One of the best and wittiest of the comedies made during the 1970s ”look back in fondness” craze, Mike Nichols’s The Fortune —about a pair of nitwits (Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson) who attempt to murder ditzy heiress Stockard Channing—is so summer-before-the-Crash hazy that the cinematography itself seems light-headed with humidity. The 1920s atmosphere is all sun, white linen, old convertibles, improperly paved country roads, palm trees, and screwball, like a Gatsby scenario with its pants down.
Not every American city has an origin myth like Las Vegas does, and if you love Sin City, you’ll dig Bugsy, a too-serious Barry Levinson–Warren Beatty tribute to Vegas-planning, psychopath gangster Bugsy Siegel. If you don’t agree that Vegas was worth all of the angst, the money, and the bodies in the desert, you’re not going there, anyway. With Annette Bening, who became Mrs. Beatty.
Warren Beatty’s remake of 1941’s pretty swell Here Comes Mr. Jordan is a wonderfully lighthearted love story of an aging quarterback who is plucked up to Heaven’s way station before his time—and before his final Super Bowl. Too late to go back among the living as his old self, he gets temporary custody of a millionaire’s body, becoming smitten with an Englishwoman (Julie Christie) in the bargain. Beatty and codirector Buck Henry cut the sweetness with plenty of satire, and Charles Grodin all but steals the show with his special brand of duplicitous diffidence. Hardly a moment in the movie that isn’t a pleasure.
This moody, fur-bundled frontier odyssey might be the best Robert Altman film of all time. Warren Beatty plays a entrepreneurial rogue who sets up business in a muddy northwestern mining town (it looks, no kidding, as if it were shot in 1830) and eventually teams up with an opium-smoking madam (Julie Christie) who’s looking to set up a whorehouse. Trouble sets in when gangsters try to squeeze out the pair and resort to authentic prairie ethics to get their way. This movie teems with life like a beehive; nobody was better than Altman at filling movies up with believable inhabitants and texture, and here the misty, greasy, snowy reality of range life is evoked like nobody’s business. No chicanery here—even though the film was actually shot in Vancouver, it shows just what Rocky Mountain life without utilities was like. Even the relentless Leonard Cohen songs begin to get under your skin. The movie is also an unarguable triumph of the American New Wave—those years between 1966 and 1977 in which Hollywood went out of its way to make gritty, truthful, challenging films you could believe in.