Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, Charles Boyer, and Mildred Natwick in Barefoot in the Park (1967)


(director: Gene Saks; screenwriter: from the play by Neil Simon/Neil Simon; cinematographer: Joseph LaShelle; editor: William A. Lyon; music: Neal Hefti; cast: Robert Redford (Paul Bratter), Jane Fonda (Corie Bratter), Charles Boyer (Victor Velasco), Mildred Natwick (Mrs. Banks), Herb Edelman (Harry Pepper); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Hal Wallis/Joseph H. Hazen; Paramount Pictures; 1967)

“Saved only by the spirited performances of the four stars.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Neil Simon adapts this romantic comedy from his hit 1963 play, in his screenwriting debut. Robert Redford and Mildred Natwick are holdovers from the stage production, while Jane Fonda and a bald 68-year-old Charles Boyer are added to round off the four principal players. So-so filmmaker, in his directorial debut, Gene Saks (“The Odd Couple”/Brighton Beach Memoirs”), helms this breezy comedy about newlyweds in the Big Apple who rent a Greenwich Village fifth-floor cold-water walk-up flat and have a chore adjusting to it and their marriage. It tries hard to find a pulse but is done in by the weak narrative; it’s saved only by the spirited performances of the four stars.

Buttoned-down, conservative lawyer Paul (Robert Redford) and free-spirited Corie Bratter (Jane Fonda) spend their entire 6-day honeymoon in a luxury suite at New York’s Plaza Hotel and then move into their drab one-room apartment. Their building is filled with colorful New York characters, which upsets the lawyer but pleases the lady. The rakish bohemian Victor Velasco (Charles Boyer) lives in the attic and uses their bedroom window ledge to reach his place because he has been evicted by the landlord. Corie thinks the continental charmer would be a good match for her widowed mother, Mrs. Banks (Mildred Natwick). The foursome go to an Albanian restaurant on Staten Island and when her ulcer acts up, she ends up innocently spending the night in the comforting Victor’s pad. Meanwhile, that same night, the newlyweds get into a spat over Corie trying to loosen him up and she gets so upset she asks for a divorce. The anxiety-ridden lawyer goes on an evening drinking binge and starts running barefoot in Washington Square Park in the 30-degree weather. This causes Mom and daughter to have a heart-to-heart talk about the seriousness of marriage, and for Corie to realize that she wronged her hubby by making their marriage into a lark. The repentant Corie finds Paul and brings him home, where she tells him she doesn’t want him to change.

“Barefoot” is about as daring as a checker game in the park. It tries to make a point about conventionality versus unconventionality, but what that point is eludes me.