California Suite (film)

California Suite is a 1978 American comedy film directed by Herbert Ross. The screenplay by Neil Simon is based on his 1976 play of the same name. Similar to his earlier Plaza Suite, the film focuses on the dilemmas of guests staying in a suite in a luxury hotel. Maggie Smith won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the film.

California Suite
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
Directed byHerbert Ross
Produced byRay Stark
Written byNeil Simon
Based onCalifornia Suite
by Neil Simon
StarringAlan Alda
Michael Caine
Bill Cosby
Jane Fonda
Walter Matthau
Elaine May
Richard Pryor
Maggie Smith
Music byClaude Bolling
CinematographyDavid M. Walsh
Edited byMichael A. Stevenson
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
‹See TfM›
  • December 22, 1978 (1978-12-22)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$42 million[1]


In :Visitors from New York", Hannah Warren (Jane Fonda) is a Manhattan workaholic who flies to Los Angeles to retrieve her teenage daughter Jenny (played by Dana Plato) after she leaves home to live with her successful screenwriter father Bill (Alan Alda). The bickering, divorced couple is forced to decide what living arrangements are best for the girl.

In "Visitors from London", Diana Barrie (Maggie Smith) is a British actress and a first-time nominee for the Academy Award for Best Actress in an independent British film, an honor that could revive her faltering career, but she knows she doesn't have a chance of winning. She is in deep denial about the true nature of her marriage of convenience to Sidney Cochran (Michael Caine), a once-closeted gay antique dealer who has become increasingly indiscreet about his sexuality. As she prepares for her moment in the spotlight, her mood fluctuates from hope to panic to despair.

In "Visitors from Philadelphia", conservative, middle-aged businessman Marvin Michaels (Walter Matthau) awakens to discover a prostitute (Denise Galik) named Bunny - an unexpected gift from his brother Harry (Herb Edelman) - unconscious in his bed. With his wife Millie (Elaine May) on her way up to the suite, he must find a way to conceal all traces of his uncharacteristic indiscretion.

In "Visitors from Chicago", Dr. Chauncey Gump (Richard Pryor) and his wife Lola (Gloria Gifford) and Dr. Willis Panama (Bill Cosby) and his wife Bettina (Sheila Frazier) are taking a much-needed vacation together. Things begin to unravel quickly when everything seems to go wrong, and the two men decide to settle their differences by engaging in a very competitive tennis match.



The film was shot on location at The Beverly Hills Hotel, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Los Angeles Music Center, and along Rodeo Drive.

Diana and Sidney's arrival at the Academy Awards was actually shot during the arrivals for the 50th Academy Awards in April, 1978. This may explain the muted response from a real-life crowd unfamiliar with the names Diana Barrie and Sidney Cochran.

The California-themed paintings seen in the opening credits are by pop artist David Hockney. While the play featured two actors and two actresses each playing several roles, the film features a different actor for each role.

Critical receptionEdit

Vincent Canby of The New York Times called California Suite "the most agreeably realised Simon film in years" and added "Here is Mr. Simon in top form, under the direction of Herbert Ross, one of the few directors...who can cope with the particular demands of material that simultaneously means to be touching and so nonstop clever one sometimes wants to gag him. It all works in California Suite, not only because the material is superior Simon, but also because the writer and the director have assembled a dream cast."[2]

Variety observed "Neil Simon and Herbert Ross have gambled in radically altering the successful format of California Suite as it appeared on stage. Instead of four separate playlets, there is now one semi-cohesive narrative revolving around visitors to the Beverly Hills Hotel...The technique is less than successful, veering from poignant emotionalism to broad slapstick in sudden shifts."[3]

Time Out New York described the film as "quick and varied comedy, highly suited to Neil Simon's machine-gun gag-writing" and added "Fonda provides the film with its centre, giving another performance of unnerving sureness. Also on the credit side is a bedroom farce of epic proportions from Matthau and May. The other vignettes are a bit glum."[4]

Channel 4 stated "It's an expertly crafted slick movie that sets up each of its coconuts and knocks them over with a sure eye, but ultimately it's emotional sushi rather than satisfying catharsis."[5]

California Suite holds a rating of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 24 reviews.

The New York Times placed the film on its Best 1000 Movies Ever list.[6]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Supporting Actress Maggie Smith Won
Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium Neil Simon Nominated
Best Art Direction Albert Brenner and Marvin March Nominated
British Academy Film Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Maggie Smith Nominated
Evening Standard British Film Awards Best Actress Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy California Suite Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Maggie Smith Won[a]
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actress Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Jane Fonda (also for Comes a Horseman and Coming Home) Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actor Michael Caine Nominated
Best Actress Jane Fonda Nominated
Maggie Smith Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actress Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium Neil Simon Nominated

DVD releaseEdit

The film was released on DVD on Region 1 DVD on January 2, 2002. It is in anamorphic widescreen format with audio tracks in English and French and subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ "California Suite, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved June 25, 2012.
  2. ^ Canby, Vincent (December 22, 1978). "Screen: Simon's 'Suite' Comes Back Home:Things Go Wrong". The New York Times. Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  3. ^ "Film Reviews: California Suite". Variety. December 31, 1977.
  4. ^ "California Suite". Time Out New York. February 4, 2013. Archived from the original on February 4, 2013.
  5. ^ "Channel 4 review". Archived from the original on 2014-04-23. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
  6. ^ The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made. The New York Times via Internet Archive. Published April 29, 2003. Retrieved June 12, 2008.

External linksEdit