Cactus Flower (1969) Poster

(1969)

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8/10
A feel-good comedy with its title symbolism well justified
Davor-Blazevic-195926 June 2011
Florigraphists, fluent in the "language of flowers", revealing a symbolic, underlying meaning to sending or receiving floral arrangements, describe cactus flower as a symbol of lust (in Japan), as well as courtship and romance (among Native Americans). All three and many other modest or excessive feelings, relationships, experiences... are nicely wrapped up in a comedy suggesting same symbolism in its title.

1969 film "Cactus Flower", directed by Gene Saks (who has already introduced us, a year earlier, to another stage play classic adapted for the big screen, Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple") is a feel-good movie--based on Abe Burrows' Broadway stage adaptation of its witty French original, Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pieerre Grédy's play "Fleur de cactus"--scripted by a legendary comedic writer I.A.L. Diamond (who is, among his other memorable works, credited with the screenplay for an all-time favourite comedy "Some Like It Hot" (1959)), with impish dentist Walter Matthau, accompanied by his reputable nurse-receptionist Ingrid Bergman, coming across as likable and funny leads, further supported by young and sweet Goldie Hawn, in her Oscar awarded depiction of a-cute-dumb-blond stereotype.

Bergman's Stephanie Dickinson, for all her decency and selflessness, is a character who is easy to identify with and root for in her initially seemingly unconscious pursuit of her apparently long suppressed, quietly emerging affection for Matthau's Dr. Julian Winston, a rogue we cannot hate because he behaves like a boy from Mark Twain's novel, or Dennis the menace who has grown up and old, but never out of his mischievous ways. In his no-strings-attached wished for relationship with Hawn's sparkling Toni Simmons, he pretends to be married. However, this new "fact" tickles well meant youngster's curiosity, so, surely free spirited, but not unscrupulous as eventual household breaker, Toni, tormented by many unanswered questions becomes--as seen in the introductory scene--suicidal, and... what was meant to be a small "preventive" lie asks for more lies, ultimately spiraling out of control.

Interaction between the three, further helped with an additional "accomplice", Winston-like lovable cad Harvey Greenfield, played by Jack Weston, produces some truly hilarious and--specially when the most believable miss Dickinson is involved--touchy moments for a wide-range audience to enjoy. "Cactus Flower" easily stands the test of time and even improves with each repeated viewing.

Current year (2011) production "Just Go with It", a loose remake of the 1969 original, provides a solid, yet, somewhat inferior entertainment when compared to its predecessor.
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7/10
Classy comedy, unbeatable Bergman
moonspinner5510 April 2001
Ingrid Bergman, playing dentist Walter Matthau's faithful receptionist who harbors a little crush on her boss, is absolutely wonderful in this film. She handles the witty repartee in the script with aplomb and steals a terrific scene where she and Goldie Hawn talk in a record booth (Ingrid's monologue is a front, but her face tells you she believes in it with all her heart). Matthau is an odd choice for the leading man (he's too old for Goldie Hawn and too unrefined for Bergman, not to mention too unfocused to be a dentist), but I liked the way he tries hard to please Goldie and stumbles around trying to free himself from a lie. Hawn (who won a Supporting Oscar) is just as fresh and bubbly as she is today. This bedroom farce isn't terribly sophisticated (and faintly reminds one of "Any Wednesday" besides), but it's a welcome relief from the noisy, teen-oriented comedies churned out of present-day Hollywood. "Cactus Flower" is a lovely sigh! *** from ****
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8/10
A Hidden Gem
murphys-61 September 2006
I discovered this late one night on Turner Classics. I kept saying to myself "I'll turn it off as soon as it stops being funny", but needless to say I watched the whole way through.

I am a movie junkie but I had never even HEARD of this movie (or if I did in 1971, I forgot). It's worth watching just for the performance of Goldie Hawn as the tart-tongued ingénue. Her acting is a revelation in this movie. Yes, the script is sharp and excellent (when was the last time they made a Hollywood comedy with a smart script?) but her acting is extraordinary. I never realized how funny Goldie could be, and it makes her later appearances in roles such as Laugh-In and Private Benjamin a little sad. In her later career she is far too over-the-top compared to her minimalist, wickedly funny appearance here.

It's a pleasure watching the young Matthau, the great Bergman and the stellar supporting cast, but it's Goldie Hawn that will make this movie worth watching again.
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10/10
Enjoyable Slice of Sixties Heyday
nycritic1 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Starting on or around 1965 American movies took a turn for the shocking and the iconoclastic which was great for the times -- sort of the seeds that would pave the way for grittier, daring dramas. However, because the very decade that gave birth to these films was so ruled by its own convictions, most all of the films released at this period have dated. CACTUS FLOWER is no exception. Its very title suggests a "sunny" romantic comedy with occasional lapses into the risqué. This is not to say that it's a bad thing: quite the contrary, films about risqué subject matter have to begin somewhere and America being a culture rooted in specific traditions, themselves laced in deep hypocrisies, shocks itself for the sake of it when seeing an indirect reflection of the mores of the time. Meanwhile, European films address these same situations, walk off looking like a million bucks, and have a longer shelf-life because what we consider scandalous, they shrug off, say "Next," and move on.

Toni Simmons (Goldie Hawn in her breakout role), a young, very sixties bright young thing, is carrying on with a much-older dentist named Julian Winston (Walter Matthau), who has commitment issues. He can'r marry her: he's already married. Toni decides instead of wilting away she actually wants to meet his wife and "set things straight." Into the picture comes his assistant, Stephanie Dickinson (a luminous Ingrid Bergman, returning to American cinema after a twenty-year absence), a woman closer to his age who acts as if she and he had the perfect marriage and household. There is a reason for this: she has harbored quiet emotions for Julian, emotions he is unaware of, even when he asks her to play his wife to ward Toni off from wanting to step their relationship further. And then he steps it up a notch when Toni's blissfully innocent actions veer the action off into the unexpected and he introduces Harvey Greenfield (Jack Weston) as Stephanie's "lover". By the way, Harvey is also an older gent who is having an affair with a much younger woman (Eve Bruce) whom he also lies to in one very funny scene.

It's funny how the person whom we're looking for is the one who's always been there. What could have been a thankless role for Rick Lenz who plays Igor Sullivan, Toni's next door neighbor, turns into the man who not only sees the true beauty in fellow outcast Stephanie but the one who saves Toni at the start from killing herself. (Not the stuff of comedy, suicide. Then again, this is not your average comedy.) And needless to say is Ingrid Bergman's subtle, poignant portrayal of a woman who's somehow missed her chances at love, who's become prickly, who due to a lie said to another she becomes the real person she was always meant to be. I can't imagine anyone else in this quiet but deep role.

Movies like these can be enjoyed at face-value and seen as escapist fun -- a product of its times -- or be viewed for the deep symbolism that, like its title, it carries deep within. It's a tricky film, the same way Hawn's and Bergman's performance are equally tricky because in seeming so simple, devoid of flourish and pose, neither come out and proclaim what they are about. Their acting becomes "not really acting" but playing real people, warts and all. CACTUS FLOWER is a story that never appears to take itself too seriously, but reveals itself to be deep and very human after all.
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9/10
A wonderful time warp.
xavrush8926 March 2005
This film has not exactly remained fresh in the minds of film buffs, and it's a crying shame. Its witty screenplay adaptation should have netted Oscar nominations for the great screenwriter I.A.L. Diamond's adaptation, and Ingrid Bergman's flawless performance. It must have been an honor for Goldie Hawn at such a young age to work with Bergman, looking more than a decade younger than her 54 years--fifty four! When she's on the screen, it positively twinkles.

This is a film which may appear dated at first, but it actually made me wish I was around during the swingin' 'sixties. Hawn's fashions are as tacky as Bergman's are chic. (That's one minor flaw--isn't her character a little too soignée for a gal who still lives with her sister? But then again, would we have Ingrid any other way?) And who wouldn't want to hang out at a nightclub called The Slipped Disc?

The best compliments I can pay to this film is that it somehow made me nostalgic for a decade that I never saw, and that it left me wanting more. Speaking of wanting more, I wonder what ever became of sexy supporting actor Rick Lenz? (He resembles Griffin Dunne in this film.) This was his film debut, and I don't see any other major roles in his filmography. As for Goldie Hawn, she's done so much since then it's easy to not be impressed, but I can't imagine any other actor in the role, either.

Since the movie is based on a play, the line delivery may seem a bit stage-y, but it did not inhibit my enjoyment at all. In fact, I am amazed at how funny it still is after over thirty-five years. Because this film represents a bygone era, it has unjustly slipped from the consciousness of film buffs. It is more linked to the era films that came before it than the ones that followed. But don't let that stop you from savoring the delights it has to offer. Grade: A
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Underrated comedy uplifted by star trio.
back2wsoc14 September 2002
Adapted from the Broadway play, Cactus Flower is nonthink entertainment given superlative star treatment by Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, and Goldie Hawn. Hawn, in her Oscar-winning debut, plays Toni, a twentysomething free spirit engaged to dentist Julian Winston (Matthau), who isn't ready to give up his bachelorhood just yet. To avoid marriage, he lies to Toni and tells her that he is already married (with children) to his assistant, Stephanie (Bergman). At first, Stephanie is against the idea of being dishonest, but because of the secret love she harbors for Julian, she gives in. Romantic entanglements ensue, leading to a touching conclusion. Ingrid Bergman always had a flair for light comedy, but was only given rare opportunities to show it (Indiscreet, The Yellow Rolls-Royce). Matthau is wonderfully befuddled, and Hawn began the first in a series of kooky characterizations. With hilarious support from Jack Weston, Rick Lenz, and Eve Bruce, Cactus Flower is a blossoming laugh fest!
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10/10
Pizza & Bergman -A Perfect Evening
fshepinc27 June 2005
Cactus Flower is what I call a "pizza movie" -A personal favorite that never fails to satisfy. Perfect for an evening at home with a pizza. Knowing all the lines (and what lines!) by heart only enhances the enjoyment.

Since so many others here have retold the plot, I'll simply add the correction that Bergman's character, Miss Dickinson, was a nurse-receptionist, meaning she was a skilled nurse -and therefore an educated person -not "just" a receptionist.

Bergman's performance in this film -and the film itself- was largely dismissed at the time, but today's audiences will marvel at her range; not just the impeccable comic timing, but the ability to make us believe her character is unaware of her own feelings while revealing them so clearly to Toni and to us. While the general plot stretches credibility, Bergman's performance is compelling: honest and utterly believable.

Also a standout is Jack Weston's performance as the Matthau's old friend and co-conspirator, Harvey. No one could deliver a zinger like Weston, and I.A.L. Diamond's script gives him plenty. For example: "That's such a big, dirty, rotten lie it has class." Weston excelled at slightly seedy characters because he exuded a warmth that allowed you to forgive his characters' flaws.

The film is a fairly straight adaptation of the Abe Burrows play (which was itself adapted from a French play by Barillet and Gredy). On Broadway Matthau's role was played by Barry Nelson. Bergman's by Lauren Bacall, and Hawn's by Brenda Vaccaro. It ran for 1,234 performances (three years) and was nominated for two Tony Awards (Vaccaro and Burt Brinckerhoff, who played Igor).

For me, the film's score, written and adapted by the legendary Quincy Jones is another highlight. The main theme (A Time For Love Is Anytime) is performed by Sarah Vaughn over the opening and closing credits. It is also insinuated in different arrangements throughout the film, most notably as the romantic piano music underscoring Berman's speech to Hawn in the record store. Jones also created covers of popular songs from the period (To Sir With Love, I'm A Believer) for the night club scenes. As with all of the film's elements, there is a tremendous amount of talent, taste, and professionalism evident.

In my opinion, few modern romantic comedies can hold a candle to this classic. It's great to finally have it available on DVD. Time to call for a pizza...
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Watch Ingrid Bergman do 'the dentist'!
marc_mordiki15 August 2004
Many farcical comedies of the 60's and 70's haven't stood the test of time. Cactus Flowers is one of the few that has.

It's quick, witty, well paced, clever and most importantly funny.

It's worth watching the film for the dancing scene alone: Seeing Ingrid Bergman doing "the dentist" was hilarious.

She really shows she has a flair for comedy.

The entire cast is brilliant. Special mention goes to a very young Goldie Hawn who looks (and sounds) like a different person! This is a classic. Highly recommended
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8/10
A beautiful movie.
Tim-17711 March 1999
Walter Matthau is wonderful as the "philandering" dentist Dr. Julian Winston whose frequent fibs to girlfriend Goldie provide textbook proof of the dangers of lying. Goldie Hawn's touching kook Toni Simmons certainly deserved to win her Oscar. Ingrid Bergman's work as the stiff-as-starch nurse Stephanie is also touching to watch as she comes out of her shell, slowly and nervously. This is a great movie to watch in the springtime, or any time for that matter. It's very underrated; I never heard about it until I found it in the video store, and what a find!
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9/10
This Movie Is Great Fun!
synergydesign200316 October 2007
I've been playing this movie incessantly this month, and I just love it. I was around in the 60s (oh dear), so it is nostalgic in one sense. However, it's the funny premise, the snappy dialogue and the great performances that keep me watching.

Dr. Winston's reactions to Stephanie at the end of the movie are priceless. (I'd be more specific, but don't want to spoil it for anyone.) Who other than Matthau can play a man not entirely on the up-and-up and yet have us still love him? As for Bergman's costumes, I think she looks as dowdy as she's supposed to. I think "she was robbed" the one time that she appears in an evening gown. It doesn't suit her at all, which is too bad. I never liked it when I first saw it on her and I still don't.

Goldie won an Oscar for her role. People thought it was a groundbreaking performance at the time, and yet it's the one performance that I don't love as much as the others. She does have the right amount of sweetness and likability, however, which is important for this role.

And I agree - I thought Rick Lenz was great in it and it's too bad that his movie career didn't take off after this.

I hope more people watch this movie ... they'll love it!
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7/10
Breezy, witty fun-filled comedy from the Broadway hit...
Doylenf29 August 2006
When I saw LAUREN BACALL do CACTUS FLOWER on Broadway, I never dreamed that one day I would see an actress like INGRID BERGMAN playing the Bacall role on screen. But here Ingrid really lets her hair down for some good comedy moments as the dental nurse pretending to be WALTER MATTHAU's wife so he can go on with the fib he's told GOLDIE HAWN.

It's a story played for laughs from beginning to end, good-humored stuff that never runs out of dry humor and wit throughout its running time. There are plenty of one-liners or gags that are way above the usual situation comedy stuff one hears on TV--the lines ring true because they blend so well with the characters and their motives.

As the daffy girl who contemplates (in the beginning) committing suicide over her unhappy affair with Matthau, GOLDIE HAWN (fresh from her days as a star on TV's "Laugh In") does a dumb blonde role to perfection. Easy to see why she won that Supporting Actress Oscar.

Ingrid is surprisingly fetching in a rare comedy role, although there are times when she seems just a bit too matronly for the part. At any rate, she's a surprising choice to play the nurse who puts on a freeze act at the office but is considerably warmer off duty.

As Goldie's next door neighbor, Igor, Rick Lenz acquits himself admirably, and makes a suitable match for her in that final scene.

Matthau plays the kind of character that became his stock in trade in all those Neil Simon roles he had--a lovable cad who gets caught up in his own messes when he tells lie after lie.

It's the kind of rib-tickling comedy that'll have you laughing out loud at some of the amusing lines that Abe Burrows and I.A.L. Diamond have managed to scrap together, based on a French farce.
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8/10
Surprisingly Low Rating
DKosty12314 July 2007
I am surprised by the relatively low rating this film has. It is a screwball comedy & romance film rolled together by someone besides Billy Wilder but it does a really good job & even won an Oscar.

It is Ingrid Bergman's first film in the US since the 1950's & even though she is no longer the young bombshell she was in her early films, she brings off a difficult role quite handsomely. This film proves she had multiple talents beyond her good looks.

Goldie Hawn who won an Oscar in this, her first film, as supporting actress is very good as the modern sophisticated yet quirky latest mistress to Dentist playboy, love them & leave them Walter Mathaw. Goldie is delightful to all the senses in this role which with a great cast set her up as a slam dunk for this early career award.

This film is not real deep, but is a gem that has stood the test of time very well. Not sure why it's average is so low as I give it a solid 8.
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9/10
Glad I finally saw it!
JulieKelleher5727 December 1999
Everyone told me to see "Cactus Flower," and I finally did. What a wonderful movie -- the perfect pick-me-up for a Sunday night/dreading Monday morning. Matthau and Hawn were good, but Ingrid Bergman really made this movie -- after all, it was really about her. The truly great actors can do anything, and Miss Bergman proves it. She shows us -- in the course of one film -- a range few people display in their entire career. The scene in the dance club was as hysterical as it was touching. Even as the film drew to its obvious conclusion, I found myself cheering for Miss Dickinson as if she were the Boston Red Sox. Thankfully, she made out (no pun intended) much better. ;)
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8/10
Indiscretions Of An American Cactus
writers_reign30 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Ingrid Bergman must have experienced a strong sense of deja vu when she shot this movie about a man who pretends to be married so that he doesn't have to fear any of his many girlfriends thinking altar; in Indiscreet a few years earlier she herself had been fooled by Cary Grant's use of this same ploy (which was also based on a stage play, Kind Sir, by Garson Kanin) and here she is persuaded by philanderer Walter Mattheau to pose as his wife so that his latest mistress, Goldie Hawn, to whom he has proposed marriage, can ask for the blessing of the soon-to-be discarded wife. This is one of those plots where you know from the moment the premise is stated exactly what will happen ninety minutes later so that the enjoyment is in the journey from A to Z. It's Bergman's movie all the way, Mattheau was never going to be either as polished as Grant or as hip as Sinatra who played similar roles in The Tender Trap and Come Blow Your Horn yet he's too good an actor not to accomplish ninety per cent of the part. Goldie Hawn is far too precious and OTT as the lovable kook but Jack Weston scores as the seedy friend/patient. Without Bergman it would be a lot less charming, with her it's a joy.
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7/10
An Adroit Matthau, a Fresh Goldie and a Fun-Loving Bergman Provide Lift to a Frothy Farce
EUyeshima8 February 2006
Aside from the discotheque scenes that epitomize the swinging sixties (especially with everyone dancing to instrumental versions of Monkees hits), I am surprised how well this lightweight farce holds up 37 years later, but indeed it does thanks to the breezy execution of its deception-based plot and the sharp interplay of the three leads. Directed by the redoubtable stage-to-screen expert Gene Saks, this 1969 comedy is about Julian Winston, a successful Manhattan dentist and confirmed bachelor, who pretends to be married in order to avoid long-term commitment with his young girlfriend of a year, Toni. In response to Toni's half-hearted suicide attempt, Julian agrees to marry her, but Toni first insists on meeting his wife to alleviate her conscience. Enter Julian's devoted nurse Stephanie to play the wife, and the inevitable complications ensue with white lies growing into major whoppers that lead to presumed couplings and de-couplings.

As Julian, a relaxed Walter Matthau dexterously plays the deceptive dentist in his typically sardonic manner, but he lets his two female co-stars walk off with the picture. In her big screen debut, a pixyish 24-year old Goldie Hawn is still retaining her giggly "Laugh-In" persona but provides unexpected savvy and depth as Toni. She and Matthau have great, unforced chemistry in their scenes together. Screen legend Ingrid Bergman, still serenely regal at 54, is obviously having a ball playing Stephanie, initially starchy and quick-witted but blossoming into a liberated spirit as the story evolves. I particularly like how casual she appears after her overnight romp. There is nice supporting work from Rick Lenz as Toni's bohemian neighbor Igor and Jack Weston as Julian's smarmy actor buddy Harvey. Billy Wilder's longtime collaborator, I.A.L. Diamond, provides the sparkling screenplay and opens up the story beyond its stage-bound origins for Saks, who is not the most cinematic of directors. Other than a couple of trailers, there are no significant extras with the DVD.
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8/10
overlooked comedy delight
rupie8 July 1999
Another "oldie but goody" from about the same time as "Out of Towners" is "Cactus Flower", with a great cast: Goldie Hawn, in her first film appearance (pre-facelifts), Ingrid Bergmann in one of her later ones, and the ever-funny Walter Matthau. The story is about a dentist who pretends to be married in order to have an excuse for not marrying his girlfriend, leading to the need to come up with a fictitious wife for proof. He cajoles his spinster receptionist (Bergman) into taking the role, leading to multiple comic disasters and surprising romantic turns. It's in the same vein as the Doris Day/Rock Hunter comedies. Fans of those - as I am - will like this movie; if not, don't bother.
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8/10
An unexpected delight
jefcat25 April 1999
I knew next to nothing about this movie until I chanced to rent it. It was a very pleasant surprise. The cast is excellent including Matthau whom I do not normally care for. He makes a credible romantic lead. Hawn is a sweet kook and Bergman is touching as a woman coming out of her shell.
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Good romantic comedy from the 1960s.
TxMike13 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Goldie Hawn and I are the same age. I first saw her as one of the dancers on the old Laugh In TV show in the mid 1960s, when I was in college. She has remained beautiful to this day, but boy has she changed since her early 20s.

In this movie, 'Cactus Flower', Walter Matthau is Dr. Julian Winston, a dentist and confirmed bachelor. He is dating much younger Toni (Hawn) while telling her his receptionist Stephanie (Ingrid Bergman, in her 50s) was really his wife, and they were planning to divorce. All this so that he would have a reason to remain a playboy.

Meanwhile Goldie Hawn as Toni Simmons has a good friend Igor (Rick Lenz) who at one point seems to be attracted to the older receptionist. This is just a good, old romantic comedy. The title comes from the fact that Stephanie has a small cactus on her desk at work and, as the movie is nearing its end, blooms and we see a solitary cactus flower.

SPOILERS. In the end everyone learns the truth. The youngsters, Toni and Igor end up as a couple, while the playboy Julian ends up with his old maid receptionist Stephanie.
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When A Cactus Flower Finally Blossoms
Chrysanthepop29 August 2010
Saks's 'Cactus Flower' is delightful comedy that revolves around a free spirited young lady Toni (Goldie Hawn), her liar of a dentist boyfriend Julian (Walter Matthau) and his always dependable and honest assistant, Stephanie (Ingrid Bergman). It's pretty much a love triangle that stretches to a love rectangle tangled with lies leading to hilarious situations. While the movie is light and fun, it's also ahead of its time as it touches themes like feminism and gender stereotype.

I was surprised to learn that Ingrid Bergman was in her 50s during filming. At most I guessed her to be in her early 40s. She looks amazing. The actress has always had a flair for comedy and she brings class to her role. A supercute Goldie Hawn is absolutely charming and vivacious. I couldn't have pictured anyone other than Walter Matthau as Julian. The rest of the cast are impressive.

'Cactus Flower' is a well made movie. Quincy Jones's music has a foottapping effect. The cinematography and editing are solid. Saks never derails from the main story.

This film has plenty of laugh out loud moments but my favourite one is the final dance sequence. That had me pretty much rolling on the floor. To sum it up, 'Cactus Flower' is a wonderful comedy. I'll be revisiting it sometime.
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8/10
Goldie's Oscar, and Ingrid's second look at an "Indiscreet" plot
theowinthrop14 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Goldie Hawn, in 1969, was best known for playing in television comedy shows - in particular ROWAN AND MARTIN'S LAUGH IN, where she was the giggly cookie young blond. She did make movies before CACTUS FLOWER, the most notable being a Walt Disney feature, THE ONE AND ONLY GENUINE, ORIGINAL FAMILY BAND. But CACTUS FLOWER picked up on her character from LAUGH-IN, and (due to a good script by I.A.L. Diamond - Billy Wilder's second partner - based on an Abe Burrows play) she was able to develop the television character so that a real performance was fleshed out. As a result Ms Hawn won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1969, and her career took off to such future hits as PRIVATE BENJAMIN and THE FIRST WIVES CLUB. Although other stars of LAUGH-IN did well on television (Henry Gibson has a recurring role as a judge on BOSTON LEGAL) only Goldie was able to have a career as a bonifide movie star.

On LAUGH-IN Goldie's personality would show a naiveté that would be embarrassing. Occasionally she realized it, and would laugh loud to cover, but sometimes she just did not see her error (example: Goldie is introduced to the 1950s variety show host Gary Moore, and is told, "Goldie, this is Mr. Gary Moore." She shakes his hand and says (much to his confusion), "I've always wanted to meet Mr. John Gary Moore!"). But as Toni Simmons it is quite different. She is desperately in love with Dr. Julian Winston (Walter Matthau), a successful dentist, who can never marry her. Julian has told her that his wife (with whom he has had two sons and a daughter) will never give him a divorce. So at the start of the film Toni tries to commit suicide by the gas of her stove. But she is rescued by her neighbor, Igor Sullivan (Rick Lenz), a struggling dramatist, who breaks into her apartment and turns off the gas.

Toni is resigned to live, but she has sent a suicide note to Julian. Igor tries to deliver a message to ignore the note but Julian's receptionist/nurse/assistant, Stephanie Dickinson (Ingrid Bergman) won't stop Julian's work schedule to pass him the phone when Igor calls. Instead Julian finds the letter and races to Toni's apartment, only to find her alive. When Igor supports her story that she tried to kill herself, Julian realizes the depth of her love, and decides he must marry such a woman. Unfortunately Toni has swallowed Julian's lies, and believes in his wife and children. You see, Julian has no wife and children. Since Toni is a firm believer that she can't marry a man who would lie to her Julian is stuck on a weakening tree branch.

Julian comes to solve it by getting Stephanie to pretend she is Mrs. Winston. Stephanie is opposed to it at first, but on her own, on her first free Saturday, she confronts Toni at the record shop Toni is at. They talk, and Toni notices all the fine strengths of character and personality of Stephanie (and since Stephanie has her two nephews with her, Toni thinks they are Julian's kids). Toni tells Julian they have to see who is the man that Stephanie is supposedly going to marry. So the lie starts spiraling for Julian, Stephanie, and Toni. Soon a lover is given to Stephanie in the form of Julian's friend and freeloading patient Harvey Greenfield (Jack Weston). Greenfield is so sleazy (Stephanie loathes him) that Toni feels that he is unworthy of Stephanie.

And so it goes, with one complication (most caused by the well-intentioned, misinformed Toni) following another until the conclusion. The script is full of first rate situations and one-liners (example: Julian to reward Stephanie for lying about their marriage, buys two record albums from Toni's store. He has given a mink stole to Toni, but she decides to send it to Stephanie with Julian's card. Stephanie is quite happy at getting the mink, but she does not say a word about the nature of the gift she got - when she profusely thanks Matthau, he says the thought she'd like Horowitz - meaning Vladomir Horowitz. But Stephanie thinks Horowitz is the name of the furrier!).

Bergman must have enjoyed the filming, as several scenes shows that earthy radiance that was a trademark for her in the later 1940s films. But there was also the resemblance to her 1958 film comedy smash hit, INDISCREET. There Cary Grant lied to make sure the pair would concentrate on the romance of their affair without having to think about marriage. When Grant's lie is revealed to Bergman she decides on a lie of her own to convince Grant that she was making him a cuckold. Here, instead of being the passive lover believing Matthau is telling the truth, Bergman gingerly tries to get Matthau out of his mess by little white lies, only to find one leads to another to complicate everyone's lives. Bergman is seen as a nice woman who becomes part of the problem, despite trying to be part of the solution.

All the leads perform well, in particular Bergman, all business thoroughness at first but gradually reclaiming her sexuality. Matthau is delightful as a man who finds a useful lie is an impediment that just can't be kicked aside. The supporting cast, especially Weston as the mooching and sexually slimy Harvey, and Vito Scotti as the U.N. ambassador who actually has the hots for Bergman. It was a clever comedy, and a really good way for Goldie Hawn's movie career to push forward.
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7/10
Ingrid Bergman steals the show...
lhhung_himself25 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I was very surprised to learn that Goldie Hawn won an Oscar for this film. She seemed very lifeless and completely schooled by the 54(!) year old Bergman in the scenes where they are side by side. If it had been written today, I think that Bergman and the young man Ivan would have wound up together (Ingrid is so much hotter than Goldie...) and the two self-absorbed characters played by Matthau and Hawn would be left out in the cold. But it was written at the end of 60's and feels like Plaza Suite or Barefoot in the Park. However, Matthau's one-liners, Hawn's innocence and Bergman's classy performance make this quite pleasant to watch.
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A fine film.
verna5515 November 2000
This movie rarely gets notice, and indeed, it is no classic. But it has some truly splendid moments, supplied mostly by the blonde and bubbly Goldie Hawn who won a much deserved Academy Award. The film, based on a Broadway play, deals with a neurotic dentist(Walter Matthau) who lies to his kooky girlfriend(Miss Hawn) by telling her that he's married. When Matthau finally falls head over heels for Hawn, he tells her that he intends to divorce his wife and pops the question to her. Feeling that she caused their break-up, Hawn then demands to meet his wife so she can straighten things out with her. Matthau then gets his prim and proper assistant(Ingrid Bergman) to play the part of his "wife", but that's only the beginning of this crazy comedy. Matthau is brilliant as usual, and Bergman also does well with her role, despite being thoroughly miscast(the sexy and vibrant Miss Bergman as a drab, spinsterish dental assistant, PLEASE!). But the film belongs to Goldie who, even at this early stage in her career, fully displays her star power.
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8/10
Goldie's Star-making Turn and Surprising Bergman
ijonesiii13 December 2005
CACTUS FLOWER was a delightful 1969 comedy based on a Neil Simon play about a dentist (Walter Matthau) having an affair with a young free spirited woman (Goldie Hawn), totally unaware that his devoted nurse/assistant(Ingrid Bergman)is in love with him. Matthau can play this kind of role in his sleep and he doesn't disappoint as the philandering dentist, Dr. Julian Winston, who is dating one woman but really has no clue that he's in love with another. Goldie Hawn won an Oscar for her sparkling performance as Toni Simmons, the aging flower child who slowly comes to realize she is trapped in a dead end affair and is not as dim as she appears on the surface. But the real pleasure for me in this film was the performance of the legendary Ingrid Bergman as Stephanie Dickinson, Dr. Winston's completely devoted assistant, who is willing to to bury and sacrifice her own happiness as long as Dr. Winston is happy with Tony. Bergman is luminous in this film, looking absolutely beautiful (though the camera has always loved her) and showing an unforeseen knack for light comedy. Yes, the dialogue and the settings are slightly dated, but the story is timeless and the performances by the stars make it imminently watchable.
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9/10
Cactus Flower Really Blooms ***1/2
edwagreen14 February 2007
Goldie Hawn's depiction of a simple young lady caught up in a love triangle with an older man, a dentist, played with such relish by Walter Matthau, that she won the best supporting actress Oscar for 1969.

The film, however, is another tribute to Ingrid Bergman. Rarely, did we ever see her in a comedy and she literally kicks up her heels here as a dedicated dental nurse who is thrust into a scheme for Matthau to tell Hawn that they're married.

It is such a joy to watch Matthau and Bergman fall for each other here. Theirs is an accidental love affair in the making.

As Matthau's friend, Jack Weston is fabulous as his partner in the scheme as well. Rick Lenz gives ample support as Hawn's newly-found boyfriend as well.
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8/10
Funny look at lying in relationships
jeremy331 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
As much as I like Walter Matthau, I felt that the majority of his roles were tailored towards his personality. This role is one of the exceptions. He plays a dentist who is both charming and dishonest. This role does require much more acting than in most of his other roles. I liked the fact that the movie was honest about how a professional can be dishonest in order to avoid commitment in a relationship. His whole aim was to find a way to be in a relationship with a much younger woman, but not to be committed in any way. The alibi - using his secretary (Ingrid Bergman) to pretend to be his wife. At some point in the movie, the pretend Mr. and Mrs. actually are deluded into believing that they were actually really married. The ending was good, because a middle aged man found that pursuing someone in his own age group was more worthwhile. The movie was funny, entertaining, and didn't sell out by being preachy.
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