Wednesday, January 16, 2013

cinema obscura: Harold Prince's "Something for Everyone" (1970)/James Lapine's "Impromptu" (1991)

Theater directors rarely get any credit when they venture into film. Case in point: I loved what Morton DaCosta did with the film versions of plays that he originally directed on stage, "Auntie Mame" (1958) and "The Music Man" (1962). Both are noteworthy for their fidelity to their stage predecessors and yet are impressively cinematic.

DaCosta would direct only one other film - 1963's now-forgotten "Island of Love," starring Robert Preston, Tony Randall and Walter Matthau.

You could say, "That was then, this is now." But matters haven't changed.

Harold Prince made what I thought was an auspicious film directing debut with the delicious 1970 Angela Lansbury-Michael York black comedy, "Something for Everyone," one of those sophisticated sex comedies in which the randy young hero (York) sleeps his way through every member of a family (shades of Pasolini's "Teorema" with Terence Stamp).

The film is just about impossible to see nowadays, although Prince's second (and last) film, a truncated version of the Sondheim musical, "A Little Night Music," has been available on DVD.

The estimable James Lapine, meanwhile, made one of the best films of 1991 - now also forgotton, of course - with "Impromptu," a randy farce about the affair between Frederic Chopin (Hugh Grant) and George Sand (Judy Davis, alas, in oneof her last great film roles). Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Emma Thompson and Julian Sand round out the cast.

I can't think of anything wrong with this film.

Lapine subsequently filmed the Michael J. Fox-Nathan Lane show-biz comedy, "Life with Mikey" and the Anne Tyler adaptation for HBO, "Earthly Possessions," sarring Susan Sarandon and Stephen Dorf.

If rep houses still existed and had resourceful bookers, "Something for Everyone" and "Impromptu" would make a great double-bill.