Dori Brenner, Christopher Walken, Ellen Greene, Lenny Baker and Antonio Fargas (background) in Next Stop, Greenwich Village (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
NEXT STOP, GREENWICH VILLAGE (1976)
★★★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Paul Mazursky
STARS Lenny Baker, Ellen Greene
Long before he became an Oscar-nominated filmmaker responsible for such hits as Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and An Unmarried Woman, writer-director Paul Mazursky began his Hollywood career as an actor (his first credits were Stanley Kubrick’s Fear and Desire and the classic Blackboard Jungle). Mazursky recalls some of the incidents that led to his L.A. exodus in the loosely autobiographical Next Stop, Greenwich Village, a captivating slice of NYC life in the early 1950s.
Tired of living at home in Brooklyn with his overbearing mother (Shelley Winters) and docile father (Mike Kellin), Larry Lipinsky (Lenny Baker) decides to move to Greenwich Village, where he tries to make it as an actor while also spending quality time with his girlfriend Sarah (Ellen Greene, almost unrecognizable from her later role as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors).
The picture’s greatest strength rests in its actors and the characters they essay. Dismissing Winters’ predictable kvetching as Larry’s stereotypical Jewish mother, Mazursky has vividly brought to life such interesting figures as the sophisticated Robert (Christopher Walken), the fiery Connie (Dori Brenner), and the gay Bernstein (Antonio Fargas, already appearing as Huggy Bear on TV’s Starsky and Hutch). The talent runs particularly deep in this picture, so keep an eye out for Jeff Goldblum (funny as a prickly actor), Joe Spinell, and uncredited bits by Bill Murray (in his film debut), Vincent Schiavelli and Stuart Pankin.
As for Baker, he’s both unconventional and excellent in the central role. He would later win a Tony Award for the Broadway hit I Love My Wife and guest-star on such series as The Rockford Files and Taxi before dying of AIDS in 1982, at the age of 37.