MFS ‘Guest Presenter Series’ Ends with Reiser

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Paul Reiser hosted the Malibu Film Society final “Guest Presenter Series” film, “The In-Laws.”

The Malibu Film Society (MFS) wrapped up its seventh season with the closing night of its first-ever “Guest Presenter Series” last Wednesday, May 4. Paul Reiser hosted a screening of one of his favorite movies of all time, “The In-Laws” (1979), by introducing the film to an audience of over 200 and participating in a panel conversation with three actors who starred in the movie: Ed Begley Jr., Michael Lembeck and Penny Peyser. The action-comedy film stars Alan Arkin and Peter Falk playing characters whose daughter and son are about to get married.

Reiser, Malibu resident and comedian / actor / writer / musician, began his career as a stand-up comic. He got his first big acting role in “Diner” (1982), followed by roles in both “Beverly Hills Cops” movies and “Aliens” (1986). He co-starred in TV’s “My Two Dads,” and co-created and starred in the hit sitcom “Mad About You” (1992-1999). Since then, he’s been in numerous films and TV shows, written and recorded music, and written three books. 

The idea for the “Guest Presenter Series” originated with Reiser, whose wife, Paula Ravets, serves on the board of MFS. 

The first question Reiser asked the audience was, “How many people have never seen ‘The In-Laws’ before?” When numerous hands were raised, he indicated he was looking forward to watching the audience’s reaction to his favorite movie during the screening. 

“All of last month’s guest presenters — Billy Crystal, Carol Burnett and Danny Aykroyd — were just gravy. I really just wanted to do this,” Reiser joked. “It’s one of the funniest movies of all time, with two of my favorite actors in the world: Peter Falk just always jumped off the screen to me and Allen Arkin was brilliant.”

Reiser let the audience in on a little trade secret — “The In-Laws” turns out to be one of the favorite movies of a lot of comedians.

“For a long time, I thought I was the only one who knew about it,” he said. “‘Does anybody else know how funny this is?’ In comedian circles, it became this sort of Holy Grail, and you find out that other comics also loved this movie … [There were] 15 or 20 lines and moments from this film that my circle of friends would reference almost every other day. In talking about this film and getting ready for this event, I found out there was a little cult.” 

Andrew Bergman, who wrote “The In-Laws,” was also one of the writers on “Blazing Saddles” and went on to direct “The Freshman,” Reiser explained. Falk and Arkin were already cast for “The In-Laws,” so Bergman wrote the script with those two in mind. 

“What’s really so fantastic about the movie is these guys are comedic geniuses, and terrific actors, and they’re so grounded — they don’t play it for the laughs,” Reiser said. “The movie is brutally funny and gets into hijinks and craziness. The twists and turns come and pile on top of each other.”

Lembeck, who played Falk’s son in the film, noted that even with all the comedy, the movie, “was fully scripted — there was no ad-lib … The scene at the dinner table was scheduled to shoot for a day, and because we couldn’t get through a take without laughing, it took two-and-a-half days. The biggest culprits were Peter Falk and Allen Arkin. Peter couldn’t get through a line — they adored each other and couldn’t get enough of each other.”

Peyser, who played Arkin’s daughter, revealed that Fran Drescher was originally cast in her part.

Begley Jr., who played the part of an American ambassador, said he’d worked with Falk twice before this movie on “Columbo.”

In addition, he recalled, “I had a problem with my hair that day. The night before filming started, I finished a TV movie with Kurt Russell where they dyed my blonde hair black. In trying to dye it back to blonde for ‘The In-Laws,’ it turned bright red.” The filmmakers had to use special effects to change the color. 

One of the guests that had personally known Marlon Brando said his favorite film was “The In-Laws.” He ended up doing “The Freshman” with Bergman because “he loved the movie so much.”