Touch of Class, A (1973): Oscar-Winning Romantic Comedy, Starring Glenda Jackson and

Largely set in London, this British comedy about an illicit affair, co-written by director Melvin Frank and Jack Rose, was a huge commercial hit in the U.S. for producer Joseph E. Levine. 

 

Critics and viewers marveled at its narrative, which for a change aimed at mature audiences rather than teenagers.

 

George Segal, then at the prime of his form, plays Steve Blackburn, an American insurance executive living happily in London with his wife Gloria (Hildegard Neil) and children.

 

One of his hobbies is to play softball in the Sunday game near the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park. It is there where he meets and get smitten by Vicki Allesio (Glenda Jackson), a divorcee with two children of her own.  Steve proposes that they have a rendez-vous in Spain, and to his surprise, she consents.

 

Making excuses to his wife, Steve takes Jackson to Malaga for what he hopes will be an idyllic vacation, full of carefree sex and fun, far from his family and colleague.  But lo and behold his friend Walter Menkes (Paul Sorvino) just happens be on the same flight.

 

From that point on, all kinds of farcical complications ensue.  Thus, back in London, Steve takes his dog for a walk as an excuse to visit Vicki, but then forgets to bring him back home.

 

An expert comedian (“The Owl and the Pussycat,” “Where’s Poppa”), Segal delivers a charming performance that benefits from strong chemistry with his leading lady.  The big surprise, indeed, is Glenda Jackson, an actress previously associated with heavy dramas, such as “Women in Love,” “The Music Lover,” and, of course, “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”  Helped by a witty script, Jackson responds with good, brittle comic timing, which some reviewers compared to Katharine Hepburn’s style in her screwball comedies opposite Cary Grant and then Spencer Tracy. 

 

Jackson later went on to make a series of commercial romantic comedies opposite her new frequent leading man, Walter Mathau.

 

The movie was shot on location in Spain, with interiors at a London studio. The softball scene at the start of the film features several real American expatriates living in London.

 

The company behind the film, the Brut cosmetics, was then headed by George Barrie, who co-wrote the Oscar-nominated song, “All That Love Went to Waste,” as well as other tunes.

 

One of the few comedies in the 1970s to be nominated for Best Picture, “Touch of Class” was also recognized for Jackson’s acting, though helmer Melvin Frank failed to receive a nod from his colleagues at the Directors Branch.  It is likely that his spot was taken by Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, recognized for “Cries and Whispers,” or Italian helmer Bernardo Bertolucci for his English-speaking film, “Last Tango in Paris,” starring Marlon Brando.

 

Oscar Nominations: 5

 

Picture, produced by Melvin Frank

Actress: Glenda Jackson

Story and Screenplay (Adapted): Melvin Frank and Jack Rose

Song: “All That Love Went to Waste,” music by George Barrie, lyrics by Sammy Cahn

Original Dramatic Score: John Cameron

 

Oscar Awards: 1

 

Actress

 

Oscar Context:

 

In 1973, the big Oscar winner was “The Sting,” which won 7 out of its 10 awards, including Picture, Director, Screenplay for David Ward, and other Oscars.  “A Touch of Class” competed for the top award with a diverse group of films: George Lucas’ “American Graffiti,” Ingmar Bergman’s Swedish-language drama. “Cries and Whispers,” and William Friedkin’s special-effects horror saga, “The Exorcist.”

 

Glenda Jackson received her Second Best Actress in three years; the first was in 1970 for “Women in Love.”

 

The winner of Best Song were Marvin Hamlisch and Marilyn and Alan Bergman for the title tune of the romantic melodrama, “The Way We Were,” a film that also won Hamlisch the Score Oscar.

 

Cast

Steve Blackburn (George Segal)

Vicki Allessio (Glenda Jackson)

Walter Menkes (Paul Sorvino)

Gloria Blackburn (Hildehard Neil)

Wendell Thompson (Cec Linder)

Patty Menkes (K. Callan)

Martha Thompson (Mary Barclay)

Cecil (Michael Elwyn)

Night Hotel Manager (Nadim Sawatha)

Derek (Ian Thompson)

 

Credits

Avco Embassy (UK): Brut Production 

Produced and directed by Melvin Frank

Screenplay: Melvin Frank and Jack Rose

Camera: Austin Dempster

Editor: Bill Butler

Music: John Cameron

Production design: Terrence Marsh

 

Running time: 105 Minutes