. I kinda like the nightie joke."
1st judge: "That's exactly the kind of stuff they hate at the finals. They're not looking for sex."
2nd judge: "Everybody's looking for sex."
In contrast to the often naive contestants are the jaded adult organizers and sponsors who have experienced their own share of disappointments over the years. The eternally optimistic "Big Bob" admits to his best friend Andy (Nicholas Pryor) in a rare moment of candor, "I just learned a long time ago to accept a little less from life, that's all." Meanwhile, his son, "Little Bob" is sneaking around taking nude snapshots of the teenage contestants to show his school friends. Another subplot involves Andy's slide into alcoholism and dissatisfaction with his perfectionist wife, which reaches a black comedy climax when he puts a gun in his mouth and threatens suicide. His wife's callous remark from the next room, "If you're doing anything to mess up my clean rug...." prompts him to turn the gun on his real problem - a scene that prefigures the dark humor of more contemporary satires like American Beauty (1999).
One aspect of Smile that makes it particularly interesting today is the offbeat casting - choreographer Michael Kidd in a rare film appearance as a celebrity judge, Melanie Griffith and Colleen Camp as competing contestants, and, of course, Bruce Dern in a surprising change of pace performance from his usual psycho role. Ritchie's use of music - The Beach Boys' "California Girls," Ringo Starr's "You're Sixteen," and Nat King Cole's "Smile" - is equally inspired, often commenting on the sequence at hand.
In preparing for Smile, Ritchie mentioned Milos Forman's The Fireman's Ball (1967) as an inspiration but you can also see traces of Preston Sturges's barbed humor in the mix, as well as the model for Christopher Guest's cult comedies (Waiting for Guffman, 1996, Best in Show, 2000), which follow a similar documentary-styled approach.
Smile was well received by most critics when it opened theatrically but it sank without a trace after a week's run in most major cities. Regardless, the film holds up surprisingly well today and is still worthy of this rave review in The New York Times by Vincent Canby: "...a rollicking satire that misses few of the obvious targets, but without dehumanizing the victims. It's an especially American kind of social comedy in the way that great good humor sometimes is used to reveal unpleasant facts instead of burying them...Smile, which is Mr. Ritchie's best film to date (better than Downhill Racer and The Candidate), questions the quality of our fun, while adding to it."
Producer: Michael Ritchie, David V. Picker, Marion Dougherty
Director: Michael Ritchie
Screenplay: Jerry Belson
Cinematography: Conrad L. Hall
Film Editing: Richard A. Harris
Music: Charles Chaplin, LeRoy Holmes, Daniel Orsborn, Will Schaefer
Cast: Bruce Dern (Big Bob Freelander), Barbara Feldon (Brenda DiCarlo), Michael Kidd (Tommy French), Geoffrey Lewis (Wilson Shears), Nicholas Pryor (Andy DiCarlo), Joan Prather (Robin).
by Jeff Stafford
TCM Remembers - Michael Ritchie
Director Michael Ritchie died April 16th at the age of 62. A Wisconsin native, Ritchie studied at Harvard before succumbing to the attractions of the theatre. He started working in television during the 1960s where he directed episodes of The Big Valley and The Man from UNCLE among others. He moved into feature films with Downhill Racer (1969) at star Robert Redford's invitation and later directed Redford again in The Candidate (1972). The latter is a classic look at American political life that hasn't lost any of its power or insights over the years. This was the start of Ritchie's most productive period when he made several films that were both popular and critically acclaimed. You can find his sly wit and sense of critical drama in Smile (1975), The Bad News Bears (1976) and Semi-Tough (1978). By the 1980s, though, Ritchie's films focused less on social criticism and more on stars. The Survivors (1983) with Robin Williams remains under-rated but Ritchie-directed vehicles for Eddie Murphy (1986's The Golden Child), Bette Midler (1980's Divine Madness) and Chevy Chase (two Fletch films) didn't quite achieve their potential. Some of the old Ritchie spark and intelligence appeared in the made-for-cable The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993) which earned him a Directors Guild Award. One of his final films was the long-awaited screen adaptation of The Fantasticks (1995) which partly brought Ritchie back to his theatrical roots.
ANN SOTHERN: 1909 - 2001
Actress Ann Sothern passed away on March 15th at the age of 89. Her film career spanned sixty years and included a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for The Whales of August (1987) and several Emmy nominations for her roles in the TV shows Private Secretary (1953) and The Ann Sothern Show (1958). Sothern was born as Harriette Lake in North Dakota. She made her first film appearance in 1927 in small roles (so small, in fact, that some sources omit any films before 1929) before deciding to work on Broadway instead. Shortly afterwards she signed with Columbia Pictures where studio head Harry Cohn insisted she change her name because there were already too many actors with the last name of Lake. So "Ann" came from her mother's name Annette and "Sothern" from Shakespearean actor E.H. Sothern. For most of the 1930s she appeared in light comedies working with Eddie Cantor, Maurice Chevalier, Mickey Rooney and Fredric March. However, it wasn't until she switched to MGM (after a brief period with RKO) and made the film Maisie (1939) that Sothern hit pay dirt. It proved enormously popular and led to a series of nine more films through 1947 when she moved into dramas and musicals. During the 50s, Sothern made a mark with her TV series but returned to mostly second tier movies in the 1960s and 1970s. Finally she earned an Oscar nomination for her work in 1987's The Whales of August (in which, incidentally, her daughter Tisha Sterling played her at an earlier age). Turner Classic Movies plans to host a retrospective film tribute to her in July. Check back for details in June.
TCM Remembers - Michael Ritchie
Santa Rosa is so beautiful. I mean, I thought the shopping mall in Anaheim was great until I saw yours. It's...a credit to the vision of your business community.- Doria Houston
"A guy turns 35." That's really what's buggin' you, isn't it? That you're about to turn 35.- Big Bob Freelander
Maybe. Maybe. Or maybe I don't see what's fun about kissing a dead chicken's ass.- Andy DiCarlo
Well that's 'cause you haven't tried it.- Big Bob Freelander
Jesus! Doesn't anything get you down?- Andy DiCarlo
Yeah, I get my apple cart upset sometimes. I just learned a long time ago to accept a little less from life, that's all.- Big Bob Freelander
I...I realize that you and I have gotten off to a rather shaky start. But things don't have to stay that way. What do you say?- Wilson Shears
Let's keep it shaky.- Tommy French
Now see here, Mr. French! I'm trying to be reasonable about this! Now our, our, our Jaycee Chapter is almost bankrupt because of this meat show!...and if we don't break even we're going to have to cancel the Rodeo for the Retarded.- Wilson Shears
Isn't she lovely? Aren't they all lovely? Isn't everyone lovely?- Ted Farley
Released in United States August 1975
Released in United States October 1975
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1975
Shown at Edinburgh Festival August 1975.
Shown at New York Film Festival October 9 & 11, 1975.
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1975
Released in United States October 1975 (Shown at New York Film Festival October 9 & 11, 1975.)
Released in United States August 1975 (Shown at Edinburgh Festival August 1975.)