Ritz, The (1976): Lester’s Attempt at Gay Farce, Starring Jack Weston and Rita Moreno

One of Richard Lester’s worst films, The Ritz is a stale gay farce based on the play of the same title by Terrence McNally.

Actress Rita Moreno, who had won a Tony Award for her performance as Googie Gomez in the 1975 Broadway production, reprises her role.

Others of the original cast, such as Jack Weston, Jerry Stiller, and F. Murray Abraham, also repeat their onstage roles in the film version. Also in the cast were Kaye Ballard and Treat Williams.

In a gay bathhouse in Manhattan, a heterosexual Cleveland businessman Gaetano Proclo has taken refuge from his homicidal mobster brother-in-law, Carmine Vespucci.

In the bathhouse, Gaetano stumbles across an assortment of oddball characters, including a rabid chubby chaser, go-go boys, a squeaky-voiced detective, and Googie Gomez, a Puerto Rican entertainer with visions of Broadway glory who mistakes him for a famous producer and whom he mistakes for a man in drag.

Further complications occur, when Gaetano’s wife Vivian tracks him down and begins to doubt his real sexual orientation.

The film’s humor seems forced, and most of the slapstick scenes fall flat. There is no affinity between Lester and the material, and his approach is completely from the outside.

Cast

Jack Weston as Gaetano Proclo
Rita Moreno as Googie Gomez
Jerry Stiller as Carmine Vespucci
Kaye Ballard as Vivian Proclo
F. Murray Abraham as Chris
Paul B. Price as Claude Perkins
Treat Williams as Michael Brick
John Everson as Tiger
Christopher J. Brown as Duff
Dave King as Abe Lefkowitz
Bessie Love as Maurine