THEY ALL LAUGHED, 1981
Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Ben Gazzara, John Ritter, Dorothy Stratten, Blaine Novak, Colleen Camp, Patti Hansen, Sean Ferrer
John Russo and Charles Rutledge work for a detective agency and are hired by two men who suspect their wives of infidelity. Russo trails the elegant Angela Niotes, while Rutledge follows the beautiful Dolores Martin. The cases begin to get out of hand when each man falls in love with the woman he is following.
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Peter Bogdanovich made his career as a director based on his love for a time gone by. Almost all of his films take place at some point in the past, or are a revival of a genre from the golden age of Hollywood. What’s Up Doc? (1972) was a modern day screwball comedy; Paper Moon (1973), a black and white film set during the depression; and At Long Last Love (1975) was a homage to 1930s musicals. They All Laughed (1981) continued in this tradition; a fast-paced romantic caper, where everyone talks fast and falls in and out of love at the drop of a hat. Featuring a sitcom actor (John Ritter), a Playboy playmate (Dorothy Stratten), a legend of independent film (Ben Gazzara) and one of the biggest movie stars of all time in the final starring performance of her career (Audrey Hepburn), They All Laughed boasts one of the most eclectic and interesting casts in movie history. Unfortunately, the tragic back-story of the film is now more famous than the film itself.
Bogdanovich, who wrote the screenplay, used numerous real life elements of his actors, as well as incidents from their lives, in the script. He has stated that he created these characters specifically for these actors, who are, according to him, essentially playing themselves. In the film, John Russo (Gazarra), a ladies man who is losing his confidence, becomes revived when he falls in love with Angela Niotes (Hepburn), a woman closer to his own age. According to Bagdanovich, Gazarra and Hepburn previously had an affair during the filming of the movie Bloodline (1979), which he then used as a basis for their characters.
The only actor not playing a part based on his actual personality is John Ritter, who was playing a part that Bogdanovich had written for himself. In the film, Charles Rutledge (Ritter) is following the beautiful Dolores Martin (Stratten), with whom Charles becomes infatuated. This is a reflection of what happened in real life, as Bogdanovich and Stratten began having an affair during the making of the film while she was still married; the Rutledge character serves as an obvious stand-in for the real life director. Stratten’s husband was so jealous that he hired a private detective, another eerie parallel to the film. Stratten and Bogdanovich moved in together and she planned to get a divorce. Tragically, Stratten’s husband murdered her and then killed himself. The incident created a big scandal that made the studio reluctant to release the film, due to the bad press. Bogdanovich was forced to buy the film back from them with his own money, resulting in his near bankruptcy when the film was a box office flop. Stratten’s story was made into the movie Star 80 (1983), directed by Bob Fosse, in which a character was based on Bogdanovich.