81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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French Connection, The

October 2nd, 2009 · No Comments · 1971, Adaptation, Color, Drama, F-Word, French Connection, Gene Hackman, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation

The French Connection I’ve been a big fan of Gene Hackman for as long as I can remember. For one thing, he’s got the best chuckle of any actor I know. More importantly, he was a lot of fun to watch in The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Superman (1978), Hoosiers (1986), Mississippi Burning (1988), Bat*21 (1988), Class Action (1991), The Unforgiven (1992, another Best-Picture Oscar winner), and Crimson Tide (1995, one of my all-time favorite movies).

One time, I saw Gene Hackman in person. It was at BEA (Book Expo America) in Chicago, around 2005. We were in line to meet Lemony Snicket, author of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books. Mr. Hackman sat at a table a row or two over from us. If I recall correctly, he was there to sign copies of his upcoming book “Justice For None,” which was published in 2006.

Of course, I didn’t know what to say. I just stared at him, which I’m sure he appreciates. Everyone likes to be stared at, right?

Anyway, I read somewhere that Gene Hackman retired from acting a couple of years ago and currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. That’s unfortunate (that he retired from acting, not that he lives in Santa Fe; I’m sure that’s a nice place to live). I think he’s a fantastic actor and I miss seeing him in movies.

Enough sycophanting.

The French Connection is an interesting movie, based on the true story of “Popeye” Doyle (in real life, Eddie Egan, who played his own boss in the movie while Gene Hackman played him) and his partner who, in 1962, busted a true French connection to net 112 pounds of heroin.

The movie is shot with lots of hand-held cameras during the winter. And it looked darn cold, too. You could see the breath of the actors and it wasn’t a stretch to assume they weren’t acting; they really were cold.

Three things to watch for in the movie: (1) a rollicking good car chase through the streets of New York, (2) the abrupt ending, and (3) the liberal use of the F-word – a first for a Best-Picture winner. (I told you Midnight Cowboy threw the door wide open.)

Another interesting aspect to the movie: lots of scenes with no dialogue combined with lots of scenes of surveillance. Just cops watching and tailing the bad guys. It’s the New York cop equivalent of My Dinner With Andre, only without even so much as the scintillating conversation. Just actors following each other around town.

Yet, it works. I couldn’t stop watching what unfolded on the screen. I cared about the characters. And I wanted to know how the story turned out.

The story doesn’t really turn out. It just ends. Abruptly. The screen goes black. And the audience is given information about the fate of each character. Just like at the end of American Graffiti, a movie released two years after The French Connection.

THE CAST
Gene Hackman (1930- )…………………..Jimmy Doyle
Fernando Rey (1917-1994)………………Alain Charnier
Roy Scheider (1932-2008)……………….Det. Buddy Russo
Tony Lo Bianco (1936- )…………………..Sal Boca
Marcel Bozzuffi (1928-1988)…………….Pierre Nicoli
Frédéric de Pasquale (1931-2001)……..Devereaux (as Frederic De Pasquale)
Bill Hickman (1921-1986)………………..Mulderig
Ann Rebbot (?-?)…………………………….Marie Charnier
Harold Gary (1906-1984)…………………Weinstock
Arlene Farber (?-?)…………………………..Angie Boca
Eddie Egan (1930-1995)………………….Simonson

THE CREW
Directed By
William Friedkin (1935- )

Writing Credits
Ernest Tidyman, 1928-1984 (screenplay)
Robin Moore, 1925-2008 (book)

The French Connection was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won five of them: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Gene Hackman), Best Director (William Friedkin), Best Film Editing, Best Picture (Philip D’Antoni), Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Ernest Tidyman).

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