Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

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Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPaul Mazursky
Written by
Produced byLarry Tucker
CinematographyCharles E. Lang
Edited byStuart H. Pappé
Music byQuincy Jones
Color processEastmancolor
Frankovich Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release dates
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[2]
Box office$31.9 million[3]

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 Mazursky and Tucker's screenplay.


After a weekend of emotional honesty at an Esalen-style retreat, Los Angeles sophisticates Bob and Carol Sanders 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, who remain doubtful. Soon after, filmmaker Bob has an affair with a young production assistant on a film shoot in San Francisco. When he returns 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. However, 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 did not 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.


Advertising tram for the film "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" in Amsterdam, Netherlands (March 26, 1970).


Director Paul Mazursky was inspired by an article he read in Time magazine about Fritz Perls, a "gestalt therapist" that was described as being in a hot tub with naked people at a place called the Esalen Institute (located in the Slates Hot Springs in Big Sur, California), a place formed in 1962 dealing with New Age therapy. Mazursky went there with his wife as the only two people in the group who knew each other. This, alongside further collaboration in Palm Springs with writing partner Larry Tucker, resulted in a final script. Mazursky, having been denied the chance to direct I Love You, Alice B. Toklas, a script he wrote with Tucker, insisted on directing. Producer Mike Frankovich expressed interest. Mazursky insisted on directing, citing his direction of a short called Last Year at Malibu and his study of acting alongside observing camerawork from the aforementioned Toklas film and studying editing at the University of Southern California at night as credentials. Frankovich accepted him as director, while Tucker would produce and Frankovich served as executive producer. [4] For the psychotherapist scene, Mazursky cast his own therapist Donald F. Muhich that he had been seeing to act opposite Dyan Cannon. Muhich would appear in three further films with Mazursky as director.

The original ending in the first draft involved the four characters crying in each other's arms after an aborted orgy, complete with pulling themselves together on their way to a Tony Bennett show. Instead, Mazursky went with an ending that sees the characters walk with each other back outside while "What the World Needs Now Is Love" plays in the background, which he called his "Fellini ending", as it resembled the ending to (1963). Addressing complaints of the ending being a cop-out in 1970, he stated that "The easiest thing in the world would have been to show those four making it together in that bed. But it became obvious to us that these four people in these circumstances couldn't possibly have done it.”[5]

Musical score and soundtrack[edit]

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.[6][7] 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 of work went into an unconventional soundtrack for an unconventional movie about sexual experimentation".[8]

Track listing[edit]

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



The film was the first American film to open the New York Film Festival, opening on September 16, 1969. It opened October 8, 1969 at Cinema I in New York City before the Columbus Day holiday weekend.[1][9]


Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice became the signature film of Paul Mazursky and was a critical and commercial success. Mazursky himself called it the film of which he is proudest. It was the sixth highest-grossing film of 1969. It grossed $50,000 in its first week, setting a house record.[9] 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 would write and shoot 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."[10] 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."[11] 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."[12] 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."[13] 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."[14] 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."[15] John Simon called Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice 'deplorable'.[16]

The film holds a score of 82% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 61 reviews with the consensus: "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice isn't as subversive as it thinks it is -- but it is smart & sophisticated & funny & well-acted."[17]


Award[18] Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[19] Best Supporting Actor Elliott Gould Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Dyan Cannon Nominated
Best Story and Screenplay – Based on Material Not Previously Published or Produced Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker Nominated
Best Cinematography Charles Lang Nominated
British Academy Film Awards[20] Best Actor in a Leading Role Elliott Gould (also for M*A*S*H) Nominated
Best Screenplay Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[21] Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Dyan Cannon Nominated
Most Promising Newcomer – Female Nominated
Laurel Awards Top Male New Face Elliott Gould 6th Place
Top Music Man Quincy Jones 4th Place
National Society of Film Critics Awards[22] Best Supporting Actress Dyan Cannon 3rd Place
Best Screenplay Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards[23] Best Supporting Actor Elliott Gould Runner-up
Best Supporting Actress Dyan Cannon Won
Best Screenplay Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker Won
Writers Guild of America Awards[24] Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen Won

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Carol Burnett Show used Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice as the basis for a sketch in Season 3, Episode 9 in 1969.
  • The title of the 2016 episode of the sitcom New Girl, "Bob & Carol & Nick & Schmidt", is a play on the title of the film.
  • Along with Mazursky's Blume in Love (1973), Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice served as the opening feature for the reopening of Quentin Tarantino's New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles in 2014.
  • Comedy television program SCTV created a comedic parody of the film titled Garth & Gord & Fiona & Alice, a "Canadian film made for Canadians by Canadians," and distributed by American Films International.
  • Mad Magazine did a spoof of the movie, titled Boob & Carnal & Tad & Alas & Alfred in the September 1970 edition.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. ^ "Jaffe: 'Youth Lure Need Not Be Sexy'; Stars Okay Where Fitted, Needed Value". Variety. December 24, 1969. p. 3.
  3. ^ "Box Office Information for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice". The Numbers. Archived from the original on April 13, 2012. Retrieved February 26, 2012.
  4. ^ Mazursky, Paul; Wasson, Sam (2011). Paul on Mazursky. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN 978-0-8195-7143-4. OCLC 728657096.
  5. ^ Adler, Dick (July 26, 1970). "'Bob & Carol' & Then What?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on January 23, 2023. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  6. ^ Soundtrack Collector: album entry Archived January 19, 2018, at the Wayback Machine accessed January 19, 2018
  7. ^ Edwards, D. & Callahan, M. Bell Album Discography, Part 2 Archived April 16, 2018, at the Wayback Machine, accessed January 19, 2018
  8. ^ 10 definitive Quincy Jones soundtracks from the ’60s and ’70s Archived January 17, 2018, at the Wayback Machine, The Vinyl Factory, accessed January 19, 2018
  9. ^ a b "World Series Clips B'way But New Pix Strong; 'Bob & Carol' Record 50G, 'Couples' Boff 44G, 'White' 25G". Variety. October 15, 1969. p. 9.
  10. ^ Canby, Vincent (September 17, 1969). "' Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice' Twits 'New Morality'". The New York Times. p. 50.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 22, 1969). "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice". Chicago Sun Times. Archived from the original on October 31, 2019. Retrieved April 21, 2019.
  12. ^ Champlin, Charles (November 2, 1969). "'Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice' Is a Social Comedy". Los Angeles Times. p. 1 (Calendar).
  13. ^ Siskel, Gene (December 21, 1969). "Bob & Carol Etc. Explores the New Morality of Today". Chicago Tribune. p. 1, Section 5.
  14. ^ Arnold, Gary (December 21, 1969). "On the Other Hand, There's 'Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice'". The Washington Post. p. H1.
  15. ^ Kael, Pauline (2000). Deeper Into Movies. pp. 10, 13. ISBN 0-7145-0941-8.
  16. ^ Simon, John (1982). Reverse Angle: A Decade of American Film. Crown Publishers Inc. p. 43.
  17. ^ "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on December 2, 2020. Retrieved June 15, 2022.
  18. ^ "Awards" Archived September 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine on
  19. ^ "The 42nd Academy Awards (1970) Nominees and Winners". Archived from the original on December 28, 2014. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
  20. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1971". BAFTA. 1971. Archived from the original on May 2, 2013. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  21. ^ "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice – Golden Globes". HFPA. Archived from the original on June 24, 2021. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  22. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. December 19, 2009. Archived from the original on July 29, 2017. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  23. ^ "1969 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". Mubi. Archived from the original on July 27, 2021. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  24. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on December 5, 2012. Retrieved June 6, 2010.

External links[edit]