In popular imagination, at least, the 1970s was the golden age of excess in Hollywood. This was the decade when the studios were taken over by a new generation of maverick, mostly male, artists and film-makers, whose creative brilliance was matched by their wild feats of self-indulgent hedonism when they were off duty. Thirty years on, as the media buzzes with the news about the arrest in Switzerland of 76-year-old director Roman Polanski, and the revelations about the incestuous relationship between Mamas and Papas star John Phillips and his daughter Mackenzie, that golden era of excess begins to look more than a little shabby.
"the golden age of excess in Hollywood" 有更佳翻譯請不吝指教！
The Mamas & the Papas
Of course, there was a large amount of myth-making in the way Seventies Hollywood has been memorialised. The excess wasn't only in the Hollywood players' private lives – it was in the wildly far-fetched stories they and others told about it. If the cocaine and orgies had been as rife as some chrociclers believe, then the decade surely wouldn't have given us films like The Godfather, Chinatown, Five Easy Pieces, The Deerhunter, Cutter's Way, Apocalypse Now, Being There and the other masterpieces that were produced with such apparent ease.
Nevertheless, books like producer Julia Phillips's You'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again, Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and former studio boss Robert Evans's The Kid Stays In The Picture provided enjoyably lurid accounts of the drug- and sex-fuelled decadence of the time.
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs and Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood
This was a pre-Aids era. Directors were young and vain enough to think that promiscuity carried few risks and that the drugs wouldn't frazzle their brains. There was a sense of droit de seigneur – the notion that the best film-makers were the equivalents of the old feudal lords who used to have the right to copulate with their vassals' brides on their wedding nights.
Droit de seigneur
Roman Polanski & Nastassja Kinski
Photo-shoots with starlets were just another example of the casting-couch syndrome that had prevailed in Hollywood since the earliest days of the studio system.
In Hollywood, the older man often played the role of Svengali as much as that of exploiter. As Marina Zenovich's excellent documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008) shows, Polanski's relationship with the teenage Nastassja Kinski, who he met in the mid-1970s and photographed for a magazine, helped set Kinski on the road to stardom. There are many other examples of real-life couples whose story matches that of the characters in George Cukor's A Star is Born. The young starlet outstrips the star who preys on her. Her career blossoms. He drifts into obscurity.
You can hardly blame film-makers for behaving with such recklessness after Hollywood let them in during the 1970s. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the film that helped them break down the barriers, Easy Rider (1969.) Before Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper burst onto the scene, the old Hollywood system had often seemed hermetically sealed to the outside world. The studios ran along strictly regimented lines. Actors were all under contract. Directors did more or less what they were told.
Read F Scott Fitzgerald's Pat Hobby stories or his "Crazy Sunday", and skim through Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon books, and you will realise that alcohol, sex and drugs existed in Hollywood long before the 1970s. The 1920s had seen the Fatty Arbuckle scandal. In 1921 Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle, the hard-living, boulder-shaped, heavy-boozing comedian who had become hugely popular in silent comedy, was charged with the murder of a young starlet called Virginia Rappe, who died in murky circumstances after a wild party in a hotel in San Francisco. The sensationalist media coverage of the scandal throws into stark relief the idea that muck-raking, celebrity journalism is a new phenomenon.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
William Friedkin 墨鏡造型酷似勞勃瑞福！
In Locarno this summer, director William Freidkin (director of The French Connection and The Exorcist) spoke eloquently about the "vast change" that took place in American cinema in the wake of Easy Rider.
"It [Easy Rider] was made for very little money by people who were complete unknowns and it was a great success. It was about the American drug culture. The studios in Hollywood were looking for other young film-makers to make other such films."
Friedkin himself, Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich and Martin Scorsese were among the figures who gatecrashed their way into the new Hollywood. The films that they made were primarily influenced by the work of European film-makers. Audiences in their turn became more and more interested in the "new" Hollywood. Studio bosses may have felt incomprehension and even revulsion at the new Easy Rider subculture but that didn't stop them greenlighting films by young, iconoclastic directors who probably wouldn't have been allowed into their offices a few years before.
Jack Nicholson's story is emblematic of the sudden transformation in the fortunes of many young film-makers and actors. In 1968, Nicholson had been an out-of-work actor living in Harry Dean Stanton's basement and working on a very goofy script with Bob Rafelson for the Monkees vehicle Head. After he played lawyer George Hanson in Easy Rider, he was on his way to becoming an American icon.
Martin Scorsese & Isabella Rossellini
Whatever the similarities between the scandals that 1920s and 1970s Hollywood yielded, the two eras were fundamentally different. By the 1970s, the old studio system had collapsed. Moreover as William Friedkin puts it, film-makers were passionately interested in and influenced by the events of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"America was going through a national nervous breakdown. It started with the assassination of John Kennedy and then the assassination of Martin Luther King, then Robert Kennedy, then the onset of the Vietnam War in which America stumbled very badly and has never really recovered," Friedkin suggested. "The 1960s ended with the Charles Manson murders – the murder of Sharon Tate and a bunch of people for no apparent reason at all by a bunch of drug-infested people who were aimless and sort of adrift from the American culture."
Friedkin, Coppola, Scorsese and Co all emerged in this period, making movies that reflected the upheaval in the society around them. "We were reflecting what we could perceive, which was paranoia everywhere and irrational fear. Certainly, my films of the 1970s reflected just that."
What was happening in the early 1970s Hollywood of The Exorcist and The Godfather had been partially anticipated in the British film industry of the late 1960s. Swinging London had yielded a series of very bleak and unsettling films. Donald Cammell and Nic Roeg's Performance, which had been made in 1968 but not released until two years later, took the ingredients of an East End gangster film and of a 1960s rock-star movie and blended them together to make a phantasmagoric horror film. Whether it was Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup (1966), Joseph Losey's Accident (1967) or Roman Polanski's febrile psychodramas Repulsion (1965) and Cul-de-sac (1966), the best British-made films of the era invariably had a very dark core.
Decade of decadence: Nicholson, Polanski and Hollywood in the Seventies
In France he's desired, and in America he's wanted.