Gale Force: What Breezy Did to Me

I watch movies. The Lord has saw fit to wire me in such a way that I connect on the deepest of levels with music and moving pictures. Something in me dictates that I must consume film. Additionally, I seem to have a particular chip that makes me susceptible to tales of romance. It may have something to do with my parents’ divorce when I was five or having an impossible relationship with a much older married woman when I was fifteen but often it will be a story about a connection between a man and a woman that will have particular resonance for me.

I have always said that my imagination will either be the death of me – or it will save my life. I could go down the path of wonder; being able to fathom all manner of joys and having the ability to escape into any place or any time. If I let it happen, though, I could be driven mad by the fact that these imaginings could never really come true. Being able to see myself living on a boat in south Florida and knowing I could never manage it could fill me with bitterness. On the other hand, being able to walk on a cloud all day pretending I was a session pianist for Capitol Records in 1954 could allow me to escape the mundane. And escape it every single day of an otherwise routine existence.

When it comes to romantic movies, maybe my eyes see them but I watch them with my heart. Often I can commune so deeply with a story of two people navigating a relationship that my real life can lose its equilibrium a bit. I can get completely lost in a film I have connected with, while watching it and long afterwards. But there are many elements of a film that would have to be right for me to feel this connection. The actors themselves, the era of the film, the soundtrack, the physical settings. All these things combine to give me a wonderful elation, one that can last through repeated viewings down through the years.

All images © Universal/Malpaso or current ownership. No ownership intended by the author.

I’ve watched a lot of movies and I thought I had felt it all. Then I watched Clint Eastwood’s Breezy on a Sunday afternoon laying on the couch in winter. I knew nothing about it and didn’t even respect it enough to give it a Saturday night slot and I didn’t even watch it all at once but in two sessions. When it ended, though, I sensed something had happened to me, the enormity of which it would take days to comprehend.

For those not familiar with this 1973 movie that was Eastwood’s first directorial effort that he did not star in, check out my article here. In a nutshell, Kay Lenz plays Breezy, a 19-year-old hippie chick who bums a ride and a meal off middle-aged realtor William Holden. Holden is at first put off by the girl’s maneuvering but they soon begin a relationship. In this movie, every element of appeal that I look for in a romance was present in staggering proportions. So much so that I could think of nothing else for weeks afterward. I suffered a sort of emotional sensory overload. And it wasn’t just the romance of this film, it was it’s overall tone. And every one of those boxes – from actors to physical settings – were checked by it.

First off were the players, Kay Lenz in particular. Her performance sparkles and is so natural that I cannot detect any instance of an actress acting; I simply see free-spirited Breezy. I could even believe that the character was written as a sort of celestial being. She is the genuine article and perhaps she was sent to Holden’s Frank Harmon to rescue him from loneliness and fill his twilight years with tenderness. She teaches him things about life and love and reminds him of values and perspectives he had long ago discarded. She taught me, as well, about what really matters and reminded me of the type of person I want to be.

Aside from her dazzling performance, Kay Lenz was the perfect actress to play Breezy for me because I had never seen her before. I connected her to no other role or film. To me, she is Breezy. Period. She is fun and unencumbered by the weight of the world and yet she has an extreme depth of character. Sure, she’s a mooch in the early going but there are so many levels to this sprite. There’s substance. I love how she simply jettisons the usual formalities of getting to know Frank and just plunges into his life making herself at home; as if she already knew him before she met him. Despite her youth, she seems to have uncovered many of life’s secrets, discoveries she shares with Frank. This combination of free spirit and substantial thinking makes her exceedingly cool. And then there is the glory in the simple fact that she loves Frank, a man more than twice her age. Seeing them walk together – he in slacks and cardigan and she in bell-bottomed jeans and suede jacket – is a joy to behold.

They find love and it’s wonderful. It is bliss. They move insulated from the world, enjoying life, shopping, sight-seeing, going to the movies. Breezy has reminded Frank there is joy in an active fireplace, cotton candy, the beach, togetherness. All is great for them in their own little world. Until the outside pokes its way in. The woman at the dress shop mistakes Breezy for Frank’s daughter. Frank’s best friend’s perspective on their relationship leaves Frank despondent and ready to call it off. On the inside – when it’s just them – it is idyllic. Let the world in and it crumbles. After a time, I realized that this reminds me of myself and all of us who love movies. Dozing on the couch on a Sunday afternoon. With a bowl of popcorn and a Dr. Pepper on a Saturday night. This is when life is great for us. Having to go back to work on a Monday morning and deal with the outside world is when it crumbles.

Michel Legrand’s score resonated with me as well. In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of music that compliments the tone of any other film so well. The music is so substantial that it adds gravitas to the action on screen. The theme Legrand has created is heartbreakingly beautiful. Fragile. The lyrics the Bergmans came up with for “Breezy’s Song”, sung by Shelby Flint, are perfect in both describing the girl and commenting on the relationship.

"The morning is a friend of mine
it always plays my song
and anytime I ask the wind
it lets me tag along
I read the lessons in the leaves
They've a world of things to tell me
I always keep my pockets filled
With pumpkin seeds and thyme"

Breezy is one with nature, making her organic. This helps to confirm my thought that she is not altogether of this realm. Communion with the earth and learning, always learning.

"I have no secrets from the sun
and I'll have none from you
and if you're going to the fair
I'll walk along with you

the day is shining in our hands
like a dime to spend together
and we can talk of many things
like cabbages and life"

Now she mentions another; “you”. She pledges fidelity and uses simple imagery to suggest togetherness. “The day is shining in our hands…” This is about not taking a moment for granted and does the day shine like a golden coin? No. Like a million dollars? No. A dime. Again it’s about simplicity and it’s about the mundane mingled with the monumental.

"Maybe we'll make each other laugh
and maybe we will cry
and maybe we'll be each other's friend
before we say goodbye"

This is lovely but it’s also devastating. Why? It’s about life, real life. “Maybe”; nothing is for certain and so nothing should be presumed. Laughing and crying; all the emotions of living. Friendship and the possible – or inevitable – goodbye.

Breezy and Breezy derailed me. I even wondered if I might have reached a psychological tipping point of sorts. So often a film will affect me and I’ll live there for awhile until the next squirrel runs by and I’ll be off. But Breezy lingered. I grew concerned and wondered if I’d ever get over it. Shelby Flint’s whisper would float through my brain unbidden throughout the day. A scene would pop into my head, I’d hear the accompanying soundtrack and I would almost weep. I listened to the score literally over and over and over again. I’d watch at least pieces of the film everyday; usually the whole movie. For one who experiences film with his emotions, this was overwhelming. Then I got to the point where I feared getting over Breezy. I felt that I always wanted to feel this way about it. Breezy is even like me. A simpleton. We just want to be left alone to enjoy life. We don’t ask for much. I love Edith Alice Breezerman like I have loved Chad Gates, Robert “Boogie” Sheftell, Rusty Ryan, Trent Walker and so many others…

People who like to fish as a hobby have it easy. They go down to the water, throw in their line and pull out a fish. They can hold it in their hands, smell it, marvel at it and throw it back. Or they can take it home and actually eat it, consume it. Or they can stuff it and put it on the wall, enabling them to look at it and touch it for all eternity. Us who have classic movies as a hobby don’t have it so easy.

“Are we almost home?”, Breezy says, sleepily. Which is charming as these two barely know each other yet.

We have to travel through the ether to get to our hobby. It is dimly lit rooms and flickering images. It is a bygone era. It is populated not by trout in a brook but by things that are dead and gone and have been for a long time. We have nothing tangible to attach our love to, no way to physically fondle it. The fact that film is so ethereal causes us to experience it in a dreamlike, illusory manner. That, we have to say, is a movie – fiction. That character we love or admire – created. That actor or actress is NOT that character – never was. It’s all ether. Smoke and mirrors. And sometimes I can lose sight of that…

These are transient pictures, this one from 50 years ago. Kay Lenz is now in her 70’s. She doesn’t look like Breezy anymore, of course. In fact, I don’t think she ever did after making this movie – something else that makes this a “moment in time” for me. Of course Lenz is no longer Breezy. She can’t go back and neither can we. We cannot replicate these things. They were once captured on film and today they are what they are. At the end of a hundred-and-six minutes, they are gone. This film reminded me that I need to keep things in perspective. These are only movies – even when they’re not. I need to keep my head and continue to be able to separate movies from reality.

The hair on my arm stood up, though, when I realized that this film was in production – scenes were being shot, this world being created – on the day I was born. Shooting took place in November and December of 1972. I was born November 3rd that year. This just strengthened my connection to Breezy. It reinforced my feeling that this movie was somehow created for me, with me in mind. It was made and then put away with the knowledge that I would find it someday. When the time was right.

Frank revealing that he has rescued the dog is a major symbolic turning point in the story.

Breezy concerns itself somewhat with time. Breezy doesn’t want to lose a second of it. She cherishes the moment. Her innocent sincerity when she says “a whole year?!” at the end of the film is so poignant. Its all relative and she is thrilled to be gifted that much time with Frank. Let’s be realistic. You can’t tell about these things. I’m more than twice your age. This may be like sand through our fingers. And that is the same with our movie-watching.

I feared for my sanity in Breezy‘s wake. Seriously, I think obsession can send you off the deep end and that’s almost where I went. Everything else stopped. I found a group on social media dedicated to the film – actually they found me through my Letterboxd review. These 35 people are die-hards, one lady says she watches the film every weekend. I’ve always said life would be easier for me if I was only into one thing. For a while, I seriously thought that Breezy could be that one thing. Funny, too, because this film isn’t Vegas, baby like Swingers or rock & roll like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or coming-of-age cool like American Graffiti. But something – actually everything – about this film resonates with me and infuses my soul with profound emotion.

Finally, as I began to analyze, appreciate and adore Breezy’s feelings towards Frank, I realized that my wife loves me the same complete way Breezy loves Frank. This has been the most satisfying thing to come out of all this.

You might not know Breezy from Adam…or Eve. But you may have other films that have affected you the way this one has me. I cannot overstate this. I have never felt this way about a film before. As I write this, I am eagerly awaiting watching the movie for the first time on Blu-ray. While this is more a personal diary entry than anything else, I thought that some of you might know what I’m feeling here. This is what we are always searching for, isn’t it? Every weekend we plan our viewing hoping to discover another gem, a movie that might blow us away. I just wanted to let you know that I found one. Breezy came into my life like a full force gale. I will honestly never be the same.



  1. Oh how I understand your feelings, Gary. The exact same thing happened to me when I watched David Lean’s SUMMERTIME. It so impacted me that I immediately watched the film twice more before forcing myself to halt a fourth viewing. I was attracted to the filming locale, Venice, but positively seduced by the lead characters. When the time came for the film to end, I was neither ready to say goodbye to them nor willing to accept their fates. Certainly if I watched it again I could change the ending and persuade the characters to act differently. If that couldn’t happen, then I could mourn the most beautiful love story that I had ever witnessed on-screen. The film instantly became a part of my being and I wondered how I had managed to live that long without having seen it.

    I don’t feel bad about being so emotionally attached to my passion. Film has been a lifesaver for me and it continues to bring me a great deal of happiness. I have, however, tried to balance it out by living in the moment and facing the problems in my life head-on. You are right, though. It is important to enjoy this hobby in a healthy light.
    Although the majority of these actors have long since passed, I still adore them so. I know that one day, I will have to make the same parting trip they did. Like Hana in THE ENGLISH PATIENT, I too am in love with ghosts.

    • I knew you, of all people, would get this and I have been awaiting your response. I feel better having heard you mention your unapologetic attitude toward loving film. We don’t need to feel bad, exactly, as long as we maintain some balance. Can be tough, though! “In love with ghosts”. That’s perfect.

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