7.2/10
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37 user 48 critic

California Split (1974)

R | | Comedy, Drama | August 1974 (USA)
When a casual gambler befriends a professional one, he begins to mirror his life, sending both deeper into the sleazy gambling world where the stakes keep getting bigger.

Director:

Robert Altman

Writer:

Joseph Walsh
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
George Segal ... Bill Denny
Elliott Gould ... Charlie Waters
Ann Prentiss Ann Prentiss ... Barbara Miller
Gwen Welles ... Susan Peters
Edward Walsh Edward Walsh ... Lew
Joseph Walsh ... Sparkie
Bert Remsen ... Helen Brown
Barbara London Barbara London ... Lady on the Bus
Barbara Ruick ... Reno Barmaid
Jay Fletcher Jay Fletcher ... Robber
Jeff Goldblum ... Lloyd Harris
Barbara Colby ... Receptionist
Vincent Palmieri Vincent Palmieri ... First Bartender (as Vince Palmieri)
Alyce Passman Alyce Passman ... Go-Go Girl
Joanne Strauss Joanne Strauss ... Mother
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Storyline

A down on his luck gambler links up with free spirit Elliot Gould at first to have some fun on, but then gets into debt when Gould takes an unscheduled trip to Tijuana. As a final act of desperation, he pawns most of his possessions and goes to Reno for the poker game of a lifetime. A film set mainly in casinos and races, as the two win and lose (but mainly win), get robbed, and get blind drunk. Written by David B-2

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

California Split ... being the story of two bet-on-anything guys who happily discover something called a "winning streak." See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

August 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Slide See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$10,900,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono | Mono (Lion's Gate 8 Track Sound Systems)

Color:

Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Actor Edward Walsh was the brother of the film's writer Joseph Walsh. See more »

Goofs

Some of the balls hanging from Charlie's sombrero keep changing position throughout the scene. See more »

Quotes

Bill Denny: Everybody's named Barbara.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The DVD cuts approximately three minutes worth of incidental scenes and bits, because the distributor was either unable or unwilling to reach an arrangement for music licensing. See more »

Connections

Featured in The 78th Annual Academy Awards (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Bye Bye Blackbird
(uncredited)
Written by Ray Henderson and Mort Dixon
See more »

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User Reviews

Altman makes the camera disappear in a movie about gambling that still feels fresh 35 years later
4 September 2008 | by chaos-rampantSee all my reviews

It's surprising how little known California Split is but even in a career filled with great movies such as Robert Altman's it deserves more recognition. It is Altman the auteur in top form, his quirks and distinctive traits that separate him from all directors of his time emblazoned over every minute of this delightful mixture of comedy and drama.

It's the handling of the subject matter that makes the difference. Sure this is not the first movie to be made about the compulsiveness of gambling and people trying to find meaning and pleasure in empty addictions but it is such a fresh and enjoyable movie one has to sit down and take notice. What makes it work so well? I'll say the success rests on a combination of three things: the infectious chemistry between the two leads Elliot Gould (in a hilarious role) and George Seagal; the fully realized world Altman creates for his characters; and that overall the movie is capable of both belly-laughs and profound sadness but it is always subtle, never says anything more than it has to, leaving just enough for the viewer to participate. Even the bitter aftertaste of the ending is never expanded more than two or three lines and a look on Seagal and Gould's faces and it's then counterpointed with a spin of the wheel and a sweet jazz song as the end credits begin to roll.

This combination of those three things ultimately achieves the most important and difficult thing for any director to master: to make the camera disappear. This is not the first time Altman succeeds in doing so but California Split is still a very good indication of the craftsman at the top of his talent.

The gambling world here is not the glitzy and glossy Las Vegas of Ocean's 11 or Four of a Kind - not it is for gambling movies what The Long Goodbye was for neo-noir. A look inside a crummy, cheap world without prospects and the rent's running. It makes perfect sense then that the last act takes place in Reno and not Vegas and that the bleachy look of Paul Lohmann's cinematography (no Vilmos Zsigmond this time) reflects that there's no glamour to be had here.


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