Sunday, December 07, 2014

Film Classics of the 20th Century


In this ongoing series on film classics of the last century, we've looked at The Player,  Dick Tracy,  How To Marry A Millionaire,  Blow OutYou Only Live TwiceSleeper,  Diamonds Are Forever,  Sleepless In Seattle,  My Little Chickadee,  Tootsie,  After Hours,  Edward ScissorhandsChristmas in Connecticut, Desk Set,  When Harry Met Sally . . .,  Who Done It?,  That Darn Cat!,  Cactus Flower,  Family Plot, House Sitter,  and Outrageous Fortune.   Film classics are the films that grab you, even on repeat viewings, especially on repeat viewings.

This go round, we're looking at what we believe is the number one film classic of the 20th century: Shampoo.

That's Lee Grant with Warren Beatty.  Lee won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for playing Felicia in this film.

The 1975 film had been in the works forever and a day.  Like many Beatty projects, it had his attention and then it didn't.  Which is probably for the best because the timing provided the best cast imaginable.

Shampoo, directed by Hal Ashby with a script by Robert Towne and Warren Beatty, takes place against the 1968 presidential election.  Felicia is a married woman sleeping with her hairdresser George (Warren).  As he attempts to leave due to an emergency with a 'friend,' Felecia points out that George wanting to start his own salon should mean that he should meet with her husband Lester, a banker.  This is tossed our with a cheery desperation, as Felicia uses it as a means to hold on to George.

That's Jill (Goldie Hawn) with George, she's the 'friend' he rushed off to see.  She's actually his girlfriend and he encourages her to believe they have a future.  She knows nothing of his current cheating.

That's Jill lunching with her best friend Jackie (Julie Christie).  Jackie was with George in the past.  He couldn't stop cheating on her.  In this "George Is Great" scene, Jackie congratulates Jill on her success with George.  And Goldie expertly portrays Jill's fear that her bright sunny view may be mistaken.  Goldie also nails Jill's intimidation of Jackie's style and effort to copy it -- i.e. Jackie puts on her sunglasses so Jill does the same.

Jill's a model and is up for a shoot in Egypt.  She needs to know where she really stands with George because if this is the real thing, she's turning down the shoot; however, if it's not the real thing, she's taking the job.  She goes to the salon to get a straight answer out of him which is impossible.

Because he's a hair dresser, people like Jack Warden's Lester assume George is gay.  George is visiting him for a loan to start up a shop but Lester's only agreed to a meeting due to pressure from his wife Felicia.  He has no interest in anything but turning George down.

Then a visitor arrives.

Yes, it's Jackie. 

Much to Lester's embarrassment.

She's there for the keys.

The keys to the hideaway she's sharing with Lester.

He tries to shut her up by introducing her to George but Jackie notes they've already met and that "George is a great hairdresser."

Thinking George is gay, Lester asks him to bring Jackie to a party that night as his date -- Jackie's tired of being hidden away.  Lester dangles the possibility of funding George's salon.

While Jackie's all for the idea of attending the party with George so she can be near Lester, George has qualms.

He wants her to tell Lester that they were lovers first. 

Why is George, who's sleeping with Lester's wife Felicia and tons of other women, so concerned about pretending to be Jackie's date?

Because he still loves her.

They argue as he does her hair at the hideaway.

A note here, in the film George says he's doing too many heads and he's losing perspective.  This isn't just a line in passing.  He tends to give every woman -- especially Felicia and Jackie -- the same hairstyle.  Even when he fixes Jill's hair (not cuts it, but fixed it before the party), he gives her a similar look.

You need to pay attention to catch that.  You don't need to pay attention to catch that George and Jackie are still in love with each other.

George loves to put the make on women.  

He's not putting the make on Jackie, he loves Jackie.

Felecia wants George to do her hair before the party.  So he goes to her home.

That's Carrie Fisher making her film debut as Lester and Felicia's daughter Lorna.  She's especially curious as to whether or not George is gay.  And if he's making it with her mom.

She satisfies her curiosity on the first by bedding him and her mother's reaction when she finds them after answers Lorna's second question.

George takes Jackie to the party and Jackie's invited Jill who brings along Johnny Pope (Academy Award winning producer Tony Bill) , the man who wants to send her to Egypt for a photo shoot.

At the party, tensions swirl such as above where Jackie, George and Felicia make an awkward threesome.

A threesome that quickly becomes a foursome as Lester rushes over fearing the very drunk Jackie might expose their affair to Felicia.

Jill begins to distance herself  at the party.  Which is probably a good thing since she's the least shocked as Jackie, continuing to get drunk, replies to an elderly man at the table telling her he can get her anything she wants by telling him what she wants most in the world is to suck George's cock.

Having shocked the table with her words, Jackie now carries out her stated desire.

Which is when Lester asks George to take Jackie home.

There's an after-party to attend, with better guests and better music (Ashby will bring the use of music in this series of scenes into his next big hit Coming Home).  Jill will realize what a liar George is, Lester will realize George isn't gay and much more.

This is a comedy with rich textures and, we believe, the best film of the 20th century.

The direction is outstanding, the script is amazing and a finer group of actors have never been assembled for one film.  Lee Grant deservedly won an Academy Award for her performance but the truth is that she, Jack Warden, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn and Warren Beatty all would have been deserved winners for their performances in this film.  Warden was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award.  Goldie Hawn and Julie Christie were nominated for Best Motion Picture Actress (Musical or Comedy) at the Golden Globes  and Warren Beatty was nominated for the Golden Globes' Best Motion Picture Actor (Musical or Comedy.) 

We love this film so much, we'll even provide links to purchase it (on DVD or VHS) or to purchase a stream of it from Amazon (Amazon Prime members can stream it for free).  The streaming choices include HD; however, this film classic is still not available on BluRay. 

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