Since it’s the holiday season I thought I’d suggest a comedy that is cynical, unsentimental, not for kids, and features a Klan type meeting. SMILE from 1975 is a largely undiscovered gem.
It’s all about a cheesy beauty contest in Santa Rosa, California. We follow the contestants (who are blessed with such talents as suitcase packing), the organizers, and some pre-teens trying to sneak peeks at the girls when they’re naked. The movie is steeped in Americana. This is the kind of film the Coen Brothers would have made if they weren’t like nine at the time.
Michael Richie directed in a very “mockumentary” style. But the script by Jerry Belson is really the star. Great biting satire on the importance we place on these absurd superficial competitions. A parallel could be drawn to today’s reality shows if one is so inclined. But if not, hey, just come for the laughs.
Belson (profiled here) was one of the great writers of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, THE ODD COUPLE, and HAPPY DAYS. This movie was made into a Broadway play a few years ago and in Jerry’s Playbill bio he said, “SMILE fulfills a lifelong dream for Mr. Belson – to get paid twice for the same script”.
Several performances of note: the young Melanie Griffith and Annette O’Toole, and Barbara Feldon (Agent 99) as a former beauty queen whose entire self-worth is connected to the pageant.
Is you like scheming, young women in underwear, patriotism, explosions, bad choreography, the American Dream, laughter, and suitcase packing advice, SMILE is for you.
Here's the trailer: