A Pleasure Doing Business

Three more or less sensible men of affairs (Conrad Bain, Alan Oppenheimer, John Byner) conceive a plan for making money by forming a joint stock company whose sole asset is a hooker. They open an office and interview applicants.

That’s the hors d’œuvre, the real film centers on their choice, a lovely blonde amateur painter (Misty Rowe) whose hilarious daubs are the last word in inanity. They present themselves to her nevertheless as art patrons, and set her up in an apartment cum studio, with books to read such as The Sensuous Artist, The Happy Painter, and Tropic of Canvas by Henric Milner. They send in suave Alfredo (Tom Smothers in black wig and mustache, an ineffable turn) to awaken her imagination, and she reduces him to sausage meat, but now the mailman emerges from her building singing “The Zip’s Back in My Zip Code”, and a vacuum-cleaner salesman (his product line is Suc-O-Vac) gets whisked inside for a demonstration.

A stockholders’ meeting among the three ponders how to develop a volume turnover. They devise a scheme whereby her artistic talents can be exhibited at various trade conventions (Hardware, Morticians, Venetian Blinds—the latter featuring a short film called The Threat of Curtains), where possible in the nude.

Ronnie, who hasn’t any idea this isn’t an artist’s career, one day takes off in search of spiritual fulfillment or some such thing. In a bookshop that sells art supplies, she makes the acquaintance of a young bookish type by accidentally daubing his trousers with red paint. As she innocently reveals her professional experience by and by, he arranges a comeuppance for the stockholders.

So there you have it, a classic farce performed to perfection by Phyllis Diller as Ronnie’s landlady, Benny Rubin as a grocer, Bubba Smith as the pimp who inspires it all, and Richard Karron as a fat mobster who tries to horn in on the setup.

This is art criticism of the finest sort that’s able to size up a picture from top to bottom and all the way around.