Bye Bye Braverman (1968) – reviewed by George

Leslie Braverman has died at 41, and four of his friends attempt to attend his funeral. Their odyssey from Manhattan to Brooklyn (and back) makes up the movie. They are Morroe Rieff (George Segal), Barnet Weinstein (Jack Warden), Felix Ottensteen (Joseph Wiseman), and Holly Levine (Sorrell Booke).
Because these men are intellectuals who mostly make their money by selling articles to literary quarterlies (as did Leslie) you can expect some deep (and funny) discussions, especially on the topic of death. And Morroe keeps having daydreams of vindication, like one early on just after he and his wife Etta (Zohra Lampert) have had a fight about juice, and she has told him to squeeze his own. In the daydream (which also has roots in Leslie’s untimely demise) Morroe is a patrolman who has come to the apartment to inform Mrs. Rieff of her husband’s death, and she sobs on his shoulder, “Just this morning I refused to squeeze his juice!”
Another quote I liked: “Oh, he had integrity. The way some people have B.O., he had integrity.”
Other folks involved in Leslie’s death and funeral are Barnet’s girlfriend, Myra Mandelbaum (Phyllis Newman), Leslie’s widow Inez Braverman (Jessica Walter), the Rabbi at the funeral the men attend (Alan King, who gives a fairly hysterical service), and Godfrey Cambridge as a taxi driver who collides with Holly’s red Volkswagen. Felix has already almost refused to ride in a German car, now he complains about the taxi driver’s Jewishness, “I don’t trust converts.”
Other highlights include watching Holly try to parallel park on the left side of a one-way street, and finding a funeral procession and speeding to get level with the hearse so Barnet can mouth “Braverman?” at the confused hearse-driver.
The film is based on a novel, “To an Early Grave” by Wallace Markfield. The screenplay is by Herbert Sargent, who also wrote the lyric for what the credits call “the Braverman Lyric”, which has music from the man who scored the picture, Peter Matz. The score is really good and the Braverman Lyric is a delight. In fact it’s so good that it plays under all the marvelous aerial shots of the red VW trying to find the funeral. If it had a regular title I guess it would be the first line of the lyric: “Have You Seen Braverman Dancing?”
Produced and directed by the great Sidney Lumet and with a great cast, this is a charming film that I really enjoyed.

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