Show Business: Elliott Gould: The Urban Don Quixote

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It could have been a scene straight from one of his movies. At a rock concert in Manhattan's Central Park, a man sat nervously waiting for the music to begin. He had run out of conversation with his date and, to pass the time and ease the tension, he was now dragging half surreptitiously on a neatly rolled joint. The man looked to his left and saw what might have been his double. Same man, same situation, sitting with his girl in the same subtle, silent agony.

Trying hard to seem casual, the first man offered the joint. The second smiled gratefully and accepted. He took a slow drag and passed it back. They studied each other. Both had bushy hair, full sideburns and city complexions with heavy shadow. Both wore those wraparound tinted eyeglasses that look like the windshield of a small Italian sports car. Both, despite some attempts at careful grooming, looked—well, sort of dumpy. They were wearing chinos, sneakers without socks and knit shirts on which even the tiny Lacoste alligators seemed ill at ease and vaguely apprehensive.

The marijuana and the absurd similarity of their situations established a rapport. Slowly the first man drawled, "Hey . . . hey . . . aren't you . . . Elliott Gould?"

"No, man," said the second. "I'm not Elliott Gould."

"I've seen all your movies," the first man persisted. "I liked you in Bob and Ted and Alice and Whosis."

"Well," admitted the second man, "I guess I could be Elliott Gould."

PRECISELY. The real Elliott Gould was elsewhere that evening, but the two anxious urbanites were going through just the sort of encounter that Gould has faced in the burst of films —from Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice to this summer's Getting Straight and Move—that have raised him to stardom in less than a year. There were even elements of this mood in M*A*S*H, the battlefront comedy that has become the most talked-about movie of 1970. Gould always seems to be caught up in social —and sexual—tension. He embodies an inner need to be hip at the risk of seeming silly, the struggle not to give in to the indignity and/or insanity of contemporary life. The two pseudo-hipsters in the park, and thousands more like them, have made Elliott Gould a star for an uptight age. In Gould they see all their tensions, frustrations and insecurities personified and turned into nervous comedy that both tickles and stings with the shock of recognition.

Gould is more than just a synergistic reaction between the era and the audience. His remarkable year is being capped by the ultimate cinematic coup —a leading role in a film by Sweden's consummate film maker, Ingmar Bergman. Bergman picked Gould for the part of a rootless archaeologist in his forthcoming film The Touch after seeing him in Getting Straight—the movie among the four currently in circulation in which Gould feels he gave his best performance. "Very often you see American monsters created by the audience," says Bergman. "Oh, they do have something, but it's only one dimension. They can never express anything but themselves. What I want from the actors in my pictures is an ability to express the second and third dimensions, an ability to put the part together inside themselves and then materialize it. I want to get it from their faces,

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