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SMILE (director: Michael Ritchie; screenwriters: Jerry Belson; cinematographer: Conrad Hall; editor: Richard Harris; music: Charles Chaplin, LeRoy Holmes, Daniel Orsborn, Will Schaefer; cast: Bruce Dern (Big Bob Freelander), Barbara Feldon (Brenda), Michael Kidd (Tommy French), Geoffrey Lewis (Wilson Shears), Nicholas Pryor (Andy DiCarlo), Dick McGarvin (Ted Farley), Joan Prather (Robin), Eric Shea (“Little Bob” Freelander), George Skaff (Doctor Malvert), Annette O’Toole (contestant), Melanie Griffith (contestant); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Michael Ritchie; UA; 1975)
Goes easy on everyone it skewers.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Michael Ritchie(“Downhill Racer”/”Prime Cut”/”The Candidate”) helms a scalding satire on beauty contests and the emptiness of American pop culture. In the end it goes easy on everyone it skewers. It’s cleverly written by Jerry Belson.

The setting is in the small town of Santa Rosa, California. The town annually sponsors a Young Miss America pageant for high school girls across the state. It’s supervised by Brenda DiCarlo (Barbara Feldon), a former pageant winner, now a middle-aged woman in a loveless marriage to the disgruntled alcoholic, the neglected hubby, Andy (Nicholas Pryor). For Brenda, this pageant is the most important thing in her life.

Over twenty teenage contestants gather in Santa Rosa for the three-day event, and go through rehearsals under the direction of the cynical Hollywood choreographer Tommy French (Michael Kidd). The chief judge is the upbeat car salesman, Big Bob Freelander (Bruce Dern). Geoffrey Lewis is a hoot as the pageant president. Among the hopeful contestants are Annette O’Toole and Melanie Griffith.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”