The Lords of Flatbush (1974)

Martin Davidson made his directorial debut with this film. You may know him better from Eddie and the Cruisers. You may not know him from the John Ritter vehicle Hero at Large. It was written and co-directed by Stephen Verona, who years later would direct the astounding exercise video Angela Lansbury’s Positive Moves.

This movie is one of the first that introduced both Sylvester Stallone and Henry Winkler to a wide audience, as well as the debut film role for Armand Assante.

The four Lords — Chico Tyrell (Perry King), Stanley Rosiello (Stallone), Butchey Weinstein (Winkler) and Wimpy Murgalo (Paul Mace, Rat from Paradise Alley) — chase girls, shoot pool, loiter at the malt shop and steal cars together.

This film is an episodic look at their lives. Chico just wants to win the heart of Jane (Susan Blakely, Capone, The Concorde … Airport ’79, Over the Top and Dream A Little Dream), who seemingly wants nothing to do with him. Stanley gets pressured into marrying his girlfiend Frannie (Maria Smith, Concepcion from The Incredible Shrinking Woman) despite the fact that she may have lied about being pregnant. And Butchey may be smart enough to escape Flatbush, but he hides his intelligence behind his leather jacket.

Funny enough, both Winkler and King were Yale graduates playing Brooklyn tough guys. For his part, King decided to follow Method acting: “Stephen Verona would never have cast a Yale graduate to play Chico, so I stayed in character, and halfway through the film I told him (in thick Brooklyn drawl): “Hey Steven, you realize you cast two Yale graduates as your hoods?” He thought I was kidding!”

He wasn’t the first choice for the role. Richard Gere was supposed to play the character, but he and Stallone didn’t get along. That’s an understatement, as Stallone would tell Ain’t It Cool News: “We never hit it off. He would strut around in his oversized motorcycle jacket like he was the baddest knight at the round table. One day, during an improv, he grabbed me (we were simulating a fight scene) and got a little carried away. I told him in a gentle fashion to lighten up, but he was completely in character and impossible to deal with. Then we were rehearsing at Coney Island and it was lunchtime, so we decided to take a break, and the only place that was warm was in the backseat of a Toyota. I was eating a hotdog and he climbs in with a half a chicken covered in mustard with grease nearly dripping out of the aluminum wrapper. I said, “That thing is going to drip all over the place.” He said, “Don’t worry about it.” I said, ‘”f it gets on my pants you’re gonna know about it.” He proceeds to bite into the chicken and a small, greasy river of mustard lands on my thigh. I elbowed him in the side of the head and basically pushed him out of the car. The director had to make a choice: one of us had to go, one of us had to stay. Richard was given his walking papers and to this day seriously dislikes me. He even thinks I’m the individual responsible for the gerbil rumor. Not true… but that’s the rumor.”

For what it’s worth, Winkler claims that he based The Fonz — the role that for some time made him quite possibly the most famous man in America — on Stallone’s acting in this film.

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