Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
April 17
October 8, 1969
All Four One

On October 8, 1969, New York moviegoers were urged to “consider the possibilities” by buying a ticket to the debut feature of a young screenwriter-turned-director, Paul Mazursky. And, attracted by its promise of wife swapping and group sex amidst a suburban swirl of love beads, Nehru collars and group therapy sessions, audiences did. The film, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, was one of the year’s biggest hits, grossing $30 million off a production budget of only $2 million. Helped by the laid-back chemistry, good looks and improvisational ability of stars Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Elliot Gould and Dyan Cannon, Mazursky’s comedy drama managed to both indulge audience’s fascination with ‘60s-era free love while satirizing it enough for mainstream viewers to keep it at a comfortable moral distance. Seen in today’s radically different cultural climate, the movie feels a bit like it’s tumbled out of a time capsule, but, writing at the time, critic Pauline Kael pinpointed what may be the film’s lasting legacy: a tonally tricky, humorously bitter comedic style that finds its echoes today in everything from Ben Stiller comedies to Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. She wrote, “You can feel something new in the comic spirit of this film –– in the way Mazursky gets laughs by the rhythm of clichés, defenses, and little verbal aggressions.”


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