The Last of Sheila (1973) Perkins and Sondheim Have Fun! B

DIRECTOR: Herbert Ross.
BOTTOM LINE: On a one-week Mediterranean pleasure cruise aboard the yacht of movie producer Clinton Greene (James Coburn), the guests include actress Alice Wood (Raquel Welch); her talent-manager husband Anthony Wood (Ian McShane); secretary turned talent agent Christine (Dyan Cannon); screenwriter Tom Parkman (Richard Benjamin) and his wife Lee (Joan Hackett); and film director  Philip Dexter (James Mason). The trip is, in fact, a reunion; with the exception of Lee, all were together at Clinton’s home one year before, on the night a hit-and-run resulted in the death of Clinton’s wife, gossip columnist Sheila Greene (Yvonne Romain). Once the cruise is underway, Greene, a parlor game enthusiast, informs his guests that each will be assigned an index card with the following titles: HOMOSEXUAL | SHOPLIFTER | EX-CONVICT | INFORMER |LITTLE CHILD MOLESTER. One of the cards is blank. The object of the game is to discover everyone else’s secret while protecting one’s own.
Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim, who teamed up to write this movie’s original screenplay, were good friends who also liked to throw lavish parlor games in their fabulous Manhattan apartments. They also loved clues, riddles and crosswords, and anyone who has seen old episodes of “Password” on TV can attest to how clever Perkins was with words. Ditto for Sondheim, the greatest wordsmith of the 20th century. Both men were gay, as was the film’s director, Herbert Ross (despite being married to both Nora Kaye and Lee Radziwell). And that massive gay sensibility does come through. The actors are all in good form, with Raquel Welsh being particularly impressive in her one genuinely good film. And Dyan Canon has a great time playing a character that was clearly modeled on uber-talent agent Sue Mengers. The movie disappoints, however, in that it’s only moderately entertaining. With this level of talent and queerness, we should have had the time of our lives.
The song “Friends” is sung by Bette Midler.


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