This was written for Movie Rob’s September 2022 Genre Grandeur of New York movies set before 9/11. be sure to check out other entries!
When it comes to the classic film world, 1960’s films are somewhat of a hit or miss for me. First off, I’m more inclined to watch a 60’s flick if I admire the actors and actresses; I’m not as adept to just jumping into a movie from this time period if I can’t latch onto someone I adore, unlike the 1930s-50s era where a plot can entice me into it.
Gene Saks Barefoot in the Park (1967) at first was a certain NO from me because my mindset was: “Well Natalie Wood was supposed to be in the role and Jane Fonda was cast instead.“
But then my mind thought about the fact Robert Redford is in it and as one of my friends puts it, “Redford is cool as hell!”
Then another friend (Phyllis Loves Classic Movies) said SHE LOVES Barefoot in the Park, reminding me Mildred Natwick of The Quiet Man (1952) was in it! With all those words of encouragement, I then told myself, “Well I gotta see this one now!”
Set in the time period in which it was made; Barefoot in the Park is based off the Neil Simon play about two newlyweds who start off their life in their apartment in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Paul (Redford) and Corie Bratter are complete opposites: Paul is a stuff shirt lawyer and Corie a free spirit who embraces the mood of the 60s (she is played by Jane Fonda after all!).
Despite the fact they have to climb up to the fifth floor, (with the stairs becoming a running gag throughout the movie), the pair settles into their new life. They have eccentric neighbors, a hole in the skylight, and a small bedroom with only room for a large single mattress, but those seem to be the least of their problems when Corie and Paul start to have issues in their life philosophies. Corie wants Paul to walk, “barefoot in the park”, with her and have some fun, while Paul insists it’s not only too cold but that he has to get up early for work.
With Paul at work, Corie strikes up a friendship with upstairs neighbor Victor (Charles Boyer) who she thinks would be a good match for her mother Ethel (Natwick). Possibly the funniest scene of the whole movie, the foursome has dinner at an Albanian restaurant with Corie joining in during the folk song Shama-Shama. Personally, I love this scene!
The movie keeps going with Paul and Corie’s disagreements, but its only after Paul is kicked out he decides to let loose. Corie then has to make a decision of what the marriage means to her and who her husband is versus how she wants him to be… with a little help from Ethel of course!
Barefoot in the Park for being a late 60s movie is pretty tame considering what else was being made during that time, and even for the actors who were in it. Jane and Bob are both known for their progressiveness, but then you think about the fact this movie was made towards the beginning of their careers. Me- I am not one for any type of political extremeness, but even if you’re not a super-fan of one or either of these actors, this movie is really enjoyable and cute. In my real life, would like to be fun and free spirited like Corie, but actually am more like Paul- though Rock’ N’ Roll can loosen me up a little! (KISS IS MY BAND!!)
It’s almost like this movie is one of the last relics of the classic screwball comedies that were revived in the mid late 50s (think Pillow Talk 1959) and it’s a splendid viewing. If screwball was disappearing, this movie was a sweet way to go out and it’s a blending of old and the “new” Hollywood; you’ve got two soon to be major superstars and then veteran character actors, added with a familiar story structure of classic Hollywood .
I learned something with Barefoot in the Park: a time period in which a film was made does not always dictate it follows the trends of what was popular. Sometimes you get these really cool movies that do feel modern, but also have this touch of throwback that gives it a timelessness. When you combine all that, you can’t really ask for anything more!