The past few weeks I have been dropping some cryptic hints about an adventure to be had in Boston. Last weekend Matt and I took the trip. As soon as something definite is announced I'll be sure to share the stories with you.
Marvel Comics has pushed back the release date of two of its upcoming adventures. "The Avengers" film, which is slated to star Robert Downey, Jr's Iron Man as well as the Hulk and Thor has been delayed until 2012. Speaking of Thor, the first film featuring the Nordic hero will now be released in 2011. Kenneth Branagh is still slated to direct.
Scarlett Johansson has signed on to play the Black Widow in "Iron Man 2." She joins newest castmember Mickey Rourke, who agreed this week to play a villian named Whiplash.
A few weeks ago I mentioned Drew Barrymore was in the running to direct the third "Twilight" sequel. Now word comes that Juan Antonio Bayona - director of "The Orphanage" - has gotten the gig.
MY FAVORITE FILMS, PART II. THE YEAR WAS 77/78...
Saturday Night Fever / The Goodbye Girl|
Starring: John Travolta / Richard Dreyfuss
Directed by: John Badham / Herbert Ross
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
FIRST SEEN: Varsity 6 Theatre, Tampa, Florida
FAVORITE SCENE: Tony's solo at 2001
FAVORITE LINE:"You make it with some of these chicks, they think you gotta dance with them."
1978 Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (Travolta)
1979 BAFTA Award nominations for Best Musical Score and Best Sound
1978 Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Picture (Comedy or Musical), Best Actor (Travolta), Best Original Score and Best Original Song (How Deep Is Your Love)
There are certain films that stick out in your memory when you see them. Of course, the seminal film in my life is "JAWS," still the greatest film ever in my opinion. Another film is "Saturday Night Fever." Released shortly after my 17th birthday, "Fever" was almost a blueprint for those of us growing up in the late '70s. For you kids reading this (ha ha), the legal drinking age in 1977 was 18, which meant most of us were tasting our first alcohol at the age of 16 (guilty). Now, instead of beer we were ordering "seven and sevens" and walking with a strut we picked up from an actor that most of us admired, John Travolta. Popular for his role as head Sweathog Vinny Barbarino on "Welcome Back Kotter," Travolta had been signed to a million dollar three picture deal by producer Robert Stigwood. Stigwood owned the rights to make the hit musical "Grease" into a film and wanted Travolta, who had toured as Doody in the show, to star as Danny Zuko. The terms of the contract did not allow the film production to start until the summer of 1977 so Stigwood offered Travolta a warm up film, based on a short story he had read about Brooklyn teens that work all week and spend their weekends blowing off steam on the dance floors. Travolta liked the script and signed on. After much consideration, Stigwood hired John Alvidsen to direct, based on the word of mouth of Alvidsen's next film, the yet un-released "Rocky." However, it was apparent that Alvidsen and Travolta had different ideas on how to present the character of Tony Manero and Stigwood sided with his star. On a January morning in 1977 he called Alvidsen to congratulate him on just receiving an Academy Award nomination for directing "Rocky" (he would go on to win). He then fired him from "Fever." Also on Stigwood's list was John Badham, a well respected television director who had just finished his first feature, "The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars and Motor Kings," which he took over from Steven Spielberg when he quit to do "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Badham agreed with most of Travolta's ideas and soon the film was under way.
Many people who see the film come away with two images: Travolta's dance solo and the music of the Bee Gees, which drives the film. But there is one image that always stuck with me and I recently learned the story behind it. There is a scene halfway though the film where Tony and Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney) are sitting on a bench and looking at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which plays a prominent part in the film. Tony begins reciting facts about the bridge, to which Stephanie replies that he must know everything about it. She leans over and kisses Tony on the cheek. The look on Travolta's face is stunning, as if he's smiling through tears. Just after filming commenced, Travolta's long time girlfriend, actress Diana Hyland, was diagnosed with cancer. During the shoot he would film during the week and fly to California to be with her on the weekends. The weekend before the bridge scene Hyland passed away. In an interview this past year, Gorney reveals that the cast and crew were stunned that Travolta had come to work that day. Her kiss on the cheek was not in the script, but something she did to help Travolta share his grief. In the first preview of the film, Travolta was upset at two scenes: the opening credits, which purported to be Tony walking down the street and the dance solo, which consisted of a lot of close ups. Travolta volunteered to "strut" down the streets of Brooklyn himself to get the walk right. He also argued that, with all of the close ups, the audience would think someone else was doing the dancing. So the scene was re-cut so that most of the master shot (showing Travolta from head to toe) was used, assuring the audience that Travolta was the real deal.
Following the success of "Fever," Travolta went immediately into "Grease," which was an even bigger success. Sadly, the third film in his deal with Stigwood, "Moment by Moment," was not. His star rose again in 1980 with "Urban Cowboy," but fell after his appearance in the very underated Brian DePalma thriller, "Blow Out." In 1983 he reteamed with his "Grease" co-star Olivia Newton John in the under performing comedy "Two of a Kind" and revisited Tony Manero in the "Fever" sequel, "Staying Alive," which was directed by Sylvester Stallone. He achieved his first comeback in 1989's talking baby film "Look Who's Talking" (and it's two sequels), though he quickly fell again, starring in the direct to video (though very funny) film "The Experts." In 1994 director Quentin Tarentino, a long time Travolta fan, cast him as hitman Vincent Vega in "Pulp Fiction," which earned him his second Oscar nomination. Since then he has had more hits then misses.
As for the rest of the cast, none of them even came close to the success Travolta had. Gorney stayed away from the cameras for 14 years, choosing to teach drama and dance in NYC. She has since appeared in many television episodes, including "The Sopranos." Donna Pescow, who played Annette, the girl with the crush on Tony, went on to star in the popular television series, "Angie." She also does the occasional television appearance and, ironically, was also on "The Sopranos." Of the members of Travoltas' gang, The Faces, Barry Miller had the biggest career, appearing in films like "Fame" and "The Chosen." Joseph Cali did a few films, culminating with "The Lonely Lady," starring Pia Zadora. Paul Pape, who once worked in the same Rochester pizza shop as famed fanboy from the past Dusty Hess, continues to do voiceover work and has a succesful production company.
Director Badham went on to direct the adaptation of the Broadway show, "Dracula," as well as such hits as "Wargames" and "Blue Thunder." He currently works on television, directing episodes of "Heroes" and "Beast."
THE GOODBYE GIRL
FIRST SEEN: Austin Cinema, Tampa, Florida
FAVORITE SCENE: Elliot sets the rules for the apartment.
FAVORITE LINE: "I feel like an asshole. I passed foolish on Tuesday."
1978 Academy Award for Best Actor (Dreyfuss)
1978 Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress (Marsha Mason), Best Supporting Actress (Quinn Cummings) and Best Original Screenplay.
1979 BAFTA Award for Best Actor (Dreyfuss)
1979 BAFTA Award nominations for Best Actress (Mason) and Best Screenplay.
1978 Golden Globe awards for Best Picture (Musical/Comedy), Best Actor (Musical/Comedy - Dreyfuss), Best Actress (Musical/Comedy -Mason) and Best Screenplay.
1978 Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress (Cummings)
1978 Kansas City Film Critics Circle award for Best Actor (Dreyfuss)
1978 Writer's Guild of America nomination for Best Comedy Written for the Screen
It first appeared as part of a promotional booklet released by one of the film studios. The announced film was called "Bogart Slept Here" and it was to star Robert DeNiro as Elliot Garfield, an actor making his way in Hollywood. The film would be directed by Mike Nichols and was loosely based on Dustin Hoffman's early career after "The Graduate." Of course, as sometimes happens in Hollywood, "creative differences" show their ugly face and soon the project is scrapped. Writer Neil Simon rewrote his script, now focusing on Elliot before he hit it big, sharing an apartment with a jilted mother and her daughter. This time Elliot was played by Richard Dreyfuss, the mother by Simon's real life wife, Marsha Mason. The rusults were comic gold, with "The Goodbye Girl" becoming the first romantic comedy to reach the $100 million mark worlwide.
At the time "The Goodbye Girl" was released, I was acting as co-president of Richard Dreyfuss' fan club, having been asked by his cousin, Arlene, to lend a hand in late 1976. Dreyfuss fans had been waiting for Richard's next role after "Jaws," having to settle for his appearance in the television movie "Raid On Entebbe." "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" finally opened in late 1977 and, in early 1978, "The Goodbye Girl." The film was classic Dreyfuss, capitalizing on his teddy bear looks and smart ass demeanor to truly be the role of his life. He's done other films well but Elliot Garfield will always be his, no matter how many times they try to re-do the project. If you're curious as to how the film was released in 1978 yet was eligible for the Oscars that same year, I should note that though the film opened nationally in February of 1978, it debuted for two weeks in New York City and Los Angeles in November 1977, making it eligible for the 1978 awards.
Second to Dreyfuss is the performance of nine year old Quinn Cummings, who plays Masons' daughter, Lucy. Wise beyond her years, Lucy is the glue that holds the film together. Her interaction with Dreyfuss is outstanding and Cummings work clearly ranks as some of the best ever by an actor under 12. The film was re-imagined by Simon as a popular Broadway musical with Martin Short as Elliot. It was recently offered up as a television movie with Jeff Daniels as Elliot, which I hated. Some things should never be fooled with, among them the formula for Coca Cola and "The Goodbye Girl."
Dreyfuss' career almost paralleled that of Travoltas. After the success of "The Goodbye Girl" he produced and starred in the private eye comedy "The Big Fix." It was to be his last hit for many years. His next project was scheduled to be the part of Joe Gideon in Bob Fosse's "All That Jazz." Early in rehearsals it was obvious to Fosse that Dreyfuss couldn't handle the physical demands of a musical and Dreyfuss was replaced by his "JAWS" co-star, Roy Scheider. Dreyfuss began experimenting with drugs more often, culminating in a life threatening car accident. His films of the early 80s (Whose Life Is It Anyway?, The Competition, The Buddy System) were not popular at the box office, though Dreyfuss did receive raves for "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" In 1986 he teamed up with two other down on their luck performers, Bette Midler and Nick Nolte, in Paul Mazursky's "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," which put all three stars back on top. Other successful films include "Stakeout," "Tin Men" and "Mr. Holland's Opus," which earned him his second Oscar nomination. He also does the occasional stage performance. One of my biggest theater thrills was seeing he, Gene Hackman and Glenn Close in "Death and the Maiden" on Broadway.
Marsha Mason earned a total of four Best Actress Oscar nominations in her career, three of them for roles written for her by her husband, Neil Simon. The string of nominations ran out shortly after their marriage ended in 1981, though she did star in Simons' "Max Dugan Returns." She continues to work today, most recently in "Army Wives" on television.
Cummings went on to appear for two seasons on the ABC show "Family." She worked sporadically throughout the 80s. Her final role was a guest appearance on the 1991 television show, "Blossom."
Director Ross went on to direct two very different musicals, "Pennies from Heaven" and "Footloose." His last film was "Boys on the Side," with Drey Barrymore. He died in 2001.
Next week we'll take a look at Warren Beatty and Annette Benning in Barry Levinson's "Bugsy."
Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. See ya.
"Mike's Rant" is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith. Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.