Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is a 1969 American comedy drama film directed by Paul Mazursky, written by Mazursky and Larry Tucker, who also produced the film, and starring Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Elliott Gould, and Dyan Cannon. The original music score was composed by Quincy Jones. The cinematography for the film was by Charles Lang. The film received four Academy Award nominations, including ones for Gould and Cannon. Patricia Welles wrote the paperback novel from Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker's screenplay.

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPaul Mazursky
Produced byLarry Tucker
Written by
  • Paul Mazursky
  • Larry Tucker
Music byQuincy Jones
CinematographyCharles Lang
Edited byStuart H. Pappe
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • September 17, 1969 (1969-09-17)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million
Box office$31.9 million[1]


After a weekend of emotional honesty at an Esalen-style retreat, Los Angeles sophisticates Bob and Carol Sanders (Robert Culp and Natalie Wood) return home determined to embrace complete openness. They share their enthusiasm and excitement over their new-found philosophy with their more conservative friends Ted and Alice Henderson (Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon), who remain doubtful. Soon after, filmmaker Bob has an affair with a young production assistant on a film shoot in San Francisco. When he gets home he admits his liaison to Carol, describing the event as a purely physical act, not an emotional one. To Bob's surprise, Carol is completely accepting of his extramarital behavior. Later, Carol gleefully reveals the affair to Ted and Alice as they are leaving a dinner party. Disturbed by Bob's infidelity and Carol's candor, Alice becomes physically ill on the drive home. She and Ted have a difficult time coping with the news in bed that night. But as time passes they grow to accept that Bob and Carol really are fine with the affair. Later, Ted admits to Bob that he was tempted to have an affair once, but didn't go through with it; Bob tells Ted he should, rationalizing: "You've got the guilt anyway. Don't waste it."

During another visit to San Francisco, Bob decides to skip a second encounter with the young woman, instead returning home a day early. When he arrives, he discovers Carol having an affair with her tennis instructor. Although initially outraged, Bob quickly realizes that the encounter was purely physical, like his own affair. He settles down and even chats and drinks with the man.

When the two couples travel together to Las Vegas, Bob and Carol reveal Carol's affair to Ted and Alice. Ted then admits to an affair on a recent business trip to Miami. An outraged Alice demands that this new ethos be taken to its obvious conclusion: a mate-sharing foursome. Ted is reluctant, explaining that he loves Carol "like a sister," but eventually acknowledges that he finds her attractive. After discussing it, all four remove their clothes and climb into bed together. Swapping partners, Bob and Alice kiss fervently, as do Ted and Carol, but after a few moments all four simply stop.

The scene cuts to the couples walking to the elevator, riding it down, and walking out of the casino hand-in-hand with their original partners. A crowd of men and women of various cultures and races congregate in the casino parking lot, wherein the four main characters exchange long stares with each other and with strangers, reminiscent of the non-verbal communication shown in the early scene at the retreat. Over this final scene, the film's theme song reminds the viewer that "what the world needs now is love." The credits roll as the couples look into each other's eyes.


Musical score and soundtrack

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
Soundtrack album by
GenreFilm score
Bell 1200
ProducerQuincy Jones
Quincy Jones chronology
Walking in Space
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
Cactus Flower

The film score was composed, arranged and conducted by Quincy Jones and featured Jackie DeShannon performing Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "What the World Needs Now Is Love" and Sarah Vaughan performing "I know that my Redeemer liveth" from Part III of Handel's Messiah. The soundtrack album was released on the Bell label in 1969.[2][3] The Vinyl Factory said "in 1969 (a busy year for the man), Jones produced this sparkling score, with its lavish string arrangements and jazzy interludes. ... What sounds like a lot work went into an unconventional soundtrack for an unconventional movie about sexual experimentation".[4]

Track listing

All compositions by Quincy Jones except where noted

  1. "Main Title From Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (Handel's Hallelujah Chorus)" (George Frideric Handel adapted by Quincy Jones) − 2:24
  2. "Sun Dance (Handel's Messiah Pt. 3)" (Handel adapted by Jones) − 3:46
  3. "Giggle Grass" − 2:30
  4. "Sweet Wheat" − 3:31
  5. "What The World Needs Now (Instrumental)" (Burt Bacharach, Hal David) − 3:07
  6. "What The World Needs Now" (Bacharach, David) − 3:48
  7. "Celebration of Life (Instrumental) (Handel's Hallelujah Chorus)" (Handel adapted by Jones) − 2:54
  8. "Sun Dance (Instrumental) (Handel's Messiah Pt. 3)" (Handel adapted by Jones) − 3:31
  9. "Dynamite" − 2:34
  10. "Flop Sweat" − 3:27



Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice became the signature film of Paul Mazursky and was a critical and commercial success. It was the fifth highest-grossing film of 1969. After this film's release, it led to other movies dealing with wife swapping, infidelity, and other types of experimentation with interpersonal relationships inside American society. Mazursky himself would do a few more stories set in California, including Alex in Wonderland and Down and Out in Beverly Hills.

Vincent Canby of The New York Times panned the film as "unpleasant because it acts superior to the people in it, which is no mean feat because Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice are conceived as cheerful but humorless boobs, no more equipped to deal with their sexual liberation than Lucy and Desi and Ozzie and Harriet."[5] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, however, gave the film four stars out of four and wrote, "The genius of 'Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice' is that it understands the peculiar nature of the moral crisis for Americans in this age group, and understands that the way to consider it is in a comedy."[6] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times called it "a scintillating social comedy and a movie which could turn out to have more to say about you than any flick you'll see this year."[7] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three-and-a-half-stars out of four and called it "the best comedy of the year," with acting that was "eminently tender and believable."[8] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post declared it "the sharpest American comedy in several years ... It may be the same old marital war, but the battle lines and the weapons are modern, and this makes all the difference in the world between a comedy that feels 'new' and one that feels second-hand."[9] Writing in The New Yorker the film critic Pauline Kael praised both the film and director Mazursky, calling it "a slick, whorey movie, and the liveliest American comedy so far this year. Mazursky, directing his first picture, has developed a style from satiric improvisational revue theatre—he and Tucker [co-writer] were part of the Second City troupe—and from TV situation comedy, and, with skill and wit, has made this mixture work—though it looks conventional, it isn't."[10] John Simon called Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice 'deplorable'.[11]

The film holds a score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 12 reviews.[12]

Natalie Wood decided to gamble her $750,000 fee on a percentage of the gross, earning $5 million over the course of three years. She had deeply regretted declining a similar offer with the box office smash West Side Story.[13]

Awards and honors

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice was nominated for four Academy Awards in 1970: for Best Cinematography; Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor for Gould and Best Supporting Actress for Cannon.

It received the 1969 New York Film Critics Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Cannon) and Best Screenplay and the 1969 Writers Guild of America Award for Best-Written American Comedy Written Directly for the Screen.[14]

TV version

A sitcom by Screen Gems based on the film appeared on ABC during the 1973–74 season, starring Anita Gillette, Robert Urich, David Spielberg, and Anne Archer. A 10-year-old Jodie Foster also appeared as Ted and Alice's daughter. (This differed from the film, in that Ted and Alice had a son.)

Because of the overt sexual nature of the film when it was released it was rated R much of the humor could not be translated into a network TV project. Thus the characters needed to be substantially "toned down," losing much of the film's edge. The series did poorly and was canceled after only one season.[15]

See also



  1. "Box Office Information for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice". The Numbers. Retrieved February 26, 2012.
  2. Soundtrack Collector: album entry accessed January 19, 2018
  3. Edwards, D. & Callahan, M. Bell Album Discography, Part 2, accessed January 19, 2018
  4. 10 definitive Quincy Jones soundtracks from the ’60s and ’70s, The Vinyl Factory, accessed January 19, 2018
  5. Canby, Vincent (September 17, 1969). "' Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice' Twits 'New Morality'". The New York Times. 50.
  6. Ebert, Roger (December 22, 1969). "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice". Retrieved April 21, 2019.
  7. Canby, Vincent (November 2, 1969). "'Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice' Is a Social Comedy". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 1.
  8. Siskel, Gene (December 21, 1969). "Bob & Carol Etc. Explores the New Morality of Today". Chicago Tribune. Section 5, p. 1.
  9. Arnold, Gary (December 21, 1969). "On the Other Hand, There's 'Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice'". The Washington Post. H1, H3.
  10. Deeper Into Movies, pp. 10, 13, Pauline Kael, ISBN 0-7145-0941-8.
  11. Simon, John (1982). Reverse Angle: A Decade of American Film. Crown Publishers Inc. p. 43.
  12. "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 21, 2019.
  14. "Awards" on
  15. Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide
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