Synopsis by Bruce Eder
Jerry Paris's Star Spangled Girl (1971), based on Neil Simon's play (a notorious Broadway flop), never made much of an impression in theaters, which is understandable with a cheap, overlit television look to most of it and Davy Jones singing the song "Girl" over the main titles (which got a lot more visibility from its use in the Brady Bunch episode in which Marsha has to get the singer to appear at her school), it looked too much like a small-screen production blown up; it was dated from the first frame of its opening credits. Tony Roberts and Todd Susman play Andy Hobart and Norman Cornell, a pair of self-styled political radicals living in California, beating the system by stealing as much as they can from neighborhood shops and conning the rest out of anyone around, all for the greater goal of keeping their underground newspaper alive and kicking. Their lifestyle is a cross between the ideas in Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book and Max Bialystock's dalliances in The Producers. Into their midst moves a transplant from rural Florida, Amy Cooper (Sandy Duncan) (who was called Sophie Rauschmeyer in the play), a perky aspiring Olympic swimmer and old-fashioned, patriotic Southern girl, and as corn-fed a hick as you found in movies in 1971 without a cynical bone in her body. Norman, a hopelessly neurotic and sexually dysfunctional writer, falls in love with her almost instantly upon encountering her; not, mind you, based on her personality or even her looks, but her smell. Andy is, at first, oblivious to her charms and content to maintain his relationship with their libidinous landlady (Elizabeth Allen, totally wasted here), paying their rent with all-night barhopping and trysts involving skydiving. At some point, however, Amy decides she has to have Andy (based on his smell...), and he feels the same way. Andy and Norman end up -- Odd Couple-style -- in conflict over their differing approaches to life; the Odd Couple allusions are further amplified by Roberts' remarkable resemblance to Walter Matthau in his manner and delivery of dialogue. The story is resolved as unconvincingly as it's played. It's also a sign of just how unfunny the play was in that the funniest moment in the movie is new to the screenplay and comes just a minute after the opening credits with a gag referring to a certain John Schlesinger movie from 1969. It's not much of a gag, but it's funnier than anything in the main body of the movie, which otherwise plays like a terminally extended version of a Love American Style episode. The original Broadway production, incidentally, starred Richard Benjamin, Anthony Perkins, and Connie Stevens.
coming-of-age, girl, journalism, love-triangle, newspaper, patriotism, politician, school, self-discovery