8 comments on “A Conversation with Actor Austin Pendleton: Preminger’s ’68 SKIDOO Still Weird, Still Wonderful

  1. Wonderful piece. The definitive explanation about how that movie came to be and why it is the way it is. It’s one of those gems of a film that like you say, love it or hate it you never forget it.

  2. Thanks, John, for the comment and for being the first person to introduce me to SKIDOO. I will remember always that fuzzy version with no sound that we watched in a bar…and yet the movie still intrigued us!

  3. I had heard of SKIDOO before, mostly because the soundtrack album popped up a lot at rare record shows and second hand stores. It’s actually on a cool Japanese CD with a small reproduction of the original jacket. And yes, the sung credits are on the album.

    When I first saw the movie, Gleason’s LSD scene seemed famiar, with multiple images floating around his head. When I saw the credits, I might have found the reason: Sandy Dvore, who also did the iconic tic-tac-toe titles for “The Brady Bunch.”

    Thank you for describing exactly why the movie was such a incongruous pairing of traditional showbiz and the counterculture (a blend which The Smothers Brothers, Sonny & Cher and Tony Orlando & Dawn accomplished successfully in TV variety). Clearly SKIDOO was the duality of Preminger in the late ’60s.

  4. That’s funny you should mention the soundtrack album, Greg. I recently saw the album for the first time — and cool that it’s on a Japanese CD too. Thanks for the feedback and the observation about the status quo/hipster scene on tv as well — and the note about Sandy Dvore’s work on The Brady Bunch!

    The Skidoo post was just linked to the Chicago Reader site (http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/archives/film/) and film editor J.R. Jones also made the connection with Mad Men, writing, “One of the many cultural stones turned over by AMC’s Mad Men was the moment when establishment types starting fooling around with LSD; among them was Otto Preminger” — and the likes of Mad Men’s Roger Sterling:)

  5. Saw ‘Skidoo’ when it opened. I was embarrased for Groucho. Perhaps revisiting the movie will reveal that I was wrong. On Austin Pendelton, he is a brilliant comic actor who is also matchless in drama. Most recently, his ‘Law and Order’ turn as a Stephen Hawking-like murderous physist was magnificent. I even remember a superbly delivered line that reflected the his character’s pain and ego in conflict: “Einstein was a flash in the pan!”

  6. Groucho was in a bad spot, to be sure. Would love to hear more about your first impressions when it opened! And thanks for the tip on Pendleton’s Law and Order performance. He’s always a treat to watch.

  7. The film itself seemed as though it was careening out of control. Most of its elements didn’t gel. I could tell what Preminger was going for, but his direction appeared to be foolish as he looked in those Nehru jackets of the time. In a strange way, both he and the film seemed to be like ‘those wild and crazy guys’ sketches on Saturday Night Live. Two guys from another culture trying to be hip, but sending out the wrong signals. The one image that sticks in my mind forty-five years later, is that of Groucho alone in a row boat. Groucho was cast adrift on an unfamiliar sea and left without any hope. So too was the whole of ‘Skidoo’.

  8. Great comparison to the “wild and crazy guys.” But you’re right: As odd and sometimes foolish as Skidoo is, there are images from that movie that remain in one’s head for years!

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