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He's More Than Just a Hairdresser
by Jon Schuller

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There are movies that are difficult to categorize. Some are strictly comedies, while others are romantic and still others are satirical, poking fun at people and serious institutions. We have actors and actresses who can play parts in all of them, as well crossing over and portraying different characters in the same film. Cary Grant could play virtually any role and transition rapidly from comedy to drama in the same scene. Kathryn Hepburn could capture our hearts or break them almost simultaneously. Hundreds of names and faces, both familiar and obscure, could fill several pages of my column for several weeks. The classic Hollywood films of the 1930s and 1940s, featuring so many of these accomplished players, created joy and pain from scene to scene, helping thousands of people put their personal problems aside for a few short hours a week. Some great films featured political themes touching on subjects that were previously taboo. Films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Meet John Doe, The President Vanishes and more modern movies such as The Manchurian Candidate or Fail Safe: all brought to light many things about politics and politicians not previously discussed. Again, we see the movies turning on the light and illuminating daily occurrences not always known. Today, of course, the 24-hour news cycle and the Internet keep us all informed about even the most minute detail whether we want it or not. No one is immune; many politicians and their supporters have been scrutinized with this microscopic and
electronic tool. In February, 1975 a movie premiered that broke some rules and portrayed rich people mixing with regular citizens as politics dominates the film. Shampoo takes a 24-hour period on Election Day, 1968 and peels away the layers of what these people were doing with and to each other.

The film centers on a hairdresser, George Roundy (Warren Beatty), who works in an exclusive salon in swank Beverly Hills. He's creative and handsome. The women wait weeks to get an appointment with him. He does have many opportunities to meet and date his customers. His newest girl, Jill (Goldie Hawn), unfortunately cannot satisfy his other wants which mainly have to do with his job at the salon. He could be the #1, the star, at the salon but the owner, Norman (Jay Robinson), won't allow George to wait on his best customers. George decides to take advantage of another one of his clients, Felicia Karpf (Lee Grant), whose husband, Lester, is quite wealthy and looking for business opportunities to invest in.

George and Lester meet and Lester is intrigued and tempted by George's plan to open his own salon. At the same time, Lester confides in George, all the while assuming that George is gay, about his current mistress, the beautiful and intelligent, Jackie Shawn (Julie Christie). Jackie, too, was once one of George's conquests. His appetite for women is pretty much all-consuming and his ability to keep them all separate from each other will eventually lead him to a bad fall.

Lester has no idea of George's
real-life sexual activities with his own wife and newest girlfriend. It's pretty confusing, while funny and sad at the same time. Lester, as a large financial contributor, asks George to accompany Jackie to a big Election Night bash held by the Republicans in Beverly Hills as everyone watches the televisions for voting results. One of the unspoken, tragic themes we see in this scene is the fact that Richard Nixon will win the Presidency and what happened to him and the country as a result of it not too many years later. George's girlfriend, Jill, has been brought to the party by Johnny Pope (Tony Bill), who's been trying to date her for a while. Lester's wife is there too, as well as some other of George's previous girlfriends. The around-the-table scene is quite memorable as Jackie shows her real interest in George as she disappears underneath the table as everyone is talking and laughing. He decides he wants to leave and they wind up at a real '60s style counter-culture party, complete with hippies, drugs and Rock-N-Roll. George takes Jackie away and he seduces her in a kitchen. Lester, Jill and Johnny see them having sex and all are surprised and disgusted.

There's not one woman George can resist. He evens seduces Lester and Felicia's daughter, Lorna (portrayed by a young Carrie Fisher in an early movie appearance). He seduces Jackie in the bathroom of the house Lester has set up for her. Lester walks in on them accidently as the pair pretends George was really there to fix her hair. George's
carefree attitude towards women and sex will be his downfall. One of the film's main themes was to examine the casual lack of morals prevalent in the Sixties. The mere fact that George's job puts him in contact with so many women, all the time, simply makes his eventual dilemma even more painful. He realizes, too late, that he loves Jackie but it dawns on her that living with wealthy Lester is more appealing and infinitely more practical than a life with George.

We also have the benefit of hindsight when viewing this film as we, too, realize that one of the overarching themes is who is elected the President of the United States in 1968 and what eventually brought him down in public disgrace. The same themes of dishonesty, financial influence and lack of commitment that run through the movie's characters also were found in the real life drama known as "Watergate" only a few years before the film's premier. Everything that Nixon worked for, his ultimate goal in life, crashed around him and his loyal followers in 1972.

George sees his world nosedive as all of his secret relationships, all of his egotistical adventures, his somewhat perfect lifestyle fall apart. He's left with nothing except his portable hairdryer and his motorcycle. The women he seduced have easily figured him out and the men he played up to have no use for him now.

The film itself was a commercial success and was the fourth highest grossing in 1975. It received 4 Oscar nominations with one win for Lee Grant as Best Supporting Actress.

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Cinema Savant
Every other Thursday

My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.

Other Columns
Other columns by Jon Schuller:

Have You Been Spying On Me Lately? For How Long?

But Can She Act? That's What I Want to Know

They're Not the Same People They Used To Be

Time Does Fly When We Watch Movies

Before Minimum or Maximum, There Was Only Prison

All Columns

Jon Schuller
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 30 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jon Schuller by clicking here.

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