Getting Straight
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Getting Straight
Getting Straight
Getting straight.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Rush
Produced byRichard Rush
Written byRobert Kaufman
Based onnovel by Ken Kolb
StarringElliott Gould
Candice Bergen
Jeff Corey
Music byRonald Stein
CinematographyLászló Kovács
Edited byMaury Winetrobe
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • May 13, 1970 (1970-05-13) (U.S.)
  • July 31, 1970 (1970-07-31) (Finland)
  • September 10, 1977 (1977-09-10) (Spain)
Running time
124 mins
CountryUnited States
Box office$13,300,000[1]

Getting Straight is a 1970 American comedy-drama motion picture directed by Richard Rush, released by Columbia Pictures.

The story centered upon student politics at a university in the early 1970s, seen through the eyes of non-conformist graduate student Harry Bailey (Elliott Gould). Also featured in the cast were Candice Bergen as Bailey's girlfriend, Jeff Corey as Bailey's professor, Robert F. Lyons as his draft-avoiding friend Nick, and Harrison Ford as a fellow teaching student and his girlfriend's neighbor.

Getting Straight was released in an era of change and unrest in the United States in the early 1970s, and was in a long line of films that dealt with these themes. Other films of this period with similar themes were Medium Cool (1969), R. P. M. (1970), and The Strawberry Statement (1970).


Harry Bailey, a former student activist and post-graduate, comes back to university to complete an education course to become a teacher. He tries to avoid the increasing student unrest that has surfaced, but finds this difficult as his girlfriend, Jan, is a leader in these protests.

Over time, student demonstrations bring police to the campus to quell the unrest, and the ensuing clashes lead to martial law. Harry is forced to question his values in relation to this. At the height of the rioting he concurs with Jan that "getting straight" is more important than unprotesting acceptance of the educational establishment.


The film's protagonist shares a name with a character from It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey's brother Harry, whose war service was a prominent subplot in the latter film.


Original novel

In February 1967, Mike Frankovich, head of Columbia Pictures, announced he had bought the rights to the novel Getting Straight by Ken Kolb.[2]

Richard Rush described the original novel as "a nice novel about a graduate student taking his orals to get his teaching credentials. The administration of the college is like a medieval torture chamber, and the oral exam is like the Salem witch trials. He barely escapes with his sanity."[3]

The novel was published in early 1968. The Chicago Tribune called the book "very funny".[4]

Richard Rush

Director Richard Rush had impressed with his AIP films Hells Angels on Wheels (1967) and Psych-Out (1968) and been signed to an independent deal with Columbia. They offered the book to him, and he said he would do it if they let him make a contemporary film about kids at college rebelling against the draft and the war. He wrote a treatment and they eventually agreed.[3] Rush's signing was announced in June 1968.[5]

"To me the whole 'revolution' is not a political revolution but a personal one," he said. "It is the result of the inability of an entire generation on a personal, individual level to accept the disparities in the morality at the foundation of our society."[6]

Rush says the studio gave him a list of writers to do a screenplay and he picked one, but was not happy with the result. Rush then hired someone not on the list, Robert Kaufman, who Rush had known at AIP. Rush called Kaufman "a brilliant, vicious intellectual, total amoral comic. He could make me laugh. He was a bright, funny man."[3] Kaufman signed in December 1968.[7]

"All my films are about commitment," said Kaufman later. "Somehow. The moral was, love is better with a monster who'll make a commitment than with a nebbish who won't. "[8]

Rush says Kolb later did some work on the script. "It was risky material because the war was still going on and students were at the barricades and Hollywood movies weren't really addressing this stuff yet head-on," Rush says.[9]


Elliott Gould had just made MASH and was going to make Move when Columbia came to him with Getting Straight. ""Columbia said if I didn't take the part they'd drop it," he said. "I was the only actor they'd go with. I was never so flattered in my life."[10]

Gould says when he met Rush the director asked him, "'Can you get angry?' Because I had never been in the Army, nor had I ever gone to college, nor am I an angry person. I said, 'I believe I can show you some passion and emotion for this character.' "[3]

Gould said "it's an almost classical part, a fantastic character."[11]

Rush had made several movies with Jack Nicholson and offered him a role but the actor had to decline when deluged with offers post-Easy Rider. "I guess I've lost my standing with him," said Nicholson of the director.[12]

Candice Bergen was cast in July 1969.[13]

Harrison Ford had been under contract to Columbia, which had expired. However he was brought back to the studio for a role in this film.[14]

Richard Rush signed Max Julien to a three-picture contract over two years.[15]


Filming started July 7, 1969 in Eugene, Oregon, with Lane Community College standing in for the fictional university.[16]

Rush later said Gould "had complete abandon. Elliott did a hell of a job." [3] He said the actor was "incredibly inventive, tremendously flexible" and that Bergen was "a genuine dedicated, bright human being" who made "an extraordinary breakthrough."[6]

Candice Bergen said the film took her career in "a new direction... my first experience with democratic, communal movie making."[17]

When filming ended Kaufman wrote "we have sought to record, with a sense of humor, the reality of today's student protest, campus riots, and establishment reprisals. We will undoubtedly be charged with sensationalism but anything less than a straightforward depiction of these events would be ludicrously false."[18]

Rush says when he got to the location he saw it was full of glass walls. "We had to suit what was happening inside with what was happening outside, and it opened up enormous opportunities," he said. "Also, I'd never shot a riot before with tear gas and policemen beating up people. When I suddenly had the equipment to do that, with the tear gas and the paddy wagons and the helicopters, it became a different version of the movie than I had originally pictured in my head as I had written it."[19]

Rush used a lot of rack focus on the film. He later said he did this because he felt the script was very verbal and needed to "make it visual." [20]

Rush says "We shot the film on a very long lens, so we could peer inside and outside of the classrooms on the campus to gather relevant information, and get interesting angles in order to create a mood of tension or unpredictability. And this is where we really started using the rack focus technique. This type of shooting draws the viewer into the shot on an emotional level."[9]


Box office

The film grossed $13.3 million at the domestic box office,[1] earning $5.1 million in US theatrical rentals.[21] It was the 21st highest-grossing film of 1970.[22]

The film was one of a number of movies made about campus unrest at this time, others including The Strawberry Statement, The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart, The Pursuit of Happiness, The Revolutionary, Up in the Cellar, Zabriskie Point and RPM. Getting Straight was the only one that was commercially successful.[23]

"We were one of Columbia's biggest grossers of the year, and critics were very supportive," says Rush.[9]

Critical reaction

Howard Thompson of The New York Times wrote, "A brilliant, mercurial performance by Elliott Gould steadies and vivifies but cannot save 'Getting Straight' ... A serious-minded, freewheeling comedy, pivoting on student unrest and rebellion on the contemporary campus scene, succumbs to theatrics and, structurally, the very conventions it deplores."[24] Also writing in The New York Times, Dwight Macdonald called it "a bad movie" that "reminds me of a grunt-and-groan wrestling match that tries by overemphasis to make the customers forget it's fixed."[25]

However, Arthur D. Murphy of Variety declared, "'Getting Straight' is an outstanding film. It is a comprehensive, cynical, sympathetic, flip, touching and hilarious story of the middle generation--those millions who are a bit too old for protest, a bit too young for repression. Elliott Gould's third smash performance in a year, herein as a disenchanted college student-teacher, makes him an undeniable screen star. Ditto for Candice Bergen, in a role that at last befits both her dramatic and physical talents."[26]

Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film one-and-a-half stars out of four and wrote that it "fails because no meaningful conflict is established until late in the film," and that every character except Bergen's was "one-dimensional, a thin symbol to be placed wherever the box office dictates."[27] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called the film a "thoroughly equivocal mishmash" that "politicizes everyone and everything. This includes the love affair, which is thwarted by some of the worst dialogue I've ever listened to."[28] Richard Combs of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "Perfectly maintaining the balance between acute exasperation and a vivid intellectual energy, Elliott Gould manages to endow Harry with something of the air of a prophet returned from the wilderness, certain of his personal truth although by no means certain of achieving it, and not to be goaded into becoming the spokesman for a new generation of icon levellers."[29]

Leonard Maltin's movie guide awarded two-and-a-half stars out of four and noted that the film essentially was a "period piece" but that its "central issue of graduate student (Elliott) Gould choosing between academic double-talk and his beliefs remains relevant."[30]Steven Scheuer, however, wrote that the film was reflective of "hippiedom alienation at its shallowest."[]

John Calley of Warners wanted to hire Kaufman, Rush and Gould to make a film of Bruce Jay Friedman's Scuba Duba[31] but no film resulted.

Rush wanted to follow the film with The Stunt Man but the film was not made until the end of the decade.[32]

See also


  1. ^ a b Box Office Information for Getting Straight. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  2. ^ Petula to Play in 'Finian's Rainbow' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 20 Feb 1967: d25.
  3. ^ a b c d e After 45 years, looking back on a volatile period King, Susan. South Florida Sun - Sentinel17 Apr 2015: 37.
  4. ^ Between chuckles, it cuts deep Kleiman. Chicago Tribune 16 Apr 1967: l5.
  5. ^ Rush Signs 'Straight' Deal Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times28 June 1968: f20.
  6. ^ a b Motorcycle Movie Man Scores a First as Director Thomas, Kevin. Los Angeles Times 14 June 1970: c61.
  7. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: 'Napoleon' Project for Forbes Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 31 Dec 1968: b10.
  8. ^ KAUFMAN: PASSION FOR COMIC VISIONS: [Home Edition] Champlin, Charles. Los Angeles Times 22 July 1986: 1.
  9. ^ a b c Clement, Nick (30 September 2017). "Interview with Richard Rush". We Are Cult.
  10. ^ Elliott Gould Making It on His Own By Henrietta Leith. The Washington Post, Times Herald 21 Sep 1969: G4.
  11. ^ He's Mr. Streisand No More Woll, William. Chicago Tribune 17 May 1970: m16.
  12. ^ LAWYER IN 'EASY RIDER': Nicholson Leaves Obscurity in Dust Jack Nicholson Rises to Fame Thomas, Kevin. Los Angeles Times 28 Aug 1969: e1.
  13. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: Candice Bergen in 'Straight' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 2 July 1969: c12.
  14. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: Scheerer to Direct 'Adam' Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 1 Aug 1969: d11.
  15. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: Julien Signed for 3 Films Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 12 Aug 1969: c13.
  16. ^ "Getting Straight - History". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2019.
  17. ^ Candy's Sweet on Acting Now By ROGER EBERTCHICAGO.. New York Times 11 Apr 1971: D15.
  18. ^ The New Hollywood Sees Things as They Are Kaufman, Robert. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]14 Dec 1969: r22.
  19. ^ "Interview with Richard Rush Part 2". Money Into Light. September 2017.
  20. ^ vThe Director as Stuntman Jameson, Richard T. Film Comment; New York Vol. 16, Iss. 6, (Nov/Dec 1980): 21-25,80.
  21. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1970", Variety, 6 January 1971, pg 11.
  22. ^ Top Grossing Films of 1970. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  23. ^ Movies from Behind the Barricades Farber, Stephen. Film Quarterly (ARCHIVE); Berkeley Vol. 24, Iss. 2, (Winter 1970/1971): 24-33.
  24. ^ Thompson, Howard (May 14, 1970). "'Getting Straight' Opens". The New York Times. 42.
  25. ^ Macdonald, Dwight (June 7, 1970). "Getting 'Getting Straight' Straight". The Washington Post. D11.
  26. ^ Murphy, Arthur D. (April 29, 1970). "Film Reviews: Getting Straight". Variety. 18.
  27. ^ Siskel, Gene (June 19, 1970). "That man Elliott Gould again in 'Getting Straight'". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 13.
  28. ^ Arnold, Gary (June 18, 1970). "An Equivocal Mishmash". The Washington Post. H10.
  29. ^ Combs, Richard (November 1970). "Getting Straight". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 37 (442): 218.
  30. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2017). Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide: The Modern Era. Plume. p. 526. ISBN 9780525536192.
  31. ^ Angela Will Play New Type Woman Los Angeles Times 26 Nov 1969: e9.
  32. ^ Dalton's 'Darling Girl': Dalton's 'Darling Girl' By A. H. WEILER. New York Times 11 July 1971: D13.


  • Greenspun, Roger (1970) Getting Straight[permanent dead link] New York Times, May 14, 1970. (accessed 9 July 2007)
  • Maltin, Leonard (1991) Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide 1992, Signet, New York.
  • Scheuer, Steven H. (1990) Movies on TV and Videocassette, Bamtam Books, New York.

External links

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