Before The French Connection made him a household name, William Friedkin drafted this love letter to the burlesque era. In 1925, Amish redhead Rachel (Swedish bombshell Britt Ekland) travels from Pennsylvania to New York to dance. On the advice of Professor Spats (The Wizard of Oz's Bert Lahr, who died during filming), she catches the variety show at Minsky's, which is run by the proprietor's son, Billy (Elliot Gould). Comic duo Raymond (Jason Robards) and Chick (Oscar nominee Norman Wisdom) enlist Rachel to perform her Bible routine, billed as the scandalous Madamoiselle Fifi, to make a fool out of moral guardian Vance Fowler (Denholm Elliot), who threatens to sic the vice squad on the theater if they don't tone things down. While helping her prepare, both men fall for "this real religious girl," but Chick, as Raymond puts it, "suffers from "the curse of the three Ds." He's "decent, devoted and dependable," while his partner is "a BFC," i.e. "Bastard First Class." Rachel gets the last word when she accidentally invents the striptease. Adapted from the novel by Rowland Barber (Somebody up There Likes Me) and produced by Norman Lear (All in the Family), Minsky's zips between comedy and drama through the rapid-fire editing of Ralph Rosenblum (The Producers), who inter-cut the newsreel footage in post-production. If the film feels like a battle between opposing sensibilities, i.e. art vs. commerce, warm-hearted entertainment wins out in the end. The only real crime is that this long-awaited title arrives without any extras. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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