GET TO KNOW YOUR RABBIT (Brian De Palma, 1972)

Somewhat in anticipation of Jim Jarmusch, Brian De Palma (appropriately) directs on the downbeat Jordan Crittenden’s very funny original script for Get to Know Your Rabbit, a satire of the egotistical American mantra of “living life at the gut level”—a slick, twisted philosophy some associate with the paranoid nut-case who at the time of the film was the U.S. president. (Hysterically, Nixon had described as a gut-level one his decision to choose as his running-mate Spiro T. Agnew, who would resign his office in disgrace sooner than Nixon would resign his.) Donald Beeman shares a first name with one of Nixon’s brothers, a Nixon confidante whose phone was tapped, the president (post-De Palma’s film) memorably explained, for undisclosed security reasons. (The name Beeman perhaps alludes to President Nixon’s best friend, banker Charles “Bebe” Rebozo.) Anyhow, this fine Crittenden-De Palma comedy resonates as a well-earned bashing of Tricky Dickery.
     Beautifully played by Tom Smothers (whose brother is named Dick), Donald Beeman resigns as marketing analyst for a Los Angeles firm and pursues what his gut tells him will bring him happiness: a new career as a tap-dancing magician. (“You’re holding your rabbit all wrong,” instructor Delasandro, played by Orson Welles, tells him in dismay.) Donald has more trouble than his ineptitude as a club magician. His old boss, Turnbull (John Astin, Sean’s dad), has sunk into a deep funk and a perpetual five o’clock-shadow, quitting his esteemed position to pursue his gut-desire of becoming a self-pitying derelict. Pitying him, Donald anoints Turnbull his manager, but Turnbull greedily transforms Donald’s mantra into a springboard for his own business venture, which he runs out of Donald’s flea-bag hotel room.
     Things do not end happily, but there are lots of laughs along the way.

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