Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is he Saying Those Terrible Things?

At the height of his popularity, after scoring big in the Oscar-winning “Midnight Cowboy,” Dustin Hoffman took on a risky role in an unusual film directed by Ulu (Actors Studio) Grosbard, “Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He saying Those Terrible Things About Me?

Hoffman plays Georgie Soloway, a successful singer songwriter popular music.  Highly prolific, just in the last year, he has written over 50 hit songs. But he begins to develop paranoid delusions: This kind of creative output worries him, as he is reaching middle-age.  Specifically, will he will be able to sustain such productivity for a long time.

Like other artists and performers, Soloway has his share of neurotic impulses, which soon cross the “normal” and “natural” into the unreasonable and dangerous.  He now believes that a man named Harry Kellerman sabotaged each of his previous relationships, and he is worried about his current one with Alison (Barbara Harris), who’s also a singer.

To that extent, Soloway seeks to no avail the help of his psychiatrist (Jack Warden). He then tries to get comfort from his business associates (Dom De Luise and Gabriel Dell), but they prove ineffectual and even clueless.

As a last resort, he turns to his parents, mother (Betty Walker) and father (David Burns), only to realize that they have problems of their own; his father is dying.

At the time, Grosbard’s film, based on playwright Herb Gardner’s scenario, was dismissed by most critics, who simply didn’t find it funny or witty enough.  Sharply uneven in the writing, as a satire, “Harry Keller” has problems with establishing the right tone, and often feels too eccentric for its own good, as in the scene in which Soloway takes to the air in his private jet.

That said, the great comedienne Barbara Harris, still bet known for her stage work, gives an hilarious performance as Hoffman’s aspiring but terrible singer, which garnered her her first and only Oscar nomination (in the supporting league).

Oscar Nominations: 1

Supporting Actress: Barbara Harris

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Supporting Actress Oscar was Cloris Leachman for “The last Picture Show” in a context that included Ann-Margret in “Carnal Knowledge,” Ellen Burstyn in “The last Picture Show,” and Margaret Leighton in “The Go-Between.”

End Note

Ulu Grosbard and Dustin Hoffman enjoyed a much more fruitful collaboration in “Straight Time.”

Oscar Trivia

“Harry Kellerman” is considered to be the film with the longest title (in terms of words to be ever nominated for an Oscar.