by Coop Cooper
With all of Hollywood focusing on the Oscars which is a week away, why not talk about something completely unrelated, like comedy classics from the 1970’s? Here are a few of the best and now is a perfect time to get acquainted (or re-acquainted) with them since there is absolutely nothing new in the theaters worth mentioning…
“Where’s Poppa?” aka “Going Ape” (1970) – George Segal plays a man desperate to have a life and find romance if it weren’t for his senile mother played by Ruth Gordon who blocks his chance for happiness at every turn. This edgy dark comedy shocked audiences back then but is now considered a cult classic. Funniest moment: Rob Leibman’s inability to take a shortcut through Central Park without getting his clothes stolen.
“Harold and Maude” (1971) – A privileged young man obsessed with death learns how to truly live from a car-stealing, septuagenarian hippie with a flair for the outrageous. Another controversial comedy starring Ruth Gordon, it has been hailed by many as the greatest romance ever filmed. Funniest moment: All of Harold’s over-the-top, staged suicide attempts to exasperate his mother.
“Paper Moon” (1973) – A bible-selling con-man (Ryan O’Neal) gets stuck with an orphan who may be his daughter (Tatum O’Neal) and soon finds out the stubborn child has a talent for his unscrupulous trade. This Oscar-winning film introduced Tatum O’Neal to the world and is one of the most charming road movies of the era. Funniest moment: “I want my two hundred dollars!”
“Blazing Saddles” (1974) – A corrupt politician forces a town to deal with a black sheriff who along with a drunken gunslinger becomes his most dangerous adversaries. This very un-politicially correct film almost wasn’t released until the studio realized there was an audience for a satire about racial stereotypes and western clichés. Funniest moment: Clevon Little holding himself hostage to get away from the outraged, racist townsfolk.
“The Longest Yard” (1974) – A disgraced pro quarterback (Burt Reynolds) goes on a bender and gets thrown in a prison where the inmates are forced by a corrupt warden to play the guards in a brutal, annual football game. Reynolds assembles a team of misfits and murderers who may just have a chance at winning. While the Adam Sandler remake was merely okay, the original is one of the best sports film ever made. Funniest moment: “I think he broke his ****** neck!”
“Annie Hall” (1977) – A neurotic New York schlub recounts his relationship with the ‘one who got away’ and analyzes how it all went wrong. The best of the early Woody Allen romcoms, this film won four Oscars including “Best Picture.” Funniest moment: Christopher Walken confessing to Allen his desire to crash head on into oncoming traffic, then the long awkward moment where Walken drives Allen to the airport.
“National Lampoon’s Animal House” (1978) – The screw-ups at Delta House get put on ‘double-secret probation’ after their antics drive Dean Wormer up the wall. Faced with possible expulsion, the fraternity resolves to either beat Wormer at his own game or go out with a bang. Funniest moment: Too many to count, but I laugh hardest when John Belushi smashes the hippie’s guitar then apologizes.
“The In-Laws” (1979) – A dentist (Alan Arkin) meets his future in-law (Peter Falk) who claims to be a spy for the CIA. Falk tricks Arkin into getting involved with shady dealings that puts both in-laws on the run from international criminals. This screwball comedy puts two actors in top form together, resulting in an instant classic. Funniest moment: “Serpentine!”
“The Jerk” (1979) – A poor black boy (Steve Martin) from Mississippi goes to Los Angeles to make his way in the world. Along the way he becomes a millionaire and loses it all except for the love of a woman. One of the most beloved comedies of the 70’s, this film solidified Steve Martin as a comedic genius. Funniest moment: “I don’t need anything!… Except this.”
Honorable mentions: “Dog Day Afternoon,” “The Muppet Movie,” “Life of Brian,” “American Graffiti,” “Slap Shot,” “High Anxiety,” “Young Frankenstein.”