What’s New Pussycat? (1965): Clive Donner’s Comedy, Starring Woody Allen, Peter O’Toole, Romy Schneider

At his prime, from his Oscar-winning film “Annie Hall” in 1977 to “Hannah and Her Sisters,” which was nominated for the 1986 Best Picture and won Original Screenplay Oscar, Woody Allen was not only the most famous Jewish director but the most famous and most acclaimed American filmmaker, based on a strong cycle of serio-comedies.

Only one of a handful American directors who justify the label of “auteur,” Allen has enjoyed complete artistic control over his work, an enviable condition first forged with Orion Pictures in the early 1980s and then with United Artists and other studios.

Regardless of their specific genre (comedies, dramas, melodramas), most of Allen’s films are highly personal, containing many allusions to his private life as well as to his notions of art, love, philosophy, and religion.

But for a whole decade, from the late 1960s to “Annie Hall,” Allen specialized in making funny, broad, often shapeless comedies that lacked the structure, coherence and discipline of his later work.
After a semester at NYU, where he failed a film course, Allen dropped out. He began his career as a gag writer for “The Tonight Show,” as well as providing material for TV personalities like Ed Sullivan, Sid Caesar, and Art Carney.
In 1961, Allen began to perform his own material, which relied on and flaunted his notorious rebellious and guilt-ridden Jewish urban mentality. As a result, he became quite successful as a figure on the Greenwich Village club circuit, as well as on college campuses and on records, producing some popular albums.
In 1965, Woody Allen made his feature film acting and writing debut in the psychiatric farce, What’s New Pussycat? directed by Clive Donner, and starring Peter O’Toole and other high-caliber thesps, such as Peter Sellers and the beautiful Romy Schneider, the eccentric Capucine, and the sexy Ursula Undress.
O’Toole, expanding is range after a stunning performance in the 1962 Oscar-winner “Lawrence of Arabia,” plays a fashion magazine editor, who consults an important psychiatrist (Peter Sellers) about his “unhealthy” vulnerability to girls who pursue him. Jealous and obsessed, the psychiatrist goes berserk, trying to find the secrets of his patient’s success for his own good.
Originally, Woody Allen wrote the part of the psychiatrist for himself, but because he was not yet a bankable name, it was offered to Peter Sellers (“Dr. Strangelove”).
Allen later said that he had modeled the part of Peter O’Toole on the stud star Warren Beatty, who was very hot at the time.
Set in Paris, the production is suitably lavish, and there’s much to look at, not least three beautiful and eccentric comediennes, played by the suave European actresses Romy Schneider and Capucine, as well as our very own American Paula Prentiss, who at one point reads solemnly a poem titled “Ode to a Pacifist Junkie.” 
You do want such a farce to be crazier, funnier, and more frantic than it is, an in moments it is, but not enough. As director, Donner has problems with tone and pacing.
Oscar Nominations: 1
Song: What’s New Pussycat?” music by Burt Bacharach, lyrics by Hal David.
Oscar Awards: None
The Best Song Oscar went to “The Shadow of Your Smile,” by Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster, from Minnelli’s star-driven melodrama, “The Sandpiper.”