Friday, November 10, 2017

THE BABY MAKER 1970

In 1970, decades before the topic of surrogacy became a standby staple of Lifetime TV thrillers, fodder for mediocre comedies (Paternity, Baby Mama), or a nightmare vision of a dystopian future (The Handmaid’s Tale), it was once considered a movie theme so unique and unusual that critics and audiences alike were at a bit of a loss as to how to respond to it. 
Barbara Hershey as Patricia "Tish" Gray
Sam Groom as Jay Wilcox
Collin Wilcox as Suzanne Wilcox
Scott Glenn as Tad Jacks
The Baby Maker, the debut film of Oscar-nominated screenwriter James Bridges (The Paper Chase, The China Syndrome) tells the story of a Los Angles hippie (Barbara Hershey, the then go-to flower child of the movies) who, for a substantial amount of money and because she just loves being pregnant (“Proof of the reality of my own existence”), agrees to bear a child for a square-but-nice, well-to-do Brentwood couple (Sam Groom & Collin Wilcox). Combining as it does—with varying degrees of success—elements of the well-intentioned Generation Gap TV movie-of-the-week (Maybe I’ll Come Home in The Spring); the quickie cash-in counterculture youth flick (1969s natural childbirth gimmick comedy Generation), the racy and “with it” social exposé (The Christine Jorgensen Story), and the sensitive indie character drama (Five Easy Pieces); The Baby Maker proved a hard picture to categorize and an even tougher film to market.

As such, The Baby Maker was deemed too “straight” by young audiences who saw it as yet another inauthentic screen depiction of the hippie counterculture (a valid criticism given that at one point Hershey's tree-hugger character literally hugs a tree), while mainstream critics labeled it a “bizarre” movie (The Miami News) and couldn’t seem to get past framing its then-daring themes in terms of exploitation and sensationalism. Audiences titillated by the film’s teasingly salacious ad campaign: “She’ll live with a couple. Share the husband. They get a baby that’s at least half theirs. She gets the joy of making it.” (Mind you, this is back when “making it” was popular hipster slang for sex)—were disappointed to find a thoughtful, often clinical, nearly two-hour drama. 

Lili Valenty as Mrs. Culnick, the sweet little old lady go-between who
 facilitates the pairing of the childless couple with a willing surrogate

Further adding to the film’s woes were those who simply saw the film’s subject matter as being either distasteful or amoral, or, perhaps most damaging, the fact that just a few months prior to the release of The Baby Maker, John G. Avildsen’s low-budget social melodrama Joe (which climaxed with a vigilante massacre at a hippie commune by a pair of ultra-conservative working-class reactionaries) had struck some kind of chord with the public and became a controversial sleeper hit.
By 1970, The Baby Maker’s positive depiction of hippie culture had grown cliché and was fast becoming passé.
Thus, in spite of its having received a good share of favorable notices for its performances, actress Barbara Hershey attracting a lot of Best Actress Oscar nomination buzz in the trade papers, and actually garnering an Academy Award nod for its original song score (composer Fred Karlin was nominated for The Baby Maker the same year he won a Best Song Oscar for “For All We Know” from Lovers and Other Strangers), The Baby Maker only enjoyed a brief run at theaters and then promptly disappeared. Both from movie screens and most people’s memories.
"I was just looking at your records. You have an awful lot of Frank Sinatra."
The surrogate mother meets (and sizes up) the father

I don’t recall it ever appearing on television or even having a video release. And while I remember when it came out, I confess to having responded to the newspaper ads much the same as I suppose many did: the film looked like cheap exploitation. Not that that had ever been a deterrent to my interest in any film, but with both Myra Breckinridge and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls hitting the screens that same year, I guess my reasoning was that if I was going to see trash, it might as well come from a major studio.

I finally got to see The Baby Maker in 1973 or 1974 when it played at the bottom of a double bill at San Francisco’s Alhambra Theater where I worked as an usher during high school. By this time Barbara Hershey had officially changed her name to Barbara Seagull (an ill-advised phase that had lasted about two years), and hippies in movies were starting to look as dated as beatniks. Nevertheless, for the week of the film's run, I saw it about three times. I loved it!
Tish and Tad
One of the things I like about how the character of Tish is conceived is that she never thinks twice about treating her body as her own. Although she is in an open relationship with her boyfriend Tad (for all of six months), when she decides to be a surrogate she doesn't seek his permission or approval. The scene where she finally tells him is touching and beautifully played, and feels light years away from how I imagine the scene would be written today. 


WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS MOVIE
James Bridges was successful screenwriter who got his start in television (he wrote “The Unlocked Window” my all-time favorite episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour) with a background in acting and directing for the theater. Dissatisfied with the films made from his scripts, Bridges decided that he’d direct his next screenplay (“I can fuck ‘em up as good as they can!”). Bridges based The Baby Maker on a woman he life-partner/business partner Jack Larson knew from a Venice Beach bar called The Carousel. The woman was a free-spirit type who liked being pregnant and made extra money by being a surrogate mother for childless couples. 
It's Complicated
The Baby Maker is a twist on the classic triangle, only in this instance the third party is engaged in the most impersonal manner to engage in the most personal of relationships. In those pre-in vitro days, the fact that the surrogate is impregnated “the old-fashioned way” may have provided the film with its gimmick and marketing hook, but the conflicts, complications, and comedy arise out of the clash of generations, cultures, and unforeseen emotions.
In all, Bridges set a heady task for himself in his first outing as director. And while he’s not always successful in balancing the shifts in tone or sustaining its narrative thrust over the length of the film’s running time; I was impressed that he seems to respond to the material as a story he wants to tell, and doesn’t appear inordinately concerned that it doesn’t meet expectations or fit easy genre description. 
 Collin Wilcox made her memorable film debut as Mayella in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)


PERFORMANCES
Critics were divided over The Baby Maker’s merits, but the quality of Barbara Hershey’s performance was undisputed. And without a doubt her performance is the single most distinguished takeaway from the entire film. Barbara Hershey’s real-life hippie-dippy reputation may have blighted her early career (and indeed may have cost her a much-deserved Oscar nod for her role here), but it’s precisely the fact that she comes across as the real thing, that she’s not “acting” the part of Hollywood’s idea of a hippie, is what saves the film.
Hershey, who gave a truly chilling performance in Frank Perry's shattering Last Summer (1969) gives another incredible performance in this, her 5th film. Always an undderated actress, she is The Baby Maker's Most Valuable Player.  In scene after scene, whether it be some bit of dialog that would sound clichéd or laughable coming from someone else, or a moment when the film feels to be veering into soapy waters, Hershey’s unselfconscious and nuanced performance moors potential contrivance to truth.
Making his film debut, actor Scott Glenn is very good as Tish's sweet but immature boyfriend. 
Glenn would go on to have a featured role in James Bridges' Urban Cowboy (1980)

As the middle-class couple, Collin Wilcox and stolidly handsome Sam Groom (whose large head makes him well suited for the medium shots of television, where he indeed found his success as TV’s Police Surgeon) supply more traditional performances that, by comparison, feel more generic, but both are quite good. Wilcox in particular (whom I don’t think I’ve seen in anything since To Kill a Mockingbird) plays Suzanne as a grounded but somewhat neurotic character of emotional complexity. It’s the unique female relationships and the dominance of the women’s performances in The Baby Maker (this includes Jeannie Berlin as Tish’s activist best friend) that makes it such a surprisingly refreshing period-piece of a movie for me.
Tish uses some of her money to help support her single mom (Phyllis Coates) and her  grandmother (Madge Kennedy) who both live in a Venice trailer park. In a sea of post-Easy Rider male-centric buddy films, The Baby Maker  is unique for its dominant narrative perspective of women and their realtionships. 

THE STUFF OF DREAMS
I’m a big believer in the tenet that different voices can’t help but result in different stories. The subject matter couldn’t be more heterosexual, but as one written and produced by gay men, I feel it qualifies as a keen example of Queer Cinema.
For all its progressive ideas, the youth movement and hippie counterculture (at least as depicted in films) was woefully male-centric and conventional in its attitudes toward women. The Baby Maker is the only hippie-themed film of the era with a female protagonist and told from a woman’s perspective (not a fetishized, free-love, heterosexual male perspective like Candy or There's a Girl in My Soup).
The Baby Maker producer Jack Larson (l.) & director James Bridges met when both appeared as actors in the film Johnny Trouble (1957). Openly gay, they remained lovers/partners till Bridges' death in 1993. Larson passed away in 2015
For its time, The Baby Maker’s feminist perspective, non-sexualized heroine, and unorthodox domestic relationships are a subtle challenge to heteronormative status quo; something I wholly attribute to the gay sensibilities of its creators. Like the works of playwrights Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee, I think what’s brilliant about Bridges’ screenplay is that it looks at heterosexuality through the outsider insights of queer.
In a reversal of a common youth film trope, the male bodies are the
ones exposed and made the object of the gaze in The Baby Maker

THE STUFF OF FANTASY
Being that I was just a child when my family lived in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco in the late ‘60s, I tend not to be a very good judge of what passes for the authentic or inauthentic representation of hippie culture in movies. Largely shielded from the sex and drugs side of it all, my kid's-eye-view memory of the time is so tied to its pop-cultural trappings, my nostalgia buttons can be pushed by the most superficial depictions of the era. The Baby Maker takes place in Los Angeles, but one of its major perks its many moments of "I remember that!" memory-jogging that take me back to my SF roots.
Fringed suede/leather jackets were all the rage, and everyone seemed to know how to tie-dye but me.  My elder sister (who really caught the hippie bug) was a whiz, but I used so much bleach tie-dying my jeans that they practically disintegrated. Hitchhikers were visible all over San Francisco, but thankfully, my parents weren't the give 'em a ride type. Especially since at the time the lyrics to The Doors' Riders on the Storm ("There's a killer on the road...") had scared the holy shit out of me.

War Is Not Healthy For Children & Other Living Things
I remember the many protests and picket-sign slogans of the day, the above being so ubiquitous it became a popular poster and graphic for the 1971 film Bless the Beasts and the Children. In this scene Jeannie Berlin (daughter of writer/dirctor Elaine May) leads a protest against a store selling toy guns.

Pop-Top Fashion
From roughly 1965 to 1975, beverage cans came with disposable pop-tops. Hippies, being ecology minded and all, took to using these aluminum tabs to create fashion and "art." Everything from hats, dresses, and vests were made out of these things. I hope she'll forgive me for ratting on her, but my older sister (Yes, Ms. Tie-dye) made herself a pop-top headband just like this. My Fanta root beer addiction helped her out a lot.

Home Decor
The days of gigantic stereos, door-size coffee tables, and sofas that seat 20

Candles, Candles, Everywhere
Candle stores were like the Starbucks of the Sixties; you couldn't take two steps on Telegraph Avenue without bumping into one. I remember I had a beloved, star-shaped rainbow candle in my room (back when they were, y'know, just rainbows) and, of course, my sister made her own 

The Single Wing Turquoise Bird
How's that for a '60s name? Psychedelic light shows and avant-garde multimedia theater was all the rage. Not only did every youth-culture movie feature at least once sequence of freak-out visuals, but the phenomenon went mainstream with 2001: A Space Odyssey. In The Baby Maker, Tish and friends attend a light show performance by The Single Wing Turquoise Bird, a real-life troupe still in existence.

Although it’s one of my favorites, The Baby Maker isn’t some undiscovered classic. It’s shot in the flat, undistinguished style of a TV-movie, the hippie trappings and dialog can be a bit distancing, and modern audiences may find the tempo sluggish. But I find the film’s sometimes uncompromising presupposition of the inevitability of growth and change to be very moving.
A consistant theme in many of my favorite films is the human need for contact, so I'm a sucker for movies about people who misguidedly assume independence means the absence of attachments. Plus, anybody who knows me knows how much I love a good cry at the movies, and the ending of The Baby Maker never fails to get the ol' waterworks going.


 BONUS MATERIAL
The Superman Connection
Jack Larson was best known as cub reporter Jimmy Olson on the TV series The Adventures of Superman from 1952 to 1958. That show's original Lois Lane (1st season only) was actress Phyllis Coates. Larson and Coates remained friends over the years, leading to her being cast in The Baby Maker in the brief role of Barbara Hersey's mother.
Phyllis Coates, Jack Larson and unknown actress in The Adventures of Superman
Phyllis Coates as Patricia's mother

Brenda Sykes (Cleopatra Jones) appears in an unbilled bit part as a woman
with whom Tad shares a flirtation (and a joint)
In 1985 I appeared as a dance/exercise extra in the virtually unwatchable James Bridges film Perfect, starring John Travolta & Jamie Lee Curtis. Although the aerobics class scenes were shot on location at the Sports Connection gym in West Hollywood, this particular scene was shot months later on a set designed to look exactly like the gym. Aside from having to do something like six hours of pelvic tucks, what's most memorable about this particular sequence is that, after filming had begun, shooting halted in order for the costume people to figure out a way to sew up the legs to Travolta's shorts in order to give him a more pronounced package. When Travolta returned a half hour later with a more camera-ready crotch, it also appeared that a bit of filler had been added. Jack Larson produced and was often present on the very "happy" set.


Copyright © Ken Anderson

16 comments:

  1. OMG, Ken, there you are, dancer-cising with Travolta himself!! Woohoo, Perfect really will be worth watching again, can't wait!!

    Seriously, though, I had no idea that Bridges was openly gay...recently rewatched Urban Cowboy with Glenn and Travolta, and I always loved the original Paper Chase films ...he was a great storyteller...and NO CLUE that his partner was Jimmy Olsen from Superman!

    Miss Hershey (Seagull!!) is marvelous in every role, and I look forward to seeing her in The Baby Maker--which I had never even heard of till reading your article. My favorite of all her performances is as Mia's adulterous sister in Hannah! (And she is still working today, just saw her on an episode of the disappointing Damien Omen TV reboot...)

    But now I am so distracted by Perfect I can't think of anything else...:-)
    -Chris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Chris
      Oh, my Lord...you've actually seen "Perfect" once and are going to subject yourself to it again? Even though it has lots of happy memories for me, I can't bear it.
      The whole shoot reminded me of what it must have been like behind the scenes of "Can't Stop the Music."
      Marvelous that this post held so many heretofore unkown bits of info for you. I think Bridges' homosexuality (and his very famous boyfriend) stayed so much an open-yet-unknown fact of life because, in spite of his successes, he only directed 8 films and his name just doesn't come up that often in film circles.
      I am a huge fan of Miss Hershey, too (oddly enough, I've never seen "Beaches" the one Barbara Hershey film even non-fans have seen). I like her a great deal in "Hannah and Her Sisters" too, theough it probably rates behind "Last Summer" and this one for me. She's just so consistantly good. Her kid goes to my dance studio (martial arts area) but I have yet to meet her. Just as well, I'd make a fool of myself.
      Thanks so much for checking out my post, Chris! And my apologies in advance for what you're in for with "Perfect"!

      Delete
  2. Hello Ken !

    Very interesting ! I had no idea Barbara Hershey had a hippie past or public image. Hence the weird feeling now from having seen her in a very few movies where she was the "evil" character : The Entity, Black Swan, Hannah and her sisters, Lantana... Always thought she was a very talented actress.
    And young Scott Glenn : Oh my god !
    My curiosity is definitely piqued. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Ivar
    Indeed, Barbara Hershey was quite noted for her hippie lifestyle back in the day, and, much like Mia Farrow and her counterculture leanings, conservative Hollywood kind of gave her the cold shoulder when it came to industry recognition.
    I first saw her on this short-lived western TV show called THE MUNROES in which she stood out. Even if you catch her in old episodes of GIDGET you see there is something special about her.
    Very interesting in your noting how she came to be associated with so many projects as an evil character; back when this film came out, it was one of her rare "sympathetic" roles. She was often cast as tough, self-reliant young women.
    And Scott Glenn is SO young in this. Apparently he had worked in some play for Jack Larson. I'm not sure I've seen him in many roles, but clearly he was always very fit!
    Thank you for commenting and reading this, Ivar! Perhaps your piqued curiosity will lead you to checking this out one day.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Ken!

    Thanks so much for covering this. It took me about forty years to finally see this even though I had the movie tie-in paperback and soundtrack when I was young. It was so absorbing and moving in such a quiet and unexpected way.

    As for Collin Wilcox, have you ever seen The Name of the Game is Kill? (1968). It worth seeing if you're in any way a fan of 60s psycho thrillers even though canny viewers may catch on early to the twist ending. I'd recommend it...especially for T.C. Jones as Collin's mother.

    Thanks Ken!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scott Glen had a part in HBO's The Leftovers. He was given a star turn in one of the episodes of the last season and was interviewed in Vulture about it. Still working! And I remember Sam Groom from the soap Another World. I have not seen the Babymaker but enjoyed reading about it and your reflections on Barbara. You're right, she has that indescribable something and "the look".

      Delete
    2. Hi Max
      Wow! The paperback AND the soundtrack album! I'm impressed! I remember coming across the soundtrack album back when it came out (I saw it in the record section of the San Francisco Woolworth's on Powell St) and after having seen the film, always regretting not buying it. Happily (thanks, ebay!) I finally got my hands on the LP. The book I never came across. Since it was from an original screenplay, it would have been amusing to read how certain scenes were descibed (like the blue paint scene) or what emotions were ascribed to certain actions.
      I have never heard of the film you reference, but I love a good thriller, so i will keep my eyes peeled for it in the future. And T.C. Jones as Collin's mother?! Small world: Jones was featured in that James Bridges-penned episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Good to hear from you, Max. Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
    3. Hello Loulou
      I didn't know Glenn was in that HBO program! So impressive, all these actors with these long careers. They don't get a lot of spotlight attention, but they have longer shelf-lifes than many more well-known stars.
      Also, I didn't know Sam Groom had moved onto soaps, but everythign about him radiates "TV" to me, so I'm sure he was ideal in his element.
      Barbara Hershey has weathered a lot and had a well-deserved long career. Seeing how good she is here makes what has followed in her life a fulfillment of all that potential.
      Glad you read the post, and I thank you for commenting!

      Delete
    4. And thanks for the shout out for "Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring". Man did that movie hit me when I was a kid, we (3 sisters, Mom) all watched it together as family. I can still picture Sally furiously vacuuming that living room floor. It's right up there with her Steel Magnolias cemetery scene. I was too young to be a hippie but lived in a college town so there was a little of that element around. It certainly held a fascination, mainly I guess for long haired men.

      Delete
    5. Loulou
      hey, glad you remember that TV movie too. And fondly! Not exactly sure why, but MAYBE I"LL COME HOME IN THE SPRING was a very memorable film for me too. That vacuuming scene stuck with me, and for some reason the whole feel of it (I had an older sister who struck out on her own) just hit home.

      Delete
  5. What a fun review! A flick worth seeking out. I love Collin Wilcox (there's so many great performances in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, it took years of rewatching it before I realized what an amazing job she did on the witness stand as Mayella). I was recently watching the season one DVD set of DR KILDARE (as everyone should) and she had a terrific role in the episode "Solomon's Choice" as a pregnant woman who didn't want to keep her baby (with another favorite Barbara Baxley as a nurse who has had several miscarriages and wants the baby--but I digress). (One more digression: this episode--from 1962--also had a lot of pregnant women walking around the hospital chain-smoking cigarettes.) Collin was a fascinating actress. The supporting cast of THE BABY MAKER is really impressive. And thanks for the ass shot of Scott Glenn!

    I think you need to devote an entire post to your six hours of pelvic thrusts with John Travolta on the set of PERFECT. This was around the time that (suposedly) Travolta was having an affair with porn daddy Paul Barresi (who is also in PERFECT). Did you see any thrusting off-camera? Thanks for another entertaining entry! Kevin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kevin
      Those old TV episodics are a wealth of wonderful performances and a bonanza of early career "star-sightings." My older sister (not the hippie one I embarrass in this post) had a huge crush on Dr. Kildare, so in the days of single TV housholds, I saw a great many of those episodes, but not since original run.
      The episode you describe sounds amusing, what with all the chain-smoking moms. In THE BABY MAKER, they demand that Hershey's character give up pot while prgnant, but they are always offering her a drink!

      Collin Wilcox is a very good here, so as a fan, Ihope you get to check it out. And glad you appreciated the Scott Glenn Butt shot! I debated with myself over whether to go for the modest shot featured, or a more explicit rear-view, or even his brief full frontal. i still wonder if I made the right call by going "discreet."
      And yes, I saw Mr. Baressi a lot during the making of PERFECT and wish i could say I picked up on something between him and Travolta, but back then I only knew him from his porn stuff. The whole PERFECT shoot has a REALLY gay vibe, with all these Chippendale fellows in the cast...I remember when we shot the closing gym shots with Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner. He had not then come out of the closet, but me and some of the gay extras I befriended all had our gaydar beeping when he, Larson, Bridges, and Travolta were around. Like I said, the shoot felt like what the YMCA scene in CANT STOP THE MUSIC mus have been like.

      Very pleased you enjoyed this piece on the film,a nd thanks for giving Collin Wilcox fans a tip regarding where they can find her on DVD. I enjoyed reading your comments and thank you for contrubuting to making this section such a fun read for everbody!
      Come back again!

      Delete
    2. I'm curious, when you where on set was there a "wow this is really going to suck" feeling? I guess no one sets out to make a bad movie.

      Delete
    3. I wasn't privy for the dramatic scenes, but in retrospect, I'd say the overall feel of the shoot fell under "hubris." People overriding feel was that what SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER was to disco, PERFECT was going to be for the aerobics craze (which was ridiculously popular at the time).
      So many of the people involved in the hit URBAN COWBOY was reassembled, Travolta had not yet become a punchline, and they friggin' Gordon Willis of THE GODFATHER and MANHATTAN for cinematography.
      With so many successful people attached to the project there was really an air of delusion. It seemed like everyone was too sure of themselves and that we were making the perfect film at the perfect time, beating everybody to what was surely going to be a Flashdance -like wave of aerobics films.

      For example: Bridges told us that he wanted that ridiculous scene of dueling aerobic class pelvis thrusts to be the aerobics version to that oft-imitated sexy eating scene in TOM JONES.
      So, you're right, no one sets out to make a bad movie, but when we were all called back in several months later for re-shoots, by then there seemed to be something in the air that all was not well.

      Delete
  6. Argyle here. I think I managed to see this somehow, maybe on TV? I definitely remember when it came out; just the title was an attention grabber. I guess I was 12. At least where I was (suburban South Carolina) babies were things older married people had although you did occasionally read or hear about “unwanted pregnancy” which seems like a sort of passive, disconnected phrase. I do remember seeing commercials on TV for the a network showing of the movie “Joy in the Morning” (1965, Yvette Mimieux, Richard Chamberlain, overwrought) that seemed to be about the perils of sex. Also “Mr and Mrs Bo Jo Jones” (1971, also overwrought) that I think was actually about an “unwanted” pregnancy. I guess my point is that for me, at that time, there was a very strong message of sex leads to pregnancy which leads to problems which leads to doom. I had two sisters, 2 and 4 years older, and I think I “osmosed” from them the same lessons and sense of danger. Fun! And it took! I can remember (maybe not shock) but a small detonation still in 1986 when Madonna told her dad not to preach because she was “keeping (her) baby.” I guess what I’m trying to communicate is that in 1970 when you hear about a movie called “The Baby Maker” and understand that it’s about a single girl, in California, who uses her biology to produce a baby for a couple that she just sort of knows, it crosses all kinds of boundaries and generally suggests that maybe there are other ways to think about things, to put it mildly. I’m pretty sure I didn’t reflexively judge or scorn the character in “The Baby Maker”, but I’m pretty sure I did have to stop and recalibrate a few things. At the time, the fact that it involved Barbara Hershey would have also given me pause. For me and my sisters there was a kind of triumvirate of Barbara Hershey, Season Hubley, and Kay Lenz who all seemed to play enviable (looks, hair, clothes, status) but flawed (self-centered, self-righteous) young women whose curiousity/willfullness caused them to stray into perilous territory (men, drugs, social situations) that eventually had major impact on their lives. (As I think through this it occurs to me that Barbara Hershey usually ended up with the best outcome of the three; maybe her innate character?) I feel like this all sounds really harsh and horrible. It was slightly horrible. I think we were scared of life. And those young women enacted the perils so we judged them as silly but were secretly fascinated.

    I don’t think I can un-paint myself out of this corner, so I’ll just close with some random, somewhat related thoughts. 1. I have gotten to where I truly appreciate and admire Barbara Hershey. For me, she was one of the best things in “Black Swan” and although I can’t make myself watch it, I always have a suspicion that she must be incredible in “Hoosiers.” I actually sat on the floor of a movie theater lobby cross-legged with David Carradine when he was doing promotion for “Bound for Glory” which I think was around the time he was with Ms. Hershey. 2. Some “hippies” could be self-righteous sometimes: my slightly older cousins certainly could be, but on the other hand, they could play the guitar and introduced me to Joni Mitchell. And I have come to understand, I think, that not behaving the way society expects sometimes is an absolute necessity. 3. My significant other’s cousin was played by Kay Lenz in a TV movie and she could easily join that triumvirate, so maybe there is something to the casting and the archetype. Thanks, Ken, for bearing with me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Argyle
      You honestly shouldn't feel so apologetic about your comment...you really shed a fascinating and insightful light on the mindset of 1971 contributing to the uneven reception to THE BABY MAKER.
      There was indeed this pervasive, knee-jerk, anti-feminist mentality that cloaked all childbirth outside of wedlock in terms of a "tragedy" that befell wayward girls.
      THE BABY MAKER was the antithesis of the films you named (do you remember a Marlo Thomas film titled JENNY, all about an unwed mother?) all of them kind of "Reefer Madness"-like responses to The Pill and women having sexual and reproductive freedom.
      So your points--as presented through the prism of personal experience and memory--are well made.

      I think the unorthodox focus of this film is largely due to it being the product of gay men. Men threatened by women having freedom to have wanted pregnancies outside of marriage or for money if they wished, or (gasp!) the freedom to do something about an "unwanted" pregnancy if they wished.
      So, once again I think you made an excellent contribution to this comments section by shining light on what 1970 attitudes were regarding pregnancy.
      Even your comment about hippies being self-righteous is well-taken, because THE BABY MAKER features a character (Jeannie Berlin) who is very self-righteous in her beliefs and engages in an amusing debate with the "square" husband.
      Also, what terrific bits of random news! Sat cross-legged in a theater lobby with David Carradine? Kay Lenz ( a personal fave) playing your partner's cousin in a movie?! Wow!
      Good to hear from you, Argyle. You added to this post more than you know.

      Delete