Category Archives: 1977

Top 15 Comedy Road Trip Movies

Road Trip movies are some of the most unexpected gems over the past decades, as they usually sneak up on you–but they are definitely at the top of my list as some of the greatest comedies of all time.  Here’s my list for the top 15:

15 – Oh Brother Where Art Thou (2000)

A Coen Brother’s classic, you probably wouldn’t think about this being a road movie…but it is.  It’s also based on, arguably the biggest literary road trip…Homer’s The Odyssey!  Although Homer is given a co-writing credit on the film, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen claim never to have read “The Odyssey” and are familiar with it only through cultural osmosis and film adaptations. The title of this movie didn’t come from the book at all, but rather another movie. “O Brother Where Art Thou?” comes from the title of the movie-within-a-movie in Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941). John Turturro has called this movie “a hillbilly musical comedy adventure.”

14 – Sideways (2004)

You would probably be surprised to find out that Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church had to audition for their roles in the film. You’d be even more surprised to find out that for the scene that Thomas Haden Church read for during the audition, it called for the actor to strip naked, which he did and was later surprised to find out that out of all the actors who auditioned for the same part with the same scene…he was the ONLY one to strip naked. And it got him the role. George Clooney campaigned for the part of Jack, but Alexander Payne thought Clooney was too big a star. However, Clooney got to play the lead in Payne’s next full feature, The Descendants (2011). Paul Giamatti admitted to faking every bit of wine knowledge, and not understanding why anybody would care about it. He also claims he was shocked that he was cast in a lead role and initially thought it was a practical joke. Paul Giamatti admitted in interviews that he doesn’t like wine.

13 – Kingpin (1996)

The Farrelly brothers bowled a strike with this one. It came out the same year as the Big Lebowski and I have to admit liking this one just a touch better. As is the case with most of his films, Bill Murray ad-libbed virtually every line he spoke. He would read over the script, get the “general” idea, and then discard it. The Farrelly brothers, on the DVD commentary, said that they’re very glad he did because it was funnier. Turned out, Bill was also a very good bowler. Bill Murray really bowled three strikes in a row in the scene where his character, Ernie McCracken does the same. The crowd’s reaction is genuine and is actually for Murray. Woody Harrelson, on the other hand, was a terrible bowler and according to the Farrelly brothers maybe got one or two strikes throughout the filming.

12 – Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Steve Carell, at the time he was cast for Little Miss Sunshine (2006), was a relative unknown in Hollywood. According to an article in Entertainment Weekly, the producers of the film worried that he wasn’t a big enough star and didn’t have much acting experience. However, between the time the film was shot in the summer of 2005 and its release in the summer of 2006, Carell became a huge success as the star of the high-grossing film The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) in August 2005 and the leading character of the popular NBC Emmy-winning television series The Office (2005), which premiered in March 2005 and for which Carell won a Golden Globe in 2006 for best lead actor in a comedy television series. In the span of just one year, Carell had become such a star that the producers had gone from protesting his casting to tapping him to do prominent promotion for the film. Bill Murray was the original choice to play Frank. The second choice was Robin Williams.  Thomas Haden Church turned down the role of Richard Hoover, a decision he said he later regretted.

11 – It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

Stanley Kramer, who was known for doing serious films like Inherit the Wind (1960) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), set out to make this the ultimate comedy film. It became well known that Stanley Kramer was casting nearly every comedy performer he could think of. Some famous stars actually contacted Kramer to volunteer for the project, or to inquire as to why they had not been contacted. When this film was made there were about 100 stunt performers in the US. About 80 of them worked on this film. When the cast first assembled for a meeting with director Stanley Kramer, they were shown the stunts and second unit footage that had already been shot. Buddy Hackett was so impressed that he went to Kramer and asked, “What do you need US for?”

The film was so crammed with action that each leading actor was given two scripts: one for the dialogue and one for physical comedy. For one particular stunt, a billboard that the twin-engine Beechcraft flies through was made of thin balsa wood, except for a thicker frame for support. Stunt pilot Frank Tallman had to fly the aircraft directly through the center of the billboard or the thicker frame would shear off a wing. The billboard was located in Irvine, at what is now the intersection of Interstate 405 and Hwy. 133 (Laguna Canyon), near Lion Country Safari, just east of John Wayne Airport. They had practiced with paper signs but used balsa wood for the actual movie stunt. The wood stopped one engine and the other was sputtering enough that the plane barely made it back to John Wayne Airport.

10 – Midnight Run (1988)

The boxcar scene where Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) and John Mardukas (Charles Grodin) discuss whether or not they could ever be friends, was almost entirely improvised on-set. As regards Grodin’s famous, “You ever had sex with an animal, Jack?” line, he was told by Director Martin Brest to come up with something that was guaranteed to make even Robert De Niro laugh. The scene where John Mardukas (Charles Grodin) falls off a cliff was shot in the Salt River Canyon in eastern Arizona. However, the conclusion of the scene, the shots of Mardukas and Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) crashing through the river rapids, was shot in New Zealand, because the water was too cold in Arizona. I have to pause here…too cold. In Arizona.

9 – Paper Moon (1973)

I talk about this movie in a post about Madeline Kahn, you can read it here: KAHN  Ryan O’Neal and daughter Tatum O’Neal are both excellent as well as Madeline Kahn, in this. Tatum O’Neal was 10 years old when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in this movie, making her the youngest person ever to win an Oscar in a competitive category. As of 2018, she still holds this record. She was four years younger than her rival nominee, Linda Blair, in The Exorcist (1973). Some Hollywood insiders suspected that Tatum O’Neal’s performance was “manufactured” by Peter Bogdanovich. It was revealed that the director had gone to great lengths, sometimes requiring as many as fifty takes of some of her scenes, in order to capture the “effortless” natural quality for which Tatum was critically praised. Either way, Bogdanovich maintained later that working with the young actress was “one of the most miserable experiences” of his life.

Prior to finalizing casting, Peter Bogdanovich says he met with Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal at their Malibu home. When Ryan invited Bogdanovich to start an exercise regimen of running on the beach, Tatum countered he wasn’t the type. When she explained to Bogdanovich she said that because he wouldn’t take his shoes or shirt off, he told Ryan, “She’ll do.” Peter Bogdanovich didn’t think the movie would make much money or would be very successful. He certainly didn’t think Tatum O’Neal would win the Oscar.  The film spawned an unsuccessful TV series Paper Moon (1974) starring Jodie Foster.

8 – Cannonball Run (1981)

I talk about Cannonball run at length at a post you can read HERE. In one of the earlier scenes in the movie, J.J. McClure (Burt Reynolds) said “Could get a black Trans Am”, and then answers himself, “Naw, that’s been done.” This is a reference to Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), which starred Reynolds, and was directed by Hal Needham, who directed this film. DeLuise co-starred with Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).

7 – The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

According to director Stephan Elliott, he took the three leads out in drag prior to the beginning of filming. None of them were recognized: Guy Pearce took the opportunity to be outrageously rude, Terence Stamp eventually forgot he was in drag and started hitting on girls, and Hugo Weaving got super-drunk and lay under a table for hours, tapping his finger in time to the music. This last detail was incorporated into the film in the hotel room scene.

6 – Dumb and Dumber (1994)

Harry and Lloyd are named after the (silent) comedy star Harold Lloyd. The feature film debut for Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly. They said years later that the main reason they got the job was that Jim Carrey’s breakthrough film role in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) had been directed by someone who had never done a feature film before (Tom Shadyac) and after a positive first meeting with the Farrellys, Carrey decided to give them the job in hopes of replicating that success. According to the Farrelly brothers, Jeff Daniels wasn’t wanted for the film, but Jim Carrey wanted him in it. In order to ensure a no from him, they offered Daniels $50,000 for the role. He accepted without any hesitation nor did he attempt to negotiate, despite insistence from his agent the film would “kill his career.” By 1994, the film was Daniels’ most successful.

5 – It Happened One Night (1934)It Happened One Night (1934) became the first film to perform a “clean sweep” of the top five Academy Award categories, known as the Oscar “grand slam”: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. This feat would later be duplicated by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) in 1976 and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) in 1992. However, It Happened One Night is the only one not nominated in any other category. According to Frank Capra in an interview with Richard Schickel for “The Men Who Made the Movies”, “We made the picture really quickly–four weeks. We stumbled through it, we laughed our way through it. And this goes to show you how much luck and timing and being in the right place at the right time means in show business; how sometimes no preparation at all is better than all the preparation in the world, and sometimes you need great preparation, but you can never out-guess this thing called creativity. It happens in the strangest places and under the strangest of circumstances. I didn’t care much for the picture, ] it turned out to be ‘It Happened One Night’.” Is often credited as the very first screwball comedy.

4 – Tommy Boy (1995)Rob Lowe played the supporting role of Tommy’s stepbrother and is uncredited. The reason for this is because Rob was contractually obligated to Stephen King’s The Stand (1994) at the time, so he took the part simply as a favor for friend Chris Farley. According to David Spade, he and Chris Farley got into a physical altercation on the set. Spade had gone out for a drink with Rob Lowe the night before. Farley had become very jealous and angrily repeated: “How’s Rob Lowe?”. David got so fed up with Chris hounding him on the subject that he threw his Diet Coke on him, to which Chris responded by throwing David into a wall and down the stairs. After the fight, Spade walked off the set and refused to continue filming. The pair would sometimes go for hours without talking to each other, talk to each other through the director, etc.

3 – The Blues Brothers (1980)During filming one of the night scenes, John Belushi disappeared and could not be located. Dan Aykroyd looked around and saw a single house with its lights on. He went to the house and was prepared to identify himself, the movie, and that they were looking for Belushi. Before he could, the homeowner looked at him, smiled and said, “You’re here for John Belushi, aren’t you?” The homeowner then told them Belushi had entered their house, asked if he could have a glass of milk and a sandwich, and then crashed on their couch. Situations like this prompted Aykroyd to affectionately dub Belushi as “America’s Guest”. John Candy orders three orange whips. This line was not scripted; Candy just improvised. While also a cocktail, Orange Whip provided refreshments for the crew, and Costumer Sue Dugan was daughter of the Director of Sales for Orange Whip, Kenny Dugan, who asked the brand be mentioned in the film.

2 – Smokey and the Bandit (1977)A majority of the lines and quotes spoken by Jackie Gleason character, Sheriff Buford T. Justice were improvised. Jackie Gleason reportedly modeled his character, Sheriff Buford T. Justice, after Burt Reynolds’ description of his father, a Florida police officer and Chief of Police. Among the character traits that came from this was the use of “sumbitch”, a colloquial pronunciation of “son of a bitch”. Jackie Gleason said the cafe scene with himself and Burt Reynolds was not in the original story, it was Gleason’s idea. Adding the Junior Justice character was Jackie Gleason’s idea. “I can’t be in the car alone,” Gleason said. “Put someone in there with me to play off of.”

Hal Needham was better known in the film industry as a stuntman and had great difficulty in getting any producers interested in this project. Only when his close friend Burt Reynolds agreed to star in the film did he manage to gain studio attention. Hal Needham asked Jerry Reed to write a theme song for the film. A couple of hours later, Reed presented “East Bound and Down” to Needham. With an acoustic guitar, Reed started to play it and Needham immediately stopped him. Thinking Needham didn’t like it, Reed offered to re-write the song. To which Needham replied: “If you change one note, I’ll kill you!” The song went on to become one of Reed’s biggest hits.

1 – Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)John Hughes, in an interview on the “Those Aren’t Pillows” DVD, said he was inspired to write the film’s story after an actual flight from New York to Chicago he was on, was diverted to Wichita, Kansas, thus taking him five days to get home. John Hughes wrote the first draft of the screenplay in three days. His average writing time for a screenplay in those days was about three to five days with twenty-some re-writes. Steve Martin was convinced to join the production after favoring two scenes he had read from the script; the seat adjustment-scene in the car, and the F-word tirade at the car rental desk. John Candy and Steve Martin’s favorite film that they have made. Although John Hughes was in a bad mood throughout the filming, as his life was falling apart, John Candy and Steve Martin had a great time together during production.

Top 15 Jodie Foster Movies

 

Here’s another fine actress, that transitioned well from child star to great adult actress. A Disney player of the 70’s who managed to make intriguing and emotional role choices over the years and won an Academy award for her efforts. I loved her early Disney movies and respected her choices later on; easily as comfortable in a drama as a thriller or a comedy. Like all of my favorites, she’s versatile and adept at all genres. Here’s a list of my top 15 favorite Jodie Foster films:

15 – Taxi Driver (1976)

Jodie Foster has chosen some gritty roles over the years, not one to shy away from an uncomfortable role by any means. She seemed to do this early on in her career, trying as hard as possible to stretch herself as an actress, beyond her comfort zone. This is one of those roles. It’s interesting to me that she chose to do this role of a teenage prostitute in the midst of her popularity as a Disney star. Dangerous move, but one that ultimately proved to the Industry, at least, that she was an Academy Award caliber actress. I personally drift to her more funny or light-hearted movies, but there certainly is no denying her talent and ability to master any role and genre. This was her first nomination for an Oscar. Tough subject matter.

14 – One Little Indian (1973)

Now this Disney film was pretty neat because it’s the first time that James Garner and Jodie Foster would work together and when they worked together again it was over 20 years later, for Maverick (1994). Pretty typical fare overall, and similar to her other Disney work at this time, she was gearing up to be the star, even then you can see she was something more than a supporting actress.

13 – The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane (1976)

I put this film on the list because I think it’s pretty scary, although I haven’t seen it in 20 years, it spooked me pretty bad. To be fair, in interviews, Jodie Foster usually refrains from saying which of her films are her least favorites, but she has let it slip that this movie isn’t one she is fond of, explaining, “When people are there to simply do a job they don’t have any passion for, those are nearly always bad films.” It was first top-billed lead role in a major motion picture for Jodie.  1976 was definitely her breakout year, although from the 5 movies she did that year I prefer the Disney film, Freaky Friday, the most.

12 – Inside Man (2006)

Jodie, being fluent in French, dubbed herself in the French version. Jodie filmed her part in three weeks, and it’s a very different part for her, but as always she’s very good. It’s a pretty fun heist movie and my favorite Spike Lee film. Denzel Washington and the cast was allowed to ad-lib at times, he just seemed especially adept at it. The scene in the coffee shop was improvised. On the DVD commentary, Spike states that when Denzel ad-libbed the line, “I’ll bet you can get a cab though,” he nearly ruined the take by laughing really loud.

11 – The Brave One (2007)

Interesting to note, Nicole Kidman was originally cast as Erica. Jodie would be cast when Nicole dropped the project. Jodie also took over Kidman’s role in Panic Room (2002). It was Jodie’s idea for Erica to record sounds of the city for her radio show. Foster walked for miles all around Manhattan with headphones on to prepare for the role. The movie is like the female version of Death Wish, with Jodie playing the Charles Bronson role.

10 – Flight Plan (2005)

Jodie Foster’s role was originally written for Sean Penn. The original character’s name of “Kyle” was even kept. Coincidentally, Penn’s role in The Game (1997) was originally intended for Jodie Foster. A bereaved woman and her daughter are flying home from Berlin to America. At 30,000 feet, the child vanishes, and nobody will admit she was ever on the plane. It’s Lady Vanishes, on a plane!

9 – The Accused (1988)

Probably the most brutal role for any actress ever. What she has to go through to even film this is unfathomable. The movie is based on a real-life gang rape that occurred on 6 March 1983 at Big Dan’s Bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The bar lost its liquor license the very next day. Upon seeing a pre-screening of the film, Jodie Foster thought her performance as Sarah Tobias was so awful that she immediately began preparing for and taking the GRE’s for graduate school. She was prepared to leave her film career behind and focus on academia…until she won the Academy Award for her performance.

8 – Stealing Home (1988)Stealing home jodie Foster

This is one of those rare movies that no one seems to know about, but that I love. I tell people about it all the time and convince them to watch it and they usually thank me for it later. Mark Harmon plays a washed-up baseball player who is called back home to handle the ashes of his childhood sweetheart/ first love (Jodie) who had committed suicide. As he searches for what to do with them, he remembers the past and the relationship they had. In doing so he finds himself again. This movie was reportedly based on the real-life experiences of its writers, former Second City troupe members and WKRP in Cincinnati writers Steven Kampmann and William Porter. The two lead actors (Jodie and Mark) never even have a scene together.

7 – Panic Room (2002)

Another one of her great thrillers. This one is top notch, great cast, great crew all around. A divorced woman and her diabetic daughter take refuge in their newly-purchased house’s safe room, when three men break-in, searching for a missing fortune. As I stated earlier, Nicole Kidman was originally cast in the role of Meg Altman. Then, only eighteen days into filming, Kidman had to leave the film as well, due to a recurring knee injury, suffered during the filming of Moulin Rouge! (2001). David Fincher suggested that the studio close the production and collect the insurance, but the studio decided to go on. Jodie Foster was offered the role. She was due to be the president of the Cannes Film Festival jury but withdrew to work with Fincher, with whom she was originally supposed to work on The Game (1997) in the role now played by Sean Penn. Foster had only nine days to prepare for the role. Kidman left a small mark in the film nevertheless, however, as the voice of the girlfriend of Foster’s husband in the movie, heard answering the phone when Foster’s character calls him in a desperate attempt for help.

6 – Sommersby (1993)

An example that she can do it all, this is a great romantic film. A farmer’s wife begins to suspect that the man in her bed is an impostor after he returns home from the Civil War, based on the French film, The Return of Martin Guerre. Steven Reuther, one of the producers behind the project commented about the casting of Gere and Foster: “A lot of people questioned us about this coupling. And it was a gamble, because there are the obvious romantic leading females, and Jodie really is not one of them. Also, I don’t think anyone had ever seen Jodie in a period costume. But once we got her in the period clothes and the hair, it was like, ‘How could there have been a question?’ I think that part of why she was attracted to the character was because it was something she had never done before.”

5 – Candleshoe (1977)

I love this movie, which is kind of an alternate telling of the story of Anastasia but with a treasure hunt mixed in. Helen Hayes and David Niven are just fantastic in it as well as Foster. It’s the last of three theatrical movies that actress Helen Hayes made for the Walt Disney Pictures studios during the 1970s. The earlier films were Herbie Rides Again (1974) and One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975). Screenwriter David Swift, who in the early 1960s directed Pollyanna (1960) and The Parent Trap (1961) for Walt Disney, developed this project for the company and was set to direct it. However, he felt Jodie Foster (then one of the most popular teenage actresses in the country) was all wrong for the part of Casey and stepped down. Boy, was he wrong, she is really great in this.

4 – Freaky Friday (1976)

The most popular of Jodie’s Walt Disney films, it’s a really fun movie and still holds up today, even with all the period clothes. The only time I can remember Jodie singing for a film, the title song “I’d Like to be You for a Day” is sung by Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster. Both Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris were nominated for Best Actress – Musical or Comedy at the 1977 Golden Globes for this film. Technically, as they also played each other’s characters, they were both nominated for playing the same characters. Jodie Foster said of the film whilst doing press publicity for the picture around the time the movie first launched: “I think it’s important for my career that I make all different kinds of films. I’m proud that I made Freaky Friday. And I thought the idea was terrific. A lot of my friends think it’s my best picture. I really like working for Disney”.  The date of the “Freaky Friday” in the movie’s story-line was a Friday the 13th.

3 – Silence of the Lambs (1991)

This is the movie that comes up generally as the best of Jodie’s films, and I do love it, but it’s not my favorite. It is Jodie’s 2nd Academy Award win after The Accused. Anthony Hopkins won as well for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. Jodie Foster claims that during the first meeting between Lecter and Starling, Anthony Hopkins’s mocking of her southern accent was improvised on the spot. Foster’s horrified reaction was genuine; she felt personally attacked. She later thanked Hopkins for generating such an honest reaction. Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster only share four scenes throughout the course of the film. With 24 minutes and 52 seconds of screen time, Anthony Hopkins’s performance in this movie is the 2nd shortest to ever win an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, with David Niven in ‘Separate Tables‘ beating him at 23 minutes and 39 seconds. Clarice Starling was chosen by the American Film Institution as the sixth greatest film hero (out of fifty), the highest ranked female on the list; Hannibal Lecter was chosen as the #1 greatest film villain (also out of fifty).

2 – Maverick (1994)

This film is just really great fun. Not only does Jodie get to work with one of her favorite actors, Mel Gibson, but she was reunited with James Garner again after 20 years when working with him when she was a child. They all have some funny stuff in this. Jodie Foster’s character’s gracelessness in the film stems from the first scene she shot, when she waited for Mel Gibson to help her down from the stagecoach. Instead, he took her parasol and walked away. She tried to get down alone and flopped to the ground. Director Richard Donner liked it so much he kept the shot in the film, and staged more scenes of Foster stumbling, being dumped through windows, etc. In the stagecoach chase sequence, stuntman Mic Rodgers (doubling for Mel Gibson) had to go under the coach and get up at the back. This is a direct nod to legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt’s similar stunt in Stagecoach (1939). By coincidence, second-unit director Terry Leonard, a former stuntman himself, performed this same stunt in the truck chase in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). I specifically talk about the stunt in the blog post, http://brothers-ink.com/2015/09/stagecoach-and-zorros-fighting-legion/ and again for the Indiana Jones stunt in the blog post http://brothers-ink.com/2015/12/stunt-team-for-raiders-of-the-lost-ark/

1 – Contact (1997)

This is one of the finest films, in what is a library of marvelous films by director Robert Zemeckis. It’s got one of the most remarkable tracking shots I’ve ever seen for any film. Ask my wife, I have literally watched and rewound this shot a hundred times trying to figure it out. Apparently, I learned later, this impossible shot, the long shot of Ellie as a child running up the stairs to get medicine, was actually filmed as a normal shot would have been and then flipped and placed in the mirror which, at the time of shooting was a blue screen placement in the cabinet. Any way you look at it, it’s a thing of beauty. Sorry, back to Jodie…Jodie Foster was interested in this movie as early as 1995. After initially deciding to drop out, her interest was resparked by a new revision of the script. Her character, Ellie is based partly on real radio astronomy pioneers and extra-terrestrial intelligence researchers. There’s also some Carl Sagan in her. He wanted a female hero to inspire girls to pursue science. Jodie really connected with that, being an academic herself. So much so that in 2011, Jodie was part of a group of private donors that saved SETI’s telescope array in California.

Robby Benson, Actor-Writer-Director-Singer-Professor

 

I love it when father and sons get together to write a screenplay, Rance Howard and Ron Howard for Grand Theft Auto come to mind and Robby Benson and his father Jerry Segal wrote One on One together.  Both films were released in 1977.  I wrote about the first one in a blog post you can read here.  Robby Benson was already a pretty big child star up until that point and started to become what is commonly known as a teen idol, showing up in tons of teen magazines. I know because he was one of my sister’s favorites and we had Dynamite magazines laying all over the house. He was about to explode to super-stardom with One on One as well as Ice Castles (one of my family’s all time favorite) the very next year.ice-castles-robby-benson

Both could be considered sports movies, as One on One is a movie about basketball, but Ice Castles is a movie about ice skating. We already loved him as an actor, but deep inside he had a talent for writing and singing that we were not aware of until he decided to star in and write the music for a movie called Die Laughing in 1980. My brother and I LOVED that sound track and would record it directly off our video copy straight on to a good old cassette tape that we proceeded to listen to thousands of times over the next decade! We’re still looking for a decent CD of it, but recently I have found workable digital copies of the songs that someone was thoughtful enough to transfer online. This film is hilarious, and Robby Benson does some fun acting, writing and singing for it. Definitely a sleeper if you get a chance to find it anywhere, snatch this movie up.

DIE LAUGHING, Robby Benson, 1980. ©Orion Pictures
DIE LAUGHING, Robby Benson, 1980. ©Orion Pictures

He would go on to act in several films over the years, and started to add to his abilities by directing back-to-back pictures with White Hot in 1989 and then Modern Love with wife Karla DeVito in 1990. He eventually moved completely behind the camera as a director, but once in a while you can hear his voice again like as the Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  I just wish he sang more in that movie. He directed a lot in the 1990’s and 2000’s, with Evening Shade, Thunder Alley, Ellen, Friends, The Naked Truth, Jesse, The Huntress and 8 Simple Rules. Since then he’s written a few books (Who Stole The Funny?, I’m Not Dead…Yet), a play (Open Heart…and another one on the way) and has been a professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, the University of Utah, University of South Carolina, and Indiana University.professor-robby-benson

We look forward to whatever he decides to tackle next!

The Goodbye Girl

 

I love this movie. That’s my main thought as I think about The Goodbye Girl (1977). I can thank my sister, Page, for introducing this and Chapter Two (1979), another Neil Simon written film, to me when I was much younger. And The Wiz (1978) and Chorus Line (1985) for that matter. That’s what you get when you have a sister that is 4 years older than you and influences your early film experiences…sometimes I regret the last two, when I get razzed by my buddies about my specific favorite films, but not with Neil Simon’s stuff. There’s something to be enjoyed there by any gender and tastes…especially his brilliance in writing the perfect argument. From the Odd Couple (1970) on, he has been the master of hilarious arguments. According to Neil Simon, no one expected anything special at the box office from the film. “It had only one real star, Richard Dreyfuss; one rising star, Marsha Mason; and one cute ten-year-old, Quinn Cummings, with a slight love story directed extremely well by Herbert Ross and a rather nice script by me, if I have to say so myself…it probably wouldn’t have been made were it not for Ray Stark’s faith in it.”the_goodbye_girl_lobby_card

The movie is about an unemployed dancer and her 10-year-old daughter who, after being dumped by her live-in boyfriend are reluctantly forced to live with a struggling off-Broadway actor. My sister was a dancer growing up and now a retired dance teacher, so I can see where her interests drew her to this movie. It was directed by Herbert Ross, who directed 5 of Neil Simon’s movies over the years but also the classics (well, they’ve held up over time, anyway): Goodbye Mr. Chips (1969), The Turning Point (1977), Footloose (1984), Steel Magnolias (1989) and one of my other forgotten favorite’s, Undercover Blues (1993). What’s interesting about Goodbye Girl and Turning Point is they were both released in 1977 and unusually enough, he won Best Drama at the Golden Globes for Turning Point and Best Comedy for Goodbye Girl. Nobody has ever done that before and also not since.the-goodbye-girl_marsha-mason

Other than a brilliant script and a wonderful director, the real spark is between Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfuss. They were both nominated for Oscars from this film, but only Richard one, which is a shame because Marsha was amazing as well. When Richard Dreyfuss was asked in a 2000 interview what made the film so special, he replied, “Goodbye Girl was a wonderful script. Wonderful. And as actors we never got tired of it. Never…It was funny and loving. And the actors and actresses in the show–especially Marsha and Quinn–were perfect. Like God had said these are the actors to work with. I once said that I’d like to play Elliot until I retired and got a Swiss watch because he was great. I wanted to be him, and I wanted to acquire his personality for my own.” Marsha Mason also recalled later, working with Richard Dreyfuss – “Richard was fast and funny. I was thoughtful and more serious. Richard was wild and free. I was a responsible wife and mother and an actress. I wanted so much to be like him. He was so sure of himself, so sure of his place and space, and he moves forward accordingly. He’s bright, bright, bright, incredibly well read, and comfortable with his intelligence.”1977-goodbye-girl-the-02

Another thing of note is that this film has just about the finest ending credit song there is. The film’s theme song “Goodbye Girl”, was sung and written by David Gates, and went to No. #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in 1977.

The Deep

 

My all time favorite movie about sunken treasure hunters has got to be Peter Benchley’s The Deep (1977). Made just a few short years after his seminal Jaws (1975), it had a lot of similar elements including a great part for actor Robert Shaw. Nobody seemed to embody a Peter Benchley character better than he did. Starring Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset as a married couple that go treasure hunting in Bermuda and find an important shipwreck of gold and jewelry that just happens to be hidden underneath another WW II shipwreck full of medical supplies including thousands of vials of morphine. Just as they attempt to get to the treasure, they are threatened by drug runners who want the morphine for themselves.

robert-shaw-eli-wallach-the-deep-1977

The screenplay was based on the book by Benchley and written by him and Tracey Keenan Wynn, the son of Keenan Wynn, grandson of Ed Wynn. Benchley only wrote 3 screenplays based on his books, this one, Jaws and The Island (1980) with Michael Caine, but several of his other books would be adapted to movies or miniseries over the next couple of decades. He would, however write 2 TV movies, not based on any of his novels, The Great Houdini (1976) and Jeremiah of Jacob’s Neck (1976), which stars Keenan Wynn and is where Benchley met the son Tracey.deep-d

The Deep was directed by Peter Yates who made the seminal stunt movie, Bullitt (1968), which we discuss in a blog post here.  The Deep has some of the best underwater cinematography that I have ever seen outside of James Cameron’s The Abyss (1989). It was shot on location at an actual sunken ship! The shipwreck featured in the movie is actually the Royal Mail Ship RMS Rhone, which sank in 1867 off the coast of Salt and Peter Islands in the British Virgin Islands. The RMS Rhone broke into two pieces during the sinking. This movie was filmed at the bow section of the ship located about 75 feet underwater. The production shoot ran for 153 days, conducted 8,895 dives, spending 10,870 person hours underwater, and consumed 1,054,000 cubic feet of compressed air.bisset-deep

The picture was notable for its opening underwater diving sequence featuring Hollywood actress Jacqueline Bisset in a black bikini bottom and see-through wet t-shirt thus launching her as a Hollywood sex symbol and contributing big word-of-mouth for the movie, assisting with its box-office success. According to the book “Hit and Run: How Jon Peters and Peter Guber Took Sony for a Ride in Hollywood” (1996), producer Peter Guber allegedly once said, “That t-shirt made me a rich man!”. Though actors Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset’, for authenticity, did many of the underwater scenes themselves, the more dangerous sequences were still performed by stunt doubles.

David Swift, Man of Many Hats

 

David Swift had notable credits as an animator, director, writer, producer, musician and actor…it’s as if there was nothing he couldn’t do! David started out as an animator for Disney’s early films from Snow White to Peter Pan, but then soon moved over as a writer for a bunch of TV shows like Norby and Mister Peepers and then moved again to directing.David Swift and Pollyanna

As a writer-director he started with a hit right out of the gate when he made the feature films Pollyanna for Disney in 1960 and then followed it up with The Parent Trap in 1961. Both films starred Haley Mills and both are still amazing family films!  According to director David Swift, after looking at 362 girls for the part of Pollyanna, they still did not have anyone to play the part. One day, Walt Disney’s wife Lilly went shopping with Disney studio head Bill Anderson’s wife while they were in London on business. The two ladies saw Hayley Mills in Tiger Bay (1959) and thought she was perfect for the role of Pollyanna. The two men didn’t listen to them, but they were so persistent that the men finally agreed to watch the movie and immediately decided to cast Hayley.David Swift and The Parent Trap

There’s a lot of very fine character actors in these films as well with Jane Wyman, Adolphe Menjou, Nancy Olsen, Karl Malden, Kevin Corcorin and Agnes Moorehead in Pollyanna and Brian Keith, Maureen O’Hara, Charles Ruggles, and Joanna Barnes in The Parent Trap. He has a real talent for putting together very talented casts. He continued this trend with Under the Yum Yum Tree in 1963 with Jack Lemmon, Carol Lynley, Dean Jones, Paul Lynde, Edie Adams, Imogene Coca, and Bill Bixby and with How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying in 1967 with Robert Morse, Rudy Vallee, and Michele Lee.David Swift and Under the Yum Yum TreeThe original Broadway production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” opened at the Forty-sixth Street Theater in New York on October 14, 1961, ran for 1417 performances and won the 1962 Tony Awards for the Best Musical and Book and was nominated for Best Score. Robert Morse (Winner of the 1962 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical), Rudy Vallee, Ruth Kobart and Sammy Smith recreated their stage roles for the movie version.David Swift and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

I also want to mention that he wrote the screenplay for one of my favorite Disney movies of the 70’s…Candleshoe, in 1977 starring Jodie Foster, Helen Hayes, David Niven, and Leo McKern. Interestingly enough, I loved Jodie Foster in this, but she’s the reason he ultimately didn’t direct this film. He developed this project for Disney for several years and was intially set to direct it. However, he felt Jodie Foster (then one of the most popular teenage actresses in the country) was all wrong for the part of Casey and stepped down. I believe he was wrong, as she’s great in this movie.David Swift and Candleshoe

Final of four cinema movies that Jodie Foster made with the Walt Disney Pictures studios during the 1970s. The feature films include Candleshoe (1977),Freaky Friday (1976), One Little Indian (1973) and Napoleon and Samantha (1972). During this period, Foster also made a fifth Disney feature title, but made for television, it being the tele-movie Menace on the Mountain (1970), the first of the 70s era batch.

Eat My Dust, Grand Theft Auto

 

Ron Howard was already a household name when he went to work as a teenager for producer Roger Corman. Roger Corman is famous for knowing how to turn a good idea into a very low budget movie. He concentrated on action, sci-fi and horror aspects and many times mixed them whenever he could. He also had a bargain for actors that worked, “…act in one movie and I’ll let you direct one.” He did this with budding actor-turned-director Ron Howard and both of them got boosts in their careers and we got 2 of the craziest car chase movies ever to be made; Eat My Dust (1976) and Grand Theft Auto (1977).Grand Theft Auto

Charles B. Griffith, the screenwriter, came up with the title of the film when the crew were shooting the car chase at the sand dunes. The crew got covered with sand and dirt so much that Griffith turned to Roger Corman and said “We ought to call this picture ‘Eat My Dust'”. The original title for this film was “The Car.” The movie took 4 weeks to shoot. Ron Howard did all of his scenes in 10 days. A body double drove the car for the rest of the filming. The film was shot for only $300,000. Much of what makes this movie good can be attributed to Charles B. Griffith imaginative script and to the fantastic stunts in the film. Griffith was paid a paltry sum for his work with Roger Corman, but over time became a legend for independent filmmakers. Quentin Tarantino dedicated his film Deathproof (2007) to Griffith, whom he referred to as one of his main influences and called “the father of redneck cinema”. He also is often cited as the father of American black comedy, due to his screenplays for A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) and Death Race 2000 (1975).Eat My Dust

Eat My Dust did well at the box office, so Roger Corman gave Ron Howard double the money to direct the next car crash spectacular, Grand Theft Auto, which was still a very low budget for movies, even back then.  Ron Howard asked Roger Corman to hire more extras for the crowd scene at the end of the film. Corman said no because he did not want to go over budget. They also had a very short schedule on this film, for example, the demolition derby sequence was done in a single day. This film also has the added historical value of being the only film that Ron Howard directs and acts in at the same time. He moved permanently behind the camera soon after and never really went back. This film started his wonderful career as a director and went on to make over $15 million at the box office, not including what it did on TV, Video or DVD. A big hit all around for Roger Corman.Grand Theft Auto2

Jim Dale Has an Amazing Voice

 

There are some fantastic underrated actors out there. One of my all time favorites would be an British actor by the name of Jim Dale. He’s been nominated for many awards including an Oscar and a Golden Globe, but the biggest ones he won are 2 Grammies and a Tony. He’s most recognizable for his voice, but Adam and I just loved him in a series of Disney films in the late 1970’s.jim-dale-Petes Dragon

The first film was Pete’s Dragon in 1977. An orphan boy and his magical dragon come to town with his abusive adoptive parents in pursuit. Seems fitting because a non-musical remake of the film is coming out this month. But the original is a musical and we just love this film. Jim Dale plays the bad guy and con-artist Dr. Terminus, and does a great job singing, so it’s no surprise that he has been nominated for five Tony Awards, winning one for Barnum (1980) for which the New York Times described him as “The Toast of Broadway”, also winning the second of four Drama Desk Awards.hot-lead-and-cold-feet

The next film was the hilarious Hot Lead and Cold Feet in 1978. This saga of the old west involves twin brothers who compete for possession of a rickety cow town founded by their father while a crooked mayor tries to put an end to the competitors so he can inherit the town himself. He plays 3 separate roles in in the film, before it was popular to do this. Eddie Murphy made that popular later on in his films. He plays the two twins, Eli and Wild Billy as well as their father, Jasper. Fourth-billed and in a supporting role playing the Denver Kid was actor-comedian Don Knotts who had starred in a number of comic-westerns. Promotional materials for the movie more prominently promoted him as if he were in a lead major role. The film’s main movie poster for example featured an image of Knotts feature prominently in the optical center of the artwork. So I think it really hurt the film overall, as no one knew who this British actor was and every one I knew was waiting for Knotts to appear. Regardless, Jim Dale is still the stand-out in the film and does a fantastic job.Unidentified Flying Oddball

His last film for Disney again has him playing a villain in the Unidentified Flying Oddball in 1979. An astronaut and his android double travel back to the time of King Arthur. Dennis Dugan played the astronaut, as went on to a very success film career as a director for a lot of Adam Sandler movies. The film’s English “Unidentified Flying Oddball” title makes the picture one of few English language filmed adaptations of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court not to be named with this title or something similar. Others include Black Knight (2001) and A Knight in Camelot (1998). The movie is commonly known in English language speaking territories by three titles: “The Spaceman and King Arthur”, “Unidentified Flying Oddball” and “A Spaceman in King Arthur’s Court”. About sixteen years after this picture in 1995, the Walt Disney Pictures studio would adapt again Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”, this time titling the film A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (1995). Ron Moody would also reprise his role as Merlin in this movie.Jim Dale and Harry Potter

Now after a lot of work in music, TV and movies, he really became well known for his voice work on the Harry Potter Series. He has recorded all seven books in the series as audiobooks, and as a narrator he has won two Grammy Awards in 2008 and 2001, and has seven Grammy nominations.  He also narrates the Harry Potter video games and many of the interactive “extras” on the Harry Potter DVD releases. So if you recognize him, it’s surely by that amazing voice of his. He held a Guinness World Record for creating and recording 134 different character voices for one audiobook, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Terence Hill and Bud Spencer

 

A successful screen pairing usually last for 3 or 4 films. Some of the really great pairings did 15 or more films together, but most of these were comedy teams, not just actors who would come together every so often and do a film together.  Actors who did this that come to mind is Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, who did 10 movies together and Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, who’ve done 4 movies together so far. It’s unheard of that Terence Hill and Bud Spencer performed in 18 films together over their lifetimes! My brother wrote a great post on comedy teams here.bud-Hill

They appeared together in a movie for the first time in 1967 for God Forgives…I Don’t. The movie has many of the elements that made them a popular pairing over the years, being a spaghetti western and having them “buddy” up, but it wasn’t until they were featured in a comedy that they really became popular worldwide.  This is, however, identified as a trilogy, as Terence Hill and Bud Spencer play the same characters Cat Stevens and Hutch Bessy again in Ace High (1968) and Boot Hill (1969) all directed by Guiseppi Colizzi. He would direct them one more time for the 1972 film, All The Way Boys, but it is not a western, but it’s a comedy and is considered a “Trinity” film.bud-terence

You may be wondering what that means…it’s important to note that after awhile all the films they did together would be classified under one word, “Trinity”, to denote that the actors appeared together in a film, but was not necessarily a western. It could have been modern day, or in the past, but was always action, and mostly comedy. It became almost a genre of it’s own, their genre. It refers to their most popular film which came out in 1970, They Call Me Trinity, and really had all of the elements in place by then…comedy, action, fighting, buddy-buddy, some kind of clever con…it was all there. Billed as E.B. Clucher, the movie was directed by Enzo Barboni who has helmed a number of Terence Hill and Bud Spencer comedy collaborations. They are: They Call Me Trinity (1970), Trinity Is STILL My Name! (1971), Go For It! (1983), Crime Busters  (1977) and Double Trouble (1984).budspencerhill

They did the movie Blackie the Pirate (1971) the same year they made the sequel Trinity is Still My Name!. By then the Trinity movie was a huge hit and they went back into production on the new one. While on the set they improvised a bit and started to play with the set and made up a few scenes on the spot.  This would be a technique that Jackie Chan would utilize in many of his movies from the 80’s and 90’s and Hill and Spencer would continue with in their future films. You can see all of these things and how their fight scenes and comedy are used in very similar ways. In 1974 they released, Watch Out, We’re Mad and The Two Missionaries.  Their next film, Crimebusters (1976) was the first movie that my brother and I saw and we loved them instantly. We went home within a short time caught up on all their movies. Little did we know back then that we would eventually work with a star from that movie, David Huddleston in our first film, Reveille and later in our movie, Locker 13.  David Huddleston would also star in Go For It (1983). In 2004, when we first worked with him, he told us he was still very good friends with Terence Hill and Bud Spencer.budhilldavid

About this time, Hill and Spencer teamed up with a director also famous for spaghetti westerns to make a few of the modern day – non-western Trinty films. The director was Sergio Corbucci and the films were Trinity: Gambling For High Stakes (Odds and Evens) (1978) and Who Finds a Friend, Finds a Treasure (1981). To make things a little confusing, Sergio’s brother, Bruno Corbucci, also made several movies with Hill and Spencer and directed his last one Miami Cops in 1985. To make the connection between Hill-Spencer and Jackie Chan and “brothers” even closer, the film they made in 1984 Double Trouble and the film Chan made in 1992, Twin Dragons are very similar. They both feature all 3 of the actors playing a set of twins that get mixed up with another twin. One set of twins in both films are even musicians. Now over the years, Bud Spencer and Terence Hill felt a lot like brothers.  In their last film together, they played brothers again in Troublemakers (The Night Before Christmas) in 1984, directed by Terence Hill himself.bud spencer terence hill

Best Movie Stunts of the Year List 1970-1979

 

Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 1970-1979 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

1970 – They Call Me Trinitythey_call_me_trinity_poster_02

The Spaghetti Western and Spaghetti Western Comedies were starting to come into their own and a string of “Trinity” films starring Terence Hill and Bud Spencer would arise.  They became worldwide stars and did all their own fighting in their films.  These are great fun!

1971 – The Big Bossbig-boss-lobby

Bruce Lee would become a bonafide sensation after his first film and there really was no one quite like him. He had the skills and a way about him that everyone after him tried to copy.  Martial Arts got it’s very own movie genre after this.

1972 – The Poseidon Adventureposeidon-adventure wallpaper

Another new genre, would be this sub-category inside the action genre, that became the disaster film.  This one has a very good fall into a ballroom skylight done by a non-stuntman at the time, Ernie Orsatti.  He would go on to become a stuntman after this, he found he had a knack for it.

1973 – Live and Let DieLive Boat

James Bond would appear this decade a record 4 times!  This is the first on the list with a speedboat jump over land by Jerry Comeaux of 110 feet, which made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

1974 – The Man With The Golden Gunman_with_the_golden_gun_stunt

This one had a great car jump stunt that is a breath-taking, “I can’t believe I saw that” …mathematical stunt devised by Raymond McHenry at Cornell University and performed by Bumps Willard.

1975 – The Man Who Would Be Kingman who would be king

Joe Powell would perform a jump from a rope bridge between two ravines 100 feet into a pile of boxes that would lead legendary Director John Huston to say, ” That’s the damnest stunt I’ve ever seen.”

1976 – Gatorgator car

This would be the start of a great collaboration between Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds.  Hal Needham would body double Burt in this film and there’s a nifty car flip at the end of the movie with Hal in the truck bed.

1977 – The Spy Who Loved MeSPY-WHO-LOVED-SKI-1

This is a bond film with one of the most extensive pre-credit sequences than all the previous films and right before they go to the opening song and credits, they have a fantastic ski-stunt by Rick Sylvester right off a mountain and then slowly fall until finally has a parachute open. Really great opening.

1978 – HooperHooper3

Hal Needham directed Burt Reynolds this time in a movie inspired by and about stuntmen! Can’t name just one stunt to highlight in this film as it’s just chocked full of them, but if I had to, A. J. Bakunas has a world record breaking jump from a helicopter into an airbag (232 feet!).

1979 – MoonrakerMoonsky7

BJ Worth and Jake Lombard fight over a parachute in this Bond entry and it’s fun to watch.  I would definitely include all the camera men who had to jump and film the sequence which included 88 jumps over all.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM