Ritz, The (1976)

Ritz, The (1976)

“For someone who’s never been in a place like this, you’re certainly getting around!”

A man (Jack Weston) hides away in a gay bath house when his mafia-involved brother-in-law (Jerry Stiller) puts a hit out on him.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Comedy
  • Homosexuality
  • Mafia
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Play Adaptation
  • Richard Lester Films
  • Rita Moreno Films
  • Treat Williams Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that while “this adaptation of Terrence McNally’s broad bath-house farce runs out of steam near the end, the frenetic performances and direction by Richard Lester make it a delight,” and he refers to it as a “much underrated comedy.” The storyline focuses on Weston meeting “a wild assortment of gays on the sexual prowl” at a New York bath house — including a diminutive “chubby chaser” (Paul B. Price) determined to pounce on Weston:

… and F. Murray Abraham (giving the film’s most memorable performance) as a man mostly hoping to get lucky but also happy to lend Weston a hand once he learns what’s going on.

Peary points out that “in a rare lead, Weston is splendid, especially in his scenes with marvelous Rita Moreno, whose talentless Googie Gomez performs in the bath’s nightclub.” (Moreno won a Tony for her performance of the role on Broadway, which she says was written for her after she played the character at a party thrown by James Coco.)

Peary asserts that while “Moreno steals the film,” he finds “it impossible not to laugh every time detective Treat Williams uses a ridiculous, high-pitched voice. (I disagree, and find this unfunny character trait simply distracting.) Overall, this is a rare film where I caught myself wondering exactly how much I “could” or should laugh; knowing it was written by a gay man helps, though Weston’s transphobia (he’s been misinformed that Moreno’s character is a man) is uncomfortable. Ultimately, as with all comedies, viewers will have to decide for themselves whether this is their cup of tea or not.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Jack Weston as Gaetano Proclo
  • F. Murray Abraham as Chris

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look.


One thought on “Ritz, The (1976)

  1. (Rewatch (9/30/20). Not must-see.

    In memory, the Broadway version of McNally’s script was among the funniest productions I’ve seen. But the film version… not so much. On Broadway, it was particularly well-directed by Robert Drivas. The production exploited the material for its French farce-like potential. I remember it as being lightning-paced (with, for example, countless ins-and-outs to/from the steam room; heavy steam cascading out each time the doors opened). As the comic saying goes, ‘Faster is funnier.’, and that show *flew*.

    By comparison, Lester’s film direction is… well, uninspired. The jokes slow down; the result is mostly forced humor. McNally was no Neil Simon to begin with. No one here comes off all that well – not even Moreno (who was very funny on Broadway and won a Tony for her performance, deservedly).

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