Goodbye Girl, The (1977): Richard Dreyfuss Oscar Performance in Neil Simon Comedy

Surprisingly, this mediocre Neil Simon comedy received a Best Picture nomination in 1977, including Original Screenplay. This was Herbert Ross’ greatest year as a director, for his other film, the melodrama “The Turning Point,” also received Best Picture and other nominations.

Stagy, literal, and utterly predictable, “The Goodbye Girl” is about a ditzy woman and single mom, played by Marsha Mason, a former dancer who’s trying to raise responsibly her young, precocious girl (Quinn Cummings). Things change when a flamboyant actor (Richard Dreyfuss) ends up sharing their apartment due to a mix-up about the lease. Guess what happens

The script is typically Simoneque, shallow, theatrical, and all one-liners, with the characters/actors trying not to communicate but to outshine each other with wisecracks. To brighten things up, Simon has Dreyfuss perform Richard III as a stereotypically swishy gay man, with Marsha and her daughter as a captive and appreciate audience.

The joy of seeing a comedy being nominated for Best Picture by Oscar voters who usually favor big historical epics and serious problem-dramas is tarnished by the mediocrity of this fare, which is barely one notch above TV sitcoms in writing, direction, and acting. No wonder Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” swept the Oscars that year.

Oscar Nominations: 5

Picture, produced by Ray Stark
Screenplay (Original): Neil Simon
Actor: Richard Dreyfuss
Actress: Marsha Mason
Supporting Actress: Quinn Cummings

Oscar Awards: 1


Oscar Context

In 1977, “The Goodbye Girl” competed for the Best Picture Oscar with “Annie Hall,” which won Best Picture, Screenplay, and Actress, Fred Zinnemman’s period melodrama “Julia,” the sci-fi “Star Wars,” and the women’s melodrama “The Turning Point.”

The winner of the Supporting Actress Oscar was Vanessa Redgrave for “Julia.”


MGM/Warner (Ray Stark Productions)