$ aka Dollars ('71)
$ seemingly had all the ingredients to be a box office smash. It was a fun caper film with both gritty and light-hearted elements, and it starred two of the most bankable movie star sex symbols of its day, Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn. Beatty was in his heyday as a leading man, and Hawn was enjoying the first tastes of box office stardom following a successful stint on TV's quirky show Laugh-In and her recent Oscar® win for Best Supporting Actress in the hit comedy Cactus Flower (1969).
The film was written and directed by Richard Brooks, who had previously written and/or directed a number of significant films over the course of his lengthy career including Blackboard Jungle (1955), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Elmer Gantry (1960) and In Cold Blood (1967). Brooks was known for his love of using authentic locations for his films whenever possible, and $ was no exception. Shot on location in Hamburg, Germany and parts of Scandinavia, $ used its European setting to full advantage for the purposes of the plot and its suspenseful climax.
"I thought it was going to be a big picture," said Goldie Hawn according to Marc Shapiro's 1998 biography Pure Goldie: The Life and Career of Goldie Hawn. "It smelled like a hit." $ was a project she was enthusiastic about in the beginning. Hawn was especially excited that the production would give her the opportunity to visit Germany.
The film marked the first time that Hawn and Beatty ever worked together. The chemistry between the two sexy young stars was palpable, which led to the inevitable rumors that there was a romance cooking between the married Hawn and notorious lady-killer Beatty. According to journalist Peter Biskind in his 2010 book Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America, the two actors did become lovers, though their relationship ultimately evolved into a lifelong friendship. "We did become fast friends on that film," said Goldie Hawn. "I looked upon him as a crazy older brother. I think we got along so well because our characters are alike in...oh, so many ways. But the big reason why we got along so well was that Warren was the first man who told me I was really smart. I was twenty-six, and I had never heard that before. Warren telling me that gave me a lot of confidence."
During the course of filming, Warren Beatty suffered a serious injury during a particular scene involving a train. According to Peter Biskind, Beatty was nearly killed when he slipped from the train and fell onto the tracks below, leaving barely enough time to move out of the way of an oncoming freight train. Beatty's ankle was badly hurt as a result of the accident, and his recovery delayed the production two full days.
$ opened in December 1971 to mixed reviews. Despite having A-list talent across the board, the film failed to connect with audiences and ended up being a box office disappointment. Goldie Hawn, looking back, found her own performance lackluster. "It was a total bust," she said. "I didn't like my character or what I did with her. It was a totally unthought out, unconscious performance. I can't even look at the picture."
The film was something of a product of its time with old guard director Richard Brooks working to keep up with the new crop of young filmmakers who were experimenting with testing the boundaries of cinematic traditions and working with a more European sensibility in their stylistic approach. $ is a film that has come to be praised in later years as stylish good fun, known as much for a rather lengthy chase sequence towards the end as its A-list star power. Beatty and Hawn are charismatic and likeable as the sexy thieves, and there is pleasure in watching these two share the screen during such an interesting period in 1970s cinema.
Famed composer Quincy Jones contributes a funky jazz-infused score to the film, which earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or TV Special.
Producer: M.J. Frankovich
Director: Richard Brooks
Screenplay: Richard Brooks
Cinematography: Petrus Schloemp
Music: Quincy Jones
Film Editing: George Grenville
Cast: Warren Beatty (Joe Collins), Goldie Hawn (Dawn Divine), ert Fröbe (Mr. Kessel), Robert Webber (Attorney), Scott Brady (Sarge), Arthur Brauss (Candy Man), Robert Stiles (Major), Wolfgang Kieling (Granich), Robert Herron (Bodyguard), Christiane Maybach (Helga)
by Andrea Passafiume