The romantic comedy has been much maligned in recent years, but it wasn’t always a formalistic tired mess. My all time favorite romcoms are from the late ‘60s and feature nebbish heroes, their flawed mentors and direction that reflects the free spirited sexual liberation underway then.
I saw all of theses at the Vista Theater in Boise and all are available on DVD or VHS. They would be considered ‘art house by today’s standards.
British director Richard Lester led the way in 1965 with “The Knack” featuring Michael Crawford and Rita Tushingham, both kind of virgins lost in London, who navigate their way through a maze of crazy people to find each other. Lester is best known for directing the Beattles in “A Hard Day’s Night.”
Was Frances F. Coppola influenced by the “Knack” when he made “You’re A Big Boy Now” in New York in 1967? There are a lot of whimsical moments reminiscent of “The Knack” involving Peter Kastner and the bitchy go go dancer Barbara Darling played by Elizabeth Hartman, who is the object of his desire. This is another poor soul lost in the big city who finds happiness with the girl next door type played by Karen Black. Geraldine Page is memorable as the neurotic mom and Julie Harris is brilliant as the sexually repressed landlady. The city is celebrated including the Bryant Park library and Central Park in Big Boy.
Another British gem is “Bedazzled” with nebbish Dudley Moore selling his soul to the devil played by Peter Cooke. Moore, Cooke and British actress Elizabeth Braun lead us on a merry romp through unrequited love in contemporary London with a bit of social commentary on advertising and religion. Stanley Donen was the director who also directed two other British gems at that time, “Two for the Road” and “Charade,” and the later two had memorable Henry Mancini music