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Skidoo (1968)

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groucho skidooThis 1968 comedy film which was Groucho's last appearance in a movie, featured a cast of mostly stars and veteran character actors. It was an "acid comedy", with elements of free love and the hippie movement, and satires of technology, anti-technology, modern times and creature comforts.

The story is about a retired mobster, Tony Banks (Gleason), now settled with wife Flo (Channing) and daughter Darlene (Hay), who worries about his daughter's new hippie boyfriend Stash (Law), and his own paternity of Darlene. Romero and Avalon appear as two mob bosses, Hechy and Angie, who bring Tony the news that "God" (Marx) wants him to carry out one last job; murder his old pal "Blue Chips" Packard (Rooney), before he can testify before the US Senate's Crime Commission. Tony refuses, but upon finding his friend Harry (Stang) shot through the head, goes along with God's wishes, and is sent to the new, high-tech island prison where Packard is being held, infiltrating as a convict.

In his absence, Flo invites Stash and his friends to stay at their house, to beat a vagrancy charge. She visits Angie (as does Darlene, looking for her in turn) to persuade him to either cancel the job, or take her to God (who's living without a country, on a yacht in international waters) so she can ask personally. Angie won't take Flo — but he will take Darlene, who nonetheless insists on bringing Stash along. God takes a liking to Darlene, as does God's mistress Elizabeth (Luna) to Stash, but both are frustrated in their pursuit.

One of Tony's cellmates turns out to be a draft dodger called Fred the Professor (Pendleton); an electronics wizard who has renounced technology, but still rigs a television set to allow Banks to communicate with Packard between cells. Banks realises he can't kill his old friend, and thus will probably never leave the prison. He writes his wife with the news, on stationery borrowed from Fred, and ignores Fred's pleas not to lick the envelope. When he does, he discovers the hard way that all the stationery is soaked with LSD... enough to send the whole prison on a hard trip. Fred guides Tony through the resulting acid experience, helping him come to terms with his worries about Darlene and his past, and plotting their escape.

groucho skidoo Darlene and Stash spend the night aboard God's yacht, with Stash getting word back to Flo and his friends about their location, and a coded plea for help. As the hippies mount a rescue, Tony and Fred build a makeshift balloon from discarded freezer bags and garbage cans, dump the whole supply of stationery into the prison's lunch, and fly out of the prison as everyone below begins to freak out.

As it happens, both the hippies (led by Flo, who sings the title number as they storm the yacht) and the balloon arrive at God's hideaway at the same time. As they hunt him down, God abandons ship. Tony and Flo borrow a cabin on the yacht and renew their relationship, while Angie marries Elizabeth, and Stash and Darlene take their own hippie vows. God and Fred sail off together to pursue a simpler life.

Before anyone can leave their seat, Preminger's voice calls out "Stop!" and beckons the audience to stay for the credits, sung by Nilsson with asides ("How was your popcorn?").

The movie missed the mark with both critics and audiences, and bombed at the box-office. A soundtrack album by Nilsson was issued, along with a single, "I Will Take You There," but neither became a hit. The movie received some belated attention in the 1980s when it was shown on cable television, and the soundtrack was lauded when it was reissued on CD. Nonetheless, no official home video release has ever been made, and the movie is presumed locked away in the Preminger archives, as was Bunny Lake Is Missing for several years. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City periodically exhibits a 35mm print of the movie.

Writer Paul Krassner published a story in the February 1981 issue of High Times, relating how Groucho Marx "prepared" for his role in an LSD-related movie by taking a dose of the drug in Krassner's company, and had a moving, largely pleasant experience. (In his book The Grouchofile, Marx commented that both the movie and his performance were "God-awful!") Most of the rest of the cast and crew, though, apparently had no familiarity with the drug; Nilsson (who reportedly did use LSD years later) confessed he'd simply pretended to be drunk for his role.

This page uses material from Wikipedia and is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Skidoo on YouTube

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FBI Memo
FBI memo on SKIDOO, April 10, 1968 from


Jackie Gleason   Tony Banks
Carol Channing   Flo Banks
Frankie Avalon   Angie
Fred Clark   A tower guard
Michael Constantine   Leech
Frank Gorshin   The Man
John Phillip Law   Stash
Peter Lawford   The Senator
Burgess Meredith   The Warden
George Raft   Captain Garbaldo
Cesar Romero   Hechy
Mickey Rooney   "Blue Chips" Packard
Groucho Marx   God
Austin Pendleton   The Professor (Fred)
Alexandra Hay   Darlene Banks
Luna (Donyale Luna)   God's mistress
Doro Merande   The Mayor
Phil Arnold   Mayor's husband
Slim Pickens   Switchboard operator
Robert Donner   Switchboard operator
Richard Kiel   Beany
Tom Law   Geronimo
Jaik Rosenstein   "Eggs" Benedict
Stacy King   The Amazon
Renny Roker   Prison guard
Roman Gabriel   Prison guard
Harry Nilsson   Tower Guard
William Cannon   Convict
Stone Country   Himself
Orange County Ramblers   Green Bay Packers

Director  Otto Preminger
Written by  Doran William Cannon
  Erik Kirkland (story)
Cinematography  Leon Shamroy
Art director  Robert E. Smith
Set decorator  Fred Price
Editor  George Rohrs
Music & lyrics  Harry Nilsson
Music arranger & conductor  George Tipton
Sound  Glenn Anderson
  Frank Milton
  Lloyd Hanks
Costume designer  Rudi Gernreich
Makeup  Web Overlander
Hairdressing  Vivian Thompson
Special effects  Charles Spurgeon
Producer  Otto Preminger
Production company / Distribution  Sigma / Paramount Pictures
Runtime  98 min.
Release date (Miami premiere)  19 Dec 1968

Posters and Lobby Cards for this movie. Click to enlarge.

This site uses material originally created by Frank Bland for his website Why A Duck?. Frank did kindly give me permission to use this material.

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