You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Private’ window into themes of Meyers’ works

'Benjamin' launched filmmaker's comedy career

Before Diane Keaton became the prototypical Nancy Meyers heroine — savvy, attractive and disarmingly vulnerable — there was Goldie Hawn — shy, attractive and oh so vulnerable — in Meyers’ first produced script, “Private Benjamin.”

The comedy hit — co-written with Harvey Miller and then-husband Charles Shyer — released in 1980, nabbed the scribes and their lead actress Oscar nominations and secured a supporting actress nod for Eileen Brennan.

For Meyers, “Private Benjamin” served as a launchpad for what has stretched to almost three decades of comedy projects, both with other writers and as a solo scribe. She eventually assumed directorial duties on her projects as well, helming several comedies and romantic comedies whose hallmark was a classic Hollywood tone with a disarming, contemporary twist.

For Hawn, who was already a star at the time of the film’s release, “Private Benjamin” promoted her to the front ranks of leading ladies. Her previous roles, including her Oscar-winning debut in “Cactus Flower,” all took advantage of the sexy, slightly daffy qualities she had first evinced on TV’s “Laugh-In.”

But the role of Judy Benjamin was a true comedy acting role in which she embodies a pampered young woman who comes into her own after inadvertently signing up to join the Army.

“Private Benjamin” was almost a primer in how to straddle the old Hollywood and the new, a contemporary story about a woman who respected the time-honored conventions of commercial comedy storytelling while adding a new feminist-era twist.

Unlike the stars of 1930s and ’40s comedies, Judy Benjamin was not a plucky young woman who is ultimately rescued by a man. She makes her own way in the world, tripping and picking herself up again, learning from her mistakes and maturing believably into full-blown personhood. In so doing, she becomes even more attractive, without being at all threatening. It was a delicate balance, not only in the spirited writing and Howard Zieff’s deft, lighthanded direction, but especially in Hawn’s inspired performance.

In its subtle own way, “Private Benjamin” was also a groundbreaking comedy. After World War II, the subject of women in the military was still considered a controversial topic. “Private Benjamin” quietly and subversively presented a military corps of women who exhibit true hors de combat.

As she did in “Private Benjamin,” Meyers continues to mix socially relevant topics into her stories — contemporary divorce in “Irreconcilable Differences,” the having-it-all syndrome in “Baby Boom” and romance in the life of aging women in “Something’s Gotta Give,” coating them with just the right amount of Hollywood sparkle.

More Film

  • Oscars: Best Actress Race Packed With

    Oscars: Trying to Unpack a Stacked Lead Actress Field

    Before Diane Keaton became the prototypical Nancy Meyers heroine — savvy, attractive and disarmingly vulnerable — there was Goldie Hawn — shy, attractive and oh so vulnerable — in Meyers’ first produced script, “Private Benjamin.” The comedy hit — co-written with Harvey Miller and then-husband Charles Shyer — released in 1980, nabbed the scribes and […]

  • Progression Image 3 of 3: Final

    Box Office: 'Coco' Battling 'Justice League' for Top Thanksgiving Spot

    Before Diane Keaton became the prototypical Nancy Meyers heroine — savvy, attractive and disarmingly vulnerable — there was Goldie Hawn — shy, attractive and oh so vulnerable — in Meyers’ first produced script, “Private Benjamin.” The comedy hit — co-written with Harvey Miller and then-husband Charles Shyer — released in 1980, nabbed the scribes and […]

  • Harvey Weinstein Bob Weinstein

    Bob Weinstein Personally Paid Off Two of Harvey’s Accusers in 1990s, According to New Yorker

    Before Diane Keaton became the prototypical Nancy Meyers heroine — savvy, attractive and disarmingly vulnerable — there was Goldie Hawn — shy, attractive and oh so vulnerable — in Meyers’ first produced script, “Private Benjamin.” The comedy hit — co-written with Harvey Miller and then-husband Charles Shyer — released in 1980, nabbed the scribes and […]

  • Wang Jianlin Wanda

    Wanda-Sony Pictures Financing Deal Is Over

    Before Diane Keaton became the prototypical Nancy Meyers heroine — savvy, attractive and disarmingly vulnerable — there was Goldie Hawn — shy, attractive and oh so vulnerable — in Meyers’ first produced script, “Private Benjamin.” The comedy hit — co-written with Harvey Miller and then-husband Charles Shyer — released in 1980, nabbed the scribes and […]

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Female-Led Investor Groups Target Weinstein Co. Acquisition

    Before Diane Keaton became the prototypical Nancy Meyers heroine — savvy, attractive and disarmingly vulnerable — there was Goldie Hawn — shy, attractive and oh so vulnerable — in Meyers’ first produced script, “Private Benjamin.” The comedy hit — co-written with Harvey Miller and then-husband Charles Shyer — released in 1980, nabbed the scribes and […]

  • Escape a la India

    Ventana Sur: 'Escape to India,' 'Noah's Ark,' 'Inzomnia' Among Projects at Animation!

    Before Diane Keaton became the prototypical Nancy Meyers heroine — savvy, attractive and disarmingly vulnerable — there was Goldie Hawn — shy, attractive and oh so vulnerable — in Meyers’ first produced script, “Private Benjamin.” The comedy hit — co-written with Harvey Miller and then-husband Charles Shyer — released in 1980, nabbed the scribes and […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content