Neil Simon's Only When I Laugh (1981)

R | 120 mins | Comedy-drama | 23 September 1981

Director:

Glenn Jordan

Writer:

Neil Simon

Cinematographer:

David M. Walsh

Editor:

John Wright

Production Designer:

Albert Brenner

Production Company:

Columbia Pictures
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HISTORY

The following statements appear in end credits: “Filmed at Warner Hollywood Studios,” and “Portions of this film were photographed on location in New York City.”
       A 28 May 1980 LAHExam news item reported that playwright-screenwriter Neil Simon had finished writing a script based on his play The Gingerbread Lady. The play debuted on Broadway in 1970 to mixed reviews, and closed after a seven-month run, according to a 3 Nov 1980 NYT article. A film review from the 23 Sep 1981 NYT stated that Simon reportedly only used fifteen lines from the play in his screenplay. According to the LAHExam, Simon reworked the story from one woman’s relationship with her daughter and friends, and her tragic descent into alcoholism, to focus the plot on her recovery from alcohol, and mending her relationship with her estranged daughter. A 5 Jun 1980 HR article reported that Simon assumed the role of producer in deals with Columbia Pictures and Twentieth Century-Fox to obtain greater creative control over this movie and a second project, I Ought to Be in Pictures (1982, see entry). His expanded role allowed him to choose film scorers, directors, set designers, and actors, while producer Roger M. Rothstein managed day-to-day chores. Simon received a producer’s salary, but no percentage points, in addition to his writer’s fee. Per his usual practice, Simon attended rehearsals to do rewrites if necessary, and also intended to be on the set to offer script suggestions and last-minute line changes.
       According to a brief in the 24 Oct 1980 Us, actress Kristy McNichol signed up for ... More Less

The following statements appear in end credits: “Filmed at Warner Hollywood Studios,” and “Portions of this film were photographed on location in New York City.”
       A 28 May 1980 LAHExam news item reported that playwright-screenwriter Neil Simon had finished writing a script based on his play The Gingerbread Lady. The play debuted on Broadway in 1970 to mixed reviews, and closed after a seven-month run, according to a 3 Nov 1980 NYT article. A film review from the 23 Sep 1981 NYT stated that Simon reportedly only used fifteen lines from the play in his screenplay. According to the LAHExam, Simon reworked the story from one woman’s relationship with her daughter and friends, and her tragic descent into alcoholism, to focus the plot on her recovery from alcohol, and mending her relationship with her estranged daughter. A 5 Jun 1980 HR article reported that Simon assumed the role of producer in deals with Columbia Pictures and Twentieth Century-Fox to obtain greater creative control over this movie and a second project, I Ought to Be in Pictures (1982, see entry). His expanded role allowed him to choose film scorers, directors, set designers, and actors, while producer Roger M. Rothstein managed day-to-day chores. Simon received a producer’s salary, but no percentage points, in addition to his writer’s fee. Per his usual practice, Simon attended rehearsals to do rewrites if necessary, and also intended to be on the set to offer script suggestions and last-minute line changes.
       According to a brief in the 24 Oct 1980 Us, actress Kristy McNichol signed up for dancing lessons to prepare for her role.
       Production listings in the 19 Dec 1980 HR stated that principal photography would begin 20 Dec 1980 and a 9 Oct 1980 DV brief reported that filming would take place on location in New York City. The Nov 1980 NYT stated that a scene was shot at Fifth Avenue and 79th Street. According to a 29 Oct 1980 HR news item, the production planned four weeks of shooting on the East Coast, and another seven weeks at The Samuel Goldwyn Studio in Hollywood, CA, as well as other Southern California locations.
       The film was nominated for three Academy Awards in the following categories: Actress in a Leading Role (Marsha Mason), Actor in a Supporting Role (James Coco), and Actress in a Supporting Role (Joan Hackett). Hackett won a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. The film received two other Golden Globe nominations: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Kristy McNichol), and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (James Coco).
       The Nov 1980 NYT reported that the picture marked Glenn Jordan’s directorial feature film debut. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
9 Oct 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Oct 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 1981
p. 3, 9.
LAHExam
28 May 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Sep 1981
p. 2.
New York Times
3 Nov 1980
p. 14.
New York Times
23 Sep 1981
p. 23.
Us
24 Oct 1980.
---
Variety
16 Sep 1981
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Columbia Pictures Presents
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
DGA trainee, New York crew
PRODUCERS
Prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Gaffer
Elec best boy
Key grip
Grip best boy
Dolly grip
Stills
Dir of photog, New York crew
Cam op, New York crew
Gaffer, New York crew
Key grip, New York crew
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Const coord
Leadman
Asst prop master
Prop master, New York crew
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst to Ann Roth
Women's costumer
Men's costumer
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Prod mixer
Boom op
Sd mixer, New York crew
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Dial coach
Loc auditor
Unit pub
Transportation
Mr. Jordan's secy
Asst to Mr. Rothstein
Prod asst
Prod asst
Loc mgr, New York crew
Prod office coord, New York crew
Transportation capt, New York crew
Extras casting, New York crew
COLOR PERSONNEL
[Col by]
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Gingerbread Lady by Neil Simon (New York, 13 Dec 1970).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Heart," from Damn Yankees, music and lyrics by Richard Adker and Jerry Ross
"Machine Gun," performed by Storm, courtesy of MCA Records.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Only When I Laugh
Release Date:
23 September 1981
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 23 September 1981
Production Date:
20 December 1980--early March 1981 in New York City and Hollywood, CA
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 October 1981
Copyright Number:
PA116613
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex® Camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
120
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

After a thirty-nine year old actress and recovering alcoholic named Georgia Hines finishes her treatment program, her friend, Toby Landau, drives her home. Back at her apartment, Georgia greets her friend, Jimmy Perino, and invites her friends to dinner, but they have other plans. Toby suggests that Georgia contact her teenage daughter, Polly, but Georgia says she is not ready. Jimmy, an out-of-work actor, announces that he is nervous about an upcoming audition. He fantasizes about becoming an important star. Georgia wonders if they would still be friends, but Jimmy says that after eleven years they would be done. He would no longer carry her up stairs and clean her off. Georgia changes the subject, and asks if there are any telephone messages. He says no, but admits to seeing her former boyfriend, David Lowe, in the company of an attractive woman. Jimmy leaves for his audition, and Georgia gazes at a photograph of Polly, and the telephone rings. Polly welcomes her mother home, and wants Georgia to attend her school play rehearsal. Later, Georgia watches Polly sing a song from Damn Yankees, and afterward, Georgia admits she is jealous of Polly’s stepmother, Felicia, who gets to spend more time with Polly than she does. Polly announces that her father has given her permission to live with her mother. Georgia claims she is not ready, but agrees to give it a try. Just as Polly arrives in her new home, Georgia receives a telephone call from David. He is eager to see her, but Georgia does not want to rekindle their relationship, and declines his invitation. Jimmy ... +


After a thirty-nine year old actress and recovering alcoholic named Georgia Hines finishes her treatment program, her friend, Toby Landau, drives her home. Back at her apartment, Georgia greets her friend, Jimmy Perino, and invites her friends to dinner, but they have other plans. Toby suggests that Georgia contact her teenage daughter, Polly, but Georgia says she is not ready. Jimmy, an out-of-work actor, announces that he is nervous about an upcoming audition. He fantasizes about becoming an important star. Georgia wonders if they would still be friends, but Jimmy says that after eleven years they would be done. He would no longer carry her up stairs and clean her off. Georgia changes the subject, and asks if there are any telephone messages. He says no, but admits to seeing her former boyfriend, David Lowe, in the company of an attractive woman. Jimmy leaves for his audition, and Georgia gazes at a photograph of Polly, and the telephone rings. Polly welcomes her mother home, and wants Georgia to attend her school play rehearsal. Later, Georgia watches Polly sing a song from Damn Yankees, and afterward, Georgia admits she is jealous of Polly’s stepmother, Felicia, who gets to spend more time with Polly than she does. Polly announces that her father has given her permission to live with her mother. Georgia claims she is not ready, but agrees to give it a try. Just as Polly arrives in her new home, Georgia receives a telephone call from David. He is eager to see her, but Georgia does not want to rekindle their relationship, and declines his invitation. Jimmy warns Georgia to forget David and concentrate on Polly. Mother and daughter eat snacks and revisit the past. Polly learns that her grandfather was an alcoholic who died when Georgia was sixteen years old. Georgia began drinking as a teenager because it was the thing to do, and she did not think she had a problem. Polly is angry that Georgia did not fight harder for joint custody. Georgia apologizes, and says she could not handle the responsibility, but hopes to give Polly more attention now. At night, Georgia calls David, and they agree to meet before he goes out of town. Georgia soon discovers that David has written a play based on their relationship, and wants Georgia to play the lead. At first, Georgia refuses, but David ignores her protestations, and asks her to read the book. Still later, Georgia admits to psychiatrist Dr. Bob Komack, from the treatment center, that she is scared, but wants to perform in David’s play. Later, rehearsals for David’s play take their toll on Georgia, when the words dredge up memories, causing her to shed tears. Georgia confesses that the play is too hard, but David assures her that her performance is incredible. Sometime later, mother and daughter go shopping, buy makeup, and have lunch. Back at the apartment, Jimmy watches Georgia and Polly perform a song they have prepared for Toby’s upcoming birthday party. Georgia arrives early for a rehearsal at the theater, and meets David’s new, younger girlfriend, Denise Summers. Jimmy telephones Georgia to tell her Toby has canceled the party because her husband, Kevin, has left her. On the way to Toby’s, Georgia is tempted to stop at a bar. Meanwhile, Toby is utterly depressed, and Georgia consoles her friend. She also comforts Jimmy, who was fired three days before opening night. The champagne starts flowing, and Georgia becomes drunk. Polly arrives with her boyfriend, Adam Kasabian, and Georgia flirts with him. The alcohol also causes Georgia to insult her friends, and spill wine on Toby’s expensive gown. Polly confronts her mother privately, and complains that Georgia always expects people to take care of her. Polly cannot remember a time when her mother knew how to take proper care of her daughter, but Polly says it no longer matters, and walks out. Jimmy and Georgia return to her apartment to watch a late night movie and eat pizza. They make up, and Georgia goes to sleep on the living room sofa after Jimmy leaves. Later, Georgia buys cigarettes at a bar and orders a drink. Next, she and a fellow customer bet drinks on competing boxers in a match on television. When Georgia loses the bet, she leaves, but the bar patron attacks her on the way home. Georgia turns up bloodied and disheveled at Toby’s apartment. When Polly telephones, Georgia pretends that insomnia led her to Toby’s place. She asks Polly’s permission to spend the night, and requests that her daughter postpone their lunch the following day with her former husband. Georgia runs to the terrace for fresh air, and Toby warns her mother to stop being so self-destructive, or else she can jump and commit suicide. They laugh and make up. Georgia returns to her apartment in the early morning and cooks breakfast for her daughter. Polly gasps when she sees Georgia’s cut and swollen eye, but listens to her mother’s story. Georgia thinks the only way she can cope is to send Polly back to live with her father, but Polly wants more time with her mother. However, Polly’s father is determined to keep the lunch date. Polly offers to cover up Georgia’s bruises with makeup, but Georgia refuses her daughter’s help. Polly complains that Georgia does not know when to accept kindness, then packs her belongings. As Polly is about to leave, Georgia says that when she grows up, she wants to be just like her daughter. They embrace and Polly leaves in a taxicab. Jimmy then arrives, sees Georgia’s bruises, and administers an icepack to her eye. Soon, Georgia changes her mind, and meets Polly and her former husband for lunch at Tavern on the Green. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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