Another contribution from an Outposter who loves a good, hard Retro Review. Wrenage returns and this time he tackles a (gasp) Canadian movie, starring a 70s staple – The Silent Partner.
The Silent Partner
One thing I enjoy about the 1970s is how regular joes could be movie stars. Take Elliot Gould, for instance. He’s no Brad Pitt. He has perpetual bed hair, a wicked-witch chin, and the hips of a European lady powerlifter (by “lady,” I mean a double-X-chromosome person). Nevertheless, between 1970 and 1980, Gould starred in 25 movies, including MASH and The Long Goodbye. Gould also starred in the movie that brings us here today – The Silent Partner (1978).
The Silent Partner has a great premise: A teller deduces his bank is going to be robbed, so he decides to take advantage. He pockets money for himself. When the robbery happens, the teller lets the robber take the blame for the full amount of missing cash. The problem is the robber sees the news reports and knows the amount of money he got away with doesn’t add up.
The Main Cast
Gould plays the teller. As one can tell from the premise, his character is a bit morally-ambiguous and adrift. He does not appear to have much practical ambition, as he is a 40-year-old bank teller. His main interests are fish, obliquely courting an adulterous co-worker, and a desire to run away from what little responsibility he has. Gould does okay in the role, inhabiting the part of a slacker who has the aptitude, but it takes crime to awaken it within him.
Christopher Plummer plays the villain. His performance is quietly off-kilter. His character is not only a robber but also a sexual sadist. He wears a veneer of women’s makeup, so light it is almost invisible: a hint of foundation, lipstick, fake eyelashes, and sculpted nails. The way his character is dangerous, yet tries to be pretty, is low-key repulsive.
Susannah York is the adulterous co-worker. York is best known for playing Superman’s Kryptonian mother in the Christopher Reeve movies (The Silent Partner makes a reference to this as Gould stashes money in a Superman lunchbox). York was also in The Shout, where a drifter claims to have learned a “terror shout” from an Aboriginal shaman that will kill anyone who hears it.
Sidenote: I wonder if Luc Besson paid homage to The Shout in The Professional when Jean Reno does his rage-against-the-dying-of-the-light shout toward the end of the movie…?
Anyway, Susannah York could get away with playing a love interest in 1978. Today, someone like her probably wouldn’t get the part, the same way Glenn Close would not get cast as the sexy femme fatale in Fatal Attraction. Such roles go to the plastic people now.
A secondary love interest also shows up in The Silent Partner, played by Celine Lomez. Lomez did not have a big film career. Wikipedia claims she was one of the finalists for a role on Charlie’s Angels, but lost out to Tanya Roberts because the network deemed Lomez too sexy for prime-time. I’m not sure I believe that one. Tanya Roberts was uber-beautiful at the time, as well.
Regardless, Lomez is a looker. She has a love scene with Gould in The Silent Partner. During filming, she asked the director why she had to be nude and Gould remained half-clothed. The director explained it was because she was “prettier than Gould…”
Some other fun facts: the movie was filmed at the Toronto Eaton Centre, which is one of the most popular malls in North America. My wife lived in Toronto at one time and immediately recognized the location when its interior came onscreen. She exclaimed:
“I know that place! I was happy in Toronto! Not like I am with you…”
The amount of money Gould’s character steals in The Silent Partner is $48,350 (Canadian). That equates to $176,132 (Canadian) and $138,341 (US) in 2020. With the inflation of the past year, the amount would be roughly $7,298,219,381,561.45 as I type this…
Credits Where Credit Is Due
I knew I was in for a decent time at the movies upon starting The Silent Partner because the credits revealed some familiar names.
The Silent Partner was a Mario Kassar/Andrew Vajna production, meaning it was a Carolco Picture. Carolco brought us such classics as the Rambo movies, Total Recall, Terminator 2, Basic Instinct, Universal Soldier and Stargate. Carolco also should have brought us Crusade, with Arnold and Verhoeven, if not for Cutthroat Island ending the company.
The next familiar name to show up in the credits was the screenwriter. The Silent Partner was written by Curtis Hanson, who went on to direct LA Confidential and 8 Mile. The screenplay is not an original story, however. It was based on a novel by Danish writer Anders Bodelsen.
Another fun credit surprise was John Candy. The Silent Partner was one of his first movies. Candy looks like a svelte kid in this film, playing one of Gould’s congenial co-workers.
Daryl Duke directed The Silent Partner. Duke worked mainly in Canada (The Silent Partner is a Canadian film) and did not helm a lot of other movies. He did direct an episode of Banacek, starring George Peppard, however. Despite the lack of credits, The Silent Partner won Best Director for Duke at the Canadian Film Academy Awards. It also received Best Picture.
Curtis Hanson should be recognized for contributing to these accolades, as well. Duke walked off the film due to creative differences about shooting a certain act of violence within the movie. Hanson then took over some of The Silent Partner’s directing duties.
The violent scene in question caused something of a stir back in 1978 and contributed to The Silent Partner’s 18+ censorship classifications. I’m not going to spoil it, so as not to ruin the story for anyone who checks the movie out. I will say the scene is not excessively graphic according to today’s standards, and it is not something anyone needs to feel overly curious about.
What Say The Critics?
Critics were kind to The Silent Partner. Ebert called it:
“…a thriller that is not only intelligently and well-acted and very scary, but also has the most audaciously clockwork plot I’ve seen in a long time.”
Supposedly, Gould screened The Silent Partner for Hitchcock, who loved it.
As mentioned in this review, The Silent Partner has things going for it. It also has a nice 70s vibe, which I enjoy. I don’t feel the need to argue with people who say filmmaking peaked in the 1970s. They might be right. Like a lot of 1970s movies, The Silent Partner isn’t afraid to be a character study within the confines of its plot. The movie takes its time to show us who these characters are as people.
Yet, this can also be a detriment. The Silent Partner bogs down in the middle as it forgets about plot to concentrate on relationships. Despite this, there’s really no reason Gould’s character should be smitten with York’s character. Plus, Plummer exits the movie for a large chunk of time, which is a mistake. The movie is only 106-minutes long. That’s not a lot of space to allow for such asides, and the Gould/Plummer dynamic is what drives the story.
At the end of the day, The Silent Partner is a solid film, but it doesn’t distinguish itself as a lightning-in-the-bottle outlier. Elliot Gould completists might rate it a bit higher than I do, due to their biases.
Are there Elliot Gould completists? There must be a few. I checked out Gould’s Twitter. He has 3,381 followers. We should call them Gould Diggers.
I wonder if Gould lives in the Hollywood Hills. Then we could say:
“There’s Gould in them thar hills!”
Ha, that joke’s a slice of fried Gould!
Okay, maybe not. After all, all that glitters is not Gould…
I’ll stop now. I just do it to get attention. I’m so lonely it breaks my heart…my heart of Gould…