Relax, people: Miloš Forman’s 1971 film “Taking Off” shows us how to smoke a joint

By on July 31, 2015

Since it seems that a lot of people seem to be “on edge” right now, that it might be possible they’ve forgotten how to relax and take it easy, and the world seems like it’s goin’ to hell in a handbasket, we thought we’d offer up this scene from the 1971 comedy Taking Off, which shows a bunch of generally middle-class conservative parents learning how to smoke a joint.

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Taking Off was Czech director Miloš Forman’s first American film — he won the Oscar for 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as well as 1984’s Amadeus — and it starred Buck Henry and TV actress Lynn Carlin as two middle-aged squares, Larry and Lynn Tyne, the parents of a teenage daughter who may have run away from their home in Forest Hills in order to take part in an open-mic record label audition in the East Village, which is woven throughout the film, featuring a number of female singers (including a young Carly Simon and an acoustic ballad by a then-unknown Kathy Bates) performing old standards, folk ballads, and rock songs.

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The Tynes join the Society for Parents of Fugitive Children, a non-existent support group for out-of-touch wealthy types whom Forman envisions in their natural habitat: the black-tie society function.

In this scene, dressed in tuxedos and evening gowns, a select group attend an after-party where they light up joints at the urging of their host, played by character actor Vincent Schiavelli (who would appear in later Forman films such as Man on the Moon, and The People vs. Larry Flynt), who explains:

“This is a joint…. After you inhale, you take the joint and you pass it to the person sitting next to you. Do not — repeat — do not hold onto the joint. This is called bogarting the joint and is very rude.”

“I think we all had drinks with dinner,” says Ben Lockston, another guest, played by another great 70s character actor, Paul Benedict. “Uh, dope and alcohol — do they mix?”

“Oh, they’ll mix,” says Schiavelli’s character.

The film featured lots of great set pieces, in fact: there’s also a raucous game of strip poker played by the adults, and there’s a scene that takes place at a Tina Turner concert. You’ll recognize a lot of great actors throughout, including Audra Lindley as Ben Lockston’s wife Ann, one of the S.P.F.C.’s big boosters.

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Taking Off was written by Forman in collaboration with John Guare, along with Jean-Claude Carriere (who worked with director Luis Buñuel on both Belle de Jour and The Milky Way) and John Klein.

The film won the Grand Prix award at Cannes, and was part of an unofficial series of low-budget films from Universal, made by independent filmmakers for under a million dollars.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.
  • Joe D. Conrad

    Hilarious movie that has aged well.

  • Truth is True

    The beautiful woman in the last photo was our mother, the actress Helen Magee. She stole the scene without saying a word! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️