director John Huston
Fat City is a man’s man’s man’s world but it would be nothing without a woman or a girl. And that woman is Susan Tyrell.
Susan Tyrell, is there any movie she doesn’t completely dominate? Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges are the pugilists, the centers of the story here. And there is a great performance by Nicholas Colasanto (who would go on to be best known as Coach on TV’s Cheers). But Susan Tyrell.
“Thing you got to understand about her, she’s a juicehead.”
She doesn’t just dominate the scenes she’s in, she dominates the film. And it’s a hell of a good film to dominate. In fact, Fat City is a great fucking movie about the futility of human existence, the blood, sweat, and tears that add up to fuck all, and even going down mano y mano, you’re going down.
“The job I’d really like ain’t been invented.”
How many great fucking movies did John Huston make? In many decades and eras of American cinema. Here, he’s working with Leonard Gardner, adapting his own novel about Stockton, CA in the late 1950’s, a brutal, humanist haunt of clapboard reality, cheap bars, cheap work, human struggle. And it’s amazing.
“The pride of Stockton,” this is how Keach gets announced at a bout on the low echelons of the boxing scene. There is something here, too, shooting in then contemporary early 1970’s Stockton, storefronts and skid rows soon after demolished.
But Susan Tyrell, all day long, every day. She takes a character in the novel who is not so much a character but a thin figure of a drunk and makes indelible work of it. Amazing stuff.
Post Script: The LA Weekly may have suddenly gone to shit with its new ownership, but this 2000 article about Susan Tyrell is amazing: My So-Called Rotten Life by Paul Callum.