1973 / Best Actress / Best Picture

Film #271: A Touch of Class (1973)

With the last four posts concentrating on fairly macho films I’ve decided to readdress the balance with so-called relationship comedy A Touch of Class. The film was nominated for Best Picture at the 1974 ceremony whilst lead actress Glenda Jackson won her second Best Actress award for playing divorced seamstress Vicky Allesio.

Early on in the film Vicky runs into married American businessman Steve who lives in London along with his wife. Though there is chemistry between Vicky and Steve the pair refuse to act on their sexual attraction due to Steve’s wife being local. They instead decide to journey to Spain together, a journey that is complicated from the get-go when Steve runs into a colleague. During their time in Spain, Vicky and Chris continue to row about his driving and her commentary on his love-making. Eventually they decide to end their affair early but, when Steve fails to make a reservation for the next plane home, the two resort to a passionate night in a local hotel. From there they really begin to make a go of things and, when they return to London, Vicky hires a little flat in a seedy part of the country. Here Steve is forced to split his time between his family and Vicky who is beginning to grow incredibly attached to her married lover and is upset whenever he fails to turn up to a planned rendezvous. However, their busy home and work life contributes to them having several arguments and ultimately leads to the end of a brief yet entertaining affair.

As a lot of you have followed my journey through the decades you’ll know that I have a particular fondness for the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s. I feel that A Touch of Class ushers in the natural progression of that genre as it continues the banter between the male and female protagonists while making the themes a little more risqué. Indeed, in one scene Steve attempts to angrily have sex with Vicky but can’t unzip his flies leading her to utter the line ‘the one chance I have to get raped and you can’t undo your trousers.’ Melvin Frank’s script is at its peak during the scenes in Spain as both Steve and Vicky snap at each other with some really well-written barbs. But I personally felt that the film descended into melodrama once the pair returned to London to continue their affair in the dingy flat. However, these scenes did allow Glenda Jackson to display her brilliant range as she went from comedy to drama within a couple of minutes. Indeed Jackson’s portrayal of Vicky’s unhappiness as the other woman was a joy to watch as were her putdowns of the clumsy Steve. George Segal was definitely the weaker performer in the couple and his performance made me struggle to believe why Vicky would be attracted to Steve in the first place. Segal’s strength did lie in his delivery and that’s what made the knockabout humour so easy to enjoy. While A Touch of Class has its moments, namely Jackson’s Oscar-winning performance, I found it to be a film of two halves. By the end I was willing Vicky and Steve to split up and wasn’t really moved by their eventual break-up as I really thought she could do a lot better.


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