powered by AFI
By the late 1960's, Warren Beatty was a major player in Hollywood, thanks to the success of Bonnie and Clyde (1967), which he not only starred in, but also produced. As a follow-up, Beatty was interested in doing a film about the era's sexual revolution, specifically about a hairdresser whose promiscuity wrecks his relationships. Beatty and screenwriter Robert Towne had begun working on a script, but disagreed so vehemently about the treatment of the women characters that they gave it up. Beatty was also getting involved in politics, and took time off from filmmaking to work on the 1972 McGovern presidential campaign. By the time he and Towne returned to the idea for the hairdresser film, it had changed dramatically. Shampoo (1975) is a comedy of manners about sex, politics, and power among the rich and jaded of Beverly Hills, set against the backdrop of Election Day, 1968 - the day Richard Nixon was elected president. Beatty plays George, a womanizing beautician, who wants to open his own shop. George beds several women as he seeks his goal, and ends up sadder but not much wiser.
Shampoo was Beatty's film in every way. He came up with the concept, co-authored the screenplay with Towne, and produced. Beatty had considered directing, and although he gave that job to Hal Ashby, everyone involved knew Beatty was the true auteur. Many in Hollywood thought Shampoo was also Beatty's film in another way - the womanizer played by Beatty seemed to some uncomfortably close to the star himself. (The character was actually based on Beverly Hills celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring, who was murdered along with Sharon Tate and several others by the Manson gang in 1969.) And when Beatty hired his former lover Julie Christie to play his character's former lover, who dumped George because of his promiscuity, the gossip went into overdrive. There were rumors during the filming of Shampoo that Christie and Beatty were back together, that they were fighting on the set, that the love scenes were so steamy that they had to be shot on closed sets. Both during production and while publicizing the film afterwards, Beatty shrewdly fanned the gossip by giving teasing interviews, implying much but saying little. Many, no doubt, went to see Shampoo hoping for a glimpse into the love life of the famous Hollywood Lothario.
Beatty's other leading ladies in Shampoo included Oscar winner Goldie Hawn, who had co-starred with Beatty in $ (1971), and 17-year old Carrie Fisher, appearing in her first film as a rather forward teenager who seduces George. Fisher's mother, Debbie Reynolds, was reportedly not happy that her daughter was playing such a lascivious character.
Lee Grant played Fisher's mother, who is also having an affair with the Beatty character. Grant had been nominated for an Academy Award for her film debut in Detective Story (1951), but her career came to a standstill soon after when she was blacklisted for refusing to testify against her husband before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Grant worked only sporadically until the mid-1960s. Shampoo finally won Grant her Oscar® as Supporting Actress. Jack Warden, who played Grant's husband in Shampoo, was nominated as Supporting Actor, as were the film's art direction and Beatty and Towne's script.
Some critics were offended by Shampoo's frank sexuality, though it's tame by today's standards. Others appreciated it as a sparkling sexual farce, and a sly commentary on a superficial society. Critic Pauline Kael wrote "This was the most virtuoso example of sophisticated, kaleidoscopic farce that American moviemakers had yet come up with; frivolous and funny, it carries a sense of heedless activity, of a craze of dissatisfaction." In the end, it was audiences who made Shampoo a huge hit, and the film's success cemented Beatty's stature as an important filmmaker.
Director: Hal Ashby
Producer: Warren Beatty
Screenplay: Robert Towne, Warren Beatty
Cinematography: Laszlo Kovacs
Editor: Robert C. Jones
Costume Design: Anthea Sylbert
Art Direction: W. Stewart Campbell
Music: Paul Simon
Principal Cast: Warren Beatty (George Roundy), Julie Christie (Jackie Shawn), Goldie Hawn (Jill), Lee Grant (Felicia Carr), Jack Warden (Lester Carr), Tony Bill (Johnny Pope), Carrie Fisher (Lorna), Jay Robinson (Norman).
C-111m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri