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The Owl and the Pussycat (1970)

Taken from the Broadway play of the same name by Bill Manhoff this Columbia Films production is essentially a two character script. Sharing most of the screen time together are Barbra Streisand and George Segal.

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Setting the stage over the first couple of minutes we quickly learn that Streisand is a prostitute and Segal an unpublished author. Both live in the same run down apartment building. Upon entering the building Segal receives a stern warning that his all night typing binges are eliciting complaints from his fellow apartment dwellers. Moments later George spies Streisand through his trusty binoculars taking money from a “john” and places a call to management.

The next conscious moment for Segal is being awakened at three a.m. by Streisand who has been evicted and with rapid fire delivery the comedy begins. She barges in on him and the bickering starts as her scatterbrained character disrupts not only his sleep but his foreseeable future. The noise levels continue to rise in hilarious fashion leading the landlord to throw them both on the street in the middle of the night.

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So it’s off to a friend of Segal’s in the wee hours with two laugh out loud costumes giving pal Robert Klein the most curious of pauses. So the chatting begins all over again and escalates as Segal needs his sleep and Barbra needs noise to put her out. This gives Segal a moment to shine as he enacts out late night TV through an aquarium to pacify the lady who has stormed into his sleepless night like a real life nightmare.

Despite the arguing, there comes a time when there is a sexual pause and Segal is thinking about more than sleep. Barbara and her carefree lifestyle only eggs him on.

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The love story stalls out at times as the two are just not compatible yet they find themselves drawn to each other and the opposites quirky lifestyles and characteristics. The reunion heads to another funny scene filmed in a bathtub where some unwanted visitors show up.

While I found the film funny overall I was less than thrilled when it turned dramatic at times. I generally like Segal in most of his roles during this part of his career but have always thought his strength best suited in lighter comedy roles as this film proved to be. Miss Streisand is perfectly flighty and fun with her ongoing chatting at all hours of the night and impossible not to like energy. Years later the two would reunite when Barbra cast George in her self directed film The Mirror Has Two Faces.

When the original play was on Broadway the leads were played by Alan Alda and Diana Sands thus offering up an interracial relationship that the film version chose not to go with.

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The film was directed by Herbert Ross who would also work with Barbra again when he helmed the sequel to Funny Girl, Funny Lady. He’d also direct a film I champion when given the chance. The 1975 comedy The Sunshine Boys.

As a lover of the classic Universal Monster movies I got both a surprise and a good kick out of Streisand in fast talking clip rattle off the plot to Man Made Monster and the story of Dynamo Dan.

There’s just something that strikes the funny bone at seeing Segal’s rather bookish character trying to buy a ticket to see Cycle Sluts at an adult movie theater where one can rent a trench coat in the lobby.

Plenty of laughs in the zany screwball fashion here wrapped around the dramatic moments allowing the comedy to  dominate.

2 Comments »

  1. Gotta confess I saw this on (UK) big-screen release and have never felt the slightest temptation to watch it again. I think that’s the problem with screwball comedies: if one of them doesn’t work for you it just plain doesn’t work for you, and there’s little point in trying to take it further.

    • This was my first time seeing it and I had a good laugh at a couple of scenes in particular. Doesn’t mean I’ll see it again so I perfectly understand your thinking. Still I can’t tell someone it isn’t worth a look.

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