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In the winter of 1979, during the last gasps of the late, lamented Heights Theater in Little Rock, I was reviewing upward of four movies a week for the also late and lamented Arkansas Gazette. In January and February, new releases were few and so it was that the only new film available at deadline time was The Silent Partner, playing at the Heights.

This was before the internet and the Internet Movie Database and I didn't know a thing about the film. As post-holiday releases were generally the moral equivalent of Hollywood's cleaning out the junk drawer, my expectations were exceedingly low.

The Silent Partner (1978)

Director: Daryl Duke

Cast: Elliot Gould, Susannah York, Celine Lomez, John Candy, Christopher Plummer

Remembered by: Ralph B. Patterson, semiretired movie reviewer and ad guy

Big mistake. Directed by Daryl Duke (The Thorn Birds, Payday) and screenplay by Curtis Hanson (8 Mile, L.A. Confidential), The Silent Partner is nothing less than a modern, Hitchcockian masterpiece.

Elliot Gould stars as a meek bank teller who susses out (and hijacks) a forthcoming bank robbery by a department store Santa, played by Christopher Plummer at his insidious best. Suffice it to say, the would-be robber isn't pleased. Also starring the ethereal Susannah York, the criminally underseen Celine Lomez and the late John Candy, Silent Partner is by turns funny, violent, suspenseful, terrifying and always surprising.

What makes The Silent Partner so special to me is the lesson -- early in my reviewing career -- that you should jettison any and all preconceived notions of what to expect from a film the moment you find your seat in the dark. Tabula rasa and a suspension of disbelief (whenever possible) go hand in hand with fresh popcorn for successful moviegoing.

It remains today one of my favorite films and I recommend an internet search and a cold winter night for your viewing pleasure.

MovieStyle on 01/19/2018

Print Headline: The Silent Partner

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