Rich and Famous (1981)

Rich and Famous (1981)


Liz Hamilton (Jacqueline Bisset, The Thief Who Came to Dinner) and Merry Blake (Candice Bergen, The Wind and the Lion) are college pals whose close friendship is put to the test over the years. Liz becomes an acclaimed writer of prestigious novels. Merry, on the other hand, becomes queen of highly popular trashy books.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Slick, but empty-headed revamping of John Van Druten’s play Old Acquaintance, previously filmed in 1943 with Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins. Director George Cukor (Born Yesterday and My Fair Lady), in his last theatrical movie, does what he can to infuse the movie with much-needed energy, but the result is pretty ghastly, really. Despite modest signs of intelligence, this is major disappointment.

Rich and Famous had the potential to be a really good film. I liked the idea of updating Druten’s play. The movie begins in the early 1960s and concludes in the 1980s so Gerald Ayres’s script covers one of the most fascinating periods in American history. Many important events occurred during those turbulent years. Yet the movie does such a poor job exploring political and social changes. Argh, what a missed opportunity!

My biggest issue with the film is that Bisset (co-producer) and Bergen have no chemistry — it’s like trying to light a fire without a spark. Perhaps the fact that the actresses were very good friends in real life ruined any possibility of creating palpable tension. It’s ironic that enemies Davis and Hopkins had great (screen) affinity, and Bisset has zero rapport with real-life friend Bergen.

The changes to the story aren’t good either. The endless sexual encounters don’t belong here. Liz’s promiscuity is a rather archaic, silly way to convey female empowerment. It’s pretty dumb, in my opinion, to equate one-night stands with sexual liberation.

Rich and Famous does have a lovely music score by French composer Georges Delerue (A Little Romance and Ghost Story). The glossy cinematography is by Don Peterman (When a Stranger Calls and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Rich and Famous makes for an interesting comparative exercise (with Old Acquaintance). But all by itself, this sloppy melodrama deserves to be on any list of worst movie remakes. Meg Ryan’s film debut (she plays Bergen’s teen daughter).  Many famous people appear as themselves: Ray Bradbury, Roger Vadim, Frank De Felitta, Nina Foch, Randal Kleiser, Paul Morrissey, Michael Brandon, etc. Color, 117 minutes, Rated R.

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