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|Directed by||Hal Ashby|
|Produced by||Norman Jewison|
|Written by||Kristin Hunter
|Edited by||William A. Sawyer
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|May 20, 1970|
The Landlord is a 1970 film directed by Hal Ashby, based on the novel by Kristin Hunter. The film stars Beau Bridges in the lead role of a well-to-do white man who becomes landlord of an inner-city tenement, unaware that the people he is responsible for are low-income, streetwise residents. Also in the cast are Lee Grant, Diana Sands, Pearl Bailey, and Louis Gossett, Jr.. The film was Ashby's first film as director.
Elgar Enders (Bridges), a man who lives off his parents' wealth, buys himself an inner-city tenement, in the transitional neighborhood of 1970 Park Slope, Brooklyn, planning to evict all the occupants and construct a luxury home for himself. However, once he ventures into the tenement, he gradually grows fond of the low-income black residents who dwell there. Enders decides to remain as the landlord, and help fix the apartment building. He rebels against his WASP upbringing, and to his parents' dismay, he romances two black women.
Elgar falls for Lanie (Marki Bey), a dancer at a local black club. Lanie is a beautiful black woman who has a mother of Irish descent, and a father of African descent, thus she has light skin and features, and has experienced colorism because of it. Their relationship is strained, as Elgar has an affair with one of his tenants, Fanny (Sands), and gets her pregnant. Consequently, her boyfriend Copee (Gossett), a black activist with an identity crisis, is enraged when he finds out about the pregnancy, and tries to kill Elgar with an axe. He ultimately stops. The Enders family is shaken and stirred by their son's decisions and behavior, but reluctantly accepts him. Ultimately, Fanny disowns the illegitimate, Caucasian looking child and gives him to Elgar. The story ends with Elgar taking custody of his love child, mending his relationship with Lanie, and moving in with her.
|Beau Bridges||Elgar Winthrop Julius Enders|
|Lee Grant||Joyce Enders|
|Diana Sands||Francine "Fanny" Johnson|
|Walter Brooke||William Enders|
|Louis Gossett, Jr.||Copee Johnson|
|Melvin Stewart||Professor Duboise|
|Susan Anspach||Susan Enders|
|Robert Klein||Peter Coots|
|Will Mackenzie||William Enders, Jr.|
The film was a commercial disappointment. Arthur Krim of United Artists later did an assessment of the film as part of an evaluation of the company's inventory:
What was expected to be provocative material to the new modern film audience of 1968-1969 in depicting black and white relationships in an urban setting, emerged as a film which we felt would be of limited interest to the audience of 1970 - an audience more and more sated with films of this genre. This is still a type of film we intend to continue to make but at one-quarter the cost. Unfortunately, at the time this film was programmed, unrealistic optimism about the potential audience for this type of film prevailed.
The film garnered mostly positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes it has received a 92% overall approval from critics. Upon its release, New York Times film critic Howard Thompson, called the film, "a wondrously wise, sad and hilarious comedy." On September 19, 2007 journalist Mike Hale discussed the film in a New York Times article called Before Gentrification Was Cool, It Was a Movie. Hale praised the film for tackling the racial tension that arose in the aftermath of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death and wrote in surprise how the film, "...would disappear after its 1970 release – rarely shown and just as rarely discussed." Today it is a cult classic, and later comedies and dramas from Ashby during the 1970s helped secure it as having the hallmarks of a Hal Ashby film.
Award and nominations
- Nominated, "Best Actress in a Supporting Role" – Lee Grant
- Nominated, "UN Award"
- Nominated, "Best Supporting Actress" – Lee Grant
- Nominated, "Best Supporting Female Performance" – Lee Grant
- Nominated, "Female Star of Tomorrow" – Diana Sands
- The Landlord at the American Film Institute Catalog
- The Landlord at the Internet Movie Database
- The Landlord at AllMovie
- The Landlord at Rotten Tomatoes