Open main menu

What's So Bad About Feeling Good?

What's So Bad About Feeling Good? is a 1968 comedy film directed by George Seaton and starring George Peppard, Mary Tyler Moore, Jeanne Arnold, Dom DeLuise and Gillian Spencer.

What's So Bad About Feeling Good?
What's So Bad About Feeling Good.jpg
Directed byGeorge Seaton
Produced byGeorge Seaton
Written byRobert Pirosh
George Seaton
Based onnovel "I Am Thinking of My Darling" by Vincent McHugh
StarringGeorge Peppard
Mary Tyler Moore
Jeanne Arnold
Dom DeLuise
Gillian Spencer
Music byFrank De Vol
CinematographyErnesto Caparrós
Edited byAlma Macrorie
Universal Pictures
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 10, 1968 (1968-05-10) (New York City)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[1]

The film was a box office disappointment.


Pete (George Peppard) is a former advertising executive living a Beatnik–Bohemian life in a loft in New York City. Since living in the commune, Pete has turned into a cynical, misanthropic artist. The members of the commune are seemingly aimless, indolent or melancholy while waiting for the world to end; one member (Gillian Spencer) lives her life in a burlap sack, with only her bare feet protruding.

One day, a wayward toucan arrives at the loft. The toucan, which stowed away on a Greek banana boat from South America, carries a unique and highly contagious virus. The virus causes intense feelings of giddiness, happiness, and kindness in anyone affected by it.

Pete initially catches the virus and in an outbreak of euphoria, suddenly senses a purpose in his life. Pete's girlfriend Liz (Mary Tyler Moore) is initially horrified at his behavior change, and when she learns from nearby police about the bird's virus, tries to warn him, but he has already shaved his beard off and proposes marriage and conventional living. Pete plans to trick her and the members of his loft into getting infected, by pretending to be the nihilist German philosopher leader of a doomsday cult popular in the commune, and spreading it through close facial contact with them. In his disguise, he convinces Liz to let him kiss her, but he is soon revealed as himself.

The now upbeat collective keep the toucan, nicknaming it "Amigo". They then decide to spread the virus to as many people as they can in New York City, disguising themselves in conventional dress. Liz remains physically immune, but the positivity she encounters from her friends leads her to respond in kind. When authorities show up to catch the bird, Pete and Liz spirit him away by Liz hiding him in her dress and pretending to be pregnant, though the ruse is complicated when "nice" police take the couple to a hospital to give birth.

The virus is quickly spread across New York City. Rude telephone clerks are suddenly polite and understanding. Those immune to the virus are also nice, as almost everyone else acts nice to them. Pete returns to his job as an advertising executive, but insists, however, all the ads be honest. This initially gets him fired, but when his fellow executives are later infected, he is rehired and given a raise.

Government leaders determine that the spread of the virus threatens the economic lifeblood of New York City; residents suddenly stop buying alcohol, tobacco or drugs, and the stock exchange and business districts are threatened with collapse if everyone is happy and nice to one another.

J. Gardner Monroe (Dom DeLuise) is sent by the government to New York to stop the outbreak. He arrives wearing a space helmet. After several attempts, the toucan is intercepted and a cure is found. The vaccine is spread around the city via gasoline and industrial exhaust fumes. Cured New Yorkers return to their nasty ways, but those immune to the virus, and who only acted nice because others were, remain nice.

Pete, now "cured", returns to the loft, while Liz declares she can no longer live in such a way, and liked Pete better when he was "sick". Liz plans to return to her hometown, and visits a zoo where the toucan is now caged to say goodbye. Pete shows up independent of Liz and almost misses connecting with her, but the bird escapes from its cage and as he follows it, is reunited with her. They catch the bird, Liz pretends to be pregnant again to rescue Amigo, and they all escape from the zoo.



The film was the first in a three-picture deal between Seaton and Universal. The script was written by Seaton and Robert Pirosh who had last worked together on A Day at the Races (1937). Filming was meant to start in 1966 but was pushed back until the following year. "For those of us who've been in analysis, it'll be a lot of fun," said George Peppard, who signed to play the male lead.[2] His co-star was Mary Tyler Moore, then under long term contract to Universal.

"This picture is now comedy, influenced by the new wave," said Seaton. "There's not so much emphasis on the story and everything tying in anymore. Sometimes there's a scene almost extraneous but if it is entertaining or extraneous audiences accept this. Today's comedy writing mirrors the times. It's much harder to make people laugh today because of the world conditions. The young certainly don't have much to laugh about. So humor in film has to be so wild, so outlandish, that you can't help but laugh. The sophisticated humor of 20 years ago, the Noël Coward type of thing is not today. Not now."[3]

The film was shot entirely on location in New York. The cooperation of Mayor John Lindsay meant it was the first film to be shot in New York City Hall.[3]


What's So Bad About Feeling Good? represents juxtaposition of the concepts of "normal" and "sick." The "sick" people are the ones who act nice, while the normal ones are mean and cutthroat. The film is also a slight departure from Mary Tyler Moore's candy-coated image. The film, made between the end of The Dick Van Dyke Show and the premier of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, features Mary, at least in the opening scenes, living together with a man in a hippie commune, pretending to be pregnant in order to hide the toucan, and has, perhaps the only time in her career, a sex scene. (The screen is black and only the audio is heard.) Several actors in this film went on to successful TV careers including Moore, Peppard (The A-Team), Cleavon Little (Temperatures Rising), Dom DeLuise (Candid Camera) and Susan St. James (McMillan and Wife). Catskills comedian Morty Gunty has a small role as a policeman named Officer Gunty.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Reed, Rex (4 June 1967). "Two Beatniks Become Better People". New York Times. p. X11.
  2. ^ Reed, Rex (10 July 1966). "A Nice Guy, Cast As a Movie Star". New York Times. p. 81.
  3. ^ a b Wigle, Shari (14 Apr 1968). "George Seaton Turns On Manhattan in New Comedy: Seaton Turns Manhattan On". Los Angeles Times. p. n16.

External linksEdit