The Sporting Club


1h 47m 1971

Brief Synopsis

James Quinn and iconoclastic Vernor Stanton are lifelong friends who live in the upper-class of Michigan society. In his on-going attempt to destabilize the exclusive summer sporting club to which they both belong, Vernor is continually dragging James into various misadventures.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Feb 1971
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Avco Embassy Pictures Corp.; Lorimar Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Avco Embassy Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Hot Springs, Arkansas, United States; Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, United States; Los Angeles, California, United States; Ouachita National Forest , Arkansas, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Sporting Club by Thomas McGuane (New York, 1969).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 47m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color

Synopsis

James Quinn, whose father recently died and whose business is about to be sold to a large conglomeration, retreats to his hunting lodge, where his family has for generations belonged to the local, patrician Sporting Club. There, however, he is immediately informed by longtime club manager Jack Olson that James's former Harvard roommate, Vernor Stanton, is in residence with a new wife, causing as much trouble as he always does. James hopes to avoid the club's upcoming Centennial Day celebration, in which the club founders are feted and a century-old time capsule buried by their ancestors will be excavated. Upon learning that Vernor is trying to get Jack fired, James visits his old friend, whose manner is erratic and vaguely threatening. Vernor shows off the shooting range he has constructed in his basement, with a safe containing $20,000 in cash and a stash of antique pistols. When Vernor challenges James to a duel, James agrees, assuming the guns are unloaded. Upon firing, however, he discovers that they contain wax bullets, and James is knocked down, but unharmed. Hearing the shots, Vernor's wife Janey enters, prompting James, unnerved by the duel and her beauty, to leave. Vernor complains to Janey about the club members' stuffy elitism, but when she asks why he does not resign, he responds that there "is no way to resign from original sin." The following day is a Centennial Day celebration in town, featuring a parade by the harbor and an appearance by the governor. Vernor leads James and Janey through the crowd and onto an empty bus, stocked with food and drink. After Vernor coerces James to drink all the alcohol, they sing songs and vandalize the bus. When the bus's occupants, mostly senior citizens, return, Vernor slams the door on them and instructs James to drive off, then moons the governor out the window. That night, the members gather at the club lodge. Canon Pritchard, Senator Olds, historian Spengler, elderly Newcombe and snooty Fortesque lead the large group and snub James, considering him inferior. Vernor incites ire against Jack, whom he calls a poacher and convinces the board to fire him. Some time later, James wanders upon Janey sunbathing naked. Janey sees James watching her and informs Vernor, who asks James for his confirmation of her beauty, then suggests that they terrorize that night's club party "as penance for our fathers." Soon after, Janey confides in James that she and Vernor are not married. At the party, the normally staid club members drink to excess, sing and carouse all night. While the members attend church services the next morning, James visits Janey, who reveals that Vernor stayed out till morning. After she explains that she met Vernor while she was working as his guide in a champagne factory in Waco, Texas, James kisses her, then turns away as Vernor approaches. Knowing that Vernor fired Jack the previous night, James confronts him, but Vernor replies that he gave the man a fair pension. Soon after, Earl Olive, a slovenly hippie, appears at the lodge smoking marijuana and informs the horrified members that Jack hired him. After questioning him en masse, the members vote to accept Earl as manager, noting that all that is important to them is that they keep their traditions alive so they can pass them down to their children. Earl immediately throws a barbeque and invites all his hoodlum biker friends. When the club members arrive, they are horrified by the loud music and simulated sex acts and leave in a huff, to the laughter of the partygoers. Vernor, Janey and James soon join the barbeque, which devolves into a late-night revelry. While James sleeps with one of the biker girls, Vernor, who in reality hired Earl, now invites him to his shooting gallery. As Janey watches in horror, Vernor and Earl duel, and Vernor shoots Earl in the mouth with a rubber bullet. Earl, spitting blood, walks out in a fury. The next morning, James is fishing in the river when Earl detonates the dam, sweeping the water out to sea and almost drowning James. The lodge members wake in a panic, grabbing their guns and forming an impromptu, military-style posse to capture Earl. Vernor, James and Janey see the men from Vernor's window, and although James exhorts Vernor to stop them, Vernor replies that the club is, after all, for hunting. While the men search the woods, Earl holds their wives at gunpoint in the lodge. Spengler attempts to ford the muddy river, and as he falls in and the others struggle to rescue him, Earl sends the women outside and blows up the century-old lodge. The lodge members return and walk through the wreckage in tears and disbelief. Later, Fortesque addresses the members, pressing them to take the situation as an opportunity to prove their values. They clean the area, forming a large campsite and erecting an American flag. Fortesque then visits Vernor and announces their plans to catch and "interrogate" Earl to discover what caused his fury. In response, Vernor calls Fortesque a phony and a bore and pulls out a gun, but Spengler bursts in the back door and disarms him roughly. James goes to Earl to warn his group to leave, as the club has a machine gun, but Earl replies that they have nothing to lose. That night, while the hippies abduct Russell, a club member who is standing guard outside the campsite, Janey tells Vernor that she loves and wants to marry him, but he accuses her of humoring him and rants incoherently. She joins James on the porch, where they see Russell stagger toward them, tarred and feathered. As Janey and James return Russell to the club members, Vernor arms himself and approaches Earl, stating "You've been a big help but the rabble is unreliable" and tossing him the $20,000. Laughing, Earl agrees to leave. Vernor tries to inform the club members of Earl's departure, but they refuse to believe him, and he takes to the woods in fear of reprisals. The club members, meanwhile, declare that their fathers would be proud of their survival and adherence to tradition, and to celebrate Centennial Day, dig up the time capsule. In it is a photograph, and when the members see that it depicts their forefathers engaged in an orgy, they break down in hilarity and dismay. Chaos ensues, during which some members faint, others rave madly and all throw off their clothes and have group sex. While the club members are preoccupied, Vernor returns, aims the machine gun at the tent and asks James to stand beside him. When James refuses, Vernor shoots at James, who ducks. All attempts to calm Vernor fail, and he insists that James duel him. Assuming the bullets are wax, James acquiesces, but when he shoots Vernor his friend falls, fatally wounded. James and Janey stand dumbstruck as a helicopter arrives to survey the wreckage of the Sporting Club.

Crew

Philip Abramson

Set Decoration

Jean Bagley

Sound Editing

Stephen Barnett

2nd Unit Director

Stephen Barnett

Assistant Director

Alison Berkley

Assistant film Editor

Otis Blackwell

Composer

Robert Burns

Composer

Bill Butler

Camera

John Courtland

Director of Photography

Lloyd Crawford

Painter

Joshua Darr

Associate Producer

Jim Di Gangi

Prod Supervisor

Louis Digiaimo

Casting

John Dustin

2d Camera Assistant

Jack Faggard

Special Effects

Jack Fitzstephens

Sound Editing

Arthur Gaunt

Key grip

Earl Gilbert

Lighting Supervisor

Jack Goelman

Photo research

Allan J. Gordon

Props Master

Raymond Gosnell

Production Manager

Paul Grosso

Generator op

Ronald Grow

2d Assistant Director

David Haber

Assistant art Director

Tom Halpin

Sound Editing

Jack Hammer

Composer

Mike Hancock

Assistant makeup

Norman Hawkins

Const Coordinator

John Hennessy

2d grip

Agnes Henry

Women's Costume

Julia Ward Howe

Composer

Bette Lou Iverson

Hairstyling

Don Jones

Prod rec

Bart Keane

Sound Editing

Dale Koeppe

Set Design

Tom Laughridge

Camera Operator

Emile Lavigne

Makeup

Danny Lee

Special Effects

Joseph E. Levine

Presented By

Joseph E. Levine

Executive Producer

Sheldon Levine

Men's Costume

Jack Lilly

Prod Sound

Cecil Lupton

Best Boy

Hank Macfarlane

Transportation Manager

Marshall Marker

Stills

Maxwell Meltzer

Local auditor

James Moffett

First aid

Percy Montrose

Composer

Al Nahmias

Sound Editing

Bud Parman

Boom Operator

Chester F. Peterson

Cable man

Bonnie Prendergast

Script Supervisor

Lee M. Rich

Producer

Harvey Rosenstock

2d Assistant

Earnest Sawyer

Greensman

Joel Schiller

Art Director

Lorenzo Semple Jr.

Screenwriter

Larry Silk

Film Editor

Michael Small

Music Composition and Conducting

Michael Small

Composer

Lynn Stalmaster

Casting

Frank Stanley

Assistant Camera

William Steffe

Composer

Ronald Tolsky

Costume Supervisor

Linn Unkefer

Unit Publicist

Katherine Wenning

Sound Editing

Jack Williams

Assistant props

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Feb 1971
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Avco Embassy Pictures Corp.; Lorimar Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Avco Embassy Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Hot Springs, Arkansas, United States; Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, United States; Los Angeles, California, United States; Ouachita National Forest , Arkansas, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Sporting Club by Thomas McGuane (New York, 1969).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 47m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Although the onscreen credits include a copyright statement for the Avco Embassy Pictures Corp., the film was not registered for copyright. Ralph Purdum's name is misspelled Purdom in the closing credits. A shot in which the club members erect an American flag is reminiscent of Joe Rosenthal's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph depicting the 1945 raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima. The Sporting Club was based on the Thomas McGuane novel of the same name. As noted in several contemporary sources and press materials, producer Lee M. Rich read the novel in galley form and purchased it in February 1969, one month prior to its publication. As noted in a February 14, 1969 Daily Variety article, Rich had very recently formed Lorimar Productions and was assisted in the purchase of the novel's rights by 23-year-old producer Joshua Darr. Lorimar then contributed to the advertising of the book when it was released. The Sporting Club marked the production company's first feature film. In May 1969, Publishers Weekly quoted the price of the sale as $75,000 and mentioned Avco Embassy Pictures, headed by Joseph E. Levine, as a partner in the production.
       By July and August of 1969, Hollywood Reporter reported that Avco Embassy had bought the screen rights from Rich, who would remain on the project as producer. Also in August 1969, according to Motion Picture Herald, the filmmakers planned to shoot the picture on location in Oregon and Washington. Press notes added that they also considered shooting in Michigan, but could not because of severe winter weather there. As a result, as noted onscreen, the film was shot entirely in the Ouachita National Forest and Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.
       Filmfacts stated that director Larry Peerce had turned down Love Story (1970, ) to work on The Sporting Club. The film received universally negative reviews. The LAHExam reviewer called it "an impossibly bad movie," while Hollywood Reporter stated that "it's not just a bad movie... it's an aggressively dislikable one" and the Village Voice called it the low point of "the 'New Hollywood' mentality." The Los Angeles Times review reported that screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr. regarded the final film as "disastrous." As noted in a March 1971 New York Times article defending the film's ambition, it was withdrawn from distribution for re-editing shortly after its release but as noted in Filmfacts, it was re-released in 1972.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1971

Released in United States 1971