Hal Ashby

  • Hal Ashby – The Last Detail (1973)

    1971-1980ComedyDramaHal AshbyUSA

    The Last Detail fits very nicely into its early 1970s milieu: distinctly anti-authoritarian, the film is chock full of cursing, sexual language, rowdiness, and downright rudeness. Of course, Jack Nicholson’s devilish grin was the perfect vehicle to carry this sort of pointedly subversive material, because he was so likable doing it. From Easy Rider to Five Easy Pieces to The Last Detail to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Nicholson made the role of the (often hilarious) nonconformist his own. Reclusive director/editor Hal Ashby was also a perfect fit for the film and the time period. Fresh from the offbeat critical success of the serio-comic Harold and Maude, Ashby brought an “experimental” feel to the film, most obviously in the jump cut editing borrowed from the French New Wave. Screenwriter Robert Towne was nominated for an Academy Award (his second of three in a row, following Chinatown and preceding Shampoo). Read More »

  • Hal Ashby – Lookin’ to Get Out (1982)

    1981-1990CrimeDramaHal AshbyUSA

    Two gamblers must leave New York City after one loses a lot of money. Doing what all gamblers in trouble would do, they hurry to the gambling capital Las Vegas to turn their luck around.

    Unlike his previous film (ugly, awful Second-Hand Hearts), this is an interesting one from Hal Ashby, where he successfully does a Cassavetes-style direction. A number of scenes look more like bloopers that usually get cut out, but that’s where improvisation can take you every now and then, and Ashby was willing to take that road, especially considering the fact that extended version is the one that probably saved all those bloopers. A successful mess that owes most of its charm to Burt Young, who is just amazing and swims in this mess like a fish.Read More »

  • Hal Ashby – Second-Hand Hearts (1981)

    1981-1990ComedyDramaHal AshbyUSA

    Barbara Harris (Nashville) cons Robert Blake (Baretta) into a marriage of inconvenience in this offbeat romantic comedy from Oscar®-winning* director Hal Ashby (Coming Home). A honkytonk waitress in Texas, Dinette Dusty (Harris) desperately misses her children. Forced to board them with her late husband’s parents, she finds the means to get them back when Loyal Muke (Blake) stumbles into the bar. Plying the boozy drifter with drinks, Dinette suggests they get hitched and become the children’s new guardians. Sobering up to a wife and three kids, Loyal drives them west in search of an exit, while Dinette keeps her eyes on the road ahead to make sure they don’t get ditched. *Film Editing, In the Heat of the Night, 1967Read More »

  • Hal Ashby – The Landlord (1970)

    Drama1961-1970ComedyHal AshbyUSA

    Legendary filmmaker Hal Ashby (Coming Home, 8 Million Ways to Die) makes his directing debut with this acclaimed social satire starring Beau Bridges (The Hotel New Hampshire) as a wealthy young man who leaves his family’s estate in Long Island to pursue love and happiness in a Brooklyn ghetto. When Elgar Enders (Bridges) buys a Park Slope tenement, he fully intends to evict the occupants and transform the building into a chic bachelor pad. But after meeting the tenants, Elgar adopts a “love thy neighbor” policy instead: first he falls head-over-heels for a sexy young go-go dancer… then he begins an affair with the sultry, married “Miss Sepia 1957.” Read More »

  • Hal Ashby – Shampoo (1975)

    1971-1980ComedyHal AshbyRomanceUSA

    Plot Synopsis from allmovie.com
    A frankly adult comedy about the sex lives of the aimless and the rich, Shampoo is also a pointed commentary on the demise of 1960s idealism at the dawn of the Nixon era. It is Election Day, 1968, and randy Beverly Hills hairdresser George Roundy (Warren Beatty) is too worried about attending to all of his women’s tonsorial and sexual needs, while trying to swing a bank loan to fund his own salon, to notice the fateful Presidential race. As George juggles the demands of girlfriend Jill (Goldie Hawn) and mistress Felicia (Lee Grant), not to mention Felicia’s daughter (Carrie Fisher), he meets Felicia’s husband Lester (Jack Warden) to get money for the salon and discovers that his beloved ex-girlfriend Jackie (Julie Christie) is now Lester’s mistress. Read More »

  • Hal Ashby – Being There (1979)

    1971-1980ComedyDramaHal AshbyUSA


    Roger Ebert / May 25, 1997

    On the day that Kasparov was defeated by Deep Blue, I found myself thinking of the film “Being There” (1979). The chess champion said there was something about the computer he did not understand, and it frightened him. There were moments when the computer seemed to be . . . thinking. Of course, chess is not a game of thought but of mathematical strategy; Deep Blue has demonstrated it is possible to be very good at it without possessing consciousness.Read More »

  • Hal Ashby – Harold and Maude (1971)

    1971-1980ComedyDramaHal AshbyUSA

    Cinematically, Harold And Maude is a child of the Seventies. A film about death and disillusionment jarringly complete with a sunny Cat Stevens soundtrack, on the surface it is about pushing boundaries and definitions (not least in the kind humour allowed to be depicted on screen). However, it’s also a film about being true to yourself and following your own path.Read More »

  • Hal Ashby – 8 Million Ways to Die (1986)

    1981-1990CrimeHal AshbyThrillerUSA

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    “The screenplay is a mess, with enough plot holes to drive the latest-model SUV through. Still, the film is colorful and chock-full of energy and several standout moments. It ain’t perfect, yet it’s far from boring.
    The bottom line here is whether 8 Million Ways to Die is worth seeing. It is. A guilty pleasure of mine for over sixteen years, it can provide a whopping good time if you’re willing to overlook its many flaws, and just let the innate craziness of it all work on you. Nothing in it is the least bit logical; then again, there’s not a whole lot about it that’s stiff — there’s an aliveness, a pulsating sense of sleaze and profaneness permeating throughout it that can be quite liberating…
    Forget the logical lapses and just revel in its quintessential profaneness.”
    — Jack Sommersby, efilmcritic.comRead More »

  • Nick Dawson – Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel (2009)

    2001-2010BooksHal AshbyNick Dawson

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    Hal Ashby set the standard for subsequent independent filmmakers by crafting unique, thoughtful, and challenging films that continue to influence new generations of directors. Initially finding success as an editor, Ashby won an Academy Award for editing In the Heat of the Night (1967), and he translated his skills as an editor into a career as one of the quintessential directors of 1970s.

    Perhaps best remembered for the enduring cult classic Harold and Maude (1971), Ashby quickly became known for melding quirky comedy and intense drama with performances from A-list actors such as Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail (1973), Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn in Shampoo (1975), Jon Voight and Jane Fonda in Coming Home (1978), and Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine in Being There (1979). Ashby’s personal life was difficult. He endured his parents’ divorce, his father’s suicide, and his own failed marriage all before the age of nineteen, and his notorious drug abuse contributed to the decline of his career near the end of his life.Read More »

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