The 1979 film Goldengirl is a film that I had wanted to see ever since I first came across this trailer on one of the 42nd Street Forever compilation DVDs:
Wow, I wondered. What was Goldengirl’s secret and why was she ordering James Coburn to kiss her feet? For that matter, why did James Coburn have a haircut that made him look exactly like this old lady who used to live next door to my grandma in Fort Smith? What did it all have to do with the villain from The Spy Who Loved Me and just how drunk was Robert Culp when he shot his scenes? Even more importantly, why did Goldengirl keep running into that wall? That looked painful!
I did some research. (That’s a fancy way of saying that I looked the movie up on Wikipedia.) I discovered that Goldengirl was made in 1979. It was originally meant to be a television miniseries that would not only air during the 1980 Summer Olympics but which would feature Goldengirl competing at those Olympics! However, during production, it was decided to just use the material for a feature film instead. (Hmmmm, I thought, behind-the-scenes drama! Intriguing!) The film was released in June of ’79 and, despite one rave review from Vincent Canby in the New York Times, the film failed at the box office. Add to that, the U.S. ultimately boycotted the 1980 summer games, which made Goldengirl‘s Olympic-set climax a bit awkward.
I also discovered that Goldengirl is nearly impossible to see. It’s never been released on DVD or Blu-ray or any digital or streaming service. So, I resigned myself to the fact that I’d probably never see Goldengirl and, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I really didn’t care that much.
However, for the past few days, I have been absolutely obsessed with the Winter Olympics. Even though it was a Summer Olympic movie, I decided to go on YouTube and see if anyone had uploaded Goldengirl since I last checked.
And guess what?
Now, here’s the problem. The two guys who uploaded Goldengirl also talked over the entire movie. Don’t get me wrong. The movie looked about as good as a VHS copy of a movie from 1979 is ever going to look. And I could still follow Goldengirl‘s story, even if I sometimes had to really strain to hear the dialogue over the two guys “commenting” on it. Still, it meant that I had to put a bit more effort into watching this movie than it perhaps deserved. It was kinda hard not to resent that.
Anyway, I have finally seen Goldengirl and I can now tell you that it’s a pretty lousy movie. Goldengirl is Goldine (Susan Anton). Her father is a German scientist who used to work for the Nazis. When he came to the United States, he decided to prove that his theories of eugenics were correct by adopting a daughter and breeding her to be the world’s greatest athlete. Working with a psychiatrist named Dr. Lee (Leslie Caron, for some reason), they have not only turned Goldine into the world’s greatest athlete but they’ve also turned her into a bright, smiling media personality. (Dr. Lee has trained Goldine, through the use of a vibrator, to always give the right answer when she’s asked a question.) Now, they just need Goldine to win three gold medals at the Summer Olympics and for PR agent Jack Dryden (James Coburn) to make Goldine into a star. Dryden is the only person who really cares about Goldine as something other than an experiment or a way to make money.
Goldine spends almost the entire movie running. There’s one running montage that seems to go on forever. Susan Anton was a model when she was cast as Goldine. She’s got the right look to be a celebrity but she’s never convincing as an Olympic-class athlete. Whenever Goldine competes, we either get a close-up of Anton running in slow-motion with no other runners around her or else a long-shot that’s designed to keep us from noticing that Anton isn’t really on the track.
Really, that’s entire film. On the basis of the trailer, I was expecting that Goldengirl would turn out to be a robot or something like that. Instead, it just turns out that her stepfather has spent years injecting her with vitamins and hormones and now, as a result, she has diabetes. Seriously, that’s it. She gets pretty mad when she finds out that her handlers have put her health at risk just so she could win a race. But then she goes ahead and runs the race anyway so I guess it was all for the best. Seriously, that’s the entire freaking movie. It doesn’t help that Anton’s acting is amateurish and the rest of the cast seems bored. Only Curt Jurgens really makes much of an impression, mostly because he’s too sinister not to be memorable.
The trailer is better than the movie. That’s the secret of Goldengirl.