Wednesday, March 01, 2017

cinema obscura: Richard Quine's "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad" (1967)

Richard Quine's "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad" (1967) is the cult film that never was. At turns eccentric, experimental and awful, it's a surprise that this witty attack on momism ever got made, particuarly by a major studio.

Based on the off-Broadway hit by Arthur Kopit, the film casts a game Rosalind Russell as Madam Rosepettle (a reference to Madam Rose?), a certifiable steamroller who dotes on her Venus flytraps and cat-eating Piranhas and her babified son Robert Morse (who still wears Doctor Dentons) and who keeps her late, taxidermal husband Jonathan Winters carefully preserved.

The singular Barbara Harris (in her second film role, following 1965's "A Thousand Clowns") plays the babysitter at the resort hotel where Madam Rosepettle, Junior and Dad are ensconced. Natually, she falls for Junior, whose name is actually Jonathan. On the sidelines are such cinematic loons as Hugh Griffith and Lionel Jeffries.

The film doesn't work but it's not exactly unwatchable, thanks to Quine's sure hand which manages to produce several curious/memorable sequences.

Incidentally, Quine started out as an actor and appeared in 25 films, including Rosalind Russell's "My Sister Eileen" (1942), in which he played the role of Frank Lippincott, the young man nursing a crush on Janet Blair's Eileen. Thirteen years later, he would direct Betty Garrett, Janet Leigh and Jack Lemmon in the musical remake for Columbia, with the role of Frank Lippincott going to Bob Fosse, who also choreographed the film.

Another 12 years later, in '67, he would reunite with Roz Russell for "Oh Dad, Poor Dad."

Quine, who had a fascinatingly eclectic career as a filmmaker ("Pushover," "Bell, Book and Candle," "The World of Suzie Wong," "Synanon," "Strangers When We Meet," "Sex and the Single Girl," "Hotel," and "The Moonshine Wars"), died in 1989, a suicide by gunshot. For a good part of his career, Kim Novak (with whom he made four films) was his muse.


Paul Denton said...

Thanks so much for remembeirng Richard Quine.

Kevin Barry said...

I forgot he directed Hotel. Pauline Kael wrote, "Quine manages to wring a little humor out of the collection of junk passing for a plot."

Christopher P. Fowler said...

I like "Bell, Book, and Candle" a lot. All the standard wisdom about the queer subtext in this John Van Druten adaptation is quite true. What struck me, though, the last time that I saw "Bell, Book, and Candle," was how "out" -- at least according to the standards of the time -- the relationship between the Lemmon character and the French nightclub performer proved to be.

As for "Oh Dad," though ... isn't that picture supposed to have uncredited footage directed by Alexander Mackendrick? The director of "Don't Make Waves" would, I'd imagine, be quite familiar with this style of material.

joe baltake said...

Hi Christopher- Re Alexander Mackendrick directing some parts of "Oh Dad," at least that's what IMDb says. I have no idea of the veracity of this claim. "Don't Make Wave" was an unusual title for Mackendrick. He was a British director who worked largely in the British film industry, although he is best known for "Sweet Smell of Success," a very New York film. -J

Marvin said...

Hi, Joe.

I enjoyed very much your "resurrection" of OH DAD POOR DAD MAMA'S HUNG YOU IN THE CLOSET AND I'M FEELING SO SAD. I also liked the fact that you mentioned the director Richard Quine, whom I have always liked a lot.

Interesting that Kim Novak was Richard's muse, because he didn't do that many films with her; i.e., PUSHOVER and STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET and BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE.

Do you know why Richard Quine committed suicide?

joe baltake said...

Quine also directed Kim in “The Notorious Landlady,” which I love. They made four films together within a short period. He also directed her screen test at Columbia, as well as Jack Lemmon’s. Quine was originally an actor, largely at Columbia, and then became a house director there. He’s one of my favorite directors. Quine was married four times and his wife at the time of his death was Diana Balfour. But he apparently never got over his break-up with Kim. The two of them attended Lemmon’s marriage to Felicia Farr in Paris; he and Billy Wilder were Jack’s Best Men. (Lemmon and Wilder were filming “Irma La Douce” at the time.) He was reportedly despondent for years before he shot himself.

Charlotte said...

"Oh Dad, Poor Dad" was one of the first off-Broadway hits to make a transition to Broadway. Strangely enough, the original off-Broadway cast (including Jo Van Fleet as Madame Rosepettle and Barbara Harris) was replaced in the move (Hermione Gingold replaced Jo Van Fleet, and Alix Elias replaced Barbara Harris), but the play did a cross-country tour, and Van Fleet and Harris played their original roles. (If you saw "Oh Dad, Poor Dad" in Chicago or in San Francisco, for example, you got to see Van Fleet and Harris, while if you saw it on Broadway, it was Gingold and Elias.)

The Broadway production didn't last too long, but the touring company lasted for almost a year, and then most of that cast went into the movie (with the notable exception of Jo Van Fleet, replaced by Rosalind Russell).

Brian Lucas said...

Richard Quine is one of my favorite directors. I haven't seen "Oh Dad, Poor Dad," but it sounds like equal parts disaster and hoot.

My favorites are Operation Madball, Strangers When We Meet and Pushover. In just the last year, I've re-watched Paris When It Sizzles, It Happened to Jane, and The Solid Gold Cadillac, all of which are good fun. Quine also did several good episodes of Columbo. His first dozen shorts and features seem to be incredibly obscure. Most were co-written by Blake Edwards and sound like light comic or musical fare

Tish said...

Hi, Joe. THANK YOU for all the background on Richard Quine in your response to Marvin. I, too, liked him a lot. And I liked that you brought in Jack Lemmon, Felicia Farr, and Billy Wilder. (I always liked Felicia, although she didn't do too much after her marriage to Lemmon.)

Gary Meyer said...

My parents took me to see the play of OH DAD in SF and I remember laughing a lot and was excited when I heard they were making a movie. And it would star "Auntie Mame/Hildy Johnson/Madam Rose."

In 1967 I was in college and writing for the school paper, The Gator. I was invited to a day-long Paramount event in San Francisco where they screened OH DAD and HURRY SUNDOWN. I do not know which was worse but at least OH DAD was under 90 minutes because SUNDOWN was an nearly unbearable 146 minutes (maybe longer as I think they cut it before release).

But we had to stay as there were interviews with the directors and cast scheduled plus they bought us lunch. And somewhere I have an actual hanger with the silhouette of the body that was a promotional item for the press. It must be rare. Never seen it online.

Quine's career was all over the place but his six films with Jack Lemmon, two with Judy Holiday, early noirs PUSHOVER and DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD, the charming FULL OF LIFE and the surprisingly tough (to this teen in 1965) SYNANON, make for a memorable career.

As for Alexander Mackendrick---before the great SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS there were the timeless classics WHISKEY GALORE, THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT and THE LADYKILLERS that defined Ealing Studio comedy, the underrated and very much worth seeing A BOY TEN FEET TALL and A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA, plus the all-but-forgotten early British gem CRASH OF SILENCE.