Plot. It’s the 1930s. Jeff Bridges is an Iowa farm boy with aspirations and an imagination much like Robert E. Howard’s. “I’m a writer,” he tells everyone, with a confident grin. “Western prose,” he clarifies.
Going to Nevada for inspiration, he gets tangled up with two crooks running a bogus school for writers. On the run from them, he stumbles into a movie crew shooting a western. He befriends a director’s assistant (Blythe Danner), who helps him get a job as an extra, and he rises quickly through the B-movie ranks to near-stardom.
Holding out for more money on the bad advice of another actor (Andy Griffiths), he finds himself out of work. Desperate to get his writing career back on track, he hands a manuscript for a novel to Griffiths, who then passes it on, claiming he’s the author. The two crooks finally catch up with Bridges; there’s an exchange of gunfire; and he is last seen on the way to the hospital, turning over what’s happened into yet another western story.
|Andy Griffiths, Jeff Bridges|
Good, but. The bare bones of this plot are enough to hang an entertaining film on about the movie business. It’s predictable in maybe too many ways, but a good cast, clever writing, good direction, and editing can make you forget all that.
And you can’t fault the cast. The performances are great, and the young Jeff Bridges is a delight. Also in the cast are Donald Pleasence and Alan Arkin. So you wonder about the rest, because long stretches of the movie seem flat and slow and won’t come to life.
It doesn’t help that the film, which is supposed to be a comedy, runs over 100 minutes. A seduction scene in which Danner tries to maneuver Bridges into bed takes forever. Maybe it’s that muddled feeling about a lot of 1970s movies that were reluctant to ramp up the stakes for the characters. Indifferent to plot, they count on the patience and attention span of the audience and end up seeming aimless.
Meanwhile, for someone interested in getting a behind the scenes look at B-movie cowboy pictures, there is too little of that. For those interested in the period, there are some vague references to the 1930s. A poster for a Garbo movie adorns a wall; there are old pop songs on the radio; the characters drive vintage cars; and there are art deco credits at the end. That’s about it.
Wrapping up. I’m not an insider, and you get the feeling that maybe the film has a lot of insider jokes that would amuse a Hollywood audience. Anyway, it would have been better to go on thinking this was a great little sleeper film that somehow disappeared. Now I wish I’d left the memory of a much better movie undisturbed.
For a more entertaining alternative, Blake Edwards’ Sunset (1988), with Bruce Willis as Tom Mix and James Garner as Wyatt Earp, is far-fetched but far more fun. For more of Tuesday's Overlooked Movies, click on over to Todd Mason's blog, Sweet Freedom.
Coming up: Marie Manning, Judith of the Plains (1903)
Don't remember this one and maybe it's a good thing.ReplyDelete
Humor is very subjective; what I find funny, you might think not so funny. I like HEARTS OF THE WEST and found it to be a better movie than you did. There are some great scenes including one of our hero reading a pulp in the bathtub. It also shows that once upon a time directors could hire a gang of extras to shoot and ride horses all day for a box lunch. The good old days...ReplyDelete
I agree about humor, Martin. For me, the humor in this one seemed labored...A great scene I didn't mention is when Bridges jumps off a roof onto a horse without thinking of the consequences.Delete
This was one of my favorites but maybe you need to be 25 and a different person in a different time. Jeff Bridges is so good in westerns though. He should have made more.ReplyDelete
It was also the 70s. A different time; movies and movie audiences were different.Delete
I remember hearing about this movie but never did see it. Now that I know it's about a writer I might try to catch it.ReplyDelete
A Robert E. Howard fan would see similarities.Delete
Jeez, Ron, I completely forgot this movie. What I saw today was the most I've seen -but I remember reading about it once in TV Guide. And speaking of TV, much as I like him, it's hard for me to watch Andy in anything other than his own original sitcom.ReplyDelete
Richard, Griffiths plays an unsympathetic character in this film, and it doesn't fit him very well.Delete
Never heard of this film, in spite of Jeff Bridges being in it. I liked him in his early films. A western would suit the likes of Bridges or Josh Brolin, I guess. Thanks for the notice, Ron.ReplyDelete
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