Starring William Holden, Kay Lenz, Roger C. Carmel, Marj Dusay, Shelley Morrison, Joan Hotchkis and Lynn Borden. Directed by Clint Eastwood. From Universal Pictures.
Breezy is just that. Edith Alice “Breezy” Breezerman (Lenz) is a young girl who is as free as the breeze. Equal parts innocent and worldly, she is breezing through life without a care. With no home, little family, zero hang-ups and a bright-eyed and honest optimism about life. Looking to find a ride, she waits outside an ostentatious home one morning for the tenant to emerge. Out comes middle-aged real estate agent Frank Harmon (Holden) who is on his way to work. Breezy ingratiates herself with Frank and positions herself in the passenger seat of his Lincoln. Frank at first is miffed but soon takes a fatherly interest in this wandering waif. Frank doesn’t expect to see her again but circumstance brings them together. The two forge a relationship; Breezy earnestly, openly and Frank more slowly and with world-weary caution. After a conversation with his best friend, Frank decides to have nothing more to do with this girl less than half his age. Then when tragedy strikes another friend, he is prompted to come to a conclusion about this refreshing wind that has blown into his dreary middle-age.
I think I first heard of this film while I was reading up on Licorice Pizza (2021), trying to figure out why that film disappointed me so. There is a scenario in that film that features Alana Haim as a teenage girl auditioning for a role in a film opposite Sean Penn who is playing a character based on William Holden. The film in Licorice Pizza is called Rainbow but the reference here is Breezy. Independent of this, I was, as I often am, poring over Clint Eastwood’s filmography to learn what films of his I have yet to see. When I discovered that he directed but did not star in Breezy, I was fascinated. And then after all this, the calendar turned to 2023 and my Cinema 73 Film Festival began. Each year I try to watch as many 50 year-old films as I can and I looked forward to finally seeing Breezy.
The screenplay for Breezy was written by Philly’s Jo Heims. Joyce – yet another Vintage Leisure player to be born in Pennsylvania – befriended Clint when he was a young actor at Universal. Later, she wrote the screenplay for Play Misty for Me which Eastwood made as his directorial debut. She had, in 1967, written Presley’s Double Trouble; but we’ll forgive her for that. She eventually fashioned the screen story for Dirty Harry and would introduce her friend, Sondra Locke, to Clint as possible casting for the role of Breezy. Locke didn’t get the part but spent many years as Eastwood’s partner. Sadly, Jo Heims died of breast cancer in 1978. She was 48. Clint did attend her funeral.
Eastwood thought he himself would not be right for the role of Frank but he was attracted to the way Heims had written the male and female characters in Breezy. He was also drawn to the story’s depiction of the “rejuvenation of the cynic” and to the way the film commented on the moral bankruptcy of the wealthy leisure class. Eastwood has said that Universal allowed him to make the film as a favour, budgeting the picture at a modest $725,000. They felt the film was not commercial and would go nowhere which showed in their lack of promotion; something that rankled Clint and lead him to Warner Brothers where he remains to this day. This film is incredibly gentle. The scenes at the beach at sunrise are so tender its hard to believe that the director is the Man With No Name and Dirty Harry.
The legendary Michel Legrand provides the beautiful score for Breezy. Over the opening credits, Shelby Flint adds her gentle tones to “Breezy’s Song”, featuring lyrics by the formidable team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, longtime collaborators of Legrand’s. When the action of the film calls for some modern sounds, Legrand obliges ably with a jazzy groove that sits on the soundtrack alongside a classical piece. The music is tender and gentle and the theme Legrand has created permeates the action in many forms. It is lovely and sadly underappreciated.
William Holden was 54 when he made Breezy; he hadn’t made a major film since 1969’s classic The Wild Bunch. Apparently, Bill was so happy to be offered the role that he did it for no salary, just a percentage of the profits. When there were no profits, Holden was paid scale, $4000. Eastwood was thrilled with Holden’s performance and work ethic. Bill told Clint he found it easy to play Frank; “You know, I’ve been this guy”, he told Eastwood. I’ll admit I had my concerns with how I would feel with Holden in the role. So many things I’ve read have described him as a philandering ladies man, having affairs with all his leading ladies, and this has turned me off a bit. But I can confirm that he is engaging as Frank and nails the depiction, hitting all the right notes at the right times. William Holden was not done after Breezy. He still had The Towering Inferno and Network to come. He died in 1981 at 63 and is still remembered as one of the greatest leading men in Hollywood history.
I’m still blown away by the fact that Kay Lenz played Jane in American Graffiti. Her character’s brief appearance as a school girl who is an assumed paramour of a playboy teacher I always found interesting. She used the stage name Kay Ann Kemper in that film. Five months after her work with Lucas, Kay spent five weeks at the end of the year making our film with Eastwood and Holden, giving her a notable start to her career. Kay was born in LA to parents who were in the entertainment business. Sadly, while Kay was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Newcomer for her work as Breezy, she never made another notable film. She found some success on the small screen, however, scoring Emmy Award nominations for Supporting Actress for Rich Man, Poor Man and in the Mark Harmon show Reasonable Doubts. She did take home an Emmy for a guest role in 1990 on Midnight Caller (with Gary Cole). Kay Lenz was the first wife of David Cassidy and suffered threats from his many ardent fans during their marriage that lasted from 1977 to 1983.
Interesting to see Roger C. Carmel as Frank’s best friend, Bob Henderson. Carmel is best known for two episodes of Star Trek in which he played Harry Mudd. Another Star Trek alum plays Frank’s neglected girlfriend, Betty. Marj Dusay started her career with a small role in Clambake serving my man a sandwich and she had been in the great George Peppard film Pendulum. Dusay later forged a career on TV, most notably on Guiding Light and other soaps.
The late Shelley Morrison plays Bob Henderson’s wife. Morrison is known for The Flying Nun with my girl, Sally and later from Will & Grace. Joan Hotchkis (1927-2022) plays Frank’s embittered ex-wife, Paula. Joan was a school teacher before joining the Actors Studio. She eventually taught acting and wrote an acting manual in 1977 that is still used today. The ranching heiress appeared in Ode to Billy Joe with Glynnis O’Connor (only six films in total) and was a regular on TV’s The Odd Couple. Late in life, she became a part-time paraprofessional in aggression training. Lynn Borden plays the poor girl Frank ushers out the door at the start of the film. The runner-up at the 1957 Miss America pageant appeared in miniscule, decorative roles in some notable films; Days of Wine and Roses, The Carpetbaggers, Roustabout, The Wrecking Crew, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Frogs, Black Mama White Mama and Walking Tall.
Breezy is an excellent film for locations. Ya’ll know how I love me a location shoot and I don’t believe there is one scene in this film that was shot on a soundstage. Here you’ll be treated to many practical locations in and around Los Angeles. At the beginning of the film, we see 8002 Rothdell Trail, a fascinating little strip of road in the Laurel Canyon neighbourhood that looks about the same today as it did in 1973. As the opening credits begin, Breezy looks to be walking around a corner but what we see is a dead end. The house she’s just exited is to her right. I don’t think there is a 8002 anymore and where she seems to be coming from is now 8001.
Rothdell does indeed head down to Laurel Canyon Blvd. and we see Breezy in front of the Laurel Canyon Country Store at 2108 Laurel Canyon. The store is open until 10pm weekdays and you can get a variety of sandwiches there for 13 Yankee dollars.
The incredible Triangle House in Tarzana, California was used for Frank’s house. The stunning home was built in 1960 by surfer/architect Harry Gesner and boasts 5,278 square feet, a 1.35-acre lot, a pool and a guest house. It last sold in October of 2022 for $5,262,800. I’ve read that in our film it was depicted as a lonely house whose “natural woods, rough boulder walls, indoor/outdoor jungle (are the) perfect mirror of (Frank’s) soul in the balance”.
Frank and Betty eat at the Yamashiro Restaurant with breathtaking views at 1999 N. Sycamore and Frank and Breezy spend time at Plummer Park and Fisherman’s Village in Marina Del Ray. They go shopping at an actual clothing store there. You might recognize the dress customer that Frank helps out. Her name is Priscilla Morrill.
Breezy understands the world and she is not oblivious to its dangers. It’s just that she has not let the dangers impact her outlook. Simply put, she has chosen to be sunny, to be positive, to seek happiness wherever it is to be found.
When the two main characters first meet, Breezy is presumptuous, almost pushy. Frank is nettled but he acquiesces, giving her a lift down the hill. She explains to Frank her previous ride that day during which the driver threatened her saying that you can’t be suspicious of everyone because of some nut. “Besides”, she says, “you’re better looking than he was”. She believes people are basically good. “I dig people too much to be without them”. Cynical Frank doesn’t buy her rap. He thinks Breezy is just running her gums as a ploy to get a ride and some breakfast. The young girl is honest enough to admit that the routine works nine times out of ten. But she’s open. It may be a routine but it’s an honest routine.
Poor Betty lowers the boom on Frank, saying she’s getting married. She tells him he has no right to be upset at losing her. After all, he set the rules and they were no commitments, no strings. She says she broke those rules and fell in love with him. Unfortunately he was not as engaged as she was and she settled for whatever he could offer; “Crumbs or no cake at all”, she says. Marj plays it really well – Betty is tough. She’s in love with Frank but she has accepted that it’s no use. She doesn’t hold back in pointing out to him his failings as a partner. So, Frank has lost her and this brings his solitude into sharp relief.
Sure as shootin’, Breezy knocks on Frank’s door late that night ostensibly to retrieve her guitar. She proceeds to make herself at home on Frank’s couch. Now, at this point, here in today’s world or even back in 1973, only 4 years removed from the Manson killings, Frank has every right to be annoyed and it does look like this hippie chick is just trying to finagle a place to sleep. She marvels at his fireplace while Frank makes it clear that he has work to do. Again, when Breezy tells him to go right ahead, the viewer feels that Frank would have every right to throw her out. Me, I wanted to like Breezy but here I was forced to admit that anyone would be put off by this behaviour. It is quite delightful, though, watching Frank capitulate and make Breezy some scrambled eggs.
Breezy’s no fool. When Frank asks her if she ever thinks about getting a job, he says that if she is old enough to be on her own, she should be mature enough to work. Breezy then inquires after Frank’s ex-wife, to whom he is writing a cheque. When Breezy asks what Paula does, Franks scoffs and says “nothing”. It gives Frank pause when Breezy wonders then why a mature woman like Paula doesn’t have a job. Breezy is also thrilled by Frank’s shower and begs to use it and the two think nothing of it when Breezy proceeds to disrobe. Afterwards, when Frank tries to shut things down and kick Breezy out, she challenges him. She asks Frank if this dark cloud always follows him around. She’s got his number. This effervescent waif has not forgotten how to appreciate a fireplace or an expansive shower while Frank’s sour outlook pervades his very being. The viewer sees clearly that Frank can learn much from Breezy. Eventually, Breezy bolts.
Five o’clock in the morning and the doorbell rings. It’s 5-O bringing Breezy home to her “uncle’s” house. Breezy promptly asks Frank to take her to the ocean, saying she has never been there. He does and watching her in rapture at the sight begins to soften the old cynic’s heart. What if, he seems to be thinking, I could recapture some of this girl’s simple joy? Later, Breezy quietly asks if Frank would mind if she loved him. “I wouldn’t let it get in your way or anything and I wouldn’t expect you to feel anything back”. Frank responds sensibly; “Breezy, all this love that you give away – just once wouldn’t you like to have it returned? Don’t you ever wanna be loved back?” Perhaps Breezy is showing him how all of his girlfriends have felt, loving Frank while he reciprocated nothing. Also, this girl falling in love with him was the last thing he expected.
OK, let’s talk about it. Holden was 54 years old in 1973 and we can assume that Frank Harmon is the same. Apparently, in the script, Edith Alice Breezerman is 17. However, in a scene in the film at the breakfast table, Breezy talks about her life. She is from Intercourse, Pennsylvania (“yes, I know, and I’ve heard all the jokes”), both of her parents were killed in a wreck 5 years previous and she graduated high school “a year ago”; in my estimation this makes her at least 18, more likely 19 (Lenz was 20). An obvious speculation for you psych majors is that Breezy has found in Frank a man to look after her, a replacement for her own dead father. Regardless, Frank finally submits and starts feeling something for the girl. They begin a relationship.
The first of two key scenes takes place at Frank’s club. Frank and Bob are relaxing in the steam room the day after Bob and his wife met Breezy with Frank at the movies. Bob is going on about how he envies Frank. Frank, Bob says, does what he wants and goes out with whoever he wants – no matter what anyone says. As if to say that many people in Frank’s circle would have a lot to say about his being with Breezy. But Frank has got guts, Bob continues. He is brave enough to be seen with a young girl. Frank must be brave, Bob reasons, because some would think it looks foolish, a man of Frank’s age with a girl like Breezy.
"You're too easy to please. I envy you." "I love you." "I'm more than twice your age, brat."
Bob says it’s about nerve. And sex. Love? It can’t be about love. Bob cheapens the wonderful thing Frank has found and instead of being offended, Frank begins to think there is something to what Bob says. Frank starts to topple. What on earth was I thinking? Bob continues, talking about himself. I would be nothing more than a meal ticket to a young girl like that, he says. What more could you possibly be to Breezy? Me, Bob continues, I would feel like a child molester. Frank has been on the inside, revelling in the throes of something like love. Now he gets the view from outside, from Bob, and it is a jaded, cynical view. The type of viewpoint and attitude Frank thought Breezy was rescuing him from. But maybe, Frank begins to think, facts are facts. Maybe I’ve been wrong. Inadvertently, Bob has made Frank feel foolish and that his relationship with Breezy is a joke. Unreal and unsustainable. That night at home, Frank cuts Breezy deep but at least he is honest, saying “I can’t cope with it!”. When Breezy leaves, she cuts him deeper. She says he can keep the dog they share but says “don’t teach him to roll over and play dead”.
The second key scene takes place after poor Betty has lost her husband in a car wreck. Her marriage was so new that the newlyweds had yet to spend a night in their first home. Betty and Frank talk and Betty is beside herself with grief. “All we really had was one week”, Betty says, “but what a beautiful week. I’ve never been so loved“. Betty has lost her love through tragedy. It suddenly dawns on Frank that he has willfully discarded his love. Holden achieves a marked but subtle change in his face when Betty says “I’ve never been so loved”. Of course, he thinks of Breezy who – despite her youth – loved him like he had never been loved. Betty says she at least told her husband she loved him – “and that’s all that really counts…nothing else makes any sense”. This leads to the conclusion and to one of the most enchanting final lines I’ve ever heard in a film – “A whole year?!”.
People like to be put off by the subject matter of Breezy and certainly this has to be handled delicately. I wonder if it would’ve worked as poignantly had it been written by a man. Jo Heims has done a wonderful job making you accept this union. With tiny, nuanced steps, both Heims’ script and Eastwood’s direction allow this story to unfold in such a way that you cannot help but be charmed. William Holden and Kay Lenz play every scene, hit every emotion and deliver every line so succinctly that you are pulling for the both of them. Their rapport is so genuine, so natural that watching Breezy feels almost like eavesdropping. What you see and hear will command every bit of your attention.
- Eastwood, Clint. Clint Eastwood: Interviews, Revised and Updated. University Press of Mississippi. (2013)
I watched this movie on a Sunday afternoon the year it was released. Many of the characters were similar to people that I knew. I wonder how the movie would be received in today’s world. Thanks for choosing this movie for today’s post.
You make a good point and part of me – part of me – is enraged that people would let anything come between them and giving this movie and chance. I think if they did, they might find something beautiful. And perhaps even adjust their opinions. Sunday afternoon in a theatre? I would’ve walked out into the sunlight in a daze, for sure. Thank you for reading the things I post.
You do a great job with your blog. The tremendous effort that you put into you research is very apparent in your posts. I appreciate the information and your perspectives. Thank you, again, for your work.
I’m so grateful for your comment. And I’m grateful for your interaction here. I don’t get a lot of comments but I always welcome yours. You seem very discerning and I’m pleased to bring back memories for readers like you.
You’ve really done this film a lot of justice, Gary. I was first introduced to it from an acquaintance who was a big Kay Lenz fan. It just so happened that I was in the midst of watching about a dozen William Holden films for his Centennial, so I was immediately interested in seeing BREEZY.
I had no idea that Bill did this for no upfront money at all. His personal issues set aside, he never, ever lost his grand acting capabilities and professionalism. Both he and Lenz gave this film an incredible level of maturity and depth, something that is very rare indeed. The story feels very real and, like the characters themselves, you as the viewer find yourself going back and forth between accepting their relationship and finding it plain uncomfortable. You point out many of Breezy’s positive qualities which can be difficult to see on the surface, taking into account her young age and her hippie lifestyle.
Lovely shot of Eastwood making his Hitchcockian cameo, which I had never spotted! Clint definitely knows how to show his soft side when the situation allows. He did a tremendous job with this film.
Erica, I don’t know when I’ve ever been more moved by a film. A week ago, I had never even seen it. This week, I feel like I don’t ever want to watch any another film; not really, but you likely know what I mean. I sometimes scoff at the Love Story-type romance of this era, even the gentle singer-songwriter music of the time. But here all the right notes were hit and Breezy has penetrated deep into my spirit. All the principle players have been elevated for me. This, this thing I am feeling is what we film fans are in it for, I guess. Just hoping to find that movie that will do to us what Breezy has done to me. Thank you for reading and for really understanding what I hoped to convey.