The screenplay was adapted by I. A. L. Diamond from the Broadway play of the same name written by Abe Burrows, which in turn was based upon the French play Fleur de cactus by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy. The film was the seventh highest grossing film of 1970.
21-year-old Toni Simmons attempts to commit suicide by inhaling gas from a second-hand stove. Her neighbor, Igor Sullivan, smells the gas and rescues her by using mouth to mouth resuscitation, which evolves into a kiss after Toni regains consciousness.
Toni's failed suicide attempt stems from her despondency following being stood up by her lover, Dr. Julian Winston (Walter Matthau). Julian Winston, a dentist, had told Toni from the beginning of their relationship that he had a wife and three children. Unknown to Toni, Julian is not married; and Toni hates lying above all other transgressions. Upon learning of Toni's suicide attempt, Julian decides to marry Toni, but he needs a wife to divorce in order to sustain his earlier lie. Julian asks Stephanie Dickinson, his longtime nurse (Ingrid Bergman), to pose as his wife. At first unwilling, she ultimately relents, since she has long had a crush on her employer.
Toni senses Miss Dickinson's feelings for Julian and asks Julian to help Miss Dickinson find another man. Ultimately Julian's friend Harvey, his patient Señor Arturo Sánchez, and Igor all become embroiled in Julian's scheme. Toni suspects Julian's untrustworthiness and leaves him for Igor. Julian finally falls in love with Miss Dickinson.
The prickly cactus Miss Dickinson keeps on her desk in the office gives the film its name. Like Miss Dickinson, the cactus thrives in the driest of settings--and Miss Dickenson gets the driest, funniest lines.
Ultimately, both the cactus and Miss Dickinson "bloom."
On release, the film was acclaimed by both critics and the general public, becoming the eighth highest grossing film of 1969. Howard Thompson of The New York Times stated that "both the expansive scenario of I. A. L. Diamond and the flexible direction of Gene Saks open up and even ventilate the story". Roger Ebert declared that "the chemistry works" and "the movie is better than the play".
In her first major film role, Goldie Hawn, once described as the "dizzy cream puff who is constantly blowing her lines [on Laugh-In]", was praised for being "a natural reactress; her timing is so canny that even her tears run amusingly". Hawn's performance in Cactus Flower won her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, her sole Oscar to date.
Goldie Hawn won two awards for her supporting role:Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress - Goldie Hawn
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture - Goldie Hawn
In addition, there was a nomination for Ingrid Bergman and an additional one for Goldie Hawn:BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role - Goldie Hawn
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy - Ingrid Bergman
Screenwriter I. A. L. Diamond was nominated for the 1969 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium, the only one of his ten screenplay nominations that was not for a screenplay that he co-wrote with Billy Wilder.
The film has been remade several times. An unauthorized Hindi version titled Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya?, starring Salman Khan, Sushmita Sen and Katrina Kaif, was released in 2005. In 2007, it was remade in Kannada as Sathyavan Savithri starring Ramesh Aravind. An English language remake, Just Go With It, starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, was released in 2011. An Egyptian version titled Nos Sa'a Gawaz (Half-Hour Marriage), starring Rushdy Abaza, Shadia and Adel Imam, was released in 1969.
Also, the film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:2002: AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – Nominated