Hal Ashby

Discussion and info on people in film, ranging from directors to actors to cinematographers to writers.

Moderator: DarkImbecile

Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
DarkImbecile
LightGenius
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:24 pm
Location: Albuquerque, NM

Hal Ashby

#1 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Dec 20, 2004 6:01 pm

Hal Ashby (1918-1983)

Image

"The great thing about film is, it really is communal - it is the communal art."

Filmography

Features
The Landlord (1970)
Harold and Maude (1971)
The Last Detail (1973)
Shampoo (1975)
Bound for Glory (1976)
Coming Home (1978)
Being There (1979)
Second-Hand Hearts (1981)
Lookin' to Get Out (1982)
Let's Spend the Night Together [Rolling Stones concert film] (1982)
The Slugger's Wife (1985)
8 Million Ways to Die (1986)

Shorts
"Solo Trans" [Neil Young concert film] (1984)

Television
Beverly Hills Buntz - S01E01 - "Pilot"

Books
Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel by Nick Dawson (2009)
The Films of Hal Ashby by Christopher Beach (2009)
Hal Ashby: Interviews by Nick Dawson, ed. (2010)
Hal Ashby and the Making of Harold and Maude by James A. Davidson (2016)
Authoring Hal Ashby: The Myth of the New Hollywood Auteur by Aaron Hunter (2018)

Forum Discussion
BD 83 Harold and Maude
10 The Last Detail
864 Being There

Web Resources
2009 audio interview with Ashby biographer Nick Dawson and Elvis Mitchell, The Treatment
2011 interview with Ashby collaborators, including Dustin Hoffman, Sean Penn, Jeff Bridges, Bruce Dern, and others, by Jessica Hundley

User avatar
Jun-Dai
監督
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:34 am
Location: London, UK
Contact:

#2 Post by Jun-Dai » Mon Dec 20, 2004 6:13 pm

milk114 wrote:The only Hal Ashby film I have ever seen is Being There, which is one of those films I show to anyone who will watch.

I'm wondering how his other films compare, if they have similar senses of humor and mood.

Also, how influencial are Ashby's works for other filmmakers?
Well Harold and Maude certainly eclipses anything else he's done as a filmmaker, as far as popularity and influence are concerned. There are doubtlessly many more people who have heard of Harold and Maude than people who have heard of Hal Ashby.

User avatar
jesus the mexican boi
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2004 5:09 am
Location: South of the Capitol of Texas

#3 Post by jesus the mexican boi » Mon Dec 20, 2004 7:24 pm

For this and many other reasons, I really recommend the doc A DECADE UNDER THE INFLUENCE. The section on Ashby is really good, and features some memorable interviews with Jon Voight (especially), Julie Christie and Bruce Dern.

As for the influence on other filmmakers, it would be difficult to imagine folks like Alexander Payne and the Anderson twins (P.T. and Wes) not counting Ashby as a forerunner.

One last note on Ashby's films... Matt brought up the marvelous SHAMPOO, worth seeing for any number of reasons, not the least of which is Warren Beatty's hair...

but no one's mentioned COMING HOME yet. I haven't seen this in a few years, but I think it's a profoundly moving piece, certainly reflective of the time it was made. Ashby, like Scorsese, also knew how to infuse popular music into the score of a picture, and did so effectively in COMING HOME, particularly the scene accompanied by Tim Buckley's "Once I Was."

User avatar
htdm
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 3:46 am

#4 Post by htdm » Tue Dec 21, 2004 2:16 am

If you are thinking of binging on Hal Ashby, why don't you check out The Last Detail? It's available on DVD and an excellent example of his ability to shift effortlessly from humor to pathos and back. I think many people associate this film with Jack Nicholson but Randy Quaid really steals it for me!

User avatar
exte
~_~
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 4:27 pm
Location: NJ

#5 Post by exte » Tue Dec 21, 2004 2:38 am

It's disgusting how underappreciated Hal Ashby is. Stores like Kim's pride themselves on director's sections, yet fail to carry his films under his name... Look at his filmography at allmovie.com. It's a wonder how he's been brushed aside.

User avatar
milk114
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 5:38 pm
Location: Mar Vista, Los Angeles

#6 Post by milk114 » Tue Dec 21, 2004 3:00 am

a full binge was exactly what I had in mind. The three films that comme to mind when I think Ashby are Being There, Shampoo (b/c Warren Beatty I suppose) and Harold & Maude so thanks for the recommendation.

Im curious throug, about Ashby being part of the 70s explosion given that he's older than most of the other participants. I wonder if his influence or lack thereof, and expecially his seeming lack of recognition has to do with the age difference and thus not being as "hip" as others in his time... a legacy that has followed him since.

User avatar
Polybius
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 10:57 pm
Location: Rollin' down Highway 41

#7 Post by Polybius » Tue Dec 21, 2004 3:20 am

dmkb wrote:If you are thinking of binging on Hal Ashby, why don't you check out The Last Detail? It's available on DVD and an excellent example of his ability to shift effortlessly from humor to pathos and back.
I second that recommendation, with all of my heart 8-)

User avatar
david hare
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:01 pm
Location: WellyYeller

#8 Post by david hare » Tue Dec 21, 2004 3:57 am

Add to all of these "The Landlord" with Jeff Bridges (the themes even more resonant for us today in these expensive times int the cities.) Then think about "Bound for Glory" (and watch it on a double with Arthur Penn's Alice's Restaurant".)

User avatar
Fletch F. Fletch
Big fan of the former president
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 3:54 pm
Location: Provo, Utah

#9 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Tue Dec 21, 2004 10:27 am

jesus the mexican boi wrote:For this and many other reasons, I really recommend the doc A DECADE UNDER THE INFLUENCE. The section on Ashby is really good, and features some memorable interviews with Jon Voight (especially), Julie Christie and Bruce Dern.

As for the influence on other filmmakers, it would be difficult to imagine folks like Alexander Payne and the Anderson twins (P.T. and Wes) not counting Ashby as a forerunner.
Also check out Peter Biskind's gossipy book on American cinema in the '70s, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. He documents the tragic rise and fall of Ashby's life and career quite well. It's a shame how he was chewed up and spit out by the system. At least he made some excellent films along the way.

I would also second The Last Detail. I just watched this again recently and was amazed at how well this film holds up. Jack Nicholson at his foul-mouthed best, Randy Quaid as the naive prisoner and Otis Young as Nicholson's no-nonsense partner. I had forgotten how well Ashby conveys the feeling and sensation of winter in this movie. It really looks cold! Amazing. And the hilarious stream of obscenities coming out of Nicholson's mouth are always a hoot.

User avatar
justeleblanc
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 6:05 pm
Location: Connecticut

#10 Post by justeleblanc » Tue Dec 21, 2004 7:25 pm

jesus the mexican boi wrote:As for the influence on other filmmakers, it would be difficult to imagine folks like Alexander Payne and the Anderson twins (P.T. and Wes) not counting Ashby as a forerunner.
They're actually triplets -- P.T., Wes, and the guy from Night Court.

User avatar
ben d banana
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:53 pm
Location: Oh Where, Oh Where?

#11 Post by ben d banana » Tue Dec 21, 2004 8:26 pm

jesus the mexican boi wrote:As for the influence on other filmmakers, it would be difficult to imagine folks like Alexander Payne and the Anderson twins (P.T. and Wes) not counting Ashby as a forerunner.
and i won't be surprised if someone else has already mentioned that harold & maude's bud cort is in the life aquatic.

User avatar
Polybius
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 10:57 pm
Location: Rollin' down Highway 41

#12 Post by Polybius » Tue Dec 21, 2004 9:50 pm

jesus the mexican boi wrote:[...] no one's mentioned COMING HOME yet. I haven't seen this in a few years, but I think it's a profoundly moving piece [...]
Voight's scene with the kids at the school is the best of his fine career.

filmfan
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 2:06 pm
Location: metro NYC

#13 Post by filmfan » Tue Feb 15, 2005 9:18 am

I just picked up and viewed a copy of "The Landlord"...his first film, I believe, co-produced with Norman Jewison. Labeled a "counter-culture film" it was and still is the Kiss of Death for ANY film, unfortunately. This is why it's going to be a "lost" film one of these days soon.

VERY Good performances all around...especially Beau Bridges and Lee Grant. It's Lee Grant's Oscar nominated performance that really brings this film together and entertaining; her blonde wig offets her usual dark, skeletal physically unattractive demeanor, this usually taking away from her acting skills and one's enjoyment/appreciation of them. Pearl Bailey too is INCREDIBLE and brings us down to Film Reality with her natural warmth persona.

The supporting cast includes Robert Klein, Susan Anspach...both in early film roles. The others include faces you have seen on Tv...one of Bob Newhart's patients..Larry, the hubby of Carol, Bob's secretary...Lou Gossett in one of his early film roles....when he actually had hair.

User avatar
psufootball07
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2008 2:52 pm

#14 Post by psufootball07 » Sat May 03, 2008 10:26 am

I have watched both Being There and Harold & Maude within the last 2 months, and to me both feel somewhat similar. Very unique films, that have some great characters, one of the more underrated directors, he was also involved in editing In the Heat of the Night, and won an oscar for it.

User avatar
Antoine Doinel
Joined: Sat Mar 04, 2006 1:22 pm
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Contact:

#15 Post by Antoine Doinel » Fri Jun 20, 2008 1:49 pm

Wes Anderson, Alexander Payne, David O. Russell, Judd Apatow and Jason Schwartzman look back on the films of Hal Ashby.

User avatar
Michael
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:09 pm

#16 Post by Michael » Sat Jul 05, 2008 10:37 am

Throwing in some thoughts. I just made my way through most of Ashby's filmography, some revisited, some for the first time. Harold and Maude I once loved so much when I was an adolescent, it was one of the coolest films I ever saw at that time. Revisiting that film 25 years later, it turned out to be very underwhelming. Ruth Gordon was great as usual but she was at her GREATEST in the sublime Rosemary's Baby so I prefer to remember her as Minnie instead of Maude.

Ashby's crowning achievement, IMO, is Shampoo. I'm still hunting the right words to articulate my feelings and thoughts. This is a truly bizarre film - hilarious and depressing ever twisting up together. Very smartly, uniquely written and excecuted. Of course the women - Christie, Grant, Hawn and Fisher - are phenomenal, stealing the show completely from Beatty, his hair, him being a producer, and all. There's so much going on under the surface, like one my faves Cria Cuervos, the political and social change, the hypocrisy, the ending of an era. I LOVE the third-party POV at the end, behind Beatty looking out at the white Royal Royce disappearing into the Beverly Hills skyline. Quite a punch. Ashby's best ending.

Shampoo offers everything that's so horribly missing in todays Hollywood offerings. Hollywood's IQ has dropped tremendously.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#17 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat Jul 05, 2008 11:11 am

Michael wrote:Harold and Maude I once loved so much when I was an adolescent, it was one of the coolest films I ever saw at that time. Revisiting that film 25 years later, it turned out to be very underwhelming.
Amen. I was underwhelmed the first time I saw it, and I'm afraid the "greatness" seen in this film by so many will forever pass me by.

User avatar
Michael
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:09 pm

#18 Post by Michael » Sat Jul 05, 2008 12:07 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:
Michael wrote:Harold and Maude I once loved so much when I was an adolescent, it was one of the coolest films I ever saw at that time. Revisiting that film 25 years later, it turned out to be very underwhelming.
Amen. I was underwhelmed the first time I saw it, and I'm afraid the "greatness" seen in this film by so many will forever pass me by.
Keep in mind I was about 13 or 14 when I first saw H&M, its "greatness" came mostly from Ashby's cool style. It was inventive and some moments were beautiful, my favorite being the one of Harold drinking inside his jaquar sliding through the pink-glow car wash. What I don't like is the dialogues. They all feel very forced, every word hanging in the air like lead. Hallmarky. Messages getting across way too forced, pushing into your face that they become very annoying. Even if the dialogues were completely erased, with Ashby's style and Cats' silly songs we'd still get the messages all spelled out anyway.

I think with Shampoo, Ashby matured and learned that subtlety was the best way. Shampoo is so subtle that there is no one way to interpret its wickedly deceptively simple ending. Unlike H&M, Shampoo's dialogues are sublimely lean, every word has layers. There's so much to read between words, shots, expressions, POVs, gestures, etc, in Shampoo while H&M doesn't leave you any space to read or imagine.

User avatar
Polybius
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 10:57 pm
Location: Rollin' down Highway 41

#19 Post by Polybius » Sat Jul 05, 2008 5:12 pm

I feel compelled to mention that I love the ever-underrated Jack Warden's performance in Shampoo.

Michael's right. A film like this would have real trouble geting a greenlight today, absent a heavyweight of some sort backing it, and even then it would likely be ripped up by infotainment writers as being a vanity piece, regardless of it's merits.

User avatar
Highway 61
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:40 pm

#20 Post by Highway 61 » Sat Jul 05, 2008 5:49 pm

Michael wrote: Cats' silly songs
And here I was, just about to chime in and say that at least we can all agree that Cat Stevens's songs are wonderful. Ah well...

I do agree with you on the melancholy ending to Shampoo, however. I really found the movie unpleasant, but then that ending hit and forced me to take a closer look. Now I appreciate how a powerful superstar actor-producer painted such an unflattering picture of himself. A very self-reflexive film. Reminds me of All That Jazz in that sense.

User avatar
Polybius
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 10:57 pm
Location: Rollin' down Highway 41

#21 Post by Polybius » Sat Jul 05, 2008 11:33 pm

Highway 61 wrote: Now I appreciate how a powerful superstar actor-producer painted such an unflattering picture of himself.

Not for the first or last time. Whatever raging ego Warren has, he rarely allows it to intrude on aesthetic decisions in any film that he has a hand in, even just as an actor.

User avatar
Fletch F. Fletch
Big fan of the former president
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 3:54 pm
Location: Provo, Utah

#22 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Jul 07, 2008 10:00 am

Michael wrote:Keep in mind I was about 13 or 14 when I first saw H&M, its "greatness" came mostly from Ashby's cool style. It was inventive and some moments were beautiful, my favorite being the one of Harold drinking inside his jaquar sliding through the pink-glow car wash. What I don't like is the dialogues. They all feel very forced, every word hanging in the air like lead. Hallmarky. Messages getting across way too forced, pushing into your face that they become very annoying. Even if the dialogues were completely erased, with Ashby's style and Cats' silly songs we'd still get the messages all spelled out anyway.
I disagree. I think that the "greatness" of this film comes from:

1. Ruth Gordon's enthusiastic performance. She exerts this wonderfully irrepressible charm that is a wonder to behold. She's never been better, IMO (yes, including Rosemary's Baby). She owns this film and her character acts as a lovely contrast to the mopey Harold.

2. Bud Cort's performance. I love the antagonistic relationship Harold has with his mother. She forces all these things on him: women, service in the military, etc. but Harold is having none of it. No wonder he's so pessimistic all the time. It finally takes someone like Maude who is so full of life to pull him out of his funk and show him that life is worth living and to live it to the fullest.

3. The dialogue is excellent. Especially, everything that comes out of Ruth Gordon's mouth. And it's not what she says per se that works so well but how she delivers it... with such gusto and passion. This film is brimming with passion. The script is also funny as hell with lots of hilarious exchanges, mostly, I find, between Harold and his clueless mother. Also, the bits between Harold and Uncle Victor, who is clearly insane.

4. Cat Stevens "silly" songs. Yeah, they're goofy but intentionally so and so earnestly delivered that I can't help but love 'em. I really appreciate that Cat Stevens is willing to put himself out there and really wear is heart on his sleeve with these songs and it works perfectly with the film as the perfect soundtrack for Maude. I think that it was a probably a welcome relief back then when the US was mired in Vietnam... which makes the film particularly relevant today as we are mired in yet another war. We could certainly use some of Maude's earnest zest for life.

User avatar
Yojimbo
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 10:06 am
Location: Ireland

#23 Post by Yojimbo » Mon Jul 07, 2008 12:27 pm

HerrSchreck wrote: I was underwhelmed the first time I saw it, and I'm afraid the "greatness" seen in this film by so many will forever pass me by.
I hope I don't feel the same way as you do, HS, whenever I finally get around to watching my DVD. I've only seen it once, about 30 years ago, and loved it, just about everything about it, really: the performances, the outrageous black comedy, the wholly appropriate Cat Stevens songs.

There's always the possibility, which may have been the case with you, that in the interim I've seen it done so much better.
I hope not, though.

User avatar
Michael
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:09 pm

#24 Post by Michael » Mon Jul 07, 2008 2:12 pm

Fletch F. Fletch wrote:I disagree. I think that the "greatness" of this film comes from:

1. Ruth Gordon's enthusiastic performance. She exerts this wonderfully irrepressible charm that is a wonder to behold. She's never been better, IMO (yes, including Rosemary's Baby). She owns this film and her character acts as a lovely contrast to the mopey Harold.

2. Bud Cort's performance. I love the antagonistic relationship Harold has with his mother. She forces all these things on him: women, service in the military, etc. but Harold is having none of it. No wonder he's so pessimistic all the time. It finally takes someone like Maude who is so full of life to pull him out of his funk and show him that life is worth living and to live it to the fullest.

3. The dialogue is excellent. Especially, everything that comes out of Ruth Gordon's mouth. And it's not what she says per se that works so well but how she delivers it... with such gusto and passion. This film is brimming with passion. The script is also funny as hell with lots of hilarious exchanges, mostly, I find, between Harold and his clueless mother. Also, the bits between Harold and Uncle Victor, who is clearly insane.

4. Cat Stevens "silly" songs. Yeah, they're goofy but intentionally so and so earnestly delivered that I can't help but love 'em. I really appreciate that Cat Stevens is willing to put himself out there and really wear is heart on his sleeve with these songs and it works perfectly with the film as the perfect soundtrack for Maude. I think that it was a probably a welcome relief back then when the US was mired in Vietnam... which makes the film particularly relevant today as we are mired in yet another war. We could certainly use some of Maude's earnest zest for life.
All utterly well supported, Fletch.

User avatar
Yojimbo
Joined: Fri Jul 04, 2008 10:06 am
Location: Ireland

#25 Post by Yojimbo » Mon Jul 07, 2008 3:02 pm

Fletch F. Fletch wrote:I disagree. I think that the "greatness" of this film comes from:

1. Ruth Gordon's enthusiastic performance.
it might be considered heresy here but I'll say it anyway: Gordon was wonderful in Clint Eastwood's "Every Which Way But Loose"

Post Reply