Smile (1975 film)


Original Theatrical Poster
Directed by Michael Ritchie
Produced by Michael Ritchie
Screenplay by Jerry Belson
Starring Bruce Dern
Barbara Feldon
Michael Kidd
Geoffrey Lewis
Eric Shea
Music by Dan Orsborn
Cinematography Conrad L. Hall
Edited by Richard A. Harris
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • July 9, 1975 (1975-07-09)
Running time
117 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Smile is a 1975 DeLuxe Color satirical comedy-drama film directed by Michael Ritchie with a screenplay by Jerry Belson about a beauty pageant in Santa Rosa, California.

It stars Bruce Dern and Barbara Feldon and introduced a number of young actresses who later went on to larger roles, such as Melanie Griffith. The film satirizes small-town America and its peculiarities, hypocrisies and artifice within and around the pageant.

The film was subsequently adapted into a 1986 Broadway musical with songs by Marvin Hamlisch and Howard Ashman.

Plot Synopsis

The plot revolves around the contestants and people involved with the California pageant of the fictional Young American Miss Pageant, held in Santa Rosa, California.

Big Bob Freelander (Bruce Dern), the head judge, is a used car dealer. Brenda DiCarlo (Barbara Feldon), is the pageant's Executive Director, and her husband Andy (Nicholas Pryor) is an alcoholic.

In separate subplots, the film focuses on Andy's unhappiness, as he is about to be inducted into a fraternal society, which requires a humiliating ritual, Little Bob (Eric Shea), Big Bob's son, who conspires with his friends to photograph the contestants in various states of undress, and the activities of the contestants themselves.

Wilson Shears (Geoffrey Lewis), the pageant producer, clashes with a choreographer brought in from Hollywood, Tommy French (Michael Kidd), who is cynical and blunt.

Andy refuses to go along with the induction ceremony, which involves kissing the behind of a dead chicken. Brenda discovers him at home, apparently about to commit suicide with a gun. She tries to talk him out of it, and he decides she is the real problem and shoots her, wounding her. He is jailed, but she refuses to press charges and Andy is released. Big Bob tries to convince him to not move from town.

The show becomes more expensive than was anticipated, and Shears pressures French to remove a ramp, because it is taking up seating. This results in an injury to a contestant, and French agrees to reinstate the ramp and to make up the difference out of his fee.

The pageant concludes successfully, though the contestants that have been the focus of the film's attention do not win.



The movie was filmed on location in and around Santa Rosa, with the pageant held at Veteran's Memorial Auditorium.


Smile was well received upon release, with praise for the humour, satire and performances. Vincent Canby of The New York Times declared Jerry Belson's screenplay "excellent" and added: "Smile, which is Mr. Ritchie's best film to date (better than both Downhill Racer and The Candidate), questions the quality of our fun, while adding to it."[1] Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, saying that though "Ritchie has so many targets that he misses some and never quite gets back to others," the film still "does a good job of working over the hypocrisy and sexism of a typical beauty pageant."[2]

The film holds a 100% "fresh" rating on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes.[3]

See also


  1. Vincent Canby (9 October 1975). "Movie Review: Smile". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  2. Roger Ebert (1 January 1975). "Smile". Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  3. "Smile". 1 January 1975. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
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