Noises Off (film)

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Noises Off
Original poster drawn by Al Hirschfeld
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Produced by Frank Marshall
Screenplay by Marty Kaplan
Based on Noises Off 
by Michael Frayn
Starring Michael Caine
Carol Burnett
Denholm Elliott
Julie Hagerty
Marilu Henner
Mark Linn-Baker
Christopher Reeve
John Ritter
Nicollette Sheridan
Music by Roy Budd
Cinematography Tim Suhrstedt
Edited by Lisa Day
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • March 20, 1992 (1992-03-20)
Running time
103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million
Box office $2,280,148

Noises Off is a 1992 comedy film directed by Peter Bogdanovich. The screenplay by Marty Kaplan is based on the 1982 play of the same name by Michael Frayn.

An ensemble cast includes Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, Christopher Reeve, John Ritter, Marilu Henner, Nicollette Sheridan, Julie Hagerty and Mark Linn-Baker.

Also featured is the final performance of Denholm Elliott, who died that same year.


The film follows the concept of a play within a play, in this case a dreadful farce called Nothing On — the type of production in which many doors continually open and shut. The setting has been transplanted from English provincial theatre to Des Moines, Iowa, where a second-rate theatrical troupe is preparing to perform the Broadway-bound play under the direction of Lloyd Fellowes.

Among the cast members of Nothing On are fading star Dotty Otley, scatter-brained Garry Lejuene, insecure matinee heartthrob Frederick Dallas, myopic leading lady Brooke Ashton, second female lead Belinda Blair, and alcoholic character actor Selsdon Mawbray. Frantically working behind the scenes are Tim Allgood and Poppy Taylor.

The film opens with the final dress rehearsal before opening night, with the cast still forgetting lines, missing cues, and mishandling props. Lloyd is reduced to cajoling, yelling at, and pleading with them to get things right. Complicating matters are the personal problems and backstage relationships that have fostered jealousy and petty squabbling and intruded upon any professionalism this motley crew can muster.

As the company works its way to New York City, the eccentricities of the cast come to the fore and the performances on the road dissolve into chaos on and backstage.


Critical reception

The film received mixed reviews from critics. In his review in the New York Times, Vincent Canby noted, "There are a number of hefty laughs scattered throughout . . . this woozy film adaptation" and added, "Noises Off is a practically perfect stage piece, constructed with such delicacy that any opportunistic adjustment can destroy it, which is what happens here . . . It may not even be Mr. Bogdanovich's fault. He hasn't opened up the play in any foolish way. There are even times when the camera successfully catches the tempo of the lunatic action without being overwhelmed by it. Yet too often the action and the dialogue are so fuzzily understood that the laughs are lost. The film's problem is more basic: the attempt to Americanize a fine English farce about provincial seediness. It can't be done."[1]

Rita Kempley of the Washington Post observed, "The performers all seem to be relishing this sendup, but we're always aware that it is a vehicle better suited to the stage."[2]

In The New Yorker, Michael Sragow said, "Most of the time, Bogdanovich sticks to Frayn's gleefully proscenium-bound play without making it work for the movies. The result is roughly equivalent to the pan and scan TV version of a wide-screen spectacle. Bogdanovich has cast actors you want to see . . . in a production that grows increasingly impossible to watch."[3]

In his review of the video release, Lawrence O'Toole of Entertainment Weekly said, "Nothing is as murderous on a farce as film. Its mechanics can work beautifully from the distance of the stage . . . but the closeness of the home screen points up every flaw in Peter Bogdanovich's futile adaptation: anorectic visuals, bloated acting, broad timing, and often dull direction. The cast members . . . are all game, but it's exhausting watching actors try so hard."[4]

Time Out London says the film "undoubtedly has its moments, but will still disappoint those who laughed themselves silly at the original."[5]

Channel 4 notes, "Frayn's frenetic farce was always going to be a difficult act to pull off on the big screen, but Bogdanovich and an enthusiastic cast do their damnedest to sustain the mayhem and the momentum. Those who remember the original theatrical hit are bound to be disappointed by the lack of immediacy and the occasional sense of artifice, but this is perfectly serviceable."[6]

Siskel & Ebert gave the film two thumbs down.[7]

Noises Off holds a 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

See also


  1. Canby, Vincent (March 20, 1992). "New York Times review". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 19, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Kempley, Rita (March 20, 1992). "Washington Post review". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 20, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. The New Yorker review
  4. Entertainment Weekly review
  5. Time Out London review
  6. Channel 4 review
  7. Siskel & Ebert. "Review: Noises Off". At the Movies. Disney. Retrieved 2009-06-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]

External links