“They make us unhappy, we make them unhappy… They make us jealous, we make them jealous!”
In the 1930s, a millionaire (Burt Reynolds) falls for a singer named Kitty (Madeleine Kahn), but is snatched away by Kitty’s indigent-heiress friend, Brooke (Cybill Shepherd). Meanwhile, a suave Italian gambler named Johnny Spanish (Duilio Del Prete) is in love with Brooke, Kitty is in love with Johnny, and Reynolds longs for his original love, Kitty.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Burt Reynolds Films
- Cybill Shepherd Films
- Depression Era
- Love Triangle
- Peter Bogdanovich Films
- Romantic Comedy
Peter Bogdanovich’s much-maligned Cole Porter musical — infamously shot with his actors singing live rather than lip-syncing — is a surprisingly enjoyable, albeit innocuous, treat. Most of the critical complaints come from those who argue that Cybill Shepherd and Burt Reynolds are woefully miscast, and can’t carry a tune in a bucket — but this isn’t quite true. While Shepherd is no Marnie Nixon (and it IS hard to believe she actually released an album of Porter songs the year before), she has a sweet, warbling voice which only occasionally lacks the necessary punch. Reynolds, for his part, is never asked to do any major singing, and manages to pull off his role with characteristic macho flare. (If we really want to start nitpicking actors in musicals who couldn’t sing, why isn’t Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady torn to shreds?). Ironically, while Madeleine Kahn is a marvelous comedic actress, her unusual voice seems least suited for this type of musical. It’s relative-unknown Duilio Del Prete who most evokes what we think of when we remember 1930s musicals — he’s perfectly cast here, and sings very nicely.
Music aside, the plot of At Long Last Love is a clever, suitably frothy romantic comedy, one which impressively integrates the lyrics from many of Porter’s best songs into a seamless narrative. Apart from its oddly inconclusive ending, there’s not much to complain about story-wise here. And visually, the film is quite a treat, with sumptuous art deco sets and beautiful gowns. Perhaps I’m missing something — or perhaps time has been incredibly kind to Bogdanovich’s vision — but I don’t get this film’s negative rap.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Eileen Brennan and John Hillerman singing “But In the Morning, No”
- Gorgeous art deco set designs
- Reynolds, Shepherd, Kahn, and Del Prete interrupting a ball by singing “Well, Did You Evah!”
- Clever integration of Porter’s songs into a romantic comedy narrative
Yes, simply for its notoriety — but chances are you’ll enjoy it a lot more than you think. Listed as a camp classic in the back of Peary’s book.