“10” scored a ’15’ at the 1979 box office, reaping fifteen times its $5,500,000 cost ($74,800,000, the year’s 8th most-seen release and #1 comedy). The male menopause mirth drew director-writer Blake Edwards the best reviews he’d had in fifteen years, briefly made a leading man draw out of unlikely Dudley Moore, gave co-star/Edwards wife Julie Andrews a welcome back after several career-blunting debacles, and offered supporting showcases for likable newcomers Dee Wallace and Brian Dennehy. Edwards favorite collaborator, Henry Mancini, pulled down two more Oscar nominations, for his Music Score and the Song “It’s Easy To Say”, and the inclusion of “Bolero” turned a 51-year-old classical piece into a pop hit. Last, maybe not best (if you mull the overall History of Talent), but hardly least (if you ponder fantasy sex), was the selection of 23-year-old Bo Derek as the eye candy title tease. Vacancy found a goddess. *
Composer ‘George Webber’ (Moore, 43) turns 42 with the blues. Despite fame and fortune, a lovely singer-actress girlfriend in ‘Samantha Taylor’ (Andrews, 43), and a host of Malibu-settled friends, George is stuck with the reality that youth is gone with the Santa Ana wind. Happenstance catching a peek at a drop-dead-and-die-twice bride, he indulges in hapless obsession and finds out her name (Derek is ‘Jenny’) and follows the newlywed to a resort in Mexico, where fate intervenes to arrange a meeting. Love lessons lie in the learning curve/s.
With occasional offbeat departures (Days Of Wine and Roses, Wild Rovers), Blake Edwards worked with varying success in two fields, slapstick farce and bitter-flavored ‘sophistication’. The 122 minutes of “10” cross-blend both, the former succeeding enough to put up with the latter. Since it’s in the main a quite funny offering, we’ll get the diss out of the way first. The sophisticate patina wears thin (starting way back with the smug whimsy of Breakfast At Tiffany’s), coming off as shallow faux profundity from characters who exist in pampered elegance: it’s a stretch to give George and his tony crowd much sympathy over the travail it must be to drive your own Rolls from Bel Air to Malibu between cocktails at swanky in-spots staffed by models. A famous, rich, connected guy in L.A. has an unsatisfying sex life? My tears may short-out the keyboard.
Thankfully, Edwards stronger suit, staging gags and coaxing performances, makes “10” a solid 8.5 for laughs. After George Segal famously walked off in a snit because he thought Edwards was boosting Andrews at his expense, the plum role of goof-prone George fell into the sure hands of gifted farceur Moore, who tackles his first lead with hilarious physical skill. Andrews plays calm straight-woman counterpoint, fresh faces Dennehy (as a laid-back bartender) and Wallace (a frustrated lost soul) bring texture, and veteran character actor Max Showalter is a delight as an enthusiastic priest who harbors iffy musical dreams. Derek comfortably suits the dream vision, and wisely wasn’t challenged with enough dialogue chores to spoil the mood.
“Whenever Mrs. Kissel breaks wind, we beat the dog.”
With Robert Webber (even when playing a “nice” guy, he’s hard to like), Sam J. Jones (debut), James Noble, Deborah Rush, Don Calfa, John Hancock and Annette Haven (I thought you looked familiar…).
* “10” was the most popular comedy of 1979. In order of attendance, it was followed by The Jerk, The Main Event, The Muppet Movie, The In-Laws, Love At First Bite, Meatballs, Manhattan, Starting Over, 1941, Being There, Life Of Brian, The Wanderers, and assorted schlock we won’t waste finger muscles on.
Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” takes 17 minutes to arrive at
someone’s its climax. In the movie, Edwards/Mancini go for a five-minute quickie, while Mancini’s cut on (dearly bygone) 45 singles boinked just 3 minutes, 17 seconds (the Mile-High Club hummed version). Royalties to the Ravel estate ran into the millions. The wild story behind the unraveled Ravel payday is worth its own movie.
As for beauteous Bo, her asking price boomed in two years from $35,000 to $1,000,000 for Tarzan the Ape Man: alas, any ability to effectively emote failed to trace the trajectory. For “10” all she needed to project, beyond a beguiling stare and curves that could cure leprosy, was convincing vapidity: a true typecasting triumph.