I put on Shampoo last night, the Hal Ashby dramedy about a Don Juan hairdresser named George who has aspirations to open his own salon but can’t seem to keep his zipper shut for more than a few minutes. Brought to life by the hypnotically potent Warren Beatty, the film is one big comedy of errors as he trips and stumbles over one gorgeous dame (Goldie Hawn, Carrie Fisher, Lee Grant) after another.
While the film is a curious character study, Robert Towne (its scribe) makes clear that it was nothing more than an allegory about 1970s Tinseltown. Vanity, lust, jealousy and indulgence are the order of the day and everyone seems intent on having their cake at the expense of everyone else.
While there are many choices that fall short of our woke current climate, the underlying core is as poignant as ever. George is a lost little pedigree puppy with a head full of hot air and a compulsion to fill his life with some semblance of meaning. As the story progresses, he comes to realize that the promiscuity, while exhilarating (it always is for men) is also getting pretty old.
By the time George realizes that the love of his life (Julie Christie) is staring back at him it’s too late. She’s gone and accepted a marriage proposal from her sugar daddy (Jack Warden), a deep-pocketed money manager that exhibits all the signs of a man in the midst of a mid-life crisis.
I should come right out and say that Warren Beatty is my all time man-crush. I remember soaking up Star, Peter Biskind’s compelling biography on the Hollywood titan and having to pick my jaw up from the floor on one too many occasions. He was a man whose star power remained bright for close to half a century while only featuring in twenty-two feature films.
Beatty was unlike his contemporaries. He didn’t disappear into his characters the way that Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro did. He married himself to his roles, made them variations of himself, alter-egos if you will.
For my money, Shampoo is the closest incarnation of the man who was mythologized in Hollywood lore. The highly intelligent thespian with an alacrity for bending colleagues and lovers to his will. The international sex symbol endowed with perfect genes who bedded every single starlet in Hollywood, bar one — his sister.