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Author Leonard Gardner is best known for his first novel, Fat City, which was adapted from his screenplay by John Huston and recently reissued by the New York Review of Books.
David Thomson is author of The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies—and What They Have Done to Us; Have You Seen . . . ? A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films; and The New Biographical Dictionary of Film.
Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell,
In 1969 Leonard Gardner wrote one of America’s great novels. It was about small-time boxing in Stockton, California, in the 1950s, a book that is, the novelist Denis Johnson says, “so precisely written and giving such value to its words that I felt I could almost read it with my fingers.” Many writers still feel that way about the book. So we all worried when we heard there was a film coming. But they used Gardner’s script, and shot it in Stockton. It is one of John Huston’s quiet masterpieces, featuring utterly convincing performances by Stacy Keach, a very young Jeff Bridges, and Susan Tyrrell. Conrad Hall was the cameraman. One fight Keach participates in is so unreadable (unlike most fights in a boxing movie) that the tension is exhausting. So is a brief, disturbing performance by Sixto Rodriguez as an injured boxer. Fat City has a huge, authentic, utterly convincing and compassionate quietness.