Elliott Gould – who, after M*A*S*H briefly became a counterculture hero – plays Vietnam veteran Harry Bailey. Resuming his university education and intent on becoming a teacher, he becomes embroiled in campus politics and involved with fashion victim Jan (Candice Bergen).
Harry is eloquently flip with a wise, almost overbearing, answer to everyone. He is the master of the putdown – the kind of putdown that is so spontaneously scholarly and brilliant no one can be offended.
He is also an idealist with chinks. Like an Everyman idealist who steals office pencils or hotel towels. An idealist with excuses. He ignores the niceties – like love and friendship and honesty – until that one fateful moment when he turns the corner and finds as many young students do, that he has to open that door and he has to become involved.
Other characters include nutty Nick (Robert F Lyons), a student who will do anything to dodge the draft (and turns out to be insane anyway); a black militant called Ellis (Max Julien) whose verbal brawl with Harry is a stimulating highlight in the film; Dr Willhunt (Jeff Corey), the automaton who heads the education department and with whom Harry is locked in an ethical duel, and college president Vandenburg (Jon Lormer).
Harrison Ford makes an early appearance in a film that is very much of its time, though even by today’s standards, the sex scenes seem quite steamy.
Getting Straight was filmed on location at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon.
Robert F Lyons