Anyone who spent time in New York's Greenwich Village in the early 1950s will attest to the accuracy of this wonderful, nostalgic look at that era. It's essentially Mazursky's own story, and he manages to capture the time and the people with a loving touch. Baker is the young man who
graduates from Brooklyn College in 1953 and makes the decision to leave his family, Kellin and Winters, and switch boroughs to Manhattan. Winters, the ultimate Jewish mother, is totally against it, but he leaves anyway and takes up residence in the Village, where he takes a job at a health food
place, then starts his acting lessons with Egan, a proponent of the "Method." He is soon part of "the scene," and his pals include nutty Brenner (who later married Andre Previn and became an important songwriter); Smith, who is always teetering on the brink of suicide; Walken, the WASPish poet who
speaks in epigrams; and Fargas, a black homosexual with a Jewish name. The tight-knit group members are symbiotic and help each other when needed, so when Smith tries suicide, they pour coffee into her. When Baker's sweetheart, Greene, becomes pregnant they arrange an abortion. Baker is out of
money and due to be tossed out of his apartment, so the others stage a "rent party" to raise the cash. Baker learns that a major studio wants to cast some juvenile delinquents and he hopes to get one of the parts. (In real life, Mazursky was in THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE as "Stoker.") Winters and
Kellin come to see how Baker is living, and Winters is shocked when she learns that Baker and Greene are sleeping together. Before she can faint, Kellin takes Winters home to Brooklyn. The group is saddened to learn that Smith's customary suicide attempt worked this time, and they share their
grief with each other. Baker gets a chance at the role, then Greene announces that she is going off to Mexico with Walken, Fargas, and Brenner. Baker and Greene make love for the last time and she takes this opportunity to inform him that she is also Walken's lover. An argument erupts as Winters
and Kellin enter the apartment surreptitiously. Greene leaves, and Baker understands that this part of his life is now finished. Baker bids his pals farewell, goes to his job, and gets the call about the role. He is to report to Hollywood within the week. At the last supper with Winters and
Kellin, she reminds him to never forget where he came from.
Baker was simply marvelous in the leading role. He went on to play in the Broadway hit musical, "I Love My Wife," before dying of cancer. Mazursky's real acting career began in Stanley Kubrick's first feature, FEAR AND DESIRE, which was followed by THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE. Co-producer Tony Ray,
director Nicholas Ray's son, later married his father's ex-wife, Gloria Grahame. In a small role, look for Jeff Goldblum. Conti's music is outstanding and evokes the period without parodying it.
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- Released: 1976
- Rating: R
- Review: Anyone who spent time in New York's Greenwich Village in the early 1950s will attest to the accuracy of this wonderful, nostalgic look at that era. It's essentially Mazursky's own story, and he manages to capture the time and the people with a loving touch… (more)