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One On One

One On One(1977)


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teaser One On One (1977)

Upon its release, the 1977 film One on One had a lot of critics proclaiming it as the Rocky (1976) of college basketball. The plot lines of the two films do have a similar theme: an underdog overcomes the odds to emerge the victorious winner. In One on One, 70s teen idol Robby Benson plays a small-town kid coming to the big-time university on a basketball scholarship. Once there his eyes are opened to the politics of collegiate athletics, drug use, and a hard nose coach. Along the way, he also falls in love with his older academic tutor. To no ones surprise, he overcomes adversity and wins the game and the girl. Yet, despite a formulaic premise, One on One is an upbeat, underrated sleeper.

Leading man Benson actually co-wrote the screenplay with his fathernot a bad achievement for a twenty-one year old. He had risen to prominence two years before with his performance in Ode to Billy Joe (1975). In fact, his ability to transcend typical teenybopper fare prompted one critic to label him the David Cassidy of dramatic acting. Benson enjoyed further popularity with Ice Castles (1978), but his career stalled in the early eighties. Broadening his horizons, he has surprised the Hollywood community with a variety of skills, including directing, songwriting, and voice talentthe latter bringing him his biggest success to date. Benson rebounded in an unconventional way: as the voice of the Beast in Disneys animated smash, The Beauty and the Beast (1991).

Annette OToole plays his love interest, a role she won only after turning down a smaller part in the film. She didnt take her victory for granted, as she explained in an interview with the New York Times, I just kind of fell into this part. I tried to make the relationship convincing. After all, why would a woman whos a college senior fall in love with a freshman? Because hes physically attractive, and she likes him. Its a growing relationship for both of them. I never felt that they got married and had children. Maybe they stayed friends. Her well-crafted characters translated to positive reviews for her subsequent work in 48 Hrs. (1982) and Cat People (1982). She played another love-interest, Lana Lang, in Superman III (1983), and, in a weird twist, currently plays Supermans mother in the hit television series Smallville. OToole got her big break, however, with a film about beauty pageants: Smile (1975). Coincidentally, that film featured another cast member of One on One, a newcomer named Melanie Griffith. Griffith had first gained notice with Night Moves (1975), but was eleven years away from her Oscar-nominated performance in Working Girl (1988). She was recently divorced from Don Johnson, sharing another quirk with OToole: Annette later played Johnsons ex-wife on the television show Nash Bridges (1996). Griffith remarried Johnson in 1989, but they divorced againthese days Melanie is known as Mrs. Antonio Banderas.

Character actor G. D. Spradlin plays Bensons tough-as-nails coach; his resume largely features roles of military leaders and elder statesmen. His films include Apocalypse Now (1979) and The Godfather, Part Two (1974). Gail Strickland, Norma Raes buddy in the 1979 film of the same name, plays his oversexed secretary. Even the director, Lamont Johnson gets in on the action, playing a college alumnus. Like Benson, Johnson also had vocal talent: he played the voice of Tarzan for the 50s radio broadcasts. Speaking of vocals, the '70s songwriting team of Seals and Croft provided the original soundtrack for One on One.

Producer: Martin Hornstein, Ron Windred
Director: Lamont Johnson
Screenplay: Robby Benson, Jerry Segal
Cinematography: Donald M. Morgan
Film Editing: Robbe Roberts
Art Direction: Sherman Loudermilk
Music: Charles Fox
Cast: Robby Benson (Henry Steele), Annette O'Toole (Janet Hays), G.D. Spradlin (Coach Moreland Smith), Gail Strickland (B. J. Rudolph), Melanie Griffith (The Hitchhiker), James G. Richardson (Malcolm).

by Eleanor Quin

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