The Sporting Club (1971)

R | 105 or 107 mins | Drama | February 1971

Director:

Larry Peerce

Producer:

Lee M. Rich

Cinematographer:

John Courtland

Editor:

Larry Silk

Production Designer:

Joel Schiller
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HISTORY

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 Feb 1969, one month prior to its publication. As noted in a 14 Feb 1969 DV 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 Jul and Aug of 1969, HR reported that Avco Embassy had bought the screen rights from Rich, who would remain on the project as producer. Also in Aug 1969, according to MPH , 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 ... More Less

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 Feb 1969, one month prior to its publication. As noted in a 14 Feb 1969 DV 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 Jul and Aug of 1969, HR reported that Avco Embassy had bought the screen rights from Rich, who would remain on the project as producer. Also in Aug 1969, according to MPH , 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, see above) to work on The Sporting Club . The film received universally negative reviews. The LAHExam reviewer called it "an impossibly bad movie," while HR 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 LAT review reported that screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr. regarded the final film as "disastrous." As noted in a Mar 1971 NYT 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. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
14 Feb 1969.
---
Daily Variety
27 Oct 1969.
---
Daily Variety
1 Mar 1971
p. 3, 13.
Filmfacts
1971
pp. 407-10.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Aug 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 1969.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 1969.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Oct 1969.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Feb 1970
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Mar 1971.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
2 Mar 1971.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 Mar 1971.
---
Motion Picture Herald
27 Aug 1969.
---
New York Times
1 Mar 1971
p. 22.
New York Times
21 Mar 1971
p. 13.
Publishers Weekly
19 May 1969.
---
Variety
3 Mar 1971.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
2d cam asst
Lighting supv
Key grip
2d grip
Best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Const coord
Set dec
Set des
Prop master
Asst props
Greensman
Painter
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Women's cost
Men's cost
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
SOUND
Prod sd
Prod rec
Sd mixer
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Photo research
Main titles
MAKEUP
Makeup
Asst makeup
Hairstyling
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod mgr
Casting
Local casting
Casting
Unit pub
Transportation mgr
Local auditor
First aid
Generator op
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Sporting Club by Thomas McGuane (New York, 1969).
SONGS
"For the Dear Old Flag I Die," written and performed by Michael Small
"Fox's Minstrel Show," written by Michael Small, performed by Gene Pistilli
“Great Balls of Fire,” words and music by Jack Hammer and Otis Blackwell, performed by Jerry Lee Lewis
+
SONGS
"For the Dear Old Flag I Die," written and performed by Michael Small
"Fox's Minstrel Show," written by Michael Small, performed by Gene Pistilli
“Great Balls of Fire,” words and music by Jack Hammer and Otis Blackwell, performed by Jerry Lee Lewis
"Auld Lang Syne," words by Robert Burns, music Scottish traditional
"Battle Hymn of the Republic," music by William Steffe, lyrics by Julia Ward Howe
"Oh, My Darling Clementine," music and lyrics by Percy Montrose
“I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” traditional.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
February 1971
Production Date:
28 October 1969--early February 1970
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
DeLuxe
Duration(in mins):
105 or 107
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
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 ... +


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 barbecue 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 barbecue, 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. +

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

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