“There’s no such thing as wasted time for the writer; he’s always thinking.”
An aspiring western writer (Jeff Bridges) accidentally steals money from a pair of crooks (Richard B. Shull and Anthony James) running a sham correspondence school in Nevada, and escapes to Hollywood, where he finds work as an actor for a skinflint producer (Alan Arkin), falls for a pretty script girl (Blythe Danner), and receives advice from a grizzled performer (Andy Griffith).
This humorous tale of an innocent Iowa farmboy fleeing from the clutches of villainous crooks and landing smack-dab in the middle of Depression-Era Hollywood remains a hidden treasure, one film fanatics will be pleased to discover. Bridges’ “Lewis Tater” is eminently likable: we care about his travails from the moment we first see him acting out a western scene playing in his head, and talking earnestly to whoever will listen about the craft of writing. He refuses to let any obstacles get in his way, instead viewing whatever happens to him — and my, quite a bit happens! — as welcome fodder for his prose. Director Howard Zieff and screenwriter Rob Thompson affectionately evoke the milieu of ’30s Western matinees, taking us behind the scenes to expose the business side of this kiddie-fantasy world, complete with both fond camaraderie and bitter bargaining. All supporting actors on board — Arkin, Danner, Griffith, and others — give fine performances, rounding out this consistently enjoyable coming-of-age tale, which never takes itself too seriously (viz. the comedic omnipresence of Shull and James, complete with their own theme music), yet maintains an unexpected level of poignancy throughout.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Jeff Bridges as Lewis Tater
- Andy Griffith as Howard Pike
- A fun look at film-making in old (young?) Hollywood
- Excellent period sets
- Rob Thompson’s smart, affectionate screenplay
Yes. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book — a perfect designation.