SHAMPOO (1975)

Shampoo - Cover'The Criterion Collection' have recently released a digitally re-mastered edition of the 109-minute sex-comedy, 'Shampoo'. It was directed by Hal Ashby; it stars Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Lee Grant, and Jack Warden; and it's complemented with a number of special features. This includes a televised discussion between the two film critics, Mark Harris and Frank Rich; Warren Beatty's appearance on 'The South Bank Show', circa 1998, as well as an essay by Rich. Please enjoy.

Shampoo [The Criterion Collection]

Whenever you look at me, Jackie (Julie Christie), what do you honestly see? Go on, don’t be shy. We’ve been friends for a long, long, time, so I won’t be offended by what you say. So go ahead, shoot, open that beautiful mouth and come out with what you’re feeling towards yours truly, George Roundy (Warren Beatty)!

I mean, do you see me as a superstar hairdresser who’d do anything to get his own salon? Or do you see me as an old boyfriend who is currently going out with your best friend, Jill (Goldie Hawn), the neurotic actress? Better yet, am I very much like you? After all, I am secretly having an affair with one of my clients, Felicia (Lee Grant), who happens to be the wife of someone you’re having an affair with, Lester (Jack Warden), the wealthy businessman!

Well, Jackie? What have you got to say to that? Nothing? Nothing at all? Except that Lester wants me to take you to a party tomorrow?  A party he’s throwing in order to celebrate the election! Why? What for? For cash? Cash for my new hair-salon? Yeah! I’d do it for that. But then again, that’s most probably why what next transpires goes tits up when bottoms come out. As a party is eventually thrown - an actress begrudgingly goes home - a husband says goodbye to his comb - and at the end of the day, please remember, hairdressing is a syndrome! 

Shampoo’, just like many other movies made around the same time, the 1970s, appears to be the type of film that works on many different levels. On one level, it’s a 70s styled sex-comedy about a hairdresser who wants to own his own salon. On another level, it’s a political parable about the follies of infidelity. And on yet another level, it’s about those people who live within the 'Hollywood Bubble', so to speak, who seem more preoccupied about their own lives rather than the big wide world around them.

Shampoo - Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.
Now the main reason why I say this is because most of the movie is set one day prior to Election Day, 1968, which resulted in Richard Nixon becoming the 37th president of The United States. Regrettably, this result caused the country to split in two, metaphorically, not physically, due to his stance on various political issues, both domestic and overseas, such as the Vietnam War, for instance. So what do most of the characters who populate this picture seem more concerned about? Public health? No! Police corruption? No! How about, if their fellow Americans will survive in this current climate? No-no-no! They’re more concerned about money, sex, and obviously, themselves, doing so in such a carefree manner that it makes them seem like a group of sad and lonely individuals, blinded by their own perceptions and desires.

I mean, just take a look at some of the females featured in this film, like Felicia, for instance, as played exquisitely by Lee Grant. Basically, she comes across as a shallow, ‘lady of leisure’, that’s more concerned about shagging her hairdresser than looking after her own family. Whereas someone like Jackie, on the other hand, played to the hilt by the bootylicious, Julie Christie, seems equally superficial and lonely, desperate even, to the point that she’s more than happy to sacrifice finding true love for the sake of financial security. 

Shampoo - Carrie Fisher
Thematically, the men in this movie don’t fare much better, such as the main star of the show, George, as played by Warren Beatty, along with Lester, Jack Warden's character, who's been integrated into the plot as a nice yet intriguing counter-balance. Essentially, both men are at opposite ends of the social spectrum, with George playing the wannabe playboy (occupying his days 'getting stuff done' without progressing his life in a meaningful fashion), while Lester, in part, represents the previous generation (with a wife, a kid, and money in the bank). The one thing that joins them both together, however, is that they both share similar principals and similar values, especially where the opposite sex is concerned, and they appear to be searching for something that isn't part of their everyday life: Love, true love, and a direction that's meaningful to their own personal ideologies.

Coincidentally, the same thing can also be said about Goldie Hawn’s character, Jill,  as well as the character played by Carrie Fisher, Lorna, the daughter of Lester and Felicia. Although, in their case, I don't honestly think they were given enough screen time and appeared to be relegated as second-tier characters, albeit ones with a bright disposition, a cute smile, and an infectious giggle. But then again, from a narrative point of view, sometimes too much can be just that, too much, and so I more than understand that by focusing the plot on too many characters, it could easily go astray and feel lopsided.  

Shampoo - Goldie Hawn and Warren Beatty
Anyway, that’s enough of that methinks, as I’m sure by now you know my feelings towards this movie. It's a good movie which is well thought out, well acted, and is as reinvigorating as its own title. Here, just look at the filmic facts: (1) 'Columbia Pictures' first released this four-million dollar production on the exact same day Margaret Thatcher was elected as the new leader of the Conservative Party in the UK. It was on the 11th of February, 1975, and it eventually clawed back sixty-million dollars at the Box Office. (2) Loosely translated, this project was entitled 'Hollywood Hairdresser' in Serbia; 'Socialite Hairdresser' in Turkey; and 'Shampooing' in France. (3) According to Warren Beatty and Robert Towne, the two writers who were assigned to pen this flick, the character of George was based on two well-known hairdressers: Jay Sebring [who was famously killed during the Manson Murders] and Jon Peters [who eventually became a world famous Hollywood Producer]. Although, it has to be said, that the story was also based on a restoration comedy written by William Wycherley in 1675, entitled, "The Country Wife". (4) Apart from those scenes shot inside General Service Studios, North Las Palmas, the majority of this movie was shot on location throughout the American state of California. This includes West Hollywood, Los Angeles, and most notably, Beverly Hills, particularly those sequences shot in and around North Canon Drive, Coldwater Canyon, Bowmont Drive, Benedict Canyon, Rodeo Drive, and Sunset Boulevard. (5) One of the taglines used to promote this picture, states: 'Your hairdresser does it better'. (6) This was Carrie Fisher's first appearance in a major Hollywood movie, and she said she got this role mainly through family connections, namely, Debbie Reynolds, her Mum. (7) Lee Grant claimed in her 2014 autobiography, 'I Said Yes to Everything', that "everyone knew" Goldie Hawn and Warren Beatty were sleeping together, even though he was still involved with Julie Christie. (8) After this rom-com took its clothes off, Warren Beatty starred in the romantic crime-caper, 'The Fortune'; Julie Christie starred in the musical-comedy, 'Nashville'; and Goldie Hawn starred in the comedy-western, 'The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox'.

In conclusion, I would just like to mention two things about ‘Shampoo’ that I personally feel are well worth mentioning: The style of the film as well as the fundamental message behind it. Now, where the style is concerned, on the whole, I’d say the overall production was very 70s by design. Meaning, tonally it was very glossy to look at, chic even, especially how most of the sets were glamorously decorated with high contrasting hues, offset by the demure clothing the characters wore. This was particularly apparent when surveying most of the dimly lit interior scenes, minus the hair-salon, which generally appeared to be populated by plush furnishings,  Day-Glo light-fixtures, monochromatic walls and ceilings, plus the smoggy Californian panorama glimpsed through the open-windows. The clothing featured in this flick was equally as exquisite, largely due to most of the characters sporting highly coiffed hairstyles, tight-fitting garments, and, you know, that sort of thing: Hippy gear or something you’d see in an episode of ‘Columbo’.

Shampoo - Lee Grant, Jack Warden, and Brad Dexter
Oh, and while I’m on the subject of ‘Columbo’, just one more thing, the message behind this movie: What did I think of it? Well, just like many other movies of this genre, such as ‘Alfie’, starring Michael Caine, ‘There’s a Girl in my Soup’, starring Peter Sellers, and even ‘The Age of Innocence’, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, what we have here is a very simple yet very complex life lesson to learn. After all, we have to realize that if we’re not true to ourselves then we cannot be true to someone else. Otherwise, we become directionless, misguided, and unable to stay focused or clear of mind: As seen in Warren Beatty‘s character, George, although most of the other cast members are equally at fault. This includes Jill, for needing stability from a man who has none; Jackie, for loving money more than she does herself; Felicia, for confusing love with lust; and Lester, for having low morals yet deeper pockets.

On average, every single one of the main players are somehow flawed, compromised, yet that doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t exciting, charming, and fairly captivating to follow. Seriously, even though the story can occasionally seem alarming and some of the characters can appear moderately unpleasant, all in all, this is a pretty fun film and is definitely worth a watch. Also, it’s kind of funny too, but that’s only if you can look past all of its hanky-panky. Highly recommended.


SHAMPOO (1975) SHAMPOO (1975) Reviewed by David Andrews on November 05, 2018 Rating: 5

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