The weekend Let It Ride opened I had no interest in seeing it. That same weekend the Viet Nam drama, Casualties of War, starring Michael J Fox and Sean Penn was opening. And that was what I wanted to see. Who knew that the consolation prize that night would end up being one of my favorite movies even 21 years later?
Casualties of War was no joke. There’s a lot unpleasantness going on in that movie. War, raping, killing, more raping, some more war. The trailer looked good to the 14-year-old version of myself and I certainly like both Fox and Penn. However at this time most trips to the movies were courtesy of my older brother Eric (Then 20 years old). While we had both anticipated seeing Casualties of War something had changed for him once the weekend rolled around.
“I don’t think you should see this,” he told me. He explained the subject matter was too rough. Too disturbing. In all honesty this was an insult. Hey look man, I’ve certainly seen my share of disturbing movies. I can handle it. I’m sure I’d seen Platoon by then and honestly what was more disturbing than that? To this day I am certain I could have handled the harshness that Casualties of War would have dished out that August night.
However Eric was having it and even brought in my father for backup. He told my old man Casualties of War was full of all kinds of unpleasantness that a kid my age shouldn’t see. My father didn’t take much convincing. He was probably happy to put the kibosh on my plans.
So now it was on to Plan B. The other choices that weekend were the now classic Uncle Buck, a boring looking Disney movie called Cheetah, a horrible looking comedy called Rude Awakening starring Cheech Marin, and a movie that would not crack the top ten, Let It Ride.
I’m not really sure why we picked Let It Ride, maybe it was only movie starting at the now defunct Fox Pompano movie theater. However I can tell you that from Let It Ride’s with the Paramount logo having the Guys and Dolls song Fugue for Tinhorns playing over it I knew I was going to like it.
Let It Ride stars Richard Dreyfuss as a loser named Jay Trotter who has once incredible day at the track. It’s a pretty simple story. He’s a degenerate, but likeable. He’s just given up gambling and days wasted at the track and reconciled with his wife (Teri Garr). However while working the night shift as a Miami cabbie he stumbles across something he could not have anticipated. Two guys talking about what is essentially a fixed race. “Bet the horse heavy, you’ll laugh all the way to bank,” one guy tells the other. What’s a reformed gambler to do?
Trotter does the right thing and heads off to the track to bet the ‘longshot’. The story builds from there as Trotter encounters all his degenerate pals and continues to win when he should have gone home after the first race.
There’s so many things I love about this movie, from Dreyfuss’s spirited performance to the colorful characters he meets throughout the movie, to the many quotable lines in the film, to its great supporting cast (David Johansen, Robbie Coltrane, Jennifer Tilly, Michelle Phillips, Cynthia Nixon), to Joe Pytka’s pithy direction.
It was maybe the second or third time watching Let It Ride that I noticed in the credits that is was “Based on the book ‘Good Vibes’ by Jay Cronley’. Upon realizing this I went out to my local bookstore to find it only to be disappointed. Good Vibes is book that just cannot be found. Now that we live in the age of information I can share with you that it’s considered to be a rare book and frequently sells for about $150.00 or so. Yeah. Exactly.
Knowing that I always wanted to get this, my wonderful wife Jessica decided to go right to the source…author Jay Cronley. She wrote to him and explained how she was looking to get me Good Vibes as a Christmas present. As it turns out Jay had a couple of copies left and autographed one and mailed it out. No charge. Just because he’s that great of a guy. It is still the best Christmas present I’ve ever received.
Since then I’ve had Jay on my show a couple of times. In fact I believe he was the first guest I had on The Radio Dan Show. He’s a great guy he who writes a column on horse racing for ESPN and a general column on life for the Tulsa World. I wish more of his novels had gotten the big screen treatment. I’ve read a number of his books and they’re very funny. I’m thankful to have been able to speak to the guy. Hopefully we’ll speak again.
Eventually I did see Casualties of War. It was very good, disturbing, full of war and awfulness. All those things. I haven’t seen it since. As for Let It Ride I look forward to showing to my daughter one day. I’ve shown her a lot of movies but truthfully I’ve been saving this one. I want to make sure she gets every joke, is able to enjoy every character. At 13 she’s not quite there yet. Maybe in a couple of years.
In all honesty I don’t expect everyone to share my opinion of this movie. In fact the IMDB shows a score of 6.4. However if you haven’t seen Let It Ride, give it shot. You may be thankful too.