A Touch Of Class (1973)

Director: Melvin Frank

Starring: George Segal, Glenda Jackson, Paul Sorvino, K. Callan, Cec Linder

Written by: Melvin Frank and Jack Rose

Running Time: 106 mins

Original Cert: AA

Original US Release: 20th June 1973

There’s something about this now classic romantic comedy that doesn’t quite sit well. It’s very commendable and in places very funny but it has to do with the characters and how they react to the situation they find themselves. Not saying I didn’t like it, just spent my time questioning.

Steve Blackburn is an American insurance agent living and working in London. He has an adoring wife and children and lives the high life. Then he meets feisty fashion designer, Vicki Allessio. She is a single mother running her own business with a no-nonsense attitude. Immediately the pair have an attraction and Steve books for them to spend a weekend away in Spain. What they don’t expect is Steve’s friend, Walter Menkes, to be staying in the same area at the same time. This puts strain on the start of their affair.

We all know the history behind the casting of Glenda Jackson. Appearing on The Morecombe and Wise Show, director Melvin Frank immediately wanted her to play Vicki. Having never done light comedy but known for heavy drama, having won an Oscar for Women In Love and nominated for the powerful Sunday, Bloody Sunday, to see the dame of British theatre slumming it with a light, fluffy comedy was something that was impossible to see had it not been for the TV appearance. Good thing too because she walked away with her second Oscar for her role.

It’s a perfect teaming with American George Segal and the film benefits from the two leads and their natural chemistry, leading to some of the film’s best lines as they banter. Segal laid back approach to acting works wonders here and is a nice compliment to Jackson. As he film is mainly a two hander, with most of the scenes between the leads, Frank allows the pair plenty of time to develop their relationship and this helps with the comedy.

What doesn’t work is how easy the couple fall into the affair. Jackson’s Vicki seems such a strong-willed, sometimes fiery woman that you couldn’t see her falling for Segal’s charms so quickly and without hesitation she’s whisked off to Spain for, what amounts to, a dirty weekend. Surely she has more than class than that.

Then this confusion of character is even more head-scratching when she suggests they rent an apartment in a block filled with prostitute for the pair to meet up and continue their affair. So immediately she becomes the other woman as Segal makes excuses to leave the house in order to visit her.

These seem to be intelligent people. They must be to hold down the jobs they have and yet they act in a somewhat sleazy manner. So the title cancels itself out as their actions are hardly classy.

It is a funny film and some of the lines do work really well, especially when the pair are bickering and arguing. It also might seem very dated now, particularly in a time where technology has changed so drastically. It is a bit of a curiosity in that sense and it is worth watching these two skilled performers working their magic together. Just try and forget their motivations because it might annoy you.


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