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Though she had won an Academy Award for her kooky supporting performance in Cactus Flower (1969) and earned critical kudos for her dramatic change-of-pace role in Steven Spielberg's The Sugarland Express (1974), Goldie Hawn's film career seemed by the late 70s to be fading in favor of cabaret, television, and the obligations of private life. That all changed with the release of Foul Play (1978), a comic murder mystery that paired her with exiting Saturday Night Live Not Ready for Prime Time Player Chevy Chase and rejuvenated her as a Hollywood boxoffice draw. A string of spritely fish-out-of-water comedies followed, among them the military sendup Private Benjamin (1980), for which Laugh-In's former "Sock It To Me" girl received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, and Protocol (1984), in which Hawn starred as a Washington, D.C. cocktail waitress who unwittingly thwarts the assassination of a visiting emir and becomes a national hero. Written by The Graduate (1967) scenarist Buck Henry, Protocol takes its tone from the socially-conscious Depression comedies of Frank Capra and Preston Sturges (Hawn's political naïf becomes a pawn in the endgame of Beltway insiders who want an American military base in the heart of the Middle East), albeit with a distinctly Reagan era flavor as a carrot for those who like their satire smart but not too sophisticated. Protocol was another winner for Hawn and Warner Bros., who reunited two years later for the high school football comedy Wildcats (1986).
By Richard Harland Smith