“The Last Detail,” “Shampoo,” “Coming Home,” “Bound for Glory,” “Harold and Maude” and being there — Hal Ashby was every bit as important to film in the ’70s as Scorsese and Allen, Altman and Coppola.
He was, as those testifying in “Hal” note, a guy who “hasn’t gotten his due.” Now here’s a documentary that sees to it that this Oscar winner does.
But I have a hunch why he hasn’t been lauded, and I am guessing “Hal” glosses right over it. There’s the story Bette Midler once told me about her awful experience on the “boy’s club” of the bomb “Looking to Get Out.” They didn’t use hashtags back then, but #MeToo comes to mind.
Hal liked to imbibe on the set.
Read any good Peter Sellers bio about how Sellers went to his grave knowing Ashby had cost him his best shot at an Oscar, putting outtakes at the end of “Being There.” Sellers sent him pleading telegrams, “It breaks the SPELL. Do you understand. It breaks the spell!” Sellers was right. Funny outtakes, but pointless. And they broke “the spell.” Ashby wouldn’t be dissuaded.
There were people who worked for him who hated his guts. Apparently, more than a few. Maybe with good reason. Judd Apatow, testifying here and obviously a fan (I’m one, too.) never worked with him.
But the films speak for themselves, and a couple — “Harold and Maude” and “Being There” — dazzle, even today. “Shampoo” is as good a history of the ’70s as “Nashville,” “Last Detail” is top drawer Jack Nicholson and “Bound for Glory” was David Carradine’s finest work. Yes, I’ve seen “Kill Bill 2.”
“Hal” opens Sept. 7 in select cities. Worth asking for at your neighborhood multiplex, I say.