Nickelodeon (1976)

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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One thought on “Nickelodeon (1976)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see; even real cinephiles may soon tire of it.

    Wikpedia informs us that W.D. Richter’s (supposedly much better) original screenplay was more or less abandoned by Bogdanovich, who had his own ideas about a film on the silent era. In turn, the studio had its own ideas about what it wanted from Bogdanovich; it wanted more of a comedy than Bogdanovich was willing to offer.

    The result was a box office flop and a now-forgotten film.

    The first half is a busy little thing (with Bogdanovich borrowing a few elements from ‘What’s Up, Doc?’ and ‘Paper Moon’) and there is an (often-forced) emphasis on physical ‘humor’. The second half sort of plods along in a somewhat-less-coherent fashion. The entertainment factor here is low.

    Of the performers, the only one who comes off well is Brian Keith as O’Neal’s original boss H.H. Cobb. His comic timing is admirable and it’s nice to see Keith having what looks like effortless fun.

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