My chum Tim and I watch a film every week, taking it in turns to pick. The only catch? Each film has to be linked to the previous one by a shared actor. We’re on the hunt for classics we’ve missed, hidden gems and films to reappraise now we’re, uh, getting older.
We watched The January Man, because it was January, man…
With a plum cast to pick from (Kline, Rickman, Aiello, Sarandon, Steiger, Mastrantonio and Keitel!), I had plenty of options. The most immediately appealing choice was In The Heat of the Night via Rod Steiger. It’s almost been picked a few times before, and would set us up nicely for some more Sidney Poitier, last seen in the enjoyable Paris Blues alongside Paul Newman.
I realised recently that almost all of our seasons have been centred around male actors. In fact we have linked via male actors about 118 times, and female actors 19 times. Now the link isn’t always an integral part of the film – often we’ve linked via actors who’ve had very small roles. But it’s pretty Not Great. So I’ve decided that this year I’m only going to link via female actors, assuming there’s a speaking female role for me to link from in whatever Tim chooses (I haven’t told him yet – I’m going to see how long it takes him to twig).
Bearing that in mind I had a quick scan through Susan Sarandon and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s filmographies and found a likely candidate: Atlantic City, USA.
Funnily enough Susan Sarandon is the only woman we have to date held a season around. For a long time I assumed that she and Chris Sarandon (Humperdink, Humperdink, Humperdink!) were brother and sister. Eventually I discovered that he was her husband until 1979, and she’s kept the name – whether that was because she was already professionally established under that name or for some other reason I don’t know. Names are odd things, particularly in the performing arts world. In the UK at least, the union for performers and the most notable casting directory each insist that your name must be unique on their list. But they have different lists. And what if you haven’t joined them, but become established? And by the time you do want to join them it transpires there’s a children’s entertainer in Scunthorpe who goes by that same name. When are you too established to change it, and when are you so established that you can change it and have it stick?
Anyway, Susan Sarandon is plucky as heck, and I wonder what it means to her to drag around the name of her ex husband?
Atlantic City, USA and me
This was a new one to me. Burt Lancaster stars alongside Susan Sarandon, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in anything, so I was looking forward to that. There’s something about the name Atlantic City that’s just weird though. It seems made up. Obviously all place names are made up to some degree (I live in Penge, so am fully aware of silly place names) but it’s like a fictional place name. I think the first time I became aware of it was a mention in The Simpsons, and I assumed it wasn’t a real place. Like Capital City.
Atlantic City, USA (1980): In a corrupt city, a small-time gangster and the estranged wife of a pot dealer find themselves thrown together in an escapade of love, money, drugs and danger. 7.3 stars.
Some serious spoilers here, as I think a rundown of part of the plot is necessary.
Susan Sarandon’s ne’erdowell ex husband and her sister are an item. They grab a load of drugs from a pickup spot and leg it to Atlantic City to sell them. They turn up on Susan Sarandon’s doorstep and she lets them stay.
Sarandon herself is a trainee blackjack dealer. Every night she washes herself with a lemon, right in the kitchen window with the curtains open. And her neighbour, an elderly Burt Lancaster, who had mob connections back in the Al Capone days, watches and presumably tugs himself silly.
The owners of the drugs turn up and the ex husband winds up dead (it’s in the trailer, don’t worry), meanwhile Burt Lancaster had been enlisted to help sell the drugs and carries on. Eventually he and Sarandon have to leg it out of town. He confesses to watching her wash herself with a lemon and tugging himself silly. Which she finds incredibly appealing apparently, as she immediately shags him.
Oh, and Robert Goulet turns up to sing a song at one point (who I also only know from The Simpsons – weird synergy there).
Here’s an exchange that leads into the septuagenarian getting lucky with the (maybe) 30-something:
Lou: Why do you use lemons?
Sally: The fish smell. I’m embarrassed.
Lou: Oh. I thought maybe it was for some other reasons I didn’t understand. I even went to a supermarket to look at lemons.
Sally: It’s just to get the smell off. It’s nothing weird.
Hot, right? Sizzling stuff.
It’s a strange film, and not a great introduction to Lancaster for me. He’s oddly stilted – perhaps that’s intentional. There’s some fairly heavy handed metaphor going on, with the film ending as a notable block is demolished. The old Atlantic City is being bulldozed to make way for the new. There’s no place any more for Lancaster’s kind of guy.
There’s an elderly lady in the same apartment block as Lancaster and Sarandon, and a strange friendship strikes up between her and Sarandon’s hippy, drop-out sister. That subplot was more interesting than watching Lancaster getting his fantasies fulfilled.
I couldn’t really get beyond the creepiness of Lancaster ogling Susan Sarandon and him being rewarded for it. Still, when life gives you lemons…
It’s Tim’s choice next. He doesn’t know yet that I’m intending to only pick films I can link to by using female actors. He’s also quite tempted to pick My Dinner With Andre, which stars only men, so that could scupper the whole thing entirely. We’ll find out soon enough!