7.2/10
4,677
39 user 48 critic

California Split (1974)

R | | Comedy, Drama | August 1974 (USA)
When a casual gambler befriends a professional one, he begins to mirror his life, sending both deeper into the sleazy gambling world where the stakes keep getting bigger.

Director:

Robert Altman

Writer:

Joseph Walsh
Reviews
1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
George Segal ... Bill Denny
Elliott Gould ... Charlie Waters
Ann Prentiss Ann Prentiss ... Barbara Miller
Gwen Welles ... Susan Peters
Edward Walsh Edward Walsh ... Lew
Joseph Walsh ... Sparkie
Bert Remsen ... Helen Brown
Barbara London Barbara London ... Lady on the Bus
Barbara Ruick ... Reno Barmaid
Jay Fletcher Jay Fletcher ... Robber
Jeff Goldblum ... Lloyd Harris
Barbara Colby ... Receptionist
Vincent Palmieri Vincent Palmieri ... First Bartender (as Vince Palmieri)
Alyce Passman Alyce Passman ... Go-Go Girl
Joanne Strauss Joanne Strauss ... Mother
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Storyline

A down on his luck gambler links up with free spirit Elliot Gould at first to have some fun on, but then gets into debt when Gould takes an unscheduled trip to Tijuana. As a final act of desperation, he pawns most of his possessions and goes to Reno for the poker game of a lifetime. A film set mainly in casinos and races, as the two win and lose (but mainly win), get robbed, and get blind drunk. Written by David B-2

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Now the most talked about game in town will have a seat for you. Everywhere. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

August 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Slide See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$10,900,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono | Mono (Lion's Gate 8 Track Sound Systems)

Color:

Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Elliott Gould threw himself into the role of a compulsive gambler, so much so that it unnerved his co-star George Segal who felt he couldn't keep up with Gould's frenetic performance. See more »

Goofs

Some of the balls hanging from Charlie's sombrero keep changing position throughout the scene. See more »

Quotes

Bill Denny: Dumbo flew.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The DVD cuts approximately three minutes worth of incidental scenes and bits, because the distributor was either unable or unwilling to reach an arrangement for music licensing. See more »

Connections

Featured in To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story (2017) See more »

Soundtracks

You're an Old Smoothie
(uncredited)
Music by Richard A. Whiting and Nacio Herb Brown
Lyrics by Buddy G. DeSylva
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Altman's Warm Up to "Nashville"
5 June 2007 | by evanston_dadSee all my reviews

Robert Altman returns to one of his favorite subjects -- men behaving badly -- in this rather slight 1974 effort. George Segal and Elliott Gould play chronic gamblers who meet by chance in a gaming room and embark upon a friendship founded entirely on each man's desire to seek out the next sure thing. They head to Reno, where Segal falls into an amazing streak of luck and wins hundreds of thousands of dollars.....and then the movie just sort of ends, not because the story itself reaches any sort of natural conclusion, but more because Altman runs out of things to say about it.

Like many of Altman's films, "California Split" isn't as interested in telling a story as it is in establishing a tone, and that it does wonderfully. The ending does feel anti-climactic and abrupt, but then again, this is the tale of a gambling addict, whose whole existence consists of looking for and finding opportunities to feed his addiction. That Segal falls into a tired stupor after winning big, and experiences a glum letdown instead of the euphoria any normal person would feel from winning that much money, feels right for someone with an addiction. The obsession isn't with the catch, but with the chase.

I think Segal is the weaker of the two lead actors, though he's got the larger role. He plays up the comic elements in the film too broadly, whereas Gould feels more at home with Altman's sarcastic, off-the-cuff sense of humour. The first time I saw this, I thought there were distinct homoerotic undertones, and I felt that again after a second viewing. Segal obviously has feelings of inadequacy that his gambling helps him overcome, or at least forget. From where does that sense of inadequacy spring? Several moments in the film -- mention of a failed marriage, his reaction to someone calling him a "faggot," an aborted attempt at lovemaking with a ditzy hooker -- suggest that Segal's character has homosexual tendencies that he's trying to suppress, or at the very least that his shaky sense of his own manhood suggests to HIM that he has homosexual tendencies.

This isn't really fleshed out in the movie, but then nothing else is either. "California Split" feels like a warm up to Altman's masterpiece, "Nashville," released a year later, but it doesn't have that movie's sense of scope or amazing cast of characters, so it feels underdeveloped and lightweight.

Still, it kept me interested for 105 minutes, and it is a fascinating look into the chronic gambler's mind, if nothing else.

Grade: B


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