Downhill Racer

I prepared for a last day of a class and gave out an exam. It was too late afterwards to either visit the record store or go out for the Flashback Feature that was “Full Metal Jacket.” I stopped to have a late burger before arriving at home to see “Downhill Racer” on Blu-ray. It was nice and clear and bright and sharp. I’d seen the film several times before in the past. Robert Redford was a big star in those days, and this film showed something interesting from him. His character, named David Chappellet, was a big jerk. I couldn’t seem him playing that kind of role in later years, especially when he was doing “Brubaker.” Roman Polanski was set to direct “Downhill Racer,” but he would move on to “Rosemary’s Baby.” Chappellet was supposed to have some things in common with skiers like Billy Kidd and Spider Sabich. He was a reckless skier and self-absorbed. He was an American in Europe, and got into a relationship that wasn’t much of a relationship with a woman named Carole Stahl. You could tell it wasn’t going anywhere from the first moment, when he asks “Who’s the girl,” or something like that. I liked the skiing footage and wondered how they set up the cameras for it. Staging some of those falls seemed awfully dangerous. Because I live in a part of California where we never see snow, I’ve never been much of a skiing fan. I’ve always associated it with accidents involving Lucille Ball and Sonny Bono. There is an amusing shot of someone who looked like Redford because the guy really did look enough like Redford that a television announcer would get confused. Gene Hackman was the coach Eugene Claire, who was trying to deal with this rising star who wasn’t a team player. The situation made me think of P.J. Carlesimo falling victim to Latrell Sprewell. The subject matter in this movie still seems meaningful when it comes to the ego of athletes. It’s funny how Gene Hackman never looked like a young man in any film ever. One of the big moments that people remember from this movie is Redford pressing the car horn to stop Carole from talking about Christmas with her family. The inarticulate nature of the athlete is something you do see all the time. They’re so absorbed with themselves that they never learn to talk to people. I guess you could say that about men who aren’t athletes, too. The ending of this film felt a lot like the end of “The Candidate.” This was the look between two men at a moment when their lives were changing. What happens after that moment of success? Michael Ritchie would work with Redford again on “The Candidate” before going on to other pictures like “Smile,” “The Bad News Bears,” “The Survivors,” “Fletch,” and “The Golden Child.” Ritchie died in 2001. He was only 62 years old. In one of the special features, he talked about how much he liked “The African Queen” and “The Third Man.” He attended Berkeley High School before going to Harvard. He would buy the house where Marilyn Monroe died in 1962. James Salter wrote the screenplay for “Downhill Racer,” and he lived for a long time. He was 90 when he died in 2015. Camilla Sparv is retired and is now 72 years old. Robert Redford had a remarkable five years from 1972 and “Jeremiah Johnson” through to 1976 and “All the President’s Men.” It’s rather hard to believe that he is going to turn 80 this year. He didn’t appear in too many films in the 1980s, and it felt like “Legal Eagles” was something of a turning point. As a director, he’ll always be known for “Ordinary People,” which was a very good movie. It was one of the highlights of his career. Some of the people who died on March 18 include Johnny Appleseed (1845), Bernard Malamud (1986), John Phillips (2001), Natasha Richardson (2009), and Fess Parker (2010). Today is a birthday for Irene Cara (57), Brad Dourif (66), and Charley Pride (78). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for March 18, the Rolling Stones stopped at a gas station in East Ham and urinated on the wall, resulting in a fine. In 1978, the California Jam II music festival, featuring Aerosmith, Heart, Dave Mason, Santana, and Bob Welch, was held in Ontario, California. In 1993, a group of child abuse experts cleared Woody Allen of charges of molestation of his 7-year-old adopted daughter.

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