Saturday, May 28, 2011

#295. S.O.B. (1981)

Directed By: Blake Edwards

Starring: Julie Andrews, William Holden, Richard Mulligan

Tag line: "Once upon a time in Hollywood..."

Trivia:  This was William Holden's last movie

S.O.B. is the cinematic equivalent of a scathing bit of hate mail, which director Blake Edwards has addressed to every actor, producer, publicist and agent working in the motion picture industry. With its hilariously damning representation of the Hollywood system, S.O.B. leads one to the conclusion that, while Hollywood may be rotten to the core, it hasn’t lost its sense of humor. 

Producer Felix Farmer (Robert Mulligan) suffers a nervous breakdown when his latest film, an overpriced family movie titled Night Wind, bombs at the box office. When his numerous attempts at suicide fail, Felix does the next best thing: he buys Night Wind back from the studio, then sets out to turn his kiddie failure into a pornographic blockbuster. But for his glorious plan to succeed, Felix will have to convince his estranged wife, squeaky-clean family film icon Sally Miles (Julie Andrews), to shoot a nude scene. Against the advice of good friend Tim Culley (William Holden) and family doctor Irving Finegarten (Robert Preston), Felix goes ahead with his crazy plan, creating a buzz that takes all of Hollywood by storm. 

The potshots that director Edwards takes at the so-called “professionals” who populate the Hollywood system often hit their mark, and usually with deadly accuracy. David Blackman (Robert Vaughn), the president of Capital pictures, is a bottom-line executive who expects every film to not only turn a profit, but come in under a certain running time (if he feels a movie’s too long, Blackman, who fancies himself a skilled editor, will personally cut it to shreds). Along with the executives, S.O.B. also takes a poke at the agents, who in this film amount to little more than blood-sucking parasites. When Sally tearfully announces her intentions to divorce Felix, her long-time agent, Eva (Shelley Winters) and publicist, Ben (Robert Webber), abstain from offering any personal condolences, worrying instead about the effect a broken marriage will have on their client's “image”. As a parallel to its cold-hearted approach to business, S.O.B. also reveals, in no uncertain terms, that Hollywood is morally bankrupt, a place where sex and debauchery are used to seal million-dollar contracts. Amidst exposing all the treachery and tangled webs of deceit, S.O.B. also finds time to offer up a barrage of uproarious jokes and brilliant sight gags. 

It’s been rumored that Blake Edwards made S.O.B. in response to the horrible experience he had directing 1970's Darling Lili, a movie that went way over budget, then bombed at the box-office. S.O.B. was a form of therapy, a way for the longtime filmmaker to release some of his pent-up frustrations. If you listen closely, you might even catch the sound of Edwards’ teeth gnashing in the background. 

That is, if you can hear it over the laughter.


Anthony Lee Collins said...

I was raised on this movie. My father loved it. It's a great cast, but my favorite is Robert Preston. He gets most of the best lines, and his delivery is faultless. "A shyster is a disreputable lawyer. I'M a QUACK!"
"Is Batman a transvestite? Who knows?"

Dave Becker said...

Anthony: YES! Robert Preston is hilarious in this film. He definitely has the best lines. I love the QUACK line you refer to, and the give-and-take with Robert Webber later in the film is unforgettable ("In the course of this evening, you have demonstrated most of your excremental bodily functions").

Just excellent!

SoulDogg said...

A lot of my best friends are nervous.

Dave B. said...

@SoulDogg: Yet another GREAT Robert Preston line!

Thanks for stopping by!