Thursday, March 5, 2015
As a tribute to the late, great Mike Nichols, a rare screening of one of his lesser-known and most underrated comedies, made just before his 10-year hiatus from filmmaking. Nichols can be credited with discovering Stockard Channing in this jazz-era farce in which she plays Freddie, an heiress who elopes with smooth fortune hunter Nicky (Warren Beatty). Along with Nicky’s halfwit sidekick Oscar (Jack Nicholson), they head for California—but since Nicky is still awaiting a divorce, Oscar must temporarily marry Freddie in order to evade the dreaded Mann Act (which forbids the transportation of a woman across state lines for immoral purposes). Eventually the duo’s mercenary intentions dawn on Freddie, forcing them to take more extreme measures… Written by Five Easy Pieces screenwriter Carole Eastman (credited as Adrien Joyce due to a falling out over Nichols’s cuts to her 240-page screenplay), shot by Chinatown cameraman John A. Alonzo, and with production design by perennial Nichols co-conspirator Richard Sylbert, The Fortune was met with mostly poor reviews and was a box-office failure—an unjust fate for a film that can be read as a knockabout comedy retake on the claustrophobic ménage à trois of Carnal Knowledge, and one in which the flair and dazzling skill of Nichols’s mise en scène are unmistakable.