Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Take the Money and Run


So this is the first movie Woody directed that had actual actors and an actual script, and used real cameras to shoot the action. Learned a little about it, as usual, from the IMDb. His first cut was a disaster, no one laughed. The studio hired an editor who transformed it, which just shows to go you that editing is one of the underrated skills in the movies. Originally, Virgil Starkweather died in a slow-motion hail of bullets, like Bonnie and Clyde. No one laughed. They cut that, added a narrative structure, and it became the first “mockumentary.” Woody employed the editor, Ralph Rosenblum, for his next five movies. He knew talent when he saw it. He also likes to shoot with old friends, people he knows. Who can blame him?

Even with all the editing, it has its slow spots. I felt that too much time was spent on stuff establishing the romance between Woody and his girlfriend, Janet Margolin. (Dead of ovarian cancer in 1993, age 50. Sad.) Walks on the beach, romps in the woods … who cares, since there are no real characters in a zany movie like this, just ridiculous and funny situations. But the funny stuff is really funny, and we had never seen anything quite like it before. The one that has always stuck with me is the six convicts from a chain gain making their escape, still chained together. They overpower an old woman in her house and when a cop shows up they all try to pretend there’s nothing unusual about six men, two of them black (“We’re cousins”) shuffling together from room to room in the house. Later, when one of them has to take a leak, they all shuffle into the toilet. When they come out, the cop arrests them. “The old lady must have talked,” one says to another. Incredibly funny!

It was filmed in and around San Francisco, and at San Quentin, and I recognized a lot of the locations. Not the ones in Q, you idiot, the ones in Golden Gate Park. It would be several more films yet (Annie Hall, actually) before he became known for filming mostly in Manhattan, among the kind of people and places he knew. Only in recent years has he made most of his films in Europe. Come to think of it, Europe has always been the place to go when, for whatever reason, you are no longer all that popular in the USA. Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Ingrid Berman, Roman Polanski. I guess when you marry your sort-of step-daughter, 38 years younger than yourself, many people find that distasteful. I have to admit, I find it quite weird.