Nine years later, Simon removed the music and rewrote the script again for a TV movie adaptation, directed by Richard Benjamin. Jeff Daniels and Patricia Heaton took over the leading roles.
‘California Suite’ (1978)
Expanding the premise of “Plaza Suite” and moving it across the country, Mr. Simon set this four-act comedy/drama in Suites 203-204 of the Beverly Hills Hotel, telling the stories of visitors from New York, Philadelphia, London and Chicago. The original Broadway production cast George Grizzard and Tammy Grimes in three roles each, and Barbara Barrie and Jack Weston in two; under the direction of Gene Saks (who inaugurated several of Simon’s plays on Broadway), it ran 445 performances. Clive Barnes raved, “Because Mr. Simon makes us laugh so effortlessly, so professionally and so subtly, we tend to think of him as our friendly neighborhood purveyor of the slick, mechanized, homogenized and sanitized joke. He is more.”
Herbert Ross directed the 1978 film version, which eschewed the doubling and filled the story with an all-star cast, including Jane Fonda, Alan Alda, Walter Matthau, Richard Pryor, Michael Caine, Bill Cosby, Mr. Simon’s “Heartbreak Kid” director Elaine May and Maggie Smith — who won an Oscar for playing an actor nominated for an Oscar. “Simon’s comic gifts are displayed to their best advantage,” wrote Vincent Canby.
‘Seems Like Old Times’ (1980)
Mr. Simon re-teamed with his “Heartbreak Kid” star Charles Grodin for this 1980 hit, which also reunited “Foul Play” stars Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn as a divorced couple thrown back together when he’s falsely accused of robbing a bank. Hawn hides her ex in her garage — both from the authorities and from her current husband (Mr. Grodin), the Los Angeles district attorney — and a good old-fashioned door-slamming farce ensues. Janet Maslin deemed the film “Neil Simon in very funny form, which is to say that the belly laughs, while intermittent, are belly laughs just the same.”