Night They Raided Minsky’s, The (1968)

“We know you are a real sophisticated audience — and what you are about to see is a real mature story.”

Synopsis:
A naive young Amish woman (Britt Ekland) with dreams of becoming a dancer arrives at Minsky’s Burlesque Theatre in New York City, and quickly wins the hearts of comedic partners Norman Wisdom and Jason Robards. Meanwhile, Robards and the club’s owner (Elliott Gould) concoct a sure-fire plan to foil a group of do-gooders intending to raid the club that night.

Genres:

Review:
This bawdy historical comedy — directed by William Friedkin — purports to tell the story of the first ever (unintentional) striptease, but is really more concerned with simply honoring and celebrating the infectious joys of burlesque theater. Through ample exposure to ribald skits and songs on stage, one gets a sense of what audience members (primarily men, though women were present as well) were there to enjoy. Friedkin moves the story along at a brisk pace (in nearly real time), neatly juxtaposing the night’s early acts with the converging tales of an innocent Amish girl (Ekland is well-cast) who wants nothing more than to break into show business, and an upcoming raid on the club by local do-gooders. Along the way, Ekland becomes fodder for the romantic interests of both womanizing Jason Robards and his more sincere partner, Norman Wisdom; while we feel concern for her extreme naivete, she shows surprising reserves of chutzpah, and makes for an appealing heroine.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Norman Wisdom as Chick Williams
    NTRM Wisdom
  • Jason Robards as Raymond Paine
    NTRM Robards
  • Britt Ekland as Rachel Schpitendavel
    NTRM Ekland
  • Harry Andrews as Ekland’s stern Amish father
    NTRM Andrews
  • An exuberant paean to the bygone days of vaudeville burlesque
    NTRM Risque
  • Many enjoyable skits and songs
    NTRM Skit
  • An effective depiction of audience reaction to even the mildest of sexual suggestion
    NTRM Reaction

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.

Links:

One Response to “Night They Raided Minsky’s, The (1968)”

  1. A film this seamlessly delightful – which seems to improve on repeat viewings – has got to be must-see.

    Ingredients:
    – tight, clever script (always a great way to start!) by Arnold Schulman, Sidney Michaels and Norman Lear
    – sharp, solid direction by Friedkin (what unusual versatility in his early career)
    – inspired casting: no one in the large, main cast is bad (my fave possibly being Joseph Wiseman and his delivery: i.e., when he describes his son Elliott Gould: “You see this chair? Tell it to dance. See if it listens.”)
    – effective editing by Ralph Rosenblum and Pablo Ferro (that opening sequence – with titles – alone!)
    – memorable score by Strouse/Adams (is this one of the best non-musical musicals?)
    – inventive cinematography by Andrew Laszlo
    – effective, often wonderfully nostalgic production design by Jean and William Eckart
    – hilariously realized costume design by Anna Hill Johnstone
    – spot-on choreography by Danny Daniels

    Robards and Wisdom work wonderfully together, but the true breakthrough here comes from Britt Ekland, giving a marvelously natural performance as Rachel. (One can note her interesting turns in ‘After the Fox’ and ‘The Wicker Man’, but it’s an unfortunately spotty career.)

    Do I have a soft spot for showgirls/strippers? Perhaps. They really are a unique bunch. But this is one heck of an entertaining pic – and still relatively undiscovered by ffs.

    cf: ‘Gypsy’ (esp. for comparing the closing sequences)

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