Neil Simon’s words were the key to this rom-com of the late 1970s: The Goodbye Girl.
Directed by Herbert Ross and produced by Ray Stark, the film starred Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfuss.
Paula (Mason) is a dancer who is living with Tony, a married actor, who takes off to Italy for a job and doesn’t tell her he has sublet his apartment to an aspiring actor Elliot Garfield (Dreyfuss).
Paula and her daughter Lucy (Quinn Cummings) are wary of Elliot and tolerate his presence. But slowly he and Paula become friends as he tries and fails to succeed as an actor. Lucy doesn’t trust that Elliot truly loves Paula but soon is convinced he is honest unlike Tony.
As the three become a unusual family, Paula realizes she has relied on the wrong men for too long, and Elliot is the right man, while Elliot knows that he needs Paula and Lucy, and not just an acting career.
Originally titled Bogart Slept Here, the screenplay was written based on Dustin Hoffman’s rise to success as an actor. With Mike Nichols as director, the lead was given to Robert De Niro, playing an actor with a career on the rise, living with a woman and her daughter.
But when filming began, De Niro wasn’t the right fit, and was replaced with Dreyfuss, while Nichols left the project and was replaced by Herbert Ross. Simon rewrote the screenplay to add in more humour and a few more secondary characters.
Warner Bros partnered with MGM to release the film in November 1977, and this rom-com did well at the box office, and earned the film four Golden Globe nominations (and wins) and five Oscar nominations for Dreyfuss (Best Actor), Mason (Best Actress), Cummings (Best Supporting Actress) Simon (Best Screenplay) and Stark (Best Picture).
The movie’s title song also did well, sung by David Gates and earned a number 15 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
Dreyfuss became the youngest male at the time to win the Best Actor Oscar for the film at age 30 in 1978, and had a trio of success in the 1970s with his roles in Jaws in 1975 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977.