These seem to be popular posts -- the scripts from my stint as host of the Neil Simon Film Festival on TCM. Here's one from last night.
Hi, I’m Ken Levine – a playwright, tv writer, director and great fan of the man in our “Friday Night Spotlight” this month, Neil Simon.
Simon has written dozens of plays for Broadway and adapted many of them for the big screen, but he’s also written original screenplays and up next is one of his best. And like all of the films we’re showing tonight, it stars his wife at the time, Marsha Mason.
It’s “the Goodbye Girl,” from 1977, also starring Richard Dreyfuss.
In Simon’s memoir, he said the plot of this film is reminiscent of what happened before Dustin Hoffman shot to fame with the 1967 film “the Graduate.” Prior to that, Hoffman was a struggling actor in New York. So when he got the call that he got the role, there was a moment between he and his wife where the two of them just knew that their relationship would change forever. Well, that basic theme is what our movie is all about.
Dreyfuss is the struggling New York actor. Mason is a dancer recently dumped by her newly-famous actor boyfriend, who abandons her and her 10 year old daughter, played by Quinn Cummings. Mason and Dreyfuss end up rooming together and sparks begin to fly, but she wonders -- will history repeat? Are all actors the same? Will Dreyfuss abandon her too?
Now, Neil Simon always said he found writing much easier when he knew who was in his cast, because he could tailor the dialogue to each actor’s rhythm and personality. Yet Richard Dreyfuss was not the original costar of our film. Robert DeNiro was initially cast in the role, back when the script was titled “Bogart Slept Here.” Mike Nichols – a long-time Simon collaborator – was set to direct.
But right away, it became apparent that DeNiro – as great as he is -- wasn’t right for the part. So exit DeNiro; enter Dryefuss. Mike Nichols ended up moving on from the film as well, so Herbert Ross came on to direct.
But in the end, it was a winning combination. The film received five Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Screenplay, and Dreyfuss won as best actor. From 1977, here’s “the Goodbye Girl.”
Richard Dreyfuss won the Best Actor Oscar for this film, and the movie received four other nominations: Best Picture, Neil Simon’s screenplay, and for the performances of Marsha Mason and Quinn Cummings.
A year or so later, i was writing for MASH which was filmed on the 20th Century Fox lot. I was in the commissary one day and there was little Quinn Cummings just chewing out her agent. He probably had it coming, i dunno – never got to hear his side. But it was just bizarre to see a tween giving her agent hell at the hostess stand. It’s why I love Hollywood.
Up next, Marsha Mason returns in another Neil Simon film in which she received an Oscar nomination. It’s a comedy/drama released in 1979 and it costars James Caan.