The Main Event (1979) -A Movie A Day Day 54

Clint Eastwood or Sean Connery were the biggest male movie stars of the 1970’s. As hard as it is for me to say because her politics drive me up the wall, Barbra Streisand was the biggest female star of the decade. She appeared in a number of films and most of them were big successes despite not being particularly good movies. “The Main Event” reunites her with the co-star of her best film of the decade, “What’s Up Doc?”, Ryan O’Neal was still a pretty successful star, despite not having appeared in a really financially successful film since “Paper Moon”. He was a good looking actor, who played well against the fast talking, obnoxious style that Streisand adopted for many of her films. This movie was a financial success but an artistic success it was not. Dee and I went to see it one time, and I remember basically nothing of the film except the set up.

Streisand is a business woman who loses all of her money to an unscrupulous business manager. The only asset she can keep is the contract on a fighter who has not fought for four years and basically was being paid as a tax dodge. She has to get him back into the ring and turn her fiscal situation around. Of course romantic sparks are going to fly and there will be the inevitable complications. If people think that romantic comedies today are lazy at setting up emotions, and too pat in following the boy meets girls script pattern, they should take a look at this movie. By comparison, the movie “Leap Year” that came out earlier this year is a gem comparable to the classics of the 1930’s. This movie is sold in the trailer and the poster as a throwback to the screwball comedies of the golden age of Hollywood. The fist collaboration between these two actors did reinvigorate the genre, but that movie had a script by Peter Bogdanovich and Buck Henry, sadly “The Main Event did not. This movie substitutes cute lines and mugging for the audience in the place of character and story. From the first moments that Barbara Streisand is on screen, you can catch her playing to the audience, delivering her lines in an over the top staccato, and making sure that her hind end is featured in a flattering manner in as many scenes as possible. Jon Peters, the movie producer that started out as her hairstylist and lover, must have had a thing for her butt, the way the director of this movie is forced to showcase it. Those of you who know why there is a mirror on the ceiling of the Lincoln bedroom in the White House know what our 16th President and Jon Peters have in common.

Earlier in the decade, Sylvester Stallone had revived the boxing picture and created one of the greatest love stories of all time. A couple of years later he repeated his success, mainly focusing on the boxing angle. This must have been the inspiration for this movie. It is another unfortunate comparison. Every boxing segment in this film looks terrible. No one would believe that Ryan O’Neal could box worth a darn. The guys he is set up to box with can’t fight either. I am not an aficionado of the sweet science, but I know this movie had nothing to do with it. Barbara’s character is so clueless, she reads advice out of books to O’Neal during the fights and ignores the referee and corner-man when directed to stay out of the ring. She is supposed to be a brilliant business woman one moment and a doofus the next. This does not work and it actually antagonized me right out of any sense of commitment to the story. There are a few nice romantic lines passed around but not enough for me to want these two to actually end up together. Amanda told me a few weeks ago, that her professor in the musicals class she took last year, disliked Streisand as an actress and Amanda said she herself thought she was bad in the movie scenes she saw her in. I was actually defending Streisand, but after seeing this, I have to agree. She excelled in “Funny Girl” because she could sing well and mug for the camera, which was perfect for the story of Comedienne Fanny Brice. Outside of that field she appears to be in over her head.

The theme song for the movie is on the other hand, very effective. I know I had that song in my head all summer long that year, it was on the radio constantly. The movie may have served as the longest video of a song ever made, but it came out three years before MTV and we had to pay to see it. This movie was not offensive, and there were enough bits that a couple out for a couple of hours on a date would be mildly entertained, but it was not really romantic. The theater that Dee and I saw it at was more romantic. I mentioned the Temple Theater in a earlier post, it was a stand alone neighborhood movie palace in San Gabriel. I remember a Greek motif on the facade and I think there were wall relief sculptures featuring Olympic events from the original games on the interior.After looking around for some info on this, I think I am confusing the interior of the El Rey Theater in Alhambra. Here is a description of the Temple, and a nice photo from a terrific site called Cinema Treasures.(The Temple’s auditorium featured a wood-beamed, king post truss roof, which I’ve never seen in any other theater. In fact I don’t know of any other theater quite like it in style, though it had some resemblance to Edwards’ Tumbleweed Theater in El Monte, also designed by Lee- but the Tumbleweed was far more rustic.) I saw several films there over the years, most of which do not fit the criteria for the blog, I will mention that it is the site of the only movie experience I can ever remember walking out of. There was a documentary about sharks called Blue Water White Death, but it was much more boring than thrilling. Looking back, I could easily have traded that walkout experience for this movie and have been none the worse for wear.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s