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California Suite (1978)

Four groups of visitors stay at the swanky Beverly Hills Hotel and are forced to deal with problems ranging from a runaway daughter to which outfit to wear to the Academy Awards ceremony.

Neil Simon is at his most devilish and rapier-witted with this adaptation of his hit Broadway comedy, a classy confection of oddball vignettes.

The cast is a superior blend of seasoned comic performers and acting heavyweights, all having a ball with Simon’s quick-fire one-liners.


Diana Barrie (Maggie Smith) is an actress in town to receive her Oscar. Her antique dealer husband, Sidney Cochran (Michael Caine), turns out to be bisexual.

Marvin (Walter Matthau) and Millie (Elaine May) Michaels are a faithfully married couple who fall foul of the good intentions of Marvin’s brother – he leaves a sexy blonde naked in Marvin’s bed as a present, just before his wife arrives.

Alan Alda, soaring high after his success in the TV series M*A*S*H, is teamed with Jane Fonda as screenwriter Bill Warren and his witty, wisecracking ex-wife Hannah, who have an important decision to make about their teenage daughter.

Rounding up the octet are two Chicago doctors (Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor) on holiday with their wives, finding out that it isn’t always a good idea to travel together.

The stand-out turns are from Matthau and May, whose frantically unbalanced antics almost take the movie into the surreal, and Maggie Smith, who deservedly won the best-supporting-actress Oscar for her performance.

There is substance to counteract the froth, particularly in Jane Fonda’s moving performance.

Bill Warren
Alan Alda
Sidney Cochran
Michael Caine
Dr Willis Panama
Bill Cosby
Hannah Warren
Jane Fonda
Marvin Michaels
Walter Matthau
Millie Michaels
Elaine May
Dr Chauncey Gump
Richard Pryor
Diana Barrie
Maggie Smith

Herbert Ross