My Nominations: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. And Then There Were None. Blazing Saddles. Chinatown. The Conversation. Earthquake. The Godfather Part II. The Great Gatsby. Murder On The Orient Express. The Towering Inferno. Young Frankenstein.
As usual we have a mixture of smaller character pieces and larger scale epics, and this year the disaster epic saw studios throwing as many star names as possible into casts to make as eye-catching a spectacle as possible. Martin Scorsese doesn’t get credit for helping to craft memorable characters as he should, and he doesn’t get enough credit for his non-mafia pieces. With Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore he shows why he should get more credit in both respects, the film being both moving and funny and striking a chord for me which Romantic Comedies almost never do – Ellen Burstyn doing some of her finest work as a widow travelling across the US with her son and meeting interesting characters played by Kris Kristofferson, Diane Ladd, Valerie Curtin, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, and many others.
We got two Agatha Christie adaptations this year of a similar quality and international cast – And Then There Were None with Oliver Reed, Richard Attenborough, Charles Aznavour, Stephane Audran, Elke Sommer, Gert Frobe, and Orson Welles in a cameo, while Murder On The Orient Express features Albert Finney, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins, and many more. Moving over to comedy, and another double – this time by Mel Brooks – Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein both featuring Madeline Kahn and Gene Wilder doing some of their most iconic work, and the former giving Cleavon Little a chance to shine with the latter allowing Peter Boyle and Marty Feldman to tear it up. Chinatown is one of the best examples of acting masterclasses in the 70s, with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway leading the way.
On to the disaster epics, there isn’t a lot to choose between them and will depend on your personal preference. Earthquake gives you Charlton Heston, George Kennedy, Ava Gardner, Richard Roundtree, Walter Matthau, Lorne Greene, Genevieve Bujold while The Towering Inferno has Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, OJ Simpson, Robert Wagner, Robert Vaughn, William Holden. Flicking back to literary sources, and The Great Gatsby brings us a Coppola penned version starring Robert Redford in the title role, backed up by Mia Farrow, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, Sam Waterson and others, but it is Coppola’s other two little known films of the year which I’ll choose my winner from. The Conversation is almost a Gene Hackman one-man show but smaller side performances from John Cazale, Cindy Williams, Harrison Ford, and Robert Duvall raise the bar for these types of supporting roles. My winner, even though I’d be happy with a number of the other choices, has to be The Godfather Part II. Cementing and further morphing performances from Part I while bringing in a host of new cast members each providing defining work, it’s what the word masterpiece was created for – Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Gastone Moschin, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Talia Shire, John Megna, Lee Strasberg, Bruno Kirby, Joe Spinell, Danny Aiello, Robert Duvall, Harry Dean Stanton, and why the hell not – Richard Matheson, Roger Corman, James Caan, Sofia Coppola, Gary Kurtz – you get the idea.
My Winner: The Godfather Part II
Let us know your winner in the comments – next time we dive into the deepest depths of 1975…