Elgar Winthrop Julius Enders (Beau Bridges) – a 29-year-old gentleman of leisure living on his wealthy family’s estate just outside New York City – buys a run-down apartment block in an ethnic part of New York, intending to demolish it and redevelop the site. But news of the tenants’ predicaments causes him to have a change of heart.
Former editor Hal Ashby – an Oscar winner for In the Heat of the Night (1967) – made a terrific directorial debut with this comedy-drama, in which Bridges as Elgar Enders learns about humanity and the African-American experience in honky New York from his tenants.
Elgar is mystified by the life experiences of Lanie (Marki Bey), a light-skinned exotic dancer who is ostracised for not being “black enough,” and he’s bewitched by Franny (the ill-fated Diana Sands), a gorgeous hairdresser married to hot-tempered activist Copee (Louis Gossett Jr.).
Lee Grant shines as Elgar’s mother, particularly in a scene where she enjoys a drunken lunch with one of Elgar’s tenants – no-bullshit fortune teller Marge (Pearl Bailey).
Fans of Hal Ashby’s subsequent cult classic Harold and Maude (1971) should check this out, as there is a lot to enjoy. It’s a strange amalgam of tenderness, satire, and innovative storytelling held together by Ashby’s mastery of editing and a series of powerful performances. He went on to direct such notable pictures as The Last Detail (1973), Shampoo (1975) and Being There (1979).
A great deal of the movie was filmed on location in the then-predominantly black and poor neighbourhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn. The film’s main exteriors were shot at 51 Prospect Place, near Sixth Avenue.
Louis Gossett Jr
Mrs Joyce Enders