I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! (1968)




(director: Hy Averback; screenwriters: Paul Mazursky/Larry Tucker; cinematographer: Philip Lathrop; editor: Robert C. Jones; music: Elmer Bernstein; cast: Peter Sellers (Harold Fine), Jo Van Fleet (Mrs. Fine), Leigh Taylor-Young (Nancy), Joyce Van Patten (Joyce), David Arkin (Herbie Fine), Herb Edelman (Murray), Grady Sutton (Funeral Director), Louis Gottlieb (Guru), Salem Ludwig (Mr. Fine); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Charles H. Maguire; Warner Bros.; 1968)

“The caricatures of hippies at best will earn cheap laughs.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This supposed hip comedy about hippies has dated badly. Radio and TV man Hy Averback (“Chamber of Horrors”/”Where The Boys Are”/”Where Were You When The Lights Went Out?”) directs; it’s written by Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker. This is a comeback film for the star, Peter Sellers, who gives an inspired (not necessarily a believable or great) performance despite the silly nature of the story.

Peter Sellers plays the mild-mannered asthmatic Harold Fine, a wealthy uptight straight-laced LA lawyer who is saddled with a dull conventional life, a domineering Jewish mother (Jo Van Fleet), parking problems and a demanding fiancée named Joyce (Joyce Van Patten) who bullies him into setting a date for marriage. To escape his fate, Harold joins the flower people after meeting the pot smoking, butterfly-tattooed, hippie Nancy (Leigh Taylor-Young, her film debut). After spending the night with him in his chaste bed, as thanks she lays on him some hashish brownies (the recipe is the courtesy of Gertrude Stein’s lover Alice B. Toklas, from her cookbook). Nancy is the hippie girlfriend of Harold’s hippie kid brother (David Arkin).

Harold falls for Nancy and has a life change after getting stoned on the brownies. He suddenly becomes a groovy drop-out, turns his pad into a hippie commune, dresses in counterculture garb and grows his hair down to his shoulders. But after spouting peace-love messages and mingling with the hippies in his commune, he soon becomes disillusioned over the free love lifestyle (still possessive, he can’t stand to see the liberated Nancy with another man) and returns to his old square lifestyle. But he balks at the wedding ceremony to Joyce, and runs away to find freedom.

The caricatures of hippies at best will earn cheap laughs, while the psychedelic setting was superficially derived. But I liked it for all the wrong reasons–I couldn’t help laughing at Sellers’ embarrassingly lame hippie impersonation and the risible drug scenes.


REVIEWED ON 1/15/2010 GRADE: C+   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/