Goodbye, Columbus (film)

Goodbye, Columbus is a 1969 American romantic comedy-drama film starring Richard Benjamin and Ali MacGraw, directed by Larry Peerce and based on the novella of the same name by Philip Roth. The screenplay, by Arnold Schulman, won the Writers Guild of America Award.[3]

Goodbye, Columbus
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLarry Peerce
Produced byStanley R. Jaffe
Screenplay byArnold Schulman
Based on1959 novella
Goodbye, Columbus
by Philip Roth
StarringRichard Benjamin
Ali MacGraw
Jack Klugman
Nan Martin
Music byCharles Fox
CinematographyEnrique Bravo
Gerald Hirschfeld
Edited byRalph Rosenblum
Willow Tree
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • April 3, 1969 (1969-04-03) (United States)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.5 million[1]
Box office$22,939,805[2]

The story's title alludes to a phonograph record played by the brother of MacGraw's character, nostalgically recalling his athletic career at Ohio State. The film was essentially MacGraw's film debut, as she had previously had only a "bit part" in the previous year's A Lovely Way to Die.


Neil Klugman (Richard Benjamin) is an intelligent, working-class army veteran and a graduate of Rutgers University who works as a library clerk. He falls for Brenda Patimkin (Ali MacGraw), a wealthy Radcliffe student who is home for the summer. They meet by the swimming pool at Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, New York, a private club that Neil visits as a guest of his cousin Doris. They face obstacles from Brenda's family (particularly her mother), due to differences in class and assimilation into the American mainstream. Brenda's family are nouveau riche, their money coming from the successful plumbing supply business owned and run by her father. Brenda herself is old enough to remember "being poor". Other conflicts include propriety and issues related to premarital sex and the possibility of pregnancy and Mrs. Patimkin's envy of her daughter's youth.

After a few dates, Brenda persuades her father to invite Neil to stay with them for two weeks. This angers her mother, who feels that she should have been asked instead. Neil enjoys being able to sneak into Brenda's room at night but has misgivings over her entitled outlook, which is reflected in her spoiled and petulant younger sister, and her naive brother Ron, who misses the hero worship he enjoyed as a star basketball player at Ohio State University. Neil is astonished when Brenda reveals that she does not take birth control pills or use any other precautions to avoid pregnancy. She angrily rejects Neil's concerns. He prepares to leave, but she decides to persuade him to stay by agreeing to get a diaphragm.

At the end of his stay, Neil attends Ron's wedding to Harriet, who was his college sweetheart from Ohio. Brenda returns to Radcliffe in the fall, keeping in touch by telephone. She invites Neil to come up to spend a weekend at a Boston hotel. However, once they are in the hotel room, Brenda tells Neil she just received letters telling her that her mother found her diaphragm and that her parents know about their affair. They argue, with Neil asking why she left it to be found unless she wanted it to happen. Siding with her parents, Brenda ends the affair as abruptly as she allowed it to commence. Neil walks out of the hotel, leaving her alone in the room.


  • Richard Benjamin as Neil Klugman
  • Ali MacGraw as Brenda Patimkin
  • Jack Klugman as Ben Patimkin
  • Nan Martin as Mrs. Ben Patimkin
  • Michael Meyers as Ron Patimkin
  • Lori Shelle as Julie Patimkin
  • Monroe Arnold as Uncle Leo
  • Kay Cummings as Doris Klugman
  • Sylvie Strause as Aunt Gladys
  • Ilona Simon as Gloria Feldman
  • Royce Wallace as Carlotta, the African-American cook and housekeeper at the Patimkin home.
  • Mari Gorman as Simp (Laura Simpson Sockaloe)



The film earned an estimated $10.5 million in rentals at the North American box office, making it one of the most popular movies of the year.[4]

Critical response

Variety magazine lauded the film upon its release, writing, "This adaptation of Philip Roth's National Book Award-winning novella is sometimes a joy in striking a boisterous mood, and otherwise handling the action. Castwise the feature excels. Richard Benjamin as the boy, a librarian after serving in the army, and Ali MacGraw, making her screen bow as the daughter of wealthy and socially-conscious parents, offer fresh portrayals seasoned with rich humor. Their romance develops swiftly after their meeting at a country-club pool."[5]

The New York Times' film critic, Vincent Canby, liked the film but was annoyed that it strayed from Roth's work. Canby wrote:

Thus, at its center, Goodbye, Columbus is sharp and honest. However, the further they are removed from the main situation, the more the subsidiary characters, lightly sketched in the novella, become overstuffed, blintz-shaped caricatures. Jack Klugman and Nan Martin, as Brenda's parents, are very nice, but Michael Meyers, as her huge, empty-headed brother ('so exceedingly polite,' Mr. Roth observed in the novella, 'that it seemed to be some affliction of those over six foot three') borders on a cartoon figure. Also, I somehow resent the really vulgar manners that Mr. Peerce allows his middle-class Jews—especially at an elaborate wedding reception—not because of any particular bias, but because it is gross moviemaking. These reservations, however, become academic. Goodbye, Columbus is so rich with understanding in more important ways that it is a thing of real and unusual pleasure.[6]

Critic Dennis Schwartz praised the film as well, writing, "Philip Roth's prize-winning novella, a scathing satire of a nouveau riche Jewish family, has been brilliantly adapted for the screen by Arnold Schulman (received an Academy nomination) and directed by Larry Peerce (son of the great operatic tenor Jan Peerce). Somehow it slipped under the radar and as far as I'm concerned is both funnier and more perceptive than even The Graduate, an earlier drama about young adults."[7]





A vinyl LP record of the film's score was released in 1969 by Warner Bros. Records and a compact disc was released in 2006 by Collector's Choice Music.[8]

Three songs in the soundtrack were written and performed by members of The Association: "Goodbye, Columbus" (Jim Yester), "It's Gotta Be Real" (Larry Ramos), and "So Kind To Me" (Terry Kirkman).[9]

Track listing

  • 1. Goodbye, Columbus [Vocal Version]
  • 2. How Will I Know You?
  • 3. Dartmouth? Dartmouth!
  • 4. Goodbye, Columbus [Instrumental]
  • 5. Ron's Reverie: Across the Field/Carmen Ohio
  • 6. It's Gotta Be Real
  • 7. A Moment to Share
  • 8. Love Has a Way
  • 9. A Time for Love
  • 10. So Kind to Me (Brenda's Theme)
  • 11. Goodbye, Columbus

Cast notes

The film was the only acting role for Michael Meyers, who later became a physician.[10] He was cast as Ron (the brother of Ali MacGraw's character) after director Larry Peerce "discovered" him at a wedding in New York's Plaza Hotel.[11] In 1976, he published a memoir about his involvement in the film and his subsequent medical career, Goodbye Columbus, Hello Medicine.[12]

See also


  1. Solomon, Aubrey (1989). Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, p. 163, ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1.
  2. "Goodbye, Columbus, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  3. Goodbye, Columbus at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  4. "Big Rental Films of 1969", Variety, 7 January 1970 p 15.
  5. Variety. Staff film review, April 3, 1969. Last accessed: February 19, 2011.
  6. Canby, Vincent (April 4, 1969). "Movie Review: Goodbye, Columbus". The New York Times.
  7. Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, June 29, 2005. Last accessed: February 19, 2011.
  8. Goodbye, Columbus at SoundTrack Collector web site. Last accessed: February 19, 2011.
  9. IMDb, Soundtrack Section. Last accessed: February 19, 2011.
  10. King, Susan (9 June 1991). "Dr. Michael Meyers: Addicted Now to Helping Others". Los Angeles Times.
  11. Armstrong, Lois (13 December 1976). "Goodbye Acting, Hello Medicine: Michael Meyers Has a New Career". People.
  12. "Goodbye Columbus, Hello Medicine". Kirkus Reviews. 22 October 1976.
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