Monday, April 22, 2013

Movie Monday: The Jack Nicholson Birthday Edition

Every once in awhile I'm really glad that I chose Mondays to be movie day here at I Was Just Thinking. This is one of those days, because in means that I can discuss the work of Jack Nicholson on his 76th birthday.

The thing is, Nicholson isn't just one of the best actors the world has seen in the past fifty years or so. He has also written, directed,, and produced films. He's been nominated for twelve Academy Awards, eight times as Best Actor in a Leading Role and four times as Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He has won twice in the Leading Role Category and once in the Supporting Role category.

Yet, it all started with his debut in the title role of "The Cry Baby Killer", a Roger Corman-produced film in 1958. Nicholson went on to work with Corman on several films, probably most notably in the small but memorable role as Wilbur Force, the masochistic dental patient in the original 1960 "Little Shop of Horrors". This is the film that was reportedly made on a budget of $28,000 dollars, which wasn't very much even in 1960, and for which principal photography took only two days and one night (although the cast rehearsed for three weeks before shooting began). It's an odd film, and Nicholson plays the oddest character among some pretty odd ducks, but his one scene is unforgettable. The quality of this clip isn't perfect, but you'll still get the idea:

Watching this scene back in 1960, when "Little Shop" first came out, the moviegoer might not have imagined that Nicholson would go on to act in some of the most iconic films of the 1970s and 1980s. But that's just what he did. But before he got his big break (and a Best Supporting Actor Ocsar nomination) from "Easy Rider" in 1969, he wrote the screenplay for "The Trip" (1967), which also starred his co-stars in "Easy Rider", Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, and co-wrote the screenplay for "Head", the film that starred The Monkees and was such a departure from their television series.

Here's Nicholson in a scene from "Easy Rider":

And in "Five Easy Pieces":

He was nominated for an Academy Award for both performances, for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Actor in a Leading Role, respectively.

And here Nicholson is in a scene (with John Huston) from "Chinatown", another film for which he was nominated for but did not win a Best Leading Actor Oscar:

Nicholson finally won his first Academy Award, as Best Leading Actor, for his role as Randle McMurphy in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1976). He won another for his role in 1998's "As Good As It Gets". In between, he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1994 for his role as retired astronaut Garrett Breedlove.

Nicholson's turns as director included "Drive, He Said" in 1971 and "Goin' South" in 1978. Nicholson also starred in "Goin' South", a western comedy about what happens when horse and cattle thief is saved from the gallows by an obscure ordinance that says that any man about to be hanged for anything short of murder can be saved if an unmarried woman agrees to marry him and take responsibility for his behavior.

"Goin' South" also stars Mary Steenburgen and was the film debut of John Belushi.

Nicholson has even been in a musical, the rock opera "Tommy", in which he plays "The Specialist":

I'm not going to try to review Nicholson's full filmography here. He's been in a lot of films. But, do yourself a favor and go watch one of his films to celebrate his birthday today. You've got most film genres to choose from.

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