Filmsite Movie Review
Play It Again, Sam (1972)
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Play It Again, Sam (1972) is director Herbert Ross' adaptation of Woody Allen's own original, scripted 1969 Broadway play, with the four main players reprising their roles from the stage (Woody Allen, Tony Roberts, Diane Keaton, and Jerry Lacy). Allen could have directed the film, and had already directed three films (What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), Take the Money and Run (1969), and Bananas (1971)), but had decided to move on to other original projects. He reportedly spent about 10 days adapting the play for the big screen with co-writer/director Ross. It remains as one of the most quintessential, appealing and popular 'Woody Allen' films of all-time. However, it was devoid of any Academy Award nominations.

The film's title has been the reason that many falsely claim that the line was actually spoken in Casablanca (1942). The film was notable as the first film pairing Allen with his on- and off-screen partner Diane Keaton (they were directly teamed together in 6 films). They appeared in seven more feature films together, also including:

The hilarious comedy followed the romantic trials and life of a San Francisco movie buff and film critic (for Film Quarterly), Allan Felix (Woody Allen). He was self-deprecating, neurotic, shy, fanatical about films, and obsessed over the film Casablanca (1942). He tried to model his behavior after the personality of its tough guy actor Humphrey Bogart. In the film's resolution, a complicated love triangle with Allan's two best friends was finally resolved during a re-enactment of the airport farewell scene in the 1942 film. The tagline on film posters declared: "It's still the same old story, a fight for love and glory." Another stated the obsessed connection between Allen's character and Humphrey Bogart:

"By day, he is Woody Allen...But when night falls and the moon rises, Humphrey Bogart Strikes Again."

It came in an intermediate and more accessible stage in Woody Allen's career, between his earlier gag-filled hits such as: Take the Money and Run (1969), Bananas (1971), and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972) (he was working on this film during filming of PIAS), and his later more polished works in the late 70s including Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979).

Throughout the film, there were many great one-liners spouted by Woody Allen's character, such as:

- (about TV dinners): "Who bothers to cook 'em? I suck 'em frozen."
- "If they're beautiful, they're crazy, you know? Great beauty drives a woman crazy."
- "I hate the beach. I don't like swimming. I don't like the sun. I'm red-headed, I'm fair-skinned. I don't tan - I stroke!"

[Note: A predictable spin-off, the romantic comedy Touch of Pink (2004) from Canadian writer/director Ian Iqbal Rashid (his debut feature film), portrayed the Woody Allen character as a young Canadian gay man in London being advised by a ghostly Cary Grant (Kyle MacLachlan).]

Plot Synopsis

Prologue: Casablanca Viewing

During the film's opening credits, 29 year-old SF film magazine critic Allan Felix (Woody Allen) watched a theatrical screening of Casablanca (1942) in a movie theatre with his mouth agape during the famed airport farewell conclusion sequence. He remarked (in voice-over) as he walked out: "Who am I kidding? I'm not like that. I never was, I never will be. That's strictly the movies." Lying on his bed under a poster for Casablanca, he was introduced as a self-professed, insecure, depressed "aspirin junkie" and neurotic individual: ("Next thing, I'll be boiling the cotton at the top of the bottle to get the extra").

[Note: In the play, Allan worked for Film Quarterly. In the film, Allan was employed with Film Weekly.]

Flashback - Allan's Marital Breakup with Nancy:

In a flashbacked scene while being very depressed and with low self-esteem, Allan recalled how he broke-up and divorced his wife Nancy Felix (Susan Anspach) after two years of marriage. She mostly regarded him as sexually inadequate:

I can't stand the marriage. I don't find you any fun. I feel you suffocate me. I don't feel any rapport with you and I don't dig you physically. Oh, for God's sake, Allan, don't take it personal.

Although Allan was entirely disoriented by the divorce, he clung to hopes of a better future with other women and fantasized 'stepping out' or inviting 'broads' up to his apartment: "Why should a divorce bother me so? Oh hell, maybe I'm better off without her. Why not? I'm young, I'm healthy, I've got a good job. This could be my chance to step out a little bit. If she can swing, so can l. I could turn this place into a nightclub. I'll get broads up here like you wouldn't believe. Swingers, freaks, nymphomaniacs, dental hygienists." However, he was still hung-up about the specific day that they separated, when she described how she was an active 'doer' and he was just a passive 'watcher':

I want a new life. I want to go skiing, I want to go dancing, I want to go to the beach, I want to ride through Europe on a motorcycle. All we ever do is see movies....You're one of life's great watchers...I'm not like that, I'm a doer. I want to participate. We never laugh together.

When she proposed contacting his lawyer, he responded: "I don't have a lawyer. Have him call my doctor."

The recently-divorced, shy, insecure and neurotic loser Allan sat in his room, where he was counseled by the trench-coated, fantasy ghost of his film idol Humphrey Bogart (flawlessly interpreted by Jerry Lacy). He was given hard-boiled, cheesy romantic advice about being a tough, self-confident, desirable and virile man, and about how to treat dames.

Dames are simple. I never met one that didn't understand a slap in the mouth or a slug from a forty-five....Take my advice, kid, and forget all this fancy relationship stuff. The world is fulla dames. All you gotta do is whistle.

Allan's Supportive Married Friends - Dick and Linda:

His married friends, hard-driven, workaholic Dick Christie (Tony Roberts) and pretty neurotic model-wife Linda (Diane Keaton) arrived and agreed to help Allan find another woman to share his life. They both wanted Allan to succeed in dating women.

[Note: A running joke was that harried, overworked businessman Dick often called his office assistant George and left messages and phone number to report his whereabouts, i.e., "This is Mr. Christie, I'm at The Hong Fat Noodle Company..."]

Dick advised that Allan had much to look forward to now that he was single:

Look at the bright side. You're free. You'll go out, there'll be girls. You'll go to parties. You'll have affairs with married women. Sexual relations with girls of every race, creed and color.

But when Dick and Linda asked specifically what Allan preferred, he answered: "I like blondes. Little blondes with long hair and short skirts and boots and big chests and bright, witty and perceptive," but Linda advised that women with large breasts "usually don't have great minds." As he discussed his dilemma with them, Allan had a fearful daydream of Nancy riding on the back of a motorcycle with a "tall, strong, handsome, blue-eyed blonde man" before they laid down outdoors to make love.

Disastrous Arranged Dates for Allan:

The nerdy Allan was about to experience many disastrous and fumbling blind date scenes and rejections. Dick and Linda arranged an 8 pm double-dinner-date for him with Linda's photographer's assistant Sharon Lake (Jennifer Salt), who had starred in a "very arty" 16 mm underground film - that was titled "Gang Bang."

  • the excitedly-worried Allan delivered Bogart-like words to himself to bolster his confidence, as he stood in front of a mirror before his blind date with Sharon and imagined himself as a macho-man: ("They say that dames are simple. I never met one who didn't understand a slap in the mouth or a slug from a .45. Come here, Sharon")
  • when in the bathroom preparing for his double-date, he doused himself with too much Canoe after-shave lotion and wrestled with his hair dryer, as he remembered how he had been rejected on previous dates
  • Bogart appeared to coach Allan to be more confident: "You're startin' off on the wrong foot, kid...You're lettin' her get the best of ya before the game even starts"; Allan imagined conquering his fears and sexually-satisfying a Fantasy Sharon (Mari Fletcher) in his bedroom with his masculine charm: (Sharon: "Oh, Allan, you are fantastic! Up until tonight, the doctors had told me that I was frigid. Oh, I want to thank you for proving them wrong")
  • to impress the real-life Sharon before she arrived at his place, he had conspicuously placed books half-open in his living room, and displayed his purchased $20 dollar 100-yard track medal; when Allan actually met Sharon, he was so anxious that he nervously greeted her with a grunt and a wave; he then failed to impress her by attempting to be "cool" and by making pretentious statements: ("I love the rain. It washes memories off the sidewalk of life"); he ended up swinging his arm wildly - gesturing and sending an Oscar Peterson record out of its album cover to crash against the wall, and as he leaned over a chair, he clumsily tipped it over
  • later in the evening during their Chinese restaurant (Hong Fat Noodle Co.) double-date, the over-anxious Allan made an embarrassing attempt to be excessively macho to impress Sharon, but ended up appearing bizarre when he demonstrated how to shovel rice into his mouth with chopsticks - he then thought to himself, but seemed to completely misread his date: "She likes me...I can read women. She wants me to come on with her. She digs me. She's playing it very cool. I'm gonna come on with her later"; however, she soon excused herself from the date due to a sinus headache, and shut her apartment door on him

Linda reassured Allan by proposing another possible date with Jennifer (Viva, one of Andy Warhol's X-rated screen actresses), one of her therapy group members, although cautioned by labeling her as "crazy" and "too weird for a relationship." During their date, Jennifer admitted that she was a sex-obsessed nymphomaniac: "Allan, I won't deny it. I'm a nymphomaniac. I discovered sex very early. I slept with everybody. My schoolteacher, my sister's husband, the string section of the New York Philharmonic. I want to have sex all the time, play all the time. Otherwise you're just down, and why be down? The best way to get up is sex. I'm not like my sisters. They're so inhibited, they never want to do anything. I believe in having sex as often, as freely and as intensely as possible." When Allan voraciously grabbed at her to kiss her, she unexpectedly retorted: "What do you take me for?"

There was another failed pickup for Allan at an art gallery when he asked Museum Girl (Diana Davila) (in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) about her interpretation of Jackson Pollock's 1943 painting, 'Guardians of the Secret': ("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"), and then when he asked what she was doing on Saturday night, she responded: "Committing suicide" - then undeterred, he asked about Friday night instead!

During a visit to Dick's and Linda's beach house, the threesome visited a discotheque, where on the dance floor, Allan ogled a big-breasted blonde Discotheque Girl (Susanne Zenor) and imagined propositioning her: "I love you, miss, whoever you are. I want to have your child," but she soundly rejected him when he finally courageously asked her to dance - with harsh words: "Get lost, creep!"

The Growing Close Relationship Between Allan and Linda:

Allan realized that through his many conversations with Linda that she was slowly becoming the girl of his dreams. She was sensible and supportive of his qualities ("You've got a lot going for you. You're bright, and you're funny and I think you're even romantic, if you'd only believe it. I don't see why you put on a false mask every time you meet a girl"), and he always felt free and comfortable to speak to her openly. Allan realized that Linda, who often craved attention (and fawning over) from Dick, also often felt neglected and ignored. She treasured Allan's birthday gift of a plastic skunk more than Dick's present.

His next date was with a young, short-haired, "earthy" and sexy blonde named Julie (Joy Bang), one of Dick's office workers who had just broken up with her boyfriend. Allan asked her to join him for a Friday evening dinner, and afterwards, she suggested that they cruise inside a biker bar: "Hey, let's go in there and get stoned and watch the freaks." Allan was overtaken by two long-haired, leather-clad tough Hoods (Michael Greene and Ted Markland) when he vainly attempted to protect Julie from their crude advances at their table. (Linda learned of Allan's date during the evening and appeared jealously concerned that he might like his date.) Later when he returned to the beach house, Allan revealed how he had been bruised and beaten up during a fight, and Linda laughed hysterically at his description of his disastrous evening: ("I snapped my chin down onto some guy's fist and hit the other one in the knee with my nose...I could use a three-foot Band-Aid until the pain subsides. (toward Linda) She's laughing and my sex life is turning into the Petrified Forest").

Upon their return to the city, both Linda and Allan returned to their respective, normally-lonely lives. Allan bemused to himself: "Ten million women in the country and I can't wind up with one." He realized that his relationship with Linda worked so well because they were familiar with each other as friends and weren't dating: "There's no pressure with Linda, I'm not trying to make her....It's the girls that I try to score with that I can't get to first base with. I'm turning into the strike-out king of San Francisco."

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