Show Business: Elliott Gould: The Urban Don Quixote

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undergoing a dark trial of the soul, could look at his lady of the moment (as he did in Abe Polansky's Force of Evil) and confess: "I feel like midnight when I don't know what the morning will bring." When Gould tries to woo a reluctant Dyan Cannon in Bob & Carol, he pleads, "You want me to give you a massage? Let me give you a massage."

Still, Gould does have star quality; he is both usual and unique. Comparisons with other actors only stress his own very special, very elusive quality. His estranged wife, Barbra Streisand, calls him "the American Jean-Paul Belmondo." Friend and M*A*S*H Co-Star Donald Sutherland sees Gerard Philippe lurking somewhere behind that constantly abashed countenance. His friend and partner in an 18-month-old production company, Jack Brodsky, calls him "the Jewish Richard Burton"; and Paul Mazursky, director of Bob & Carol, says that he is "the Jewish Jimmy Stewart." But the man himself says simply: "I'm the Jewish Elliott Gould."

Gould is the lowest comic denominator of everybody's worst opinion of himself. "Someone said to me once that I was bigger than life on the screen," he muses. "But that's a misconception. If anything, I'm lifelike." Perhaps, but his tribulations as a frustrated husband, a war-weary medic or a graduate student being roasted on the academic grill are all carefully mirrored through a crazy kaleidoscope. When Gould is hamstrung by the manic inequities of contemporary life, his frantic attempts to extricate himself only tie him further into comic knots. If he were not larger than life, if he were just plain, beat-down, fed-up 1970 folks, then Elliott Gould probably would not be so funny. As it is, he is real enough to recognize but not so real that he cannot, in the safety of the darkened theater, be laughed at.

Gould is embarrassed at being considered the archetype of the urban man struggling to stay afloat in a swelling sea of neuroses. "I really work at not paying attention to anybody who supposedly identifies with me," he insists. "There may be a lot of people who would identify with me because I'm very like them. But I'm not their spokesman." If not, he is certainly their champion, a forlorn figurehead who has done battle for the psyched-up majority. In return, they have rewarded this reluctant Don Quixote (a favorite Gould hero) with unabashed enthusiasm at the box office. Bob & Carol, M*A*S*H and Getting Straight are all lucrative movies. Move, which misfired, represents a setback, but the others have already established him as a strong box-office attraction, an actor whose very presence guarantees a certain audience—and certain revenue.

A greater marvel than his quick success is the fact that Elliott Gould, who turned 32 last week, has managed to pursue a career, not to mention happiness, this far. He took to the psychiatrist's couch at 25, when his career had stalled and his identity was pretty well subordinated to that of his wife. (Mr. Streisand, they called him in those days.) It was only a few weeks ago, in fact, that Elliott began to feel that he could look at the world at eye level. "I generally walked around with my head down, and now it's terrific for my eye level to be there," he says, drawing up to his full 6 ft. 3 in. "One of

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