Smile (1975)

PG | 113 mins | Comedy | 10 May 1975

Director:

Michael Ritchie

Writer:

Jerry Belson

Producer:

Michael Ritchie

Cinematographer:

Conrad Hall

Production Company:

Tamalpais Films
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HISTORY

Titos Vandis is alternately listed as Tito Vandis. Though his character, a janitor, is listed as "Emile Eidleman," he is twice referred to in the film as "Mr. Nachus."
       Smile was scheduled to begin principal photography in Santa Rosa, CA, in mid-Aug 1974, according to the 15 Jul 1974 DV.
       Filmmaker Michael Ritchie told the 13 Jul 1975 LAHExam he based Smile on his own experience of being a beauty contest judge in his home town of Mill Valley, CA. Countering criticism that he was taking “potshots at Middle America’s values,” Ritchie insisted that everything in the film was true. To create a sense of realism, he hired twenty-five Santa Rosa teenagers, mixed in eight professional Hollywood actresses, and staged the contest as if it were a real pageant. According to the 27 Aug 1974 Women’s Wear Daily and the 1 Sep 1974 LAT, fifteen hundred local residents paid a $2.50 donation to the Sonoma County Arts Council to attend the show at Santa Rosa’s Veterans Memorial Auditorium, and nobody except Ritchie, screenwriter Jerry Belson, and producer David V. Picker knew in advance who would win. They picked Shawn Christianson, a Santa Rosa high school girl, to win because “she was sure to cry,” Ritchie said. Three cameras filmed the audience to capture its reactions. Among the attendees were actress Tippi Hedren and director George Roy Hill, whose daughters, Melanie Griffith and Owens Hill, were in the cast. Director George Lucas also attended. Ritchie said he included the talent scene in which “Connie Thompson” demonstrates packing a suitcase because, “That’s what won the 1948 Miss America ... More Less

Titos Vandis is alternately listed as Tito Vandis. Though his character, a janitor, is listed as "Emile Eidleman," he is twice referred to in the film as "Mr. Nachus."
       Smile was scheduled to begin principal photography in Santa Rosa, CA, in mid-Aug 1974, according to the 15 Jul 1974 DV.
       Filmmaker Michael Ritchie told the 13 Jul 1975 LAHExam he based Smile on his own experience of being a beauty contest judge in his home town of Mill Valley, CA. Countering criticism that he was taking “potshots at Middle America’s values,” Ritchie insisted that everything in the film was true. To create a sense of realism, he hired twenty-five Santa Rosa teenagers, mixed in eight professional Hollywood actresses, and staged the contest as if it were a real pageant. According to the 27 Aug 1974 Women’s Wear Daily and the 1 Sep 1974 LAT, fifteen hundred local residents paid a $2.50 donation to the Sonoma County Arts Council to attend the show at Santa Rosa’s Veterans Memorial Auditorium, and nobody except Ritchie, screenwriter Jerry Belson, and producer David V. Picker knew in advance who would win. They picked Shawn Christianson, a Santa Rosa high school girl, to win because “she was sure to cry,” Ritchie said. Three cameras filmed the audience to capture its reactions. Among the attendees were actress Tippi Hedren and director George Roy Hill, whose daughters, Melanie Griffith and Owens Hill, were in the cast. Director George Lucas also attended. Ritchie said he included the talent scene in which “Connie Thompson” demonstrates packing a suitcase because, “That’s what won the 1948 Miss America contest.” The budget for Smile was $1.3 million.
       According to the 28 Sep 1975 NYT, Ritchie tested Smile in Seattle, WA, New York City, Riverside, CA, and Encino, CA, and made several “significant” changes based on audience reactions. For example, he excised a scene in which a contestant discovers that bandleader “Ray Brandy” wears a toupee, and added two “talent” acts. When the scene in which “Andy” shoots “Brenda” elicited a gasp from theater audiences, Ritchie brought actress Barbara Feldon back to record a voice-over line about Andy messing up her carpet, and the next audience laughed and applauded.
       The 11 Feb 1975 HR noted that Ike Cole was signed to sing the film’s title song, but his name does not appear in the onscreen credits.
       The 13 May 1975 LAHExam decribed the film’s premiere in Fresno, CA, on 10 May 1975 as “old-fashioned,” with “marching bands, pretty majorettes and celebrities riding atop Mercedes convertibles.” Among the attendees were actor Bruce Dern, Barbara Feldon, and two actresses who portrayed contestants. Asked why the premiere was not held in Santa Rosa, Ritchie joked that if it had, he “might have been lynched.” Ritchie personally directed Santa Rosa’s high school band and the parade leading to the theater. Heralds advertising the movie read: “See some of the most untalented actors ever recorded on film,” and “See the pillars of the community kissing a dead chicken.”
       Ritchie complained to the 10 Sep 1978 LAHExam that United Artists mishandled the advertising for Smile by presenting it as a satire of small-town American values, or a salacious look at beauty contests. Worse, the studio opened the film in towns and small cities where people took beauty pageants seriously. By the time Smile found an enthusiastic audience in New York City, the distributor had already “written [it] off.” Ritchie estimated that during its original theatrical run, Smile was seen by only “92,000 paying customers.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Oct 1975.
---
Box Office
26 Aug 1974.
---
Daily Variety
15 Jul 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 1975
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Sep 1974
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 May 1975
p. 11.
LAHExam
13 May 1975
Section B, page 6.
LAHExam
13 Jul 1975
Section E, p. 1, 7.
LAHExam
10 Sep 1978
Section F, p. 1, 8.
Los Angeles Times
1 Sep 1974
Calendar, p. 1, 20.
Los Angeles Times
9 Jul 1975
Section IV, p.16.
Los Angeles Times
30 Jul 1999
p. 18, 20.
New York Times
28 Sep 1975
p. 13.
New York Times
9 Oct 1975
p. 52.
Variety
7 May 1975
p. 48.
Women's Wear Daily
27 Aug 1974
p. 10.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Also co-starring:
Featuring:
And also starring the Young American Misses:
The other Young American Misses:
[and]
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
David V. Picker Presents
A Michael Ritchie Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Gaffer
Key grip
Grip
Still photog
Photog equip by
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Asst prop
Asst prop
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus ed
Pageant mus
Cond
Addl mus and arr
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles des
Spec eff
DANCE
Choreog
Asst choreog
MAKEUP
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Visual consultant
Assoc consultant
Casting
Transportation
First aid
Loc coord
Auditor
Welfare worker
Courier
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod secy
Prod secy
Prod secy
Casting
UA disbursing agent
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
"Title Song 'Smile'," music by Charles Chaplin, sung by Nat King Cole
"The Aba Daba Honeymoon," Arthur Fields and Walter Donovan
"All-American Girl," Al Lewis
+
SONGS
"Title Song 'Smile'," music by Charles Chaplin, sung by Nat King Cole
"The Aba Daba Honeymoon," Arthur Fields and Walter Donovan
"All-American Girl," Al Lewis
"California Girls," Brian Wilson, sung by The Beach Boys
"Delta Dawn," Alex Harvey and L. Collins
"Ebb Tide," Robert Maxwell and Carl Sigman
"Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo," Bronislau Kaper and Helen Deutsch
"Ja-Da," Bob Carleton
"Let The Good Times Roll," Leonard Lee, sung by Shirley & Lee
"Me Ol' Bam-Boo," Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
"Mighty Lak' a Rose," Ethelbert Nevin and Frank L. Stanton
"Second Hand Rose," James F. Hanley and Grant Clarke
"Smile," Charles Chaplin, John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons
"Spring Is Here," Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart
"Yes Sir That's My Baby," Kahn and Donaldson, sung by Michael Chain
"You're Sixteen," Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, sung by Michael Chain
"You Were Meant for Me," Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed
"An All American Girl You See (The Runway Song)," words and music by Michael Ritchie.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
10 May 1975
Premiere Information:
Fresno, CA premiere: 10 May 1975
Los Angeles opening: 9 July 1975
New York Film Festival screening: 9 October 1975
Production Date:
began mid August 1974 in Santa Rosa, CA
Copyright Claimant:
United Artists Corp.
Copyright Date:
16 April 1975
Copyright Number:
LP44909
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Prints
DeLuxe®
Duration(in mins):
113
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24250
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Connie Thompson wins the Miss Imperial Valley crown by demonstrating her talent for packing a suitcase, but as she boards an airplane to fly to Santa Rosa, California, to compete in the state’s Young American Miss beauty pageant, her suitcase pops open and dumps her clothes on the tarmac. Connie and thirty-two other teenage girls are met at the Santa Rosa airport by pageant supervisor Brenda DiCarlo, who tells them to remember two things: “Just be yourself, and keep smiling.” At the auditorium where the event is held, pageant president Wilson Shears asks the contestants not to flush sanitary napkins down the toilet because they’ll block the pipes. Brenda teaches the girls the pageant songs, and assigns them to local “parents,” who will house them for the next several days. Afterward, Brenda DiCarlo drives to the recreational vehicle sales lot of “Big Bob” Freelander, the pageant’s “chief judge,” to deliver his gold-plated identification tag and thirty-three contestant applications. When Big Bob asks why he hasn’t seen her husband, Andy DiCarlo, at Jaycee meetings, Brenda brushes the question aside. She goes home, finds Andy drunk, and accuses him of self pity. Later, at the Freelander home, “Little Bob,” Big Bob’s young son, flips through the Young American Miss applications, looking for girls with large breasts. As Robin Gibson, a beauty contest novice, settles in with her roommate, pageant veteran Doria Houston, she mentions that her father died when she was a baby. Doria suggests that if Robin tells judges she’s an orphan, it might earn her “points.” The young women learn what is expected of them by watching a film of judges interviewing former contestants. Then they are introduced to ... +


Connie Thompson wins the Miss Imperial Valley crown by demonstrating her talent for packing a suitcase, but as she boards an airplane to fly to Santa Rosa, California, to compete in the state’s Young American Miss beauty pageant, her suitcase pops open and dumps her clothes on the tarmac. Connie and thirty-two other teenage girls are met at the Santa Rosa airport by pageant supervisor Brenda DiCarlo, who tells them to remember two things: “Just be yourself, and keep smiling.” At the auditorium where the event is held, pageant president Wilson Shears asks the contestants not to flush sanitary napkins down the toilet because they’ll block the pipes. Brenda teaches the girls the pageant songs, and assigns them to local “parents,” who will house them for the next several days. Afterward, Brenda DiCarlo drives to the recreational vehicle sales lot of “Big Bob” Freelander, the pageant’s “chief judge,” to deliver his gold-plated identification tag and thirty-three contestant applications. When Big Bob asks why he hasn’t seen her husband, Andy DiCarlo, at Jaycee meetings, Brenda brushes the question aside. She goes home, finds Andy drunk, and accuses him of self pity. Later, at the Freelander home, “Little Bob,” Big Bob’s young son, flips through the Young American Miss applications, looking for girls with large breasts. As Robin Gibson, a beauty contest novice, settles in with her roommate, pageant veteran Doria Houston, she mentions that her father died when she was a baby. Doria suggests that if Robin tells judges she’s an orphan, it might earn her “points.” The young women learn what is expected of them by watching a film of judges interviewing former contestants. Then they are introduced to choreographer Tommy French, who in previous years staged the televised national Young American Miss contest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Tommy teaches the teenagers the basics of swinging pom-poms and baton twirling. Later, bandleader Ray Brandy upbraids a girl for thinking his musicians can just “play along” without sheet music during her medley of songs in the talent contest. When the teenagers are encouraged to give booster speeches at a civic club luncheon, Robin simply thanks her hosts for the meal, while Maria Gonzales, the ambitious Miss Salinas, gushes about her Mexican heritage and offers the club president some of her homemade guacamole. Meanwhile, as Andy complains to his old friend Big Bob that he wants to leave Santa Rosa because of its provincialism, Big Bob tries to cheer him with upbeat homilies. Later, Brenda DiCarlo gives last-minute instructions to the new judges and tells them to “select a girl you’d be proud to have as your own daughter.” During the interviews, the contestants give the judges rosy answers about benefiting mankind, but Robin’s answers are short. She says she plays the flute not to please others but to connect with herself. When one judge, a priest, broaches the subject of abortion, Robin deflects the topic with humor. Later, as Tommy runs the contestants through their dance routines in the auditorium, the janitor complains that he can hear the pipes choking with sanitary napkins. Wilson Shears annoys Tommy with busybody advice about the dance routines. Maria offers the judges guacamole and talks about the glories of U.S.-Mexican relations. When the girls go to the showers, Little Bob snaps Polaroid instant photographs through a window, but Wilson Shears catches him and turns the boy over to a policeman, along with several nude photographs. At the Thursday night “preliminary” show, Robin Gibson is one of three talent winners. Since her roommate, Doria, has lost out on a chance for first place in the finals, she generously shares her “tricks” with Robin, such as putting Vaseline on her teeth to give her smile more flash. The next morning, Big Bob takes Little Bob to a hospital psychiatrist, but the doctor realizes Little Bob is a normal, sexually curious boy, while his father suffers from anxiety. Later, Big Bob meets Andy DiCarlo at a fast food restaurant and reminds him he’s supposed to be initiated that evening into the Order of the Exalted Rooster. Andy confides he is drinking too much because his wife, Brenda, is frigid. That night, several contestants sabotage Maria’s patriotic cheerleading routine and nearly destroy the stage sets. Meanwhile, Big Bob drives to the Exalted Rooster outdoor meeting, where everyone dresses in white sheets and rooster masks except Andy DiCarlo and two other initiates. Despite being drunk, Andy refuses to kiss the anus of a dead chicken and runs away. Arriving home, he argues with Brenda, then apologizes and tries to make up, but she turns away. He goes into another room and puts a pistol in his mouth. When Brenda tells him not to mess up her carpet, he shoots her instead. The next morning, Big Bob visits Andy in jail to tell him that Brenda is not pressing charges because he only grazed her shoulder, and she does not want the town to know he tried to kill her. As Big Bob gives his friend a pep talk about American values, Andy offends him with the accusation that he talks like a Young American Miss. Meanwhile, Wilson Shears tells Tommy French to remove a ramp the girls use in their dance routine, because it takes up valuable seating space that could be used for paying customers. The choreographer agrees to take a cut in pay to make up the difference. That night, Big Bob arrives at the final event without his usual enthusiasm, and Brenda acts as if nothing has happened. After a formal ceremony in which the girls say farewell to the previous year’s Miss Young American winner, the final judging begins. Shawn Christianson, Miss Fountain Valley, wins the state title. Everyone leaves except Big Bob, the stage hands, and a detachment of U.S. Marines assigned to take down the American flags. Having fought with the Marine Corps in Korea, Big Bob tries to speak with the young men, but they are more interested in discussing the breast size of one of the contestants. The next morning, Robin Gibson rides past Big Bob’s RV lot and sees him giving a customer one of his spiels. The policeman who arrested Little Bob sits in his patrol car, looking at one of the Polaroids he confiscated from the boy. It is a full-frontal nude photograph of Karen Love, Miss Simi Valley. +

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

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