Narrator Rudy Vallee announces that he knows we are a "real high class audience," thus he has "some swell story to tell." Thus begins The Night They Raided Minsky's, set in the rarefied world of burlesque in the 1920s. Amish girl Rachel Schpitendavel (Britt Ekland) comes to New York in hopes of securing work as a dancing interpreter of religious stories. She gets a job at Minsky's burlesque house, where the dance numbers are "Biblical" only when some gum-chewing stripper performs Salome's Dance of the Seven Veils. The many subplots leading up to Rachel's accidental invention of the striptease during a midnight Minsky's show involve many: top banana Chick Williams (Norman Wisdom) and womanizing straight-man Raymond Paine (Jason Robards Jr.); Billy Minsky (Elliot Gould), whose efforts to stage girlie shows at the National Winter Garden are looked down upon by Minsky Sr. (Joseph Wiseman), who holds the lease on the theater; gangster Trim Houlihan (Forrest Tucker), who intends to shut down Minsky's if he can't get a piece of the action; Ekland's preacher father Harry Andrews, who shows up in New York just in time to see his daughter bare all in front of a cheering audience; and Vance Fowler (Denhom Elliot), self-appointed protector of public morals, whom Paine hopes to embarrass by having Rachel perform her religious dance. A straightforward adaptation of Rowland Barber's novel The Night They Raided Minsky's would seem to be called for here, but novice director William Friedkin and film editor Ralph Rosenblum seem determined to turn the film into a kaleidoscope Hard Day's Night clone. Happily, producer Norman Lear is able to accommodate several nostalgic re-creations of such burlesque chestnuts as "Crazy House" and "Meet Me Round the Corner," as well as six delightful in-period songs penned by Bye Bye Birdie's Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, the best of which is the ribald "Perfect Gentleman." Bert Lahr makes his last appearance on screen in the role of washed-up funnyman Professor Spats; he died during production, and had to be extensively doubled throughout.
by Hal Erickson synopsis