OK, I confess it, I had heard about this movie before (I think it was over Millie's blog), but just saw it (twice) this week because there's a new movie based on it, starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. I predict that the new version is gonna be a very forgettable one, but Cactus Flower (1969; Gene Saks) is extremely funny. I laughed out loud many times and the most incredible thing ever is that I laughed the most because of Ingrid Bergman's surprising perfect comedy timing.
The plot is simple but I'm gonna tell it in a very confusing way : Matthau plays a dentist who always says that he's married to attract girls (explanation: women take him as an 'honest' man who won't hide anything from them). He finally is in love with a girl, a kook played by Goldie Hawn (won Oscar) and wants to marry her (otherwise she might commit a desperate act). But how can he if he's married? So Matthau asks his secretary (Ingrid), a lonely woman that always loved him, to play his willing-to-divorce-wife. All this, of course, set in the crazy sixties when people wore crazy clothes and danced to crazy funky music, etc.
Matthau is great as always, with his funny facial expressions and curt remarks; Goldie Hawn is perfect as the insistent and kind-hearted kook that wants to meet the wife just to see if she's gonna be OK; but as I said, Ingrid steals the show.
Her character has many dimensions: she detests and is really sarcastic with some patients (rightfully) but she is very kind with others; loves the doctor but then she's mad at him for asking her such a favor; she hilariously plays the wife as woman with extreme dignity making Goldie feel guilty; then she loosens up...and OMG, she dances and invents moves and delivers the most funny remarks and 'dates' patients to pass as a nymphomaniac (one of my favorite lines is when the patient she hates asks her to dance and she says "I'd rather walk on hot coals" with such a cold expression...). I wish Ingrid had made more comedies, she was hilarious.
So, to sum up:
1. Ingrid (and the rest of the cast) = pure hilarity.
2. The new version is probably mediocre.
3. You should definitely see Cactus Flower.
More on Ingrid Bergman, sixties movies and kooks :