Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Some Women in Seventies Film, Part I

I've been thinking about what it was like growing up female, from nine years old to nineteen, in the Seventies, and what my influences were.  So here I'm only listing films I actually saw in that decade, plus one on either end, that made a big impact on me. I was a little surprised at what a long list it is.  

1969: Kim Darby, True Grit (w/ John Wayne)
"She reminds me of me," Wayne's character says.

1971: Ruth Gordon, Harold and Maude (w/ Bud Cort)
I wanted to grow up to be like Maude. At some point I realized I sort of have grown along those lines. I mean, I also wanted to grow up to be cool and remote, but instead I've become much more comfortable making an ass of myself. A much better direction for me.
This movie was so important to me in high school that it was only when Marz pointed out the movie's flaws a few years ago that I even saw them. They are many. I still don't care.

1971: Elaine May, A New Leaf (dir. Elaine May) (w/ Walter Matthau)
I don't know why this movie isn't more famous, Elaine May is such a comic genius. I also loved her famous flop Ishtar (1987), after which she never directed again. The New Yorker's film critic Brody calls this "one of the great tragedies of cinema history, comparable in significance to the premature end of the directorial career of Erich von Stroheim and the scattering of Orson Welles’s. "

1972: Liza Minelli, Cabaret 

What a ditz. But all is forgiven by her final performance of "Cabaret". (Hm, kinda like the ending of  A Star Is Born.)

1972: Diane Keaton, Play It Again Sam
"Linda" is similar to Keaton's Annie Hall character, who I didn't like (talk about a ditz), but Linda and the Allen/Allan character in Play It Again are friends (mostly), not lovers, and their relationship is based on their compassionate support of each other's neuroses.  

A similar humorous exchange about meds ("Have you ever had lithium and tomato juice?") will show up again in Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

1973: Barbra Streisand, The Way We Were
A bad movie, but in one amazing scene, Katie (Barbara Streisand) defends Eleanor Roosevelt even at the expense of her marriage to the Robert Redford character.

1974: Cicely Tyson, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
1976: Tatum O'Neal, The Bad News Bears (w/ Walter Matthau)
1976, Sissie Spacek, Carrie
This poster is the other side of the usual image of Carrie covered in blood. I felt just like this in high school. When I hear of violence perpetrated by people who feel powerless, I think of how satisfied I felt when Carrie burned down the school gym.

1977: Jody Foster, Taxi Driver (w/ Robert DeNiro)

1978: Veronica Cartwright, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (w/ Donald Sutherland)

Brooke Adams is the main heroine in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but I love Cartwright: she shows how utterly terrifying the situation is, but manages to come through anyway (almost).

1979: Veronica Cartwright & Sigourney Weaver, Alien
1979: Sally Field, Norma Rae (w/
Ron Leibman)

Besides telling a great story, Norma Rae is a rare female/male example of the Romance of Working Together: 
an attraction built on the closeness and respect that comes from sharing meaningful work. When the characters are male/female, this usually resolves itself in sex. 

The tension of it not being resolved is a source of slash: Kirk/Spock, Starsky/Hutch, Sherlock/John... Is it "slash" if it's male/female, like Mulder/Scully?
Norma Rae is one of the few fictional instances of a male/female attraction ending with nothing more than a handshake.

1979: Judy Davis, My Brilliant Career (Australia, dir. Gillian Armstrong)

I was disappointed to rewatch My Brilliant Career--it's pretty preachy and dated. But it was shocking at the time that the character chooses a life of writing over the handsome Sam Neill.

1980: Gena Rowlands, Gloria
Gloria's shooting down mobsters to defend this kid who gets left on her doorstep, but she's no sentimental mother.

I see I've left out Faye Dunaway, Ellen Burstyn, Gilda Radner, Madeline Kahn, etc. etc. Maybe I'll have to put together a Part II.


Zhoen said...

The only one of these I saw before college was the Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. And only saw about half of the rest, some much later. So, all out of context for their time.

bink said...

Nice list. I only saw about half of those when they came out. Others much later.

Came across this best overlooked films of the 70's list, and thought you might want to take a look.


A few I remember seeing and enjoying, like Robin and Marion, but most I had never heard of.

Michael Leddy said...

Our household loves A New Leaf, which should be more famous. My dad recommended it to me.

For Gena Rowlands, don’t miss A Woman Under the Influence. Such a powerful film.

Fresca said...

ZHOEN: I went to a lot of movies in high school.

BINK: Thanks for the link--I had actually seen several of those movies but had *totally* forgotten them! Amazing how much stuff one forgets over time, eh?

MICHAEL: You are one of the few people I've met (as it were) who know A New Leaf!

Woman Under the Influence? Sorry, never, reminds me of my mother.
Gloria, on the other hand, is dark but kind of fun, and it has a happy ending.

Michael Leddy said...

Oh, gosh, I’m sorry about that recommendation. (Late getting back here, I know.)

Fresca said...

Oh, that's OK, Michael--you couldn't have known.
I've thought about watching that movie before, of course, since it's famous (in its way), but just never do feel like going there.