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Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) Review

Mazursky’s brilliant first feature film, which he co-wrote and directed, earned 4 Oscar nominations and a global recognition for him as yet another prominent director of New Hollywood Era.

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is a satire on the sexual revolution. It’s about 2 friendly couples: Bob & Carol Saunders and Ted & Alice Henderson experiencing a spiritual awakening in the 60.  Bob & Carol (Robert Culp and Natalie Wood) just got back from New Age retreat and decided to be completely honest with each other from now on. They share this new found philosophy with their more conservative friends Ted & Alice (Elliot Gould and Dyan Cannon). The truth doesn’t come in a way even when Bob admits to having a one night stand, while his wife true to the game, accepts it and…paying it forward by engaging in an affair herself. Hilarious spiral of honesty and sexual freedom leads to the point where Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice decide to have a group sex with swapping partners in a Las Vegas hotel room.

In his debut, Mazursky was able to provide a brilliantly funny examination of the freshly awoken human spirit rooted in the 60. The plot is conscientiously tapping into the cultural zeitgeist. Mazursky managed to show that the generation gap doesn’t have to be consistent with the age difference. He portrayed 4 separate ways of being anxious without overly intellectualizing the characters, yet giving them enough time and lines for them to fully advocate their causes. It’s smart, funny, genuine and leaves the viewers engaged in conversation (if only) afterward.

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   First, we’ll have an orgy. Then we’ll go see Tony Bennett. (Ted Henderson)

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice received 4 Oscar nominations: for Elliot Gould for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, for Dyan Cannon for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, for Paul Mazursky & Larry Tucker for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Material Not Previously Published or Produced and for Charles Lang (one of the most beloved cinematographers of The Golden Hollywood Era) for Best Cinematography

The movie was so popular (5th highest grossing film in the Box Office of 1969) that it was turned into a series in 1973. The show’s creator Larry Rosen hired Paul Mazursky to write for the series. Due to language restrictions, the characters were severely flattened therefore the story lost its edge. The sitcom got canceled after just one season (consisted of 12 episodes).

©  2018 Anna Jozwiak

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