After Hours
with Richard Armstrong




Barefoot in the Afternoon

By Richard Armstrong


    A sure sign of the passing years is when a movie changes its slot on the TV schedules. The first time I saw Barefoot in the Park it was Friday night on BBC1 in the summer of 1978. Jane Fonda and Robert Redford were still big stars. That the film was based on a smart Neil Simon comedy and starred Fonda in her Barbarella sex kitten phase, opposite an earnest Redford limbering up for earnest ‘70s liberal, had a lot to do with the late night post-pub scheduling. There was still mileage in the wet dreams of generational change in Hollywood.
    The last time I saw Barefoot in the Park it was Saturday afternoon on BBC2 in the summer of 2001, a slot that had in the ‘70s and ‘80s been reserved for monochrome RKO double bills or a season of Linda Darnells. This told me a lot about Barefoot in the Park’s slot in the wider culture. What was in the late-70s funny, sexy, sophisticated, still vaguely “happening”, was on the cusp of 9/11 intermittently witty, vaguely suggestive, and that kiss of death: a “classic.” Big (old) names. Big (old) reputations. So pay attention, kids.
    In other words: one for the tea and biscuits brigade. So I sat down with my tea and biscuits and, despite all that had come between us, it seemed as though nothing had changed and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie I saw in my head. I bet it was even the same print. And that watery Neil Hefti score followed me around for days…