Directed by Michael Schultz (USA 1976; 97 mins. in English)
The world bids farewell this week to Joel Schumacher, the beloved Hollywood director and self-described “survivor of the 60s”, whose stylish touch (he trained in fashion design) gave us Brat Pack classics such as St. Elmo's Fire, The Lost Boys and Flatliners, plus two Batman films. Lesser known in his filmography - but very emblematic of his playful intellect and convention defying spirit - is Car Wash, Schumacher’s screenwriting debut.
Set over a course of a Friday in July, Michael Schultz's indelible 1976 blue-collar comedy stars Richard Pryor, George Carlin, The Pointer Sisters, Irwin Corey, Franklyn Ajaye, and Bill Duke. It captures the wild escapades at a Los Angeles car wash, where employees - including a hopeless romantic, a cowboy, musicians, a womanizer, a bookie, and an ex con - resist the drudgery of the job through elaborate daydreams, little acts of sabotage and by playing pranks on some eccentric customers.
Originally set to be a musical in the vein of Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar, Car Wash found in Schultz - who had established himself as a stage director, with the Negro Ensemble Company in New York, and had caught Hollywood’s attention with his teen drama Cooley High - the ideal man to imbue the zany musical comedy with a real feel for Black Americas’ urban working class.
The film was a big success for Universal and it perfectly encapsulates the zeitgeist of 1970s L.A with characters such as "Daddy Rich" (Pryor) who preaches prosperity gospel escorted by his singing troupe (The Pointer Sisters), an overwrought rich woman from Beverly Hills (Lorraine Gary) and her carsick son, a Black Muslim revolutionary (Duke), and a taxi driver (Carlin) searching for a prostitute. Car Wash can be seen on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, and Starz