What's Up, Doc? (1972 film)
What's Up, Doc? is a 1972 American romantic screwball comedy film released by Warner Bros., directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Barbra Streisand, Ryan O'Neal, and Madeline Kahn. It is intended to pay homage to comedy films of the 1930s and 1940s, especially Bringing Up Baby, and Warner Bros. Bugs Bunny cartoons.
What's Up, Doc? was a success, and became the third-highest grossing film of 1972. It won the Writers Guild of America 1973 "Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen" award for Buck Henry, David Newman and Robert Benton. What's Up, Doc? was ranked number 61 on the list of the 100 greatest American comedies published by the American Film Institute (AFI), number 68 on the AFI's list of 100 greatest love stories in American cinema, and number 58 on the list of the WGA's 101 Funniest Screenplays published by the Writers Guild of America. The film was very loosely based on the novel A Glimpse of Tiger by Herman Raucher.
Four parties arrive at the Hotel Bristol in San Francisco, each carrying identical plaid overnight bags.
Howard, Eunice, Mrs. Van Hoskins, and Mr. Smith all check into the Hotel Bristol at the same time. Judy lodges herself there without paying, then notices Howard and begins pursuing him. Hotel employees Harry and Fritz attempt to steal the jewels, while Mr. Jones attempts to retrieve Smith's bag. Over the course of the evening, the bags get switched haphazardly from room to room as the four parties unwittingly take one another's suitcases. Howard ends up with the jewels, Judy with the documents, Mr. Smith with Judy's clothes, and the thieves with the rocks.
Meanwhile, Judy uses her humor, charm, and academic knowledge to secure the grant for Howard, while masquerading as Eunice at the musicologists' banquet hosted by Larrabee. She then indirectly contributes to the destruction of Howard's hotel room. The following day, everyone makes their way to a party in the lobby of Larrabee's upscale Victorian home, where a fight breaks out involving guns, furnishings, and thrown pies.
Howard and Judy take all four bags and flee through San Francisco, first on a delivery bike, and then in a decorated Volkswagen Beetle stolen from a wedding party, pursued by the thieves, Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones, Eunice, Simon, Larrabee, and a few roped-in bystanders. They go through Chinatown disrupting a parade, down winding Lombard Street, through wet cement, through a panel of glass, and eventually into San Francisco Bay at the ferry landing, after causing several collisions.
Everyone ends up in court under Judge Maxwell, who turns out to be Judy's father. Later, the bags are all returned to their rightful owners. Mrs. Van Hoskins pays the considerable damages in Howard's name with the reward money that he would have received for the return of her jewels, the hotel thieves are forced to flee the country, and the papers are put back in the hands of the government. Judy exposes Simon as a fraud and plagiarist, thus getting Howard the grant, and Eunice leaves Howard for Larrabee. Howard boards a plane back to Iowa alone, only to find Judy in the seat behind him. She announces that she is making one more attempt at college, wanting to study music history under Howard at the Iowa Conservatory of Music. He declares his love for her and they kiss, while their in-flight movie is the Bugs Bunny cartoon that gave the film its name.
John Calley, who was then head of production, called me into his office and said: "Look, Barbra really wants to work with you. If you were going to make a picture with Barbra Streisand, what kind of picture would you do?" I said: "Oh, I don't know, kind of a screwball comedy, something like Bringing Up Baby: daffy girl, square professor, everything works out all right." He said, "Do it."
So we had to work fast on the script. Because of Barbra's commitments, and Ryan O'Neal's, we had to start shooting in August  and this was May. We got a script done with two different sets of writers—first, Robert Benton and David Newman who did Bonnie and Clyde, and then Buck Henry. Both of them went through three drafts. So there was quite a bit of work.
The opening and ending scenes were filmed at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in the South Terminal (now Terminal 1). The opening scene was filmed in the downstairs TWA Baggage Claim area, and the next to last scene was filmed in the upstairs departure area beneath the arrival/departure board and at the flight insurance counter.
The San Francisco setting was chosen to allow an elaborate comic spoof of the San Francisco car chase in the hit 1968 film Bullitt. Bogdanovich claims the rousing chase sequence accounted for one-fourth of the film's $4 million budget. The classic "plate glass" scene, in which O'Neal and Streisand are pedaling on a stolen grocery store delivery bicycle, was filmed at Balboa and 23rd Avenue in the Richmond District. In another scene, their out of control bike goes down Clay Street in Chinatown. The Volkswagen Beetle is stolen from the curb in front of Saint Peter and Paul Church at Washington Square Park, and the Beetle hides on a car carrier on Sacramento St. just west of Van Ness Avenue, in an area where many car dealerships were once located (Van Ness was San Francisco's "Auto Row"). The production did not have permission from the city to drive cars down the concrete steps in Alta Plaza Park in San Francisco; these were badly damaged during filming and still show the scars today. At the end of the car chase, almost everyone ends up foundering in San Francisco Bay—except O'Neal and Streisand, comfortably afloat in their Volkswagen Beetle. During the making of this scene, the actor Sorrell Booke almost drowned in the Bay.
Although What's Up, Doc? is not a musical, it contains some singing and other musical interest. The song "You're The Top" from the musical Anything Goes is sung as a solo during the opening credits by Streisand, and as a duet during the closing credits by Streisand and O'Neal. The same Cole Porter musical supplied at least two other tunes played as background music: "Anything Goes" and "I Get a Kick Out of You", heard during the first hotel lobby scene.
“Funiculì, Funiculà” is whistled by the Streisand character as she crosses the street, following the pizza delivery man, into the Bristol Hotel before the first hotel lobby scene.
About two-thirds of the way into the film, Howard accompanies Judy at a piano (on a floor of the Hotel Bristol apparently under construction or renovation) as she sings the beginning of "As Time Goes By" (made famous in the film Casablanca). The scene includes Streisand imitating Humphrey Bogart with the line, "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, he walks into mine. Play it, Sam."
Musical in-jokes appear throughout the film. Over-the-top Muzak-styled elevator music featuring Cole Porter's songs is used throughout the hotel elevator scenes. In the chase scene, a Chinese marching band is inexplicably playing the Mexican tune "La Cucaracha" (although, in certain prints, it sounds more like "Deep in the Heart of Texas") on German glockenspiels. At the American Musicologists' banquet, themes from Thoinot Arbeau's Orchésographie can be heard in the background, incongruously played on a Hammond organ and a sitar.
George Gershwin's "Someone to Watch over Me" is whistled by Streisand outside the hotel drug store.
The Bugs Bunny number—derived from his characteristic tagline—that gives the movie its title appears as well, with the original animation, in the last scene. Instrumental versions of "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone", an old Tin Pan Alley hit which had appeared in Looney Tunes cartoon One Froggy Evening, are background music during the opening scene in the airport.
As of December 2020, the film held a "Certified Fresh" rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 43 reviews, with the consensus: "Barbra Streisand was never more likable than in this energetic, often hilarious screwball farce from director Peter Bogdanovich."
In his review of What's Up, Doc?, critic John Simon (upon whom, according to director Bogdanovich, the character of Hugh Simon was based) said that Barbra Streisand "look[ed] like a cross between an aardvark and an albino rat surmounted by a platinum-coated horse bun," and called the film a heavy-handed attempt at nostalgia.
The film won the Writers Guild of America 1973 "Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen" award for writers Buck Henry, David Newman and Robert Benton. Madeline Kahn was nominated for the . The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists: