â€¢ HEARTS OF THE WEST, directed by Howard Zieff, is a good-natured comedy that looks back nostalgically at the early days of Hollywood and the Gower Street studios. Jeff Bridges, an immensely likeable actor who continues to prove his remarkable talent, gives another fine performance as Lewis Tater, the Iowa farm boy whose single-minded ambition is to become a great Western pulp writer like his idol, Zane Grey. While waiting to publish his first novel, Lewis lands a job as an extra in low-budget Westerns at Tumbleweed Studios. Lewis is a charming eccentric, enthusiastic and bumbling, who is constantly acting out ideas for potential novels and whose conversation lapses into the Western prose of his fiction. Bridges plays him beautifully but shares the acting honors with Alan Arkin and Blythe Danner. As Kessler, the frenetic director always on the brink of complete hysteria, Arkin comes close to stealing every scene he appears in, while Blythe Danner's portrayal of Kessler's assistant, a tough, worldly-wise yet gentle woman, is very nicely done. The pace of the film is unfortunately slowed down by extraneous plot devices (Lewis spends much of his time eluding the grasp of a couple of con men), but the expert performances of the actors triumph over these defects for an affectionate, enjoyable movie. Rated "PG." â€"James F. Carey
â€¢ MAHOGANY starts out promisingly enough, with Diana Ross as a budding fashion designer fighting to rise from the Chicago ghetto, and Billy Dee Williams as an aspiring political reformer (conventional liberal variety) attempting to preserve and rebuild it. But after the first 20 minutes, the movie collapses in a welter of stereotypes and cliches, many dating back to the 1940's. Williams, for all his trendy politics, turns out to be a dyed-in-the-wool chauvinist, who wants Diana to give up her promising career to become a sidekick to his political ambitions. This not only undermines the credibility of their relationship, it also diminishes Williams' stature as one of the few sympathetic characters in the movie. Diana Ross, meanwhile, struggles valiantly but vainly in a role which is neither deep nor consistent. She goes to Rome and achieves a measure of success as a model and designer, only to find it meaningless without the man she loves. To see such outdated white middle-class philosophy being resurrected in a 1970's black movie is ludicrous. The dialogue often comes dangerously close to self-parody, although it is obviously intended to be taken seriously. Supporting performances are adequate, with Anthony Perkins kinky as a top fashion photographer who boosts Diana's career, and Jean-Pierre Aumont kindly as a European aristocrat who tries to buy her love. The photography is lush and richly textured, and the fashions, many of which were designed by Diana Ross herself, are of award-winning caliber. Paramount should save the sets and the costumes, and use them to make a good movie the second time around. Rated "PG." â€"Charles F. Barr
â€¢ If Mahogany is a throwback to the 1940's, ROOSTER COGBURN is a faithful re-creation of the 1950's Westerns, complete with John Wayne, a gang of outlaws, a gold shipment and a wagonload of stolen explosives. But at least this time the movie is intended as amiable nonsense, with no pretensions of lasting significance. Teaming John Wayne with Katherine Hepburn is an inspired bit of casting, which pays off with biting repartee and sparks flying in both directions. Wayne reprises his role in True Grit as a hard-fighting, hard-drinking U.S. marshal who tends to shoot first and dispense with the questions altogether. Hepburn plays a tough, straight-laced missionary on an Indian reservation, who sees her father murdered by a gang of outlaws there. When Wayne is assigned to track down the outlaws, he reluctantly takes Hepburn and an Indian youth along to help. Katherine Hepburn divides her time between helping Wayne and attempting to reform him. Wayne reacts to her ministrations with his customary vinegar, and the scenes between the two of them are the best in the movie. Anthony Zerbe lends some interest as a renegade scout, while Richard Jordan overacts badly as the outlaw leader. The action sequences are abetted by a stolen wagonload of nitroglycerine, which is put to use by both sides. Wayne plays Rooster Cogburn a bit more broadly than before, but the character is interesting and uncouth enough to be worth a few more sequels. Rated "PG." â€"C.F.B.