Taking Off (1971)

R | 92-93, 100 or 102 mins | Drama | April 1971

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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were S.P.F.C. and Dropping Out . The closing credits include an acknowledgment of the New York County Medical Society, Dept. of Commerce and Industry and the New York City Police Department. Taking Off marked the American debut for Czechoslovakian director Milos Forman, who had risen to fame for films such as Loves of a Blonde (1965) and The Firemen’s Ball (1968). His first film, 1964’s Audition, is widely credited as having launched the Czech New Wave movement. That picture’s device of the live audition scene is repeated in Taking Off , which begins with a lengthy scene of women singers auditioning. The footage, which Forman described in his autobiography as included partially “to disguise my thin knowledge of American life by incorporating a straightforward documentary into my fictional film,” is intercut with scenes of “Larry and Lynn Tyne” discovering that “Jeannie” has run away, and reappears interspersed throughout the film.
       In Oct 1968, NYT reported that Forman was completing the script to the film, which would be produced by Paramount. He wrote in his autobiography that he was inspired to write the first draft of the screenplay, with collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière, by a newspaper interview with a father of a runaway daughter. As Forman described in a Feb 1970 Show magazine article, Paramount turned down the finished script but charged him $130,000 to repay pre-production costs. In Mar 1970, NYT announced that Universal had picked up the film, and a 29 Mar 1970 Var article explained that the studio had paid Paramount $40,000, ... More Less

The working titles of this film were S.P.F.C. and Dropping Out . The closing credits include an acknowledgment of the New York County Medical Society, Dept. of Commerce and Industry and the New York City Police Department. Taking Off marked the American debut for Czechoslovakian director Milos Forman, who had risen to fame for films such as Loves of a Blonde (1965) and The Firemen’s Ball (1968). His first film, 1964’s Audition, is widely credited as having launched the Czech New Wave movement. That picture’s device of the live audition scene is repeated in Taking Off , which begins with a lengthy scene of women singers auditioning. The footage, which Forman described in his autobiography as included partially “to disguise my thin knowledge of American life by incorporating a straightforward documentary into my fictional film,” is intercut with scenes of “Larry and Lynn Tyne” discovering that “Jeannie” has run away, and reappears interspersed throughout the film.
       In Oct 1968, NYT reported that Forman was completing the script to the film, which would be produced by Paramount. He wrote in his autobiography that he was inspired to write the first draft of the screenplay, with collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière, by a newspaper interview with a father of a runaway daughter. As Forman described in a Feb 1970 Show magazine article, Paramount turned down the finished script but charged him $130,000 to repay pre-production costs. In Mar 1970, NYT announced that Universal had picked up the film, and a 29 Mar 1970 Var article explained that the studio had paid Paramount $40,000, with the remaining monies deferred as a percentage of profits. That article also noted that the American unions were making two allowances for Forman: they allowed crews of minimum members and permitted Forman to hire his longtime Czech cinematographer, Miroslav Ondricek.
       As noted onscreen, the film was shot entirely in New York. In addition to Manhattan and Long Island locations listed in press notes, a Beverly Hills Citizen-News news item stated that the Ike and Tina Turner footage would be shot at Grossinger's Resort in upstate New York. Forman indicated in a LAHExam profile in May 1971 that he discovered Linnea Heacock, for whom Taking Off marked her only film role, on the street. He also discussed in the article his custom of showing the actors only one scene at a time, then allowing them to ad-lib many of the lines. Modern sources include Jessica Harper and Benjamin Kestenbaum in the cast.
       The film contains a song entitled "Ode to a Screw" that includes multiple occurrences of a swear word for fornication. The Life reviewer noted that the film’s R rating was probably based on the song. In May 1971, Var reported that for one week Universal had screened a version of the film with the word "bleeped out," and that although Forman was originally upset by the censoring, he accepted the option. That version was not used for general theatrical release; however, in Mar 1972, DV noted that songwriter Tom Eyen, who wrote the song along with Peter Cornell, had been asked by the studio to “clean” the song for the film’s television broadcast.
       Taking Off marked the first film for noted playwright John Guare, who later wrote the play and film versions of Six Degrees of Separation . It also marked the feature film debut of Georgia Engel, who is perhaps most famous for her role as “Georgette" on the The Mary Tyler Moore Show ; the first significant film role for Audra Lindley, who went on to play "Mrs. Roper" on the television program Three's Company ; and the debut of Vincent Schiavelli, frequently cast in Forman's films. The auditioning singers include Carly Simon, who was dating Forman at the time, and actress Kathy Bates, credited onscreen as Bobo Bates. Both were unknown at the time and responded to the casting call along with all the other amateurs, and made their feature film debuts in Taking Off . Jack Hausman, who played “Dr. Bob Besch,” was the father of associate producer Michael Hausman.
       The film was named to the 1971 Ten Best lists of The Washington Post , Newsweek and the Chicago Sun-Times . In addition, Forman won the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prize of the Jury and was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy. Taking Off was also nominated for the following BAFTA awards: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress (Lynn Carlin), Best Supporting Actress (Georgia Engel), Best Film Editing and Best Screenplay. Despite the accolades and positive reviews, some American critics took offense at a foreign filmmaker critiquing American culture. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Beverly Hills Citizen-News
13 Jul 1970.
---
Daily Variety
1 Mar 1971
p. 3, 13.
Daily Variety
14 Mar 1972.
---
Filmfacts
1971
pp. 61-65.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 1970
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 1970
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jan 1972.
---
Life
2 Apr 1971.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
9 Apr 1971.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
2 May 1971
p. F1, F3.
Los Angeles Times
9 Apr 1971.
---
New York Times
20 Oct 1968.
---
New York Times
29 Mar 1970.
---
New York Times
29 Mar 1971
p. 40.
New York Times
18 Apr 1971
p. 1, 13.
New York Times
14 May 1971
p. 46.
New York Times
16 May 1971
p. 11.
New Yorker
3 Apr 1971
pp. 107-08.
Newsweek
5 Apr 1971.
---
Show
Feb 1970.
---
Time
5 Apr 1971.
---
Variety
29 Apr 1970.
---
Variety
17 Mar 1971
p. 18.
Variety
5 May 1971.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
in association with Claude Berri
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Key grip
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
SOUND
Sd mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Main titles
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod secy
Scr supv
Asst to prod
Unit pub
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Stabat Mater Op. 58" by Anton Dvorak, excerpt by special arrangement with Deutsche Grammophon and Polydor Records.
SONGS
"De Camptown Races," words and music by Stephen Collins Foster
"Air," music and lyrics by Mike Heron, Paradox Music, performed by The Incredible String Band, Elektra Records
"Stranger in Paradise," music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest, Frank Music Corp.
+
SONGS
"De Camptown Races," words and music by Stephen Collins Foster
"Air," music and lyrics by Mike Heron, Paradox Music, performed by The Incredible String Band, Elektra Records
"Stranger in Paradise," music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest, Frank Music Corp.
"Goodbye, So Long," music and lyrics by Ike Turner
"Love," music and lyrics by Nina Hart, Golden Baugh Productions Ltd.
"Let's Get a Little Sentimental," music and lyrics by Mike Leander and Eddie Seago
"And Even the Horses Had Wings," music and lyrics by Bobo Bates
"Long Term Physical Effects," music and lyrics by Carly Simon and Tim Saunders, Timana-Quackenbush Music
"Ode to a Screw," music and lyrics by Tom Eyen and Peter Cornell
"Lessons in Love," music and lyrics by Catherine Heriza
"Feeling Sort of Nice," music and lyrics by Shellen Lubin
"He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," traditional.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
S.P.F.C.
Dropping Out
Release Date:
April 1971
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 7 April 1971
Production Date:
18 May--mid July 1970 in New York
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures, Ltd. & Forman--Crown--Hausman, Inc.
Copyright Date:
28 March 1971
Copyright Number:
LP39254
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Movielab
Duration(in mins):
92-93, 100 or 102
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

While a hypnotherapist helps Larry Tyne control his urge to smoke, Larry’s fifteen-year-old daughter Jeannie, who has run away from her suburban Connecticut home, joins an audition in Manhattan for girl singers. As the hundreds of hopefuls try out, Larry returns home, where he and his wife Lynn realize their daughter is missing. Just as their friends Margot and Tony come over to commiserate, the phone rings, but no one speaks on the other line. The adults search Jeannie’s room, which, despite having the frilly décor of a young girl, contains marijuana cigarettes hidden under the bed. Meanwhile, Jeannie, finding herself too stage-struck to complete her audition, speaks with another teenager in the crowd, who has just taken some LSD. At home, Lynn begs Larry to go out and search for Jeannie, and although he and Tony find no sign of her, the police offer him a list of bars that young people commonly frequent. While Larry and Tony begin drinking at one of the bars, Lynn is shocked to learn from Margot that she and Tony still have sex several times a day. One night, Margot relates, Tony asked her to sing and dance, so she performed a rowdy rendition of “De Camptown Races.” Later, Jeannie returns home. Lynn immediately calls the family doctor, who counsels her to demand that Jeannie tell her what drugs she has taken. Jeannie remains stoic and silent in the face of her mother's questioning, and when her father returns in a drunken stupor, she slips out again through the back door, unnoticed. The next day, Larry returns to the city, searching the Lower East Side for Jeannie. At one bar, he passes ... +


While a hypnotherapist helps Larry Tyne control his urge to smoke, Larry’s fifteen-year-old daughter Jeannie, who has run away from her suburban Connecticut home, joins an audition in Manhattan for girl singers. As the hundreds of hopefuls try out, Larry returns home, where he and his wife Lynn realize their daughter is missing. Just as their friends Margot and Tony come over to commiserate, the phone rings, but no one speaks on the other line. The adults search Jeannie’s room, which, despite having the frilly décor of a young girl, contains marijuana cigarettes hidden under the bed. Meanwhile, Jeannie, finding herself too stage-struck to complete her audition, speaks with another teenager in the crowd, who has just taken some LSD. At home, Lynn begs Larry to go out and search for Jeannie, and although he and Tony find no sign of her, the police offer him a list of bars that young people commonly frequent. While Larry and Tony begin drinking at one of the bars, Lynn is shocked to learn from Margot that she and Tony still have sex several times a day. One night, Margot relates, Tony asked her to sing and dance, so she performed a rowdy rendition of “De Camptown Races.” Later, Jeannie returns home. Lynn immediately calls the family doctor, who counsels her to demand that Jeannie tell her what drugs she has taken. Jeannie remains stoic and silent in the face of her mother's questioning, and when her father returns in a drunken stupor, she slips out again through the back door, unnoticed. The next day, Larry returns to the city, searching the Lower East Side for Jeannie. At one bar, he passes around a photograph of Jeannie, and when the bartender slips it into a box of photos, he asks to look through them. Recognizing one girl in a photograph as the young lady sitting in a booth only feet away, Larry asks the bartender to call the number on the photo, but the bartender refuses to get involved. Incensed, Larry calls the girl’s mother, Ann Lockston, who rushes to the bar. Before she gets there, however, the girl and her male friends get up to leave, and when Larry tries to talk to her, the men threaten him. He follows them onto the street, just as Ann arrives, jumps out of her taxi and runs after her daughter. Despite Larry’s attempt to help, the girl soon eludes them, and Ann and Larry retreat to a coffeehouse. There, Ann, whose daughter ran away seven months earlier, informs Larry about The Society for Parents of Fugitive Children (S.P.F.C.), of which she is a member. When she states that she considers even the negative aspects of life an opportunity to learn and grow, Larry asks if they can spend the day together, and she agrees. When he calls Lynn to lie that he has a lead on Jeannie’s whereabouts, however, she reveals that the upstate police have called to say that Jeannie is being held for shoplifting. They rush to the police station, but instead of Jeannie, find her best friend, Corinna Divito, who confesses to having used Jeannie’s name in order to delay having to see her parents. In the car, when Lynn begins to cry, Larry announces that because Jeannie is off having fun, they should, too. They stop at Grossinger’s Resort, and while watching Ike and Tina Turner perform, Lynn drinks herself into a stupor. Eventually, Larry, feeling tired, leaves her to go to their room, after which two swingers try to pick up Lynn. When she departs abruptly, one of them, Norman, follows her to her room and has taken off his pants before realizing that Larry is in the bed. After Norman runs off, Lynn sings “De Camptown Races” for Larry. Soon after, they attend a S.P.F.C. meeting, where they meet Ann’s husband Ben. As Jeannie returns to an empty home, the S.P.F.C. president introduces a doctor and a marijuana specialist who pass out joints and painstakingly instruct the parents how to sample the drug, so that they may better understand their children’s experiences. Although the members at first insist they feel nothing, soon they are singing, examining body parts and discussing the vibrations of the universe. The Tynes invite the Lockstons to their house, where they drink heavily and begin a game of strip poker. Soon, they are all in various stages of undress, and a naked Larry stands on the table to sing an aria. Jeannie, who has gone to sleep, awakens and stands at the top of the stairs, and when the adults notice her, they hurriedly dress. Larry enters Jeannie’s room, and upon soliciting the confession that she has spent the past days with a boy, insists she invite him for dinner. The boy, Jamie, dutifully shows up, but remains almost silent. Finally, over dinner, Larry asks him about his work, and Jeannie states that he is a musician. Larry asks him if he makes any money, and Jamie responds that last year he made $290,000 and is now saving to buy an intercontinental ballistic missile “to change the balance of power.” Shocked, Larry asks him to play after dinner, and when Jamie refuses, Larry sings “Stranger in Paradise” to the impassive pair. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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