I was driving through Beverly Hills the other day and ran into the legendary Actor/Director Richard Benjamin – which reminded me of one of the greatest – and most obscure – movies of all time!
“Who did this room? Parker Brothers?”
If you haven’t heard of “The Last Of Sheila”, you are missing out on one of the great mysteries of the 70’s – and a hilarious look at Hollywood with a great Hollywood cast!
“Psycho” Meets Sondheim!
“The Last Of Sheila” is a great “Hollywood Insider” whodunnit – and it was written by two consummate Hollywood players! The plot is based on murder-mystery party games that co-authors and puzzle enthusiasts Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim wrote and performed in their homes.
Of course, Tony Perkins became a star through his legendary performance as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film “Psycho.”
Their love of puzzles and mysteries led to a classic, and criminally overlooked 70’s film “the Last Of Sheila.”
The Last of Sheila!
I’ll say this up front: this is one of my favorite films of all time. It’s a classic “whodunnit”, as I said, and it was written by Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim. Here is the plot: Movie Producer James Coburn invites a Director, Writer, Starlet, Agent, and a hanger on or two to spend a week on his yacht off the French Riviera. Here is the trailer:
Look At This Cast!
One of the great things about this film is the cast – a “who’s who” of Hollywood in the early 70’s…such as James Mason, who plays a washed-up Director desperate to get back behind a camera – Mason as you know was brilliant in Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita”…
James Coburn plays the game-loving Hollywood Producer who was married to the actress Sheila – and in mourning her death, he decides to invite his Hollywood “friends” over to his yacht for a “game”…
“The Last Of Sheila” is a great murder-mystery, and I won’t share more plot details to avoid giving anything away. But the cast clearly is having a ball making fun of real life Hollywood figures. Dyan Cannon plays a powerful Agent – in real life, Cannon was married to Cary Grant in the 60’s – and she relishes her role here – if you’ve ever heard of the legendary Super Agent Sue Mengers, wait until you see Dyan Cannon’s take on her…
Raquel Welch was one of the biggest stars of that time – and she brings all of her sex symbol status to her role as the starlet who needs constant love and affection…
Raquel has rarely been better than she is here – and her scene with Dyan Cannon is a delicious tongue in cheek poke at Hollywood.
Cannon: [while suntanning] “I have to do 25 minutes on my stomach.
Raquel: To make up for the 25 minutes you spent on your back last night?”
Richard Benjamin plays the has-been screenwriter who needs a job – so he spends far too much time sucking up to James Coburn…and he has a few secrets of his own as well…
More on Benjamin in a moment, but first, grab your suntan lotion, time to head to the French Riviera!
Welcome To Cannes!
The entire “Last Of Sheila” film takes place along the French Riviera, including great locations off the coast of Cannes…
Stormy Weather Shoot!
Here is some great trivia, courtesy of IMDB: “Shooting the monastery sequence just off Cannes proved to be troublesome for Raquel Welch. Gale force winds and rain disrupted the night shoot, and Welch was reluctant to leave her Venice hotel for fear of getting stuck in the storm. ”
“A Bit Of A Splodge!”
Raquel wasn’t a fan of the weather conditions, but she hung in there like a pro.
“This glamorous picture in the wonderful sunny Cote d’Azur has turned out to be a bit of a splodge,” Welch told a journalist. “This is not my idea of an enjoyable evening, but they’re paying you the money. I just go ahead and do it and don’t complain.”
Kudos Director Herbert Ross!
Herbert Ross directed “Sheila”, and this legendary Director clearly let the cast run with this great material. Herbert Ross was a brilliant Director – along with “Sheila” he directed the Oscar nominated “The Goodbye Girl”, “The Turning Point” and he did “Footloose” too!
There’s a funny bit in the film when James Coburn derisively refers to Tommy’s latest film as “A Fistful of Lasagna”, an obvious dig at spaghetti westerns. But, the same year Coburn appeared in “Sheila”, he starred in legendary Director Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western “A Fistful of Dynamite”!
Richard Benjamin Rules!
And back to Richard Benjamin: along with “Sheila”, he also starred in one of the most brilliant anti-war films ever made – “Catch-22!”
Read all about this provocative film by clicking here:
Benjamin has starred in a number of great films, including “Goodbye Columbus” and the classic sci-fi movie “Westworld.”
You can read all about this classic sci-fi, which JJ Abrams has announced his company will be remaking, by clicking on here:
Benjamin is also a great Director, and for me his greatest accomplishment was “My Favorite Year” – an affectionate look at the early days of live television – in fact, it is one of my favorite films of all time!
Read all about this classic comedy by clicking here:
“The Last of Sheila” is a great mystery, an affectionate send up of Hollywood, an Actor’s showcase and a beautifully made mystery – check it out and let me know what you think!
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