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The Fortune

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The Fortune (1975)

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Additional Information
It takes three to tango (if you don't count the chicken)

Sexier than the Marx Brothers, handsomer than Laurel and Hardy but not as smart as The 3 Stooges

Three's a crowd in Mike Nichols's period caper comedy -- or is it? To dodge the 1920s Mann Act barring the transport of women across state lines for "immoral purposes," not-yet-divorced Nicky (Warren Beatty) has felonious buddy Oscar (Jack Nicholson) marry Nicky's runaway heiress sweetheart Freddy (Stockard Channing) so they can all escape New York for Los Angeles. The three set up house together, but trouble starts brewing when odd man out Oscar decides to get Nicky's attention by exercising his rights as a husband to Freddy. Exasperated with being stuck in the middle of the bickering pair, Freddy threatens to donate her impending inheritance to charity, inciting Oscar and Nicky to hatch a plan to bump her off and keep the money. But Freddy just will not die, prompting the three to reconsider the whole arrangement. With a period setting and pair of stellar lead actors similar to the 1973 blockbuster The Sting, a screenplay by Five Easy Pieces author Carol Eastman (under the name Adrien Joyce), and deft comedy director Nichols, The Fortune seemed like a can't-miss proposition. But it resoundingly flopped, as audiences preferred to see Beatty in his earlier 1975 starring role as a racy L.A. hairdresser in Shampoo, and to wait for Nicholson's later 1975 incarnation as an archetypal iconoclast in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. As with other late '60s-early '70s period films like Beatty's own Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Fortune lends an updated sensibility to its old-fashioned milieu, complete with a very modern happy ending.

Vincent Canby of The New York Times called the film "very funny," "manically scatterbrained," and "a marvelous attempt to recreate a kind of farce that, with the notable exceptions of a handful of films by Blake Edwards and Billy Wilder, disappeared after World War II." He added, "The Fortune does have sequences that sag, and there are moments when it's obvious that farce is not exactly the native art of any of the people involved. One occasionally is aware of the tremendous effort that has gone into a particular effect, though that doesn't spoil it for me. The endeavor is nobly conceived in an era that has just about abandoned farce in favor of parody, satire, situation and/or wise-crack comedy, all of which Mr. Nichols already can do with – perhaps – too great an ease. The Fortune will probably be compared to The Sting, because of the overlapping of the eras and the con-man theme. Incorrectly, though. The Sting is an adventure. The Fortune is farce of a rare order."[2]
Time Out London said it "starts promisingly as a sardonic comedy . . . but once in California lethargy settles in. The film becomes almost static, a series of stagy, glossy tableaux: such lack of momentum may be an adequate assessment of the characters' limited capacity for development, but it has a disastrous effect on the film's pacing. Events degenerate into miscalculated farce and underline Nichols' continuing slick superficiality. Adrien Joyce's much hacked-about script sounds as though it was once excellent: a pity everyone treats it so off-handedly."[3]
Channel 4 called it a "flat-footed attempt to revive the 1930s screwball comedy" but liked the leads, commenting, "The trio's timing and delivery almost rescue the movie from degenerating into bad farce."[4]
TV Guide rated it four stars, calling it "an offbeat but often hilarious comedy" and adding the film "works well through the fine performances of the leads and the superb timing of director Nichols." It concluded, "Full of period and period-sounding music, The Fortune is cold to the core – agreeably disagreeable amusement."

Release Date: May 20, 1975 @ The Coronet

Distrib: Columbia Pictures

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