The tag line read: “Consider the Possibilities.” Today, it’s hard to believe the movie was regarded so cutting edge and titillating. Remember, it’s 1970 and the impact of rebellious boomer ideas is just beginning to penetrate Main Street.
The plot: An educated, affluent couple attend an “self-discovery” weekend at a New Age retreat and are determined to apply the principles of “free love” and “open communication” to their marriage. Bob and Carol want to “feel” more and “think” less. Their best-friend couple is not as hip and find these modern concepts unsettling. After much angst and discussion the couples decide to have a mate-sharing foursome, which turns out to be a poignant and humorous failure.
It was a wild mix of baby boomer pop culture themes—“new age” ideas, sexual liberation, counterculture values—clashing with “old-fashioned” behavior and, in the end, tradition prevails, however muddled. All realize that life is more complex than ideas, and walk off into the sunset bruised but wiser as the theme song, “What The World Needs Now (is love, sweet love)” plays in the background.
Critics and audiences were enthusiastic. Little-known Eliot Gould and Dyan Cannon got Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Actress. Robert Culp and Natalie Wood enhanced their careers. Rookie director Paul Muzursky went on to establish an impressive resume including Blume in Love, Harry & Tonto, and Women in Love, but considered his first-time effort the best.
Carol & Alice
One critic says the movie still “holds up” today because “American sexual politics have returned to the conservatism that existed before Bob and Carol emerged as the signature comedy of the swinging sixties.”
Natalie Wood gambled her $750,000 salary for a percentage of the gross and ended up with a cool $3 million. She had turned down a similar arrangement with West Side Story and lost millions.
A television sitcom based on the movie had a short run in 1973-1974. A 10-year-old Jody Foster appeared as the daughter of Ted and Alice.
Alice’s psychiatrist in the film was the real-life therapist of director Paul Mazursky.
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice featured the screen debut of teen heart throb Leif Garrett.
Boomer Trivia Questions
►Who of the following turned down lead male roles in the movie?
►What movie received the first NC 17 warning (no one under 17 without parents), was panned by critics as over-the-top sexual sleaze, flopped at the box office, then turned into a home video goldmine and cult classic?
Valley of the Dolls
Adventures of Priscilla
Answers at end of post
Bon Mots from Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
Bob (to Carol, Ted, and Alice): “First, we’ll have an orgy. Then we’ll go see Tony Bennett.”
Carol: (to husband): “My DARLING, you did NOT cheat, you TOLD me about it. If you HADN’T told me about it, THAT would have been cheating!”
Bob (trying to convince Ted to join the foursome party): “Well look at you, man. You’ve got the guilt anyway. Don’t waste it.”
►A bit of a trick question. All the actors and actresses declined roles.