With the release of Paul Mazursky’s bed-hopping hit Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice in 1969, Elliott Gould (he was Ted) instantly became an unlikely superstar and even sex symbol. With the new retrospective “Solid Gould: Elliott Gould in the 1970s,” Lightbox Film Center will offer a reminder of what made Gould such an era-defining attraction over the next decade. Opening Friday night with M*A*S*H and continuing with eight films over the next two weeks, “Solid Gould” covers most of the actor’s most-memorable roles. If that’s not convincing enough, here’s 10 good reasons to show up:
Gould was the face of the changing face of Hollywood. The ’70s were a tumultuous time in Tinseltown, with old-guard glamour and escapist entertainment giving way to confrontational cinema and long-haired antiestablishment types. Gould’s stoner sardonicism set the tone, even landing him on the cover of Time Magazine as a "Star for an Uptight Age.”
He worked with many of the decade’s best directors. In that precious moment when a new generation of filmmakers filled movie screens with celluloid experimentation and antiestablishment nose-thumbing, before it was all steamrollered by sass-talking robots and man-eating sharks, popular and critical tastes briefly aligned. Gould was front and center for that, making smash hits that also offered food for thought. Which leads to…
A Robert Altman mini-festival. Gould’s close relationship with Robert Altman means that this Gould retrospective is by necessity an homage to the irreverent director as well. The two first worked together on M*A*S*H (7 p.m., Friday, April 5), though the film is far from either man’s best work. They’re better represented in the later films on the program, such as …
Film noir for cat lovers. The Long Goodbye (7 p.m., Thursday, April 11), Altman’s radical update/rebuke of Raymond Chandler, stars Gould as a schlubby Philip Marlowe, turning the two-fisted detective into an affable loner more concerned with tracking down an elusive brand of cat food than solving crimes. His morally questionable final act makes the idea of the antihero more queasy than admirable.
The granddaddy of Mumblecore. Long before the Duplass brothers ever set their casts loose in aimless improvisations, Altman delighted in loose, rambling dialogue scenes with actors famously talking over one another. The most famous example was Nashville, which included a Gould cameo as himself (not enough of a part to merit inclusion in the Lightbox series), but the most charming is California Split (7 p.m., Saturday, April 20; screening with Little Murders), with Gould and George Segal as inveterate gamblers whose ramshackle chemistry glosses over their self-destructive behavior.
Bergman sans subtitles. Gould also worked with Swedish master Ingmar Bergman in his first English-language film, The Touch (7 p.m., Thursday, April 18). While it’s deservedly lesser-known than Bergman’s iconic works, the torrid love story does embroil Gould with Scandinavian counterparts Max von Sydow and Bibi Andersson.
Conspiracy theories are nothing new. Stanley Kubrick (probably) didn’t fake the moon landing, but Elliott Gould did fake the first manned mission to Mars. In Peter Hyams’ tense Capricorn One (7 p.m. April 19), Gould is an astronaut embroiled in a NASA hoax with his crew: James Brolin, Sam Waterston, and (ahem) O.J. Simpson.
A reminder that turn-of-the-century heist films were a thing. Everyone remembers The Sting, mainly because of the joys inherent in pairing Paul Newman and Robert Redford, but it’s easy to forget that it was part of a wave of caper comedies involving bow ties and funny mustaches. Gould’s entry was Harry and Walter Go to New York (7 p.m., Saturday, April 13), which teams him with James Caan as a vaudeville act turned bank robbers.
The tumult of the times. As an overview of the 1970s, Gould’s films offer tantalizing glimpses into what contemporary artists found most maddening. In the sex comedy I Love My… Wife (2 p.m. Saturday, April 20), directed by Mel Stuart of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory fame, he’s an L.A. surgeon who embarks on a series of affairs that would definitely lead to some sort of comeuppance in the #MeToo era. And in Alan Arkin’s directorial debut, Little Murders (7 p.m. April 20; shown with California Split), the chaos of a pre-Disneyfied New York intrudes on a young couple’s relationship.
He was married to Barbra Streisand. People are obsessed with everything that Babs touches, right? Even after the Michael Jackson gaffes? Well, she touched Elliott Gould for about eight years.