Nickelodeon (1976)

“Any jerk can direct!”

Nickelodeon Poster

Synopsis:
In the early days of Hollywood, an attorney (Ryan O’Neal) and a cowboy (Burt Reynolds) — both in love with the same woman (Jane Hitchcock) — become involved in the burgeoning motion picture industry.

Genres:

Review:
Peter Bogdanovich’s unabashedly affectionate paean to the earliest days of the motion picture industry remains a curiously uninvolving effort — one so focused on recreating elements and attributes of its era that it forgets to tell a compelling tale in its own right. The ultimate point of the storyline seems to be that luck and timing (i.e., serendipity) played a defining role in determining who found work and success in early Hollywood — see the selected quote above for an indication of the attitude on display, supposedly meant as a contrast to the arrival of “real” (i.e., auteurist) cinema (as signified by the film’s powerful culminating sequence, in which the various characters join a wider audience to watch the inaugural screening of D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation). Meanwhile, Bogdanovich’s screenplay incorporates weak attempts at silent-era slapstick (bespectacled O’Neal is a sort-of stand-in for Harold Lloyd), as well as a standard-issue love triangle subplot which fails to involve us. While serious cinephiles will surely be curious to check this one out given its subject matter, it’s ultimately a missed opportunity; see Howard Zieff and Rob Thompson’s Hearts of the West (released the previous year) for a much more successful and authentic evocation of early Hollywood.

Note: TCM’s article offers some valuable insights into why this film wasn’t as successful as it could have been; Bogdanovich’s vision was apparently thwarted.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Burt Reynolds as Buck Greenway
    Nickelodeon Reynolds
  • An affectionate homage to early Hollywood
    Nickelodeon Ode

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look simply for its obvious interest to cinephiles.

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