THE ALL-AMERICAN BOY
US, 1973, 118 minutes, Colour.
John Voight, Art Metrano, E.J. Peaker, Ned Glass, Ann Archer.
Directed by Charles Eastman.
The All- American Boy is a little-seen film, even in its time. It was made before John Voight became famous with his performance in Midnight Cowboy and his subsequent career. In some ways, his role as Vic, the boxer, could be seen as something of variation on his character of Buck, the moccasin-wearing stud who walked the New York streets.
The film was shelved after production and released on a very small scale in 1973 to capitalise on John Voight’s growing popularity.
The film was directed by Charles Eastman who wrote this screenplay of the bikie film, Little Fauss and Big Halsey.
The film probes beneath the surface of the American dream, the myth of the All- American Boy and his success and admiration, to callow lives and personalities, to the using of people, and personal ruthlessness.
The film fills in the background of Vic, the would-be boxer who has ambitions for the Olympic Games, of his family in Buddy, Texas. Their family clashes. Vic is also something of a young womaniser, relationship with his girlfriend E. J. Peaker, a liaison with the customer at a garage, Rosalind Cash, and a very young girl, Ann Archer in an early role. And Ned Class is the manager of the gym and the coach. There is also a character, unusual for its time, of the gay coach. There is also some explicit full-frontal nudity, also not usual in films of the time.
With its very structured tone, cards coming up with titles for each of the bouts in Vic’s life, the film is a portrait of a young American man, from the end of the 60s, in the early 70s, a portrait as well as a critique.
1. The reputation of the film? Made and shelved? Released when John Voight became famous? Favourable critical comment? Interest in later decades?
2. Production values, colour, Panavision, the glimpse of the United States, small towns, ordinary life, boxing world? The American countryside? The presence of John Voight in an early role? The musical score?
3. The tone and structure: the six rounds? The title cards? The image of the boxer, the use of real footage, fights, competitions, expectations?
4. The title, the tradition, the ironies? The celebrities, admiration, beauty, achievement? Surface beauty, interior ruthlessness?
5. The introduction to Vic, walking the road (and the end)? Road film, a slice of life? His background, family, relationships with women, the gymnasium, the coaches, the family and the support or not, episodes of grief, clashes? Change?
6. His age, experience, in the family, with the women? His hopes and ambitions? His progress? Boxing, Arty? The details of the training, clashes, the fights, the repercussions? Leaving? Work, garage? Young and immature, his love for Janelle, had genuine? The affair? Giving of himself or not? The point of relationships, his ambitions? The relationship with Janelle, the conversation in the Sun, the nudity,, presented as ordinary?
7. The other women, the customer at the garage and the sexual relationship? Drainer, her age, her response to Vic?
8. The details of his life in terms of the rounds of the boxing match? How much did he change? Stay the same? The hopes for the Olympics? What achievement?
9. Vic and his attempts to balance his life, family, ambitions, work? The fight, his mother, his achievement – but what future?
10. A reflection on surface celebrity, interior lives, the illusions and dissillusions of the American dream?