A FILM TO REMEMBER: “BREAKING AWAY” (1979)

A FILM TO REMEMBER: “BREAKING AWAY” (1979)

Image for postPhotograph of film poster with a display of scene images from ?Breaking Away?.

Before I get into this, I want to make mention ?A FILM TO REMEMBER? will be a series about films that have reached a milestone anniversary since their origin in being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. The articles will contain the film?s plot outline, director, cast, a compilation of trivialities, various photos, movie trailer, critical reception and more. So, let?s start:

We are here to mark the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Peter Yates? ?Breaking Away?. Let?s take an inside look at the film:

PLOT OUTLINE:

A small-town boy obsessed with the Italian cycling team vies for the affections of a college girl.

Image for postStill image of filmmaker Peter Yates.

STUDIO:

20th Century Fox Pictures

DIRECTOR:

Peter Yates

CAST:

  • Dennis Christopher ? Dave Stoller
  • Dennis Quaid ? Mike
  • Daniel Stern ? Cyril
  • Jackie Earle Haley ? Moocher
  • Paul Dooley ? Ray Stoller
  • Barbara Barrie ? Evelyn Stoller
  • Robyn Douglass ? Katherine
  • Hart Bochner ? Rod
  • P.J. Soles ? Suzy
  • Amy Wright ? Nancy
  • Peter Maloney ? Doctor
  • John Ashton ? Mike?s Brother
  • Lisa Shure ? French Girl
  • Jennifer K. Mickel ? Girl
  • David K. Blase ? 500 Race Announcer
  • William S. Armstrong ? 500 Race Official
  • Howard S. Wilcox ? 500 Race Official
  • J.F. Brire ? Mr. York
  • Carlos Sintes ? Italian Rider
  • Eddy Van Guyse ? Italian Rider
  • Alvin E. Bailey ? Stone Cutter
  • Harold Elgar ? Stone Cutter
  • Floyd E. Todd ? Stone Cutter
  • Robert Woolery ? Stone Cutter
  • Russell E. Freeman ? Stone Cutter
  • Jimmy Grant ? Black Student Leader
  • Gail L. Horton ? Fight Spectator
  • Woody Hueston ? Owner of Car Wash
  • Jennifer F. Nolan ? Anthem Singer
  • Nora Owens ? Woman
  • Douglas Rafferty ? Sports Announcer
  • Bill Ringgenberg ? Race Starter
  • John W. Ryan ? University President
  • Morris Salzman ? Blond Guy
  • Tom Schwoegler ? Team Captain
  • Mike Silveus ? Homecoming Car Kid

GENRE(S):

Comedy | Drama | Romance | Sport

TAGLINE:

The movie that tells you exactly what you can do with your high school diploma!

Image for postStill image of Dennis Quaid (far left), Daniel Stern (middle left), Jackie Earle Haley (middle right) and Dennis Christopher (far right) in ?Breaking Away?.

The film is known for being not only about friendship and competition, it is also a touching tale of youthful initiation into adulthood that embraces the good old fashioned small town family values that displays a kind of unsentimental optimism. Director Peter Yates, known for his thrillers, brings class conflict and small town chauvinism as the subject of this ingenious youth film which intrigues as much by its portrait of working-class America bitterly opposed to the affluent society as by its large measure of lovingly crafted fantasy with an admirable cast and wile performances led by Dennis Christopher, Barbara Barrie, Paul Dooley and Daniel Stern in this sportingly delightful cycling comedy. The film is an original idea written by Steve Tesich that was inspired by a real race held annually at Indiana University called The Little 500 bicycle race that forms the centerpiece of the plot and the team was based on the 1962 Phi Kappa Psi Little 500 champions, which featured legendary rider and Italian enthusiast Dave Blase, who was the inspiration for the main character in this touchingly blithe, charmingly witty, sensitively dramatic and wonderfully comedic bike racing tour de force.

Here?s what some of the critical receptions have been for the film over the years:

Roger Ebert from Chicago Sun-Times says: ??Breaking Away? is a wonderfully sunny, funny, goofy, intelligent movie that makes you feel about as good as any movie in a long time. It is, in fact, a treasure?Movies like this are hardly ever made at all; when they?re made this well, they?re precious cinematic miracles.?

Emanuel Levy from EmanuelLevy.com says: ?This charming comedy shows sensitivity to American peculiarities and eccentricities in spite (or may be because) of the fact that it was scripted by a writer of foreign descent and helmed by a Brit, Peter Yates.?

Richard Schickel from TIME Magazine says: ?There are a few moments when the picture?s easygoing pace turns into wobbliness, but these are insignificant compared with its many moments of shrewd insight into the lives of amusingly shaded but very recognizable human beings.?

Dave Kehr from Chicago Reader says: ?Released at a time when any small-scale film earned critical favor simply by virtue of its unpretentiousness, ?Breaking Away? probably looked better in context than it does now. Peter Yates, previously typed as an action director, lends the film a fine, unexpected limpidity, and the principals are mostly excellent.?

Janet Maslin from New York Times says: ?The cast is unknown, the director has a spotty history, and the basic premise falls into this year?s most hackneyed category?the finished product is wonderful. Here is a movie so fresh and funny it didn?t even need a big budget or a pedigree.?

Image for postStill image of Paul Dooley, Barbara Barrie (center right) and Dennis Christopher in ?Breaking Away?.

As you can tell by the critical reactions, the film garnered a positive reception consensually with minimal criticism from pundits who felt it was timeworn material and padded with too many biking scenes to be nothing but filler. However, Yates lends the film a fine, unexpected limpidity, and with mostly estimable principals, showing a sensitivity to American peculiarities and eccentricities in a tale of four high school graduates trying to decide what to do with their lives while providing a sense of encouragement that?s both winsome and engaging, as the atmosphere and characters are so firmly established through a pleasing cast and alluring performances lifted by Christopher, Barrie, Dooley and Stern in this ripen to adulthood of a tender, humorous, congenial and compelling underdog sports triumphant prize. But I?ll let you decide?

So, to get a better look at the film, here?s a link to the movie trailer of Peter Yates? ?Breaking Away?:

Here I have provided 12 interesting and intriguing trivia facts (I wanted to keep it limited) about ?Breaking Away?:

  • The Little 500 bicycle race that forms the centerpiece of the plot is a real race held annually at Indiana University. A re-enactment of the race was staged for the film in the ?old? Memorial Stadium on the IU campus, which was demolished in 1982, 4 years after the shooting of the film in the summer of 1978.
  • The team is based on the 1962 Phi Kappa Psi Little 500 champions, which featured legendary rider and Italian enthusiast Dave Blase, who provided screenwriter and fellow Phi Kappa Psi team member Steve Tesich the inspiration for the main character in the movie. Blase, together with team manager Bob Stohler, provided the name of this character: Dave Stoller (played by Dennis Christopher). In the 1962 race, Blase rode 139 out of 200 laps and was the victory rider crossing the finish line, much like the main character in the film. Blase himself appears in the movie as the race announcer.
  • During the script development, the film originally existed in the form of 2 screenplays, one called ?The Cutters? about the townie quarry workers, whilst the other, ?The Eagle of Naptown,? was about the Little 500 bike race. Both had been written by Steve Tesich. In the April 2000 edition of the magazine Indianapolis Monthly says of this: ?The screenplay that would eventually become ?Breaking Away? was first titled ?The Eagle of Naptown?. Peter Yates suggested combining it with the other Tesich script, called ?The Cutters?. He did, turning it into a script called ?Bambino?. Reportedly, the ?Bambino? title was then changed because it was felt that moviegoers would assume that the film was about Babe Ruth whose nick-name was ?The Bambino??.
  • The term ?Cutters? heard in the film is used to represent Bloomington, Indiana townies who work cutting rock in the local limestone quarries. The production team decided to call the Bloomington townies ?cutters? because they felt the actual local nickname (?stoners? or ?stonies?) would draw a parallel to drug references for viewers who were not raised in the area.
  • In the scene where the character Dave admits to Katherine (played by Robyn Douglass) that he is not Italian but is actually a ?Cutter? (one of the local residents), Katherine starts to walk off, then turns back and slaps him across the face. According to director Peter Yates, Douglass did not ?fake? the slap but actually did strike Dennis Christopher, and fairly hard at that. There were over 6 takes for this scene, with several onlookers flinching every time Christopher got slapped.
  • Dennis Christopher who plays the lead role as a young man who is fascinated with everything Italian as he aspires to greatness as a bicycle racer. Ironically, Christopher is Italian-American whose birth name is Dennis Carrelli.

Image for postStill image of Dennis Christopher in ?Breaking Away?.

  • The name of the bicycle race was ?The Little 500?. According to Indiana University?s Office of Communications and Marketing, the Little 500 bicycle race began in 1951 as a fund-raiser for scholarship money for working students. The race was created by the late Howard S. ?Howdy? Wilcox, who patterned it after the Indianapolis 500, which his father had won in 1919. He was inspired by a bicycle race he saw involving students racing around a dormitory, with several women leaning out of windows and cheering them on.
  • The scenes filmed in and around Bloomington, Indiana, were filmed during the summer of 1978. Many of the scenes in the movie were filmed on the Indiana University campus; glimpses of the Indiana Memorial Union are in the background of Dave?s ride through campus. Dave Stoller?s house in the film is located at the corner of S. Lincoln St. and E. Dodds St. The pizza restaurant in the film (?PAGLIAI?S?) is now Opie Taylors on the East side of North Walnut Street, across from the Monroe County Courthouse. Other scenes were filmed outside the Delta Delta Delta sorority house (818 E. 3rd St) and along Jordan Street.
  • Initially, the Indiana Student Foundation promised Peter Yates 20,000 student extras for the final race scenes. Unfortunately, only 3,000 showed up, causing Yates to change his camera angles.
  • Dave?s ?ecstasy ride? on the wooded road after first meeting Kathy (where his bike tire blew) was filmed on the ?West Gate Road? in Indiana?s Brown County State Park, 14 miles (23 km) east of Bloomington on State Road 46.
  • Although all four of the ?Cutters? are supposed to be 19 years old, the actors were all of different ages ? none of them 19. Dennis Quaid was 24, Dennis Christopher was 23, Daniel Stern was 21, and Jackie Earle Haley was just 17.
  • The ?Cutters? team won the race in 2004, the 25th anniversary of the film in a much similar fashion to the ending of the film by beating out the ?ATO? team (but the team was made up of non-Greek students, 2 of which were Bloomington locals who were attending Indiana University).

Image for postStill image of Dennis Christopher in ?Breaking Away?.

To conclude, Peter Yates? ?Breaking Away? is a comedy that depicts young men in a transitional time of life between the worlds of school and work. These high school graduates have to deal with feelings of envy and inferiority toward the college students while clinging to their strong friendships which often fade as individuals find work and marry. The attitudes of the American father toward his son?s latest phase provide considerable humor and entertainment while the son gets emotional support from his mother. Peter Yates helms with a work of love in a delicate balancing act of various tones having gone for the human elements in the story while using his action roots for some bravura cycle racing sequences. The film is about people who are complicated but decent, optimists but realistic, who are fundamentally comic characters but are fully dimensional through a fine cast of performances anchored by Dennis Christopher, Barbara Barrie, Paul Dooley and Daniel Stern in this light comedy, to romance; to a touchingly evocative instant Middle America nostalgia about love, growing up, bicycle racing and class consciousness of a cinematic classic.

NOTE: The article contains sources from IMDb and Wikipedia.

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