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They All Laughed is a 1981 film directed by Peter Bogdanovich. It is based on a screenplay by Bogdanovich and Blaine Novak.


A romantic comedy, They All Laughed is set in New York City and tells the story of three private detectives investigating two beautiful women for infidelity. The detectives eventually wind up romantically pursuing the women, who turn the tables on them. They All Laughed is an updating of La Ronde, both in tone and theme. Detective John Russo (Ben Gazzara) attempts to cheat on his girlfriend, country singer Christy Miller (Colleen Camp), with a blonde taxi driver (Patti Hansen), with the connivance of his colleague Arthur Brodsky (Blaine Novak). He has met the taxi driver en route from a meeting in which he's been assigned to follow Angela Niotes (Audrey Hepburn), wife of a European tycoon. Detective Charles Rutledge (John Ritter) falls in love with Dolores Martin (Dorothy Stratten), whose husband has also hired him to spy on her. Rutledge is cautioned against this infatuation by his buddy Arthur. Feeling slighted by Russo's infidelity, Christy Miller throws herself at Rutledge but herself falls in love with Dolores Martin's extramarital paramour Jose (Sean Ferrer). Russo's pursuit of Angela leads him to fall in love with her.


There are many hints at a relationship between the plot and real life in this picture, which has caused some commentators to question the discipline of the filmmakers but may, in time, actually contribute to the film's interest. Audrey Hepburn's son plays the part of Jose, though the part of her son in the film is played by Glenn Scarpelli. According to Bogdanovich, Hepburn and Gazzara had had an affair prior to the filming, though evidently this had fizzled out by the time filming began, and Gazzara's ongoing divorce made further contact inadvisable. (Commentators have not agreed as to whether Gazzara and Hepburn have good onscreen chemistry in They All Laughed). Bogdanovich's real-life daughters portray John Russo's daughters, who along with Arthur (pretending to be Russo's son in a crucial scene) are enlisted to win Angela Niotes's trust. More implicitly, Arthur, who acts primarily as a facilitator to the others' romances, is portrayed by one of the film's screenwriters. Charles, who pursues Dorothy Stratten's character, wears director Peter Bogdanovich's trademark oversized plastic-framed eyeglasses, perhaps a reference to Bogdanovich's initial guilt and subsequent acceptance of his love for Stratten.

Indeed, the theme of secret love surfacing is pervasive throughout. Even Russo's relationship with the taxi driver--possibly the least secretive and most above-board of all the couplings, so much so that Russo is brought to confess that he is aging and his sexual prowess is failing--takes place under a pseudonym (Russo calls Deborah "Sam" for obscure reasons). The theme of hidden desires is echoed in the soundtrack, which juxtaposes country music by Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Rodney Crowell -- as well as by Camp -- with visuals of the Manhattan skyline (the credits sequence follows a trek into Manhattan, notably focusing on the twin towers of the World Trade Center as Dorothy Stratten's credit appears) and songs by Frank Sinatra, including the eponymous hit.

Subsequent tragedyEdit

After the production of the film, co-star Dorothy Stratten was murdered by her estranged husband, who was upset over his wife's leaving him for Bogdanovich. Studios were reluctant to release the film due to the negative publicity following the murder. Bogdanovich bought back the negative with his own money so that the film would be seen by an audience; by a wide margin it was the most ambitious role Stratten had played, and likely her best movie as well. But the film was released to tepid reviews and minimal business. Bogdanovich lost millions of dollars and had to file for bankruptcy.


  • They All Laughed was the last theatrical film in which Audrey Hepburn played a lead role (she would later star in a made-for-TV film entitled Love Among Thieves and later play a cameo role in Always).
  • Along with Heaven's Gate, Cruising, and One from the Heart, They All Laughed is generally regarded as the end of the New Hollywood period, and the director-driven studio films of the 1970s. Since the very public failures of these four films, Hollywood studios have never again allowed directors to control the films that they finance.
  • In recent years the film has experienced a level of positive reappraisal, with the likes of Quentin Tarantino now praising the film. The movie was released to VHS on January 31, 1995; HBO Home Video released the film to DVD (as a 25th Anniversary Edition) on October 17, 2006.


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