Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Off to The Ritz with Treat and Googie ...

Terence McNally's play THE RITZ about the farcical goings-on at a gay sauna seemed an odd choice for Richard Lester in 1976 - the year he also did ROBIN AND MARIAN, but actually it suits his madcap humour, so evident in those '60s Beatles films A HARD DAY'S NIGHT and HELP!, plus THE KNACK, PETULIA, oddities like HOW I WON THE WAR and THE BEDSITTING ROOM and those '70s entertainments like his MUSKETEERS films, ROYAL FLASH and the tense JUGGERNAUT - see reviews at Lester label. 

Gaetano to avoid a "hit" on him by Carmine, tells a cab driver to take him where Carmine can't find him. He is taken to The Ritz, a gay bathhouse where he is pursued amorously by "chubby chaser" Paul B. Price and by entertainer Googie Gomez who believes him to be a broadway producer. His guides through the Ritz are gatekeeper Abe, habitue Chris, and bellhop/go-go-boys Tiger and Duff. Squeaky-voiced detective Michael Brick and his employer Carmine locate Gateano at the Ritz, as does his wife Vivian. It gets funnier and funnier ....

Gaetano: Listen, there's something I have to tell you...
Chris: You're not gay?
Gaetano: [relieved] No!
Chris: What, are you a social worker or something?
Gaetano: No, but I didn't know that everyone in here was...
Chris: GAY! See? It's not a bad word. You might try using it sometime.
Gaetano: You mean to tell me that everyone in here is gay?
Chris: God, I hope so. Otherwise I just paid ten dollars to walk around in a towel in front of a bunch of Shriners.

The cast is uniformly amusing, especially Rita Moreno as Googie Gomez, an untalented Latin singer whom Weston mistakes for a drag queen. She frequently steals the show from everyone. Moreno got a Tony Award for her Broadway portrayal of that role. Also good is the improbably squeaky-voiced detective played by Treat Williams. 
Some of the resulting mayhem is very funny indeed; some stretches are more ho-hum. Nevertheless, it is a generally successful piece of entertainment regardless of one's sexual orientation.
We know Rita Moreno from way back to THE KING AND I; Jack Weston always amuses, as in THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR and CACTUS FLOWER, and Treat was a treat in Forman's HAIR, Lumet's PRINCE OF THE CITY and as Stanley to Ann-Margret's Blanche in that ;80s television STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. F.Murray Abraham (AMADEUS Oscar-winner) is a scream as Chris, and then there is Vivian Vance ... The humour is broad farce and the gays are not treated meanly. Lester keeps it all bubbling nicely, The reviewers at IMDB loved it, 


  1. Never liked it despite Moreno and Williams. One of Lester's misfires imo.

    1. What were the other ones? in your imo ?????????

    2. A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, THE BED SITTING ROOM and HOW I WON THE WAR don't do it for me. I love his first two Muskateer movies but his THE RETURN OF THE MUSKATEERS was a disaster. His best work, (PETULIA, ROBIN AND MARIAN, the first two MUSKATEER movies) are marvellous.

  2. Just watched this again recently and liked it a lot better than the first time years ago. Moreno's Googy Gomez is hilarious, a classic ("I had a drim!"), as is Treat Williams's Mighty Mouse voice...and I forgot that Murray Abraham was in it, too, and he was wonderful.
    I don't remember Vivian Vance...did you mean Kaye Ballard (another Desilu TV star of the era...)?

    My favorite Lester films are the Musketeers films of the early 70s with Raquel Welch, Michael York and Faye Dunaway...loved their humor and period details...

  3. Of course I meant Kaye Ballard - well spotted. I love Lester's films generally and those MUSKETEERS were great, what a cast, with good roles for Christopher Lee and York and Faye's Milady were two terrific blondes. ROYAL FLASH does not get a lot of lov, but he also assembles a terrific cast, even in the small parts: Margaret Courtenay duelling with Florinda Balkan! and the final appearance of Alistair Sim. "Courage, and shuffle the cards", and good to see Olly and Alan together again ...