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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Lords of Flatbush 35 years later

Okay I see the Fonz and Rocky, but who are those other guys?
Lenny and Squiggy?

It was the late movie on Channel 7 here in New York that introduced me to "The Lords of Flatbush" a film released in 1973 the celebrated the rough and tumble always edgy lives of leather jacketed teens in the 1950's. yeah.

As I was want to do then (and am now) I leaped on to anything in the culture that referenced things I was familiar with. So a movie with "Flatbush" in the title was so provocative even for my then preschool-self, that I can still remember peppering my grandmother with questions about the movie that she couldn't answer.

To make it more interesting for me the movie had the Fonz in it, in fact there is the suggestion that Henry Winkler's turn on happy days had a alot to do with his casting in this tribute to urban American 50's youth culture.

My then teenaged aunt was as excited to see Sylvester Stallone in the movie.

Years later I was on the high school year book committee (nerd) and it was the 60th anniversary of Samuel J. Tilden High School out in East Flatbush. We were creating one of those oh-so-cheesy photo-collages of all things good about our high school and lo and behold, there was a still from the Lords of Flatbush. Turns out the film had scenes shot out in front of the very High School I was attending (duhn Dunnn!).

It's late so just imagine a better ending, one in which I stumble into the forgotten teacher's lounge and find, behind a paneled wall, a leather jacket, caked with blood and surrounded by still burning candles, that NEVER MELT, or imagine your own better twisted ending...

Anyway. It's 35 years later and courtesy of the Wall Street Journal there is an article about Hollywood's interest in the film all these years later.

The book reveals how everyone involved went on to become legends in their fields: From Sylvester Stallone who went on to become Rocky to Henry Winkler who became the Fonz, from Richard Gere who was cast as the original lead to Bette Midler whose manager pulled her out at the last minute...from composer Joe Brooks who won an Academy Award for "You Light Up My Life" to Paul Jabara who won an Oscar for Donna Summer's "Last Dance"...add to the list the names of Perry King, Armand Assante, Ray Sharkey and Susan Blakely and the impact of this picture in Hollywood is more than evident.

This film started a cultural revolution with the TV shows that it inspired. Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Welcome Back Kotter all found their inspiration in "Flatbush." It was the beginning of Hollywood's ongoing strolls down memory lane that account for some of its biggest hits...The Wonder Years, That '70s Show, Mad Men...because sometimes it's just more fun to look back.

Here's a pict of the Samuel J. Tilden High School which you can slightly see in the background of the photo at the top:

Photo Wednesdays will resume in two weeks....

1 comment:

  1. I just came across this blog albeit 5 years after it was written. My Dad's family is from Flatbush and my grandfather invested some money into the making of this film...and my aunt Ann (Lefkowitz) had a small appearance as an extra playing mahjong. If I recall correctly, she asks Henry Winkler if he would like some pineapple. I am born and raised in Jersey, but Lords of Flatbush has always had a place in my heart. You are right...not the greatest film ever, but helped launch a lot of great careers.


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