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The In-Laws (1979)

Lunacy reigns supreme in this unlikely buddy picture. Writer Andrew Bergman was riding high on the success of his first screenplay, Blazing Saddles (1974), when Warner Bros. approached him with an offer. Alan Arkin and Peter Falk wanted to do a film together, and he was given the chance to write it. The pairing of the two actors seemed so perfect that at first Bergman couldn’t believe they hadn’t done a film together before. From the contrast in their screen images, he developed the perfect plot.

Arkin is Sheldon Kornpett, an easygoing if slightly neurotic dentist whose daughter becomes engaged to the son of Vince Ricardo (Falk), who claims to be a CIA agent. Before long, Falk has gotten Arkin involved in a wild scheme to save the U.S. economy by flying to a small Latin American country to take on an insane general (Richard Libertini). Is Falk really with the CIA, or a crook, or a madman out to generate chaos? To find out, Arkin must endure a series of madcap chases and shoot-outs.

The two stars loved working together and even got to improvise some of their dialogue at the urging of director Arthur Hiller. On its release, the film started slowly but quickly built momentum as word of mouth turned it into a surprise hit and, eventually, a cult film. Marlon Brando was such a fan, he signed to star for Bergman years later in The Freshman (1990), while the CIA reportedly shows the film to new recruits. Falk and Arkin reteamed, along with Bergman (credited as Warren Bogle) for Big Trouble (1986). The In-Laws was remade years later with Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks and released in 2003.

d. Arthur Hiller, 103 minutes, DCP

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Classics