Friday, August 12, 2016

Guest Who: Off to a Rocky Start

Most of us are aware of the question- able beginnings that Sylvester Stallone found himself in at the start of his career. After working as an extra in 1969's Downhill Racer, the starving actor wound up playing "the lead" in a ratty softcore porno film called The Party at Kitty and Studs in 1970. The grindhouse-like mess was not released, but he got a hefty paycheck of $200.00 for his trouble... And pretty much all he had to do in it was roll around naked with several women and show off his gently-toned physique. Stallone proceeded to play bit parts in "real" movies, some of them well-known such as Lovers and Other Strangers (1970), Bananas (1971) and Klute (1971.)

After having given up completely for a brief spate, he was back at it again with 1974's The Lords of Flatbush, this time with a real role. Then he alternated supporting roles in low-budget films with bit parts in more important features. Remarkably, prior to 1975 he had not appeared on television at all! His first role on TV was a good one. He worked alongside Chuck Connors on Police Story, a prestigious anthology series that told gritty and thoughtful tales from the point of view of the police force. This party scene was the television audience's first glimpse of Stallone.

Connors' long-time partner having just retired (at said party), he was now paired with newcomer Stallone who was younger, unseasoned and unused to his veteran cohort's ways. The familiar mug, with its soon to be world-famous expressions, was shown off in close-up and with a part that was above some of the ones he'd been portraying in the movies such as, "Man in Restaurant," "Party Guest," "Subway Thug #1," "Youth in Park" or "Young Man in Crowd!" But you want to know the best and most remarkable part?  His character's name was Elmore Caddo, but he insisted on being addressed by his nickname... "Rocky!"
Another surprising aspect is that, with his less than A-list standing in Tinseltown, nothing whatever was done to disguise the fact that the future star of Rocky (1976), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) and other blockbuster action movies is in reality only 5' 9", a fact that was driven home when he was placed next to the eight-inches taller star of the episode, Connors. This would be obscured through camera framing, floor levels and chosen costars (Burt Young and Burgess Meredith anyone?) on later projects, unless a deliberate differential was desired.
After this 1975 installment of Police Story, Stallone portrayed another detective (this time a trigger-happy one) on an episode of Telly Savalas' Kojak that same year, then accepted a bit role in David Carradine's Cannonball! (1976) as a mafioso. Then finally his dream project Rocky, which he had written, was developed into a movie and became a box office sensation, also winning the Oscar for Best Picture. (He was nominated for Best Actor, too, but the late Peter Finch was awarded the honor for Network.) And The Party at Kitty and Studs was tweaked, re-dubbed "Italian Stallion" and dragged out on video to capitalize on its now-famous star... The rest, however, is history as Stallone starred in movie after movie, often directing them as well, until a whole string of hits (and some notable misses!) emerged. He thereafter only appeared on television if he wanted to as a lark (or to work with a particular actor, such as James Caan on Las Vegas, 2005) and it was many years later at that.
Four decades after Rocky, he was nominated for another Oscar as Best Supporting Actor in the sequel of sorts Creed (2015), and even picked up the Golden Globe, but the Academy Award went to Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies (2015.) That might make a good trivia question sometime as I doubt that too many people can remember that win! Mr. Stallone turned seventy this past summer. Can it be true?!


Gingerguy said...

Poseidon, the thing I love about your blog is how it can take me back in unexpected ways. My Dad took us to the movies on Saturdays and had pretty low brow taste. I could write a thesis on mid 70's trash. I forgot all about "Deathrace 2000" until I was reading this. I knew about Sly's soft porn (I can only imagine how tame it would be in comparison to today) but never realized he did any television. I loved "Rocky" as a kid and was fascinated by his megastardom in the 80's. The marriage to Brigitte Neilson made countless magazine covers (she must have been a lot taller than he was!). I didn't see a lot of the Rambos, Rockys, and thrillers of that period until recently and they are pretty entertaining. I even watched "Rhinestone" on Netflix (P.U. but fun in a nostalgic way). He's had a long career and his nomination last year was heartwarming. this was a nice tribute.

petercox97 said...

the dreamiest sylvester stallone ever looked was in the lighting test shots on demolition man where he was photographed completely nude.

angelman66 said...

Hi Poseidon, I did not know Stallone appeared on Police Story, would love tos we that.
I have seen the softcore porno which was released after Rocky as The Italian Stallion...very very sexy indeed.

Have always had a soft spot for Sly, he is just adorable. I was so so disappointed when he was passed over for the Oscar last year. Felt the same way when Burt Reynolds was robbed for Boogie Nights, maybe because I am a child of the 70s and was rooting for these guys who were our heros and box office champs when we grew up.

I always find magical things on your wonderful blog, you transport me like a time machine!!

Poseidon3 said...

Gingerguy, I also had no idea that Sly worked on TV in the '70s! It was just the two instances. The most offensive thing about Kitty & Stud's (except perhaps for the mountains of now-passe pubic hair on everyone!) is the deplorable decor of the rooms in which it was shot. Truly putrescent drapes, bedspread and so on that assault the eyes! I think I was a junior or senior in high school when Rocky IV came out and not only was Brigitte fascinating to behold at that time, but her husband in the film, Dolph Lundgren, was jaw-dropping. And, yes, She and Sly together were a tabloid dream with all their shenanigans. I recall they had life-size, nude, bronze sculptures of themselves commissioned for their backyard, but by the time they were finished, so were the two of them as a couple! So he kept his, for whatever reason having a loincloth adhered over his naughty bits, and who knows whatever became of it (not to mention hers!)

Petercox, I recall thinking he looked good in general around the time of "Demolition Man" and "Cliffhanger." Sculpted, but not as burly and bulky. And, yes, I recall those pics!

Angelman, needless to say we are on the same page about both Sly and Burt. Burt, especially, was such a movie figure for so, so long and has done more variety of roles than he was ever given credit for (to quote Blanche Devereaux, "Try puttin' Laurence Oliver in Cannonball Run II and see what you get!") And, unlike the majority of his peers and those who've come after, Burt has a true and abiding LOVE and appreciation of old movies and stars. I'm sure that loss was crushing. Thank you for your kind words!! Oh, and look:

joel65913 said...

Hi Poseidon,

I feel as if it's been forever since I commented but it's been hectic and I've only been able to peek in now and then. I so wanted to drop a line or two about your piece on that humorous dog Crash Landing which I enjoyed despite the presence of the Iron Butterfly in the cast. I got a lot of pleasure reading your take on it.

As to the early Stallone I recently happened to see that Kojak episode, the station Decades did a marathon of the series a few weeks ago, and as with all those sort of programs where someone now famous pops up unexpectedly it was fun in that way. I've also seen the infamous Party at Kitty & Stud's out of curiosity, unsurprisingly it was awful but I expected nothing else.

I've never been the biggest fan, he was attractive in a meathead sort of way but I thought he came across as a ego driven jerk most of the time, but during his peak I saw most of his films until they devolved into hopeless crap. I think his best film, and the one he looked the best in as well, was Nighthawks where he played more of a character than just a Rocky/Rambo retread. I enjoyed Tango & Cash too though it really was a by the numbers affair.

Nowadays he's scary, another of the men like Al Pacino who can't allow themselves to age gracefully so they've ended up being frightening orange men who look patched together.

Poseidon3 said...

Hi Joel! I have missed your comments lately. Good to see you again. Stallone in "Nighthawks" was not my favorite way he looked because I am far more drawn to clean cut styling versus the scruffier, longer-haired looks, but I did enjoy that movie and recall seeing it in the theater. It always startled me for some reason that he had Lindsay Wagner as his girlfriend in that one as she is the antithesis of what he has always gone for in real life!! If you recall the climax of the movie, that was a hoot that defied all logic, too.... If I had to pick my own favorite Stallone LOOK, it would likely be "Victory" or "Tango & Cash." But the real scream is that I got online this morning and there was a recent photo of him with the headline "Sad Day in Hollywood" and I thought, "Oh Christ... I've done it again!!! I've profiled someone who died days later!!!!!" But he just retired... ha ha!