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"The Ritz" Play 1975 --- Movie 1976

Taking its inspiration from The Continental Baths of New York, Terrence McNally's "The Ritz" is a screwball farce that takes place entirely within the confines of a bathhouse.

In 1975 it played on Broadway for one year at the Longacre Theater before being made into a big-budget Hollywood movie the following year. The cast for both was almost identical. It was revived on Broadway in 2007 and the movie was finally released on DVD in January 2008.

The Ritz [1976]

A loveable loser (Jack Weston] is running for his life from his mob-connected brother-in-law [Jerry Stiller]. By accident, he winds up taking refuge in a New York City bathhouse.

Once inside, bad luck turns to worse as he is pursued by a relentless chubby chaser [Paul B. Price], a "straight" private detective with a falsetto voice [Treat Williams] and an obnoxious Puerto Rican singer [Rita Moreno] who mistakes him for a big--time Broadway producer. "The Ritz" is an uproarious comedy of errors.

Also starring Kaye Ballard, F. Murray Abraham and John Ratzenberger.

 

These web-clips are very dark and of a poor quality but they give you some idea of the zany humor. For the newly released DVD the film was completely restored with a high-resolution picture and enhanced soundtrack.


Every--ting's coming up roh--zes for me and for jew!

Clip 1  Clip 2  Clip 3  Clip 4  Clip 5  Clip 6

To save money the entire film was shot on a soundstage in England. But the only real evidence of the English connection is the opening line in the movie during the "deathbed" sequence when the girl who plays Jack Weston's daughter says "Daddy I want to go back to Cleveland" in a very clip British accent.

  

YouTube/Rosie and Kevin Interview

"The Ritz" Returns to Broadway

           

Kevin Chamberlin and Rosie Perez (as Googie Gomez) starred in a revival of Terrence McNally's "The Ritz." Former porn star Ryan Idol played one of the towel clad patrons. The production ran at the former home of the infamous "Studio 54" in late 2007.

  

 
After Elton.com
 
Playbill.com
 

 

The idea for "The Ritz" grew out of McNally's teaching days when he was a playwright-in-residence at Yale University more than three decades ago.

"I was assigned three or four students and I met with them twice a week, kind of a mentor program," McNally recalls. "At the same time, Bob Brustein (head of the Yale School of Drama) asked me to write a play."

Out of that request came what was then called "The Tubs." Tubs was slang for bathhouse [as in "hot tubs"]. The play had a well-received production at the Yale Repertory Theatre and was picked up by Broadway producer Adela Holzer.

  

"It got its title changed because at the same time a play came along off--Broadway called "Tubstrip,'" McNally recalls. "Everyone thought it would be confusing. At the time, I was very bummed [that the name had to be changed], but now, in retrospect, I'm glad. "The Ritz" is a better title."

"Tubstrip" was another play which took place in a bathhouse. It starred Casey Donovan [aka Cal Culver] who was truly the first gay porn superstar. He shot to stardom with "Boys in the Sand" several years before Jack Wrangler or Al Parker achieved their fame.

Poster from a new theater production

Internet Movie Data Base/The Ritz

TLA Video/The Ritz

I love this movie. It was the first movie concerning gay people that never apologized for being gay. It was the first movie in which gay people didn't have to suffer nobly. It was the first movie where we actually had fun. No suicides here. No one agonizing over their homosexuality. Yes, it's true that the gay characters personify every cliche and stereotype you can think of. It is a farce after all. However, the difference between this and your average gay bashing comedy is that for once it is our joke, we are laughing at ourselves rather than being laughed at. You can not imagine how powerful that was in 1976. And it's not as though the straight characters aren't equally ridiculous.

Wikipedia: "The Ritz"

Antic, frantic, mechanical but amusing anyhow, The Ritz is of particular interest because it is the first major movie about homosexuality that does not give a thought to redeeming social value. There is not a trace of seriousness in The Ritz. In both the traditional and contemporary meanings of the word, it is a gay movie.

A carefully programmed knockabout farce, The Ritz has been adapted with only slight modification from Terrence McNally's Broadway hit. The insanity centers around a small-time Italian businessman named Gaetano Proclo (Jack Weston). On the run from a mobster brother-in-law, Gaetano lies low in what he considers a suitably obscure hideout. The place even has a reassuringly classy name — The Ritz. Gaetano is from Cleveland, so he can be forgiven his naiveté about the Manhattan demimonde. He suspects all is not well, however, when The Ritz turns out to be an elaborate bathhouse patronized exclusively by males. His darkest fears are confirmed when some of the patrons start winking at him, and one, Claude Perkins, launches repeated attacks from behind doorways and across corridors. Claude (Paul B. Price) is a "chubby chaser," and the ring of flesh hanging over Gaetano's belt is so thick he seems to be wearing an inner tube under his shirt. Claude is transported.

Visions of Glory. Like any formal bedroom comedy, The Ritz skims along on a plot that defies both good sense and synopsis. At no point is Gaetano's life or manhood entirely safe, and in battling to preserve both, he stumbles across deranged characters like Googie Gomez (Rita Moreno), a busted-down Puerto Rican entertainer with visions of Broadway glory. So far, success has kept well ahead of her. Googie's problem, mainly, is her accent, which is thick enough to weigh on a scale. In her lust for fame and fortune, Googie mistakes Gaetano for a big producer cruising the Ritz to have a little fun. She decides to reform him and become discovered in the process. He, on the other hand, seriously entertains the notion that she is a man.

One can never be sure of anyone at the Ritz — not Carmine Vespucci (Jerry Stiller), the homicidal brother-in-law, not even Vivian Proclo (Kaye Ballard), Gaetano's hysterical wife—but there is one thing certain: despite stiff competition from a very funny Jack Weston, Rita Moreno runs off with the movie, stashed under Googie's unconvincing wig. It is a combustible comic performance.

Like Moreno, almost everyone in the cast is a veteran of the original Broadway production. --- J.C. Time Magazine

     

The play "The Ritz" took its inspiration from

 The Continental Baths of New York

Bette Midler performed at The Continental Baths over a period of several years and she often used as her opening act the Latin comic Liz Torres.

One of Torres' stock comic "characters" was a fiery Latin with a heavy accent. This was the inspiration for the over-the-top character of "Googie Gomez" played to the hilt by Rita Moreno in the film adaptation of "The Ritz."

During one revival of "The Ritz" Liz even got to play Googie Gomez herself! Liz would go on to become a character actress appearing in literally 100's of television series including a multitude of 70's and 80's sit-coms such as "All in the Family" and "Mary Tyler Moore."

           Liz Torres                  Rita as "Googie"

We're three caballeros
Three gay caballeros
They say we are birds of a feather
We're happy amigos
No matter where he goes
The one, two, and three goes
We're always together

We're three happy chappies
With snappy serapes
You'll find us beneath our sombreros
We're brave and we'll stay so
We're bright as a peso
Who says so? We say so!
The three caballeros

Ahhhh!
We have the stars to guide us
Guitars here beside us
To play as we go
We sing and we samba
We shout 'aye caramba!
What means aya caramba?
Oh yes, I don't know

Through fair and stormy weather
We stand close together
Like books on a shelf
As pals though we may be
When some Latin baby
Says yes, no, or maybe
Each man is for himself!

               
               
               
               
               

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