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Play It Again, Sam

After a recent viewing of Casablanca, I wanted to go back and visit Woody Allen's 1972 film adaption of his hugely successful stage play PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM.

It's interesting early Woody written by the comedian but directed by Herbert Ross (The Goodbye Girl, Funny Lady).

Allen plays Allan, a writer/film critic with zero social skills. His wife Nancy (Susan Anspach from "Five Easy Pieces") has left him becuase he bored her to death, bringing all of Allan's often hilarious insecurities to the surface.

Allan reaches out to his best friends, married couple Dick (Tony Roberts) and Linda (Diane Keaton) for their guidance. The blind dates they set him up on are loaded with sight gags and verbal wordplay. This is early, manic Woody Allen and his exaggerated reactions and physical comedy often reminded me of Peter Sellers & Groucho Marx in one neurotic body.

Allen, Roberts and Keaton all reprise their roles from the plays 450 Broadway performances in 1969/1970. They have lived in these characters for awhile and it shows.

Roberts is constantly calling his office from wherever he arrives, telling them "I'll be at 362-9296 for a while; then I'll be at 648-0024 for about fifteen minutes; then I'll be at 752-0420; and then I'll be home, at 621-4598."

At one point, Keaton says "There's a phone booth on the corner. You want me to run downstairs and get the number? You'll be passing it."

Keaton is great, easing into what would become her constant status as one of Woody's favorite co-stars, often in his best films.

Allan's other confidant is an imaginary Bogey from "Casablanca" well played by Jerry Lacy in a decent, stylized impression. If you are a fan of that Bogart/Bergman classic, you'll love the opening and closing scenes here, which directly duplicate classic black and white moments.

Bogey keeps popping up, offering Allan dating advice that's often hilarious and very poorly executed by the fumbling, in over-his-head Allan.

This isn't one of my favorite Woody movies, I think his films improved greatly as he took over the director chair and replaced a lot of the uncontrolled physical comedy with more realistic dramatic moments.

But there's still plenty of hilarious dialogue from Woody's pen:

Upon meeting a woman at an art gallery:

Allan: That's quite a lovely Jackson Pollock, isn't it? Museum Girl: Yes, it is. Allan: What does it say to you? Museum Girl: It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of Man forced to live in a barren, Godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror and degradation, forming a useless bleak straitjacket in a black absurd cosmos. Allan: What are you doing Saturday night? Museum Girl: Committing suicide. Allan: What about Friday night?


When his wife leaves him:

Allan: I wonder if she actually had an orgasm in the two years we were married, or did she fake it that night?


Dick: Allan, you have invested your emotions in a losing stock, it was wiped out, it dropped off the board. Now what do you do Allan? You reinvest. Maybe in a more stable stock. Something with long term growth possibilities. Allan: Who are you going to fix me up with, General Motors?


Linda: What were you thinking about the whole time we were making love? Allan: Willie Mays. Linda: Do you always think about baseball players? Allan: It keeps me going. Linda: Yeah, I wondered why you kept yelling "slide". Enjoyable, fast and funny, PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM gets a B-. For me, he really started figuring out film with his hilarious film "Sleeper" the following year.

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