Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Walter Matthau anthology

I've commented on several anthology movies, most of them made by Fox in the early 1950s. A slightly different idea -- having the same actor play in a series of one-act plays -- can be seen in Plaza Suite, which is airing this afternoon at 4:00 PM ET on TCM.

In this case, the actor in question is Walter Matthau, who appears in three different stories all set in the same suite at New York City's fabulous (at least by 1971 standards) Plaza Hotel. The first story involves Matthau as a man celebrating his 24th wedding anniversary with his wife (Maureen Stapleton) the same way they've celebrated it every year: by spending the night at the same suite in the Plaza Hotel. The only problem is, the two find out that their marriage is beginning to hit a rough patch.

Second is Matthau as a movie producer who is a notorious womanizer and who, back in New York, remembers an old flame (Barbara Harris) whom he'd like to get close with again. The problem this time is that she's married with children and living in New Jersey -- and she definitely doesn't want anything more than just a conversation and maybe a drink with him.

Finally, we have Matthau as a father who's about to give away his bride at her wedding. Unfortunately for him, though, is that thd beautiful bride has gotten cold feet and locked herself in the bathroom. The wedding is supposed to be in the ballroom downstairs NOW! and don't you know that renting the ballroom is costing daddy serious money? Poor Matthau isn't helped by the fact that his wife (Lee Grant) almost seems to be taking the daughter's side.

Plaza Suite uses very little in the way of sets besides the one suite, so in many ways it looks like a filmed stage play, which is of course what it is, having been based on a Broadway play by Neil Simon from a few years earlier. That fact, however, doesn't take away from the movie, as all three roles fit Matthau quite well. That, and the material is going to be funny regardless of whether it's on a stage or on screen. The movie has also made its way to DVD.

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