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ENTER LAUGHING (director/writer: Carl Reiner; screenwriters: Joseph Stein/from the play by Joseph Stein/from the novel by Carl Reiner; cinematographer: Joseph Biroc; editor: Charles Nelson; music: Quincy Jones; cast: Reni Santoni (David Kolowitz), Nancy Kovack (Linda, Miss B), Janet Margolin (Wanda), Jose Ferrer (Harrison Marlowe), Elaine May (Angela Marlowe), Michael J. Pollard (Marvin), Shelley Winters (Emma Kolowitz), David Opatoshu (Morris Kolowitz), Jack Gilford (Mr. Foreman), Don Rickles (Harry Hamburger), Richard Deacon (Pike), Rob Reiner (Clark Baxter), Danny Stein (Spencer Reynolds); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Joseph Stein/Carl Reiner; Columbia Pictures; 1967)
Strident coming of age comedy based on Carl Reiner’s semi-autobiographical novel.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Strident coming of age comedy based on Carl Reiner’s semi-autobiographical novel. The Broadway play was directed by Joseph Stein, who co-writes the screenplay with Reiner. It’s unevenly directed by Carl Reiner(“Where’s Poppa?”/”Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”/”All of Me”), in his directorial debut, who can’t get it funny the way it was in the novel and on Broadway and must settle for it being just warm and fuzzy. The miscast Reni Santoni, an unknown Puerto Rican actor, is too stiff for the charismatic stage-struck leading role and weighs the film down with his blandness and false ring of being Jewish. The film is rescued by the engaging flamboyant character performances of Jose Ferrer and the funny neurotic man-hungry actress performance of Elaine May. Michael J. Pollard plays the hero’s best friend and though he doesn’t have any great lines, is a hoot just to look at.

It’s set in 1938. David Kolowitz (Reni Santoni) is a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx, who is a recent graduate of James Monroe High School and works as a machine shop helper/delivery boy in Mr. Foreman (Jack Gilford) Manhattan shop. The kid lives at home with his nagging mom Emma Kolowitz (Shelley Winters) and his conciliatory dress factory worker father Morris (David Opatoshu). Both parents dearly love the kid but pressure him to be a druggist and oppose his aspirations to be an actor.

David answers a newspaper ad to audition for a part in a Broadway play and is surprisingly hired as the leading man despite being terrible. The has-been struggling gin-guzzling play director/producer, Harrison Marlowe (Jose Ferrer), on the insistence of his leading lady daughter Angela (Elaine May), who wants him for the part because he’s cute. David is bewildered when told he has to pay Marlowe $5 a week to get the role, but is encouraged to give showbiz a shot by his nice Jewish girlfriend Wanda (Janet Margolin). Wanda soon is jealous of both Angela and the sexy Miss B (Nancy Kovack), the secretary to Harry Hamburger (Don Rickles), with whom David flirts with when making deliveries.

Shot on location, on a low-budget, in just 32-days, the ethnic comedy makes for passable entertainment that disappoints because it could have been better with a more convincing lead and if some of the schmaltz acting from the supporting cast was trimmed.

REVIEWED ON 10/17/2013 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”