See that 60s font? Well, that’s a pretty good representation of Paul Mazursky’s 1969 film about the meaning of love and marriage and fidelity. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, which is way too long for a title, but also works so well because this really it all of their story, follows two couples in the fallout from the weekend “institute” that two of them attend, which seems to consist of sleep deprivation, extended eye contact, and “I feel” statements.
Basically Bob (Robert Culp) & Carol (Natalie Wood – who has the best hair in Hollywood history) decide that ‘everything is beautiful’ including infidelity as long as every one is honest about it. And for the two of them that totally works, despite a few momentary hissy fits (on Bob’s side mostly). While I love how matter-of-factly this is handled, when the two of them (again mostly Bob) tries to impose this value system onto the more uptight Ted (Elliot Gould) & Alice (Dyan Cannon) things go a little haywire. I’m sure it was groundbreaking to discuss a form of polyamory this frankly in a film in 1969, but the way that Alice is depicted as square and dumb for not understanding her friends’ choices while we’re supposed to look at her choice (to want a monogamous relationship with her husband) as slightly backward. I may be reading too much into this, but Cannon was so wonderful and I completely understood where her character was coming from.
Overall I found Ted & Alice more appealing than Bob & Carol, not because of their moral choices (by the end thankfully they all end up on a pretty even keel when it comes to that) but because they felt more timeless. Bob & Carol with their love beads and their encounter sessions just felt very much of their time. A time which because of my cultural context has always seemed a bit hokey (if also lovely) in a way. I wish that our problems could be solved by staring deeply into the eyes of people we meet on the street, but I’m just not sure that I buy it.
So the movie is a time capsule of sorts, which is fine of course, but other than Ms. Woods’s hair I do have to say that Dyan Cannon was the stand out here for me. So I’m going to use her as the next link in my chain and catch up with Heaven Can Wait, (which I don’t think I’ve seen, but I have seen the classic movie it’s based on so that’ll be fun.)
In this chain: