Car Wash (film)
The poster for the film
|Directed by||Michael Schultz|
|Produced by||Art Linson
|Written by||Joel Schumacher|
The Pointer Sisters
|Music by||Norman Whitfield|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release dates||October 22, 1976|
|Running time||97 minutes|
Car Wash is a 1976 American comedy film released by Universal Pictures. The Art Linson Production was directed by Michael Schultz from a screenplay by Joel Schumacher. Starring Franklyn Ajaye, Bill Duke, George Carlin, Irwin Corey, Ivan Dixon, Antonio Fargas, Jack Kehoe, Clarence Muse, Lorraine Gary, The Pointer Sisters and Richard Pryor, Car Wash is an episodic comedy about a day in the lives of the employees and the owner, Mr. B (Sully Boyar), of a Los Angeles, California car wash (filmed at a Westlake car wash at the corner of Rampart Blvd. and 6th Street).
Originally conceived as a musical, Car Wash deals with the exploits of a close-knit, multiracial group of employees at a Los Angeles car wash. In an episodic fashion, the film covers a full day, during which all manner of strange visitors make cameo appearances, including Lorraine Gary as a hysterical wealthy woman from Beverly Hills dealing with a carsick son. Richard Pryor also appears in a memorable cameo as a money-hungry evangelist named 'Daddy Rich' whose pseudo-gospel of prosperity theology is beloved by most (including his female entourage, played by The Pointer Sisters) but loathed by Abdullah, formerly Duane (Bill Duke), a young, bad-tempered, Black Muslim revolutionary. Later in the film, there is also a man ("Professor" Irwin Corey) whose strange behavior and dress fit the profile of the notorious "pop bottle bomber" being sought that day by the police. This causes employees, customers and the owner of the car wash, Mr. B (Sully Boyer) to fear for their lives, but the strange man's pop bottle "bomb" is simply a urine sample he is taking to the hospital.
Mr B's son Irwin (Richard Brestoff), a left-wing college student who smokes pot in the men's restroom and carries around a copy of Quotations from Chairman Mao, insists on spending a day with the "working class" employees, since he considers them "brothers" in the "struggle". As he gets ready to go to work, he sets off motion sensors that give him the first "human car wash", which he takes in a good-natured (if pot-induced) stride.
George Carlin appears as a taxi driver searching fruitlessly for a prostitute who stiffed him for a fare. The prostitute, Marlene, has her own hopes shattered as a customer who she apparently has fallen in love with has given her a false telephone number.
Ex-con Lonnie (Ivan Dixon) is an older employee and the foreman of the car wash who tries to mentor Abdullah while struggling to raise two young children on a meager salary, as well as fending off his parole officer (Jason Bernard). Abdullah confronts Lindy (Antonio Fargas) and sharply criticizes his cross-dressing, to which Lindy coolly replies, "I'm more man than you'll ever be and more woman than you'll ever get".
T.C. (Franklin Ajaye) is another young employee who is determined to win a radio call-in contest to win tickets for a rock concert and to convince his estranged girlfriend Mona, who works as a waitress in a diner across the street, to accompany him.
Floyd and Lloyd are two other employees who are musical entertainers who have an audition for an agent at the end of their shift and spend the entire movie doing their jazz-blues dance moves in front of bewildered customers.
Justin is another young employee who clashes with his girlfriend, Loretta, who wants him to go back to college, but he refuses out of the feeling that a black man like him will not get anywhere in the world with any kind of education. Justin's elderly grandfather, Snapper, works as the shoe shine man at the car wash and is a follower of Daddy Rich.
Other employees include womanizer Geronimo; Scruggs, a cowboy who works as the gas pump operator; Hippo, an overweight employee who briefly hooks up with Marlene the prostitute; Goodie, a scheming Latino employee; and Toghie, a Native American employee; Charlie, who is a scruffy and physically sick middle-aged employee; and Sly (Garrett Morris), a con artist employee and bookie who later gets arrested right at the car wash for a series of unpaid parking tickets; and Earl, who has the attitude of being superior to his colleagues because he doesn't get wet, he would appear to think that he is the supervisor at the car wash.
Among all of this, Mr. B constantly makes passes against the receptionist Marsha (Melanie Mayron) as an escape to his troubled home life. Mr. B is constantly tense and worried throughout the film as he fears about his car wash going out of business due to a competitive car wash a few miles down the street. Lonnie, on the other hand, is full of ideas on how to save the car wash that he cannot get Mr. B or anyone else to listen to him, mostly due to Mr. B being a cheapskate.
Later at the end of the movie, Abdullah, after being fired by Mr. B for his unexplained absences and restrained from physically attacking him, appears in the office with a gun while Lonnie is closing up, intending to rob the business. Lonnie talks him out of it, and the two of them share a heartfelt scene in which they commiserate at the status society has imposed on them, two proud men forced to work at a meaningless job for meager pay. "A clown show," the tearful Abdullah calls it, and you can see now that all the comedy in the film stems from the various ways these men have of coping with their lot in life. Some dream of show business stardom, some take refuge in a crooked religion, some put on airs of superiority, and one - only one - goes to college in an attempt to better himself, and even he is beginning to doubt his chances. It's a melancholy ending to the day as they all go their separate ways, knowing that they'll be back tomorrow to do it all over again.
Cast (in alphabetical order)
- Franklyn Ajaye as T.C.
- Sully Boyar as Leon 'Mr B.' Barrow
- Richard Brestoff as Irwin Barrow
- George Carlin as the Taxi Driver
- Irwin Corey as The Mad Bomber
- Ivan Dixon as Lonnie
- Bill Duke as Duane - Abdullah
- Antonio Fargas as Lindy
- Michael Fennell as Calvin
- Arthur French as Charlie
- Lorraine Gary as the Hysterical Lady
- Darrow Igus as Floyd
- Leonard Jackson as Earl
- DeWayne Jessie (a.k.a. Otis Day) as Lloyd
- Jack Kehoe as Scruggs
- Henry Kingi as Goody
- Melanie Mayron as Marsha
- Garrett Morris as Slide
- Clarence Muse as Snapper
- Leon Pinkney as Justin
- The Pointer Sisters as The Wilson Sisters
- Richard Pryor as Daddy Rich
- Tracy Reed as Mona
- Pepe Serna as Chuco
- James Spinks as Hippo
- Ray Vitte as Geronimo
- Renn Woods as Loretta
- Brooke Adams as Terry
- Antonie Becker as Charlene
- Danny DeVito as Joe
- Antar Mubarak as Sonny Fredericks
- Otis Sistrunk as Otis
- Tim Thomerson as Ken
Danny DeVito and Brooke Adams appeared in the movie as Joe and Terry, the owners of a food stand called 'Big Joe's Dog House' which is located next to the car wash. Though they had speaking roles, nearly all of their scenes were deleted from the theatrical version, and they are only seen in the background. Their scenes were restored for the edited television version.
The film also featured the vocals of local L.A. disc jockeys Jay Butler, J.J. Jackson, Rod McGrew, Sarina C. Grant, and Cleveland's Billy Bass, all heard in the background of the film on the fictional "KGYS" radio station. The film also featured The Pointer Sisters performing their song "You Gotta Believe". The song also appeared on the soundtrack.
When the film was originally released, it received mediocre reviews (though Roger Ebert praised the film, calling it "a wash-and-wax M*A*S*H") and was not considered a major success. Since its initial release, however, it has had a small but constant following which continues today as a cult film, some notable disciples including Michael Bay and Sandford Bay. The film won the Best Music Award and the Technical Grand Prize at the 1977 Cannes Film Festival plus a nomination for Golden Palm. In the same year it was nominated for Golden Globe, plus it won a Grammy for Best Album of Original Score written for a Motion Picture or Television Special.
Gay film historian Vito Russo cites the character Lindy, played by Antonio Fargas, as being both funny and challenging through his gay militancy. Russo deems Lindy's response to the militant Abdullah as being potentially revolutionary had it not been placed strictly within a comedic context. African American cultural critic Angela Nelson identifies Lindy as a "sophisticated sissy" characterization. The "sophisticated sissy" characterization is often used as an easy contrast to the "appropriate" masculine behaviour that (ostensibly) heterosexual black male characters are expected to display.
Car Wash: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, recorded by Rose Royce, was a major success, yielding three Billboard R&B Top Ten singles: "Car Wash", "I Wanna Get Next to You", and "I'm Going Down". The title track, written and produced by Norman Whitfield, was a #1 hit and was one of the biggest hit singles of the disco era.
Unusual for film production, the sound track was recorded prior to filming of the movie. The director wanted the actors to actually listen to the same music that would later be added in Post Production while filming the scenes.
Car Wash had its network television premiere on NBC Monday Night at the Movies in 1978. Along with the standard dubbing of strong language, many scenes that included the gay character Lindy (Fargas) were trimmed or deleted. To replace these shortened scenes, and therefore shortened film, a subplot of a diner owner (Danny De Vito) (scenes shot for the theatrical version, but cut prior to release) were re-inserted. As of 2013, commercially available versions of this movie are of the original theatrical release, and not the revised NBC broadcast version.
- Means Coleman, Robin R. (1998). African American Viewers and the Black Situation Comedy: Situating Racial Humor. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-8153-3125-8.
- Russo, Vito (1987). The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (rev. ed.). New York, Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-096132-5.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Car Wash (film)|
- Car Wash at the Internet Movie Database
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- Car Wash at allmovie
- Car Wash at Rotten Tomatoes