California Suite (1978): Herbert Ross Directs Neil Simon’s Farce, Starring Maggie Smith in an Oscar Performance

The 1978 Neil Simon farce, “California Suite,” directed by Herbert Ross, is composed of four unrelated stories, all taking place at the Beverly Hills Hotel; it’s sort of “Grand Hotel” for our times.

Michael Caine and Maggie Smith portray a British actress, Diana Barnes, and her antique-dealer husband who finally face some hard interpersonal truths (he’s bisexual), when they arrive from London to attend the Academy Award ceremonies.

As the hard-drinking, hard-talking actress, Maggie Smith won a second (Supporting) Oscar for playing a disenchanted British actress, who complains that “acting doesn’t win Oscars; what I need is a dying father.”

Jane Fonda and Alan Alda play a divorcing couple in the most melodramatic tale of the four.

The third, unfunny act involves Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor play doctors whose vacation turns into a disaster.

Elain May plays a jealous wife who unexpectedly discovers hubby Walter Matthau with a prostitute.

Oscar Nominations: 3

Supporting Actress: Maggie Smith

Screenplay (Adapted): Neil Simon

Art Direction-Set Decoration: Albert Brenner; Marvin March

Oscar Awards: 1

Supporting Actress

Oscar Context:

Oliver Stone won the Screenplay Oscar for the thriller, “Midnight Express.”  The Art Direction award went to Warren Beatty’s comedy, “Heaven Can Wait.”