Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice Turn 50

Alice (Dyan Cannon) & Ted (Elliott Gould) & Bob
(Robert Culp) & Carol (Natalie Wood) have a pot party. 
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, the first modern movie that depicted women smoking pot.

The film was written and directed by Paul Mazursky (who also wrote 1968's I Love You Alice B. Toklas, in which pot brownies are imbibed). It begins with married couple Bob (Robert Stack) and Carol (Natalie Wood) participating in an encounter group, based on Mazursky's experiences at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA.

Having opened up to new experiences, Bob has a fling with a colleague on a business trip, and confesses his infidelity to Carol. She is surprisingly accepting of Bob's experimentation, and soon tries some of her own.

Child star/actress Natalie Wood (Miracle on 34th Street,
Rebel Without a Cause, West Side Story
) puffs pot.
The couple's experiments include smoking pot with their friends, another married couple Ted (Elliot Gould) and Alice (Dyan Cannon). Wood as Carol daintily takes a few little hits, after filling the pipe and lighting it for her husband.

She then pronounces herself "totally and completely zonked out of my skull" but doesn't really act like it, except for amusing herself by talking about doing things "groovily and peacefully."

Cannon, despite her character's name being Alice (as in Wonderland or B. Toklas), insists that she "never gets high," while puffing and coughing away. Her revelation is that she's too fearful of "getting into a potful of trouble," especially because Bob & Ted are lawyers. Ted tells her he loves her anyway, calling her "my sweet unstoned mother of my only son."

Dyan Cannon in her Oscar-nominated role as Alice 
The couples seem to toy with wife-swapping at their pot party, but Alice playing the nice little wifey insists on leaving. A lengthy, painful scene follows with Alice & Ted not making it.

The famous shot of the four of them in bed happens later, after Ted also confesses an infidelity and they all get drunk in Vegas. But it's a tease: the orgy never happens and a sweet scene follows with couples looking into each others' eyes, encounter-group style, to the tune of "What the World Needs Now is Love" like good little pot-smoking hippies.

In real life, Wood admitted in an interview in 1978 that she and husband Robert Wagner occasionally smoked pot, but weren't really "users." She said she had periods of heavy drinking in her teens, and sometimes took Seconal with a doctor's prescription for sleep. The actress drowned three years later, at the age of 43,  after a night at sea with Wagner on the couple's yacht. Traces of a painkiller, a seasickness pill, and alcohol were found in her system. (She'd have been safer with pot.)

Cannon married and had a child with Cary Grant, and alleged in divorce proceedings he was an abuser of LSD, which he was using with clinical oversight. "I was addicted to marijuana," she told Larry King in an April 2001 interview, where she said she'd quit and found Jesus. She possibly redeemed herself later by telling TMZ on Christmas 2010 she was taking "the good kind" of brownies to the LA Lakers before their game.

More on Tokin' Women in Movies & TV.

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