In 1969, the “sexual revolution” and New-Age philosophies that many thought of as typically Southern Californian were spoofed in the hit film Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice. The comedy about two couples who attempt to be more sexually “open” was the first feature for Paul Mazursky, a former actor turned screenwriter. Mazursky would go on to direct many films about Americans grappling with social dilemmas, including Harry and Tonto, Next Stop Greenwich Village, and Down and Out in Beverly Hills.
Mazursky was in attendance at the Aero American Cinematheque on for a screening of Bob and Carol etc., accompanied by two of the film’s stars, Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon (who played Ted and Alice). Talking about the film, Mazursky recalled what actually inspired him to write it.
“I saw an article in Time Magazine about Fritz Perls doing Gestalt therapy at Esalen [the famed humanistic retreat]. I said to my wife Betsy ’Let’s got there.’ She was Carol and I was Bob.” What the Mazurskys saw was a lot of people in hot tubs and a lot of new theories that included sexual experimentation. He knew it was a ripe subject for a humorous film and he and his partner Larry Tucker wrote it quickly.
The first person cast in the film, according to Mazursky, was Natalie Wood as Carol. “Natalie was a little insecure. She hadn’t done a film in a while.” Robert Culp, well-known for the TV show, I Spy, was set for Bob. Dyan Cannon, who had been doing dinner theater in Chicago, won her role over two other actresses who all auditioned with the same scene – the wacky bedroom scene between Ted and Alice. Elliott Gould, not well-known at the time, was finally chosen to play Ted and proved to be an inspired choice.
“I was very uptight,” Gould remarked. “I didn’t think I wanted to do it until [producer] Mike Frankovich asked me to meet Paul and Larry and they had me play the scene in the bedroom. I could see it was going to be funny. I am very awkward and uptight.”
“He’s a great actor,” Mazursky added. “He never deviates from the truth.”
Cannon said that she took the role of Alice at a time when she had been offered a three-picture deal at Universal, but turned it down in favor of Mazursky’s offbeat venture. “I felt so strongly that this was such a good thing to do. The basic truths in this film are still here today.”
During the audience question and answer session, someone expressed a similar sentiment that Bob and Carol could still be released today and be pertinent. But someone else wanted to know if a sequel could be done.
Mazursky chuckled. “It would probably have to be in an old age home.” And then he added: “I’d like to do Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice: Vampires. Vampires seem to be big now.”