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Written by / 7/21/2017 / No comments / , , , , , , , ,

'THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE' TRIBUTES DONNA GORDON

Writeup for the Memorial of Donna Marie Gordon i.e. Margo Donnar
Donna Gordon stood out in THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE. Of all the dancers at Ben Gazzara's nightclub, she was the toughest, and most blunt, honest. That was Donna in real life too. She was one of my closest friends, especially a few years back, and even took my cat, Buzz, into her care: he had a great life. And I really miss her. And here's to her life, and recent death on July 1st, 2017, this BOOKIE writeup has been reposted...

THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE (1978 DIRECTOR'S CUT): An important bridge in John Cassavete's directorial career, progressing from his usual improvisational character studies to a more structured film involving a strip club owner in debt to the mob given a seemingly impossible task as explained in the title.

Donna Gordon adorned the original poster
Ben Gazzara plays Cosmo Vitelli, the club owner who, like Cassevetes himself, takes pride in his own variation of "independent film": bizarre routines that are more than girls stripping.

Gazarra plays Comso with a prideful charm mixed with a completely oblivious determination. The mobsters, portrayed by classic actors Timothy Carey, Morgan Woodward, and Seymour Cassel, are perfectly complimented by the real-life dancers Alice Friedland, Donna Gordon and model Azizi Johari, all enveloped by Gazzara's intensely natural performance and Cassavetes' signature extemporaneous style... 

Donna Gordon and Alice Friedland
Azizi plays Cosmo's girlfriend but Donna and Alice are the most prominent and memorable: a bickering Laverne and Shirley of nightclub: The Crazy Horse West. "They're looking at your ass, not your face," Alice's Sherry says inside a bathroom of the casino where Cosmo loses everything, and beyond. "That's your line, honey, not mine," Donna, as Margo Donnar, snaps back. "I got more to offer than that!" True words and realistic conversations, arguments, and diatribes not seeming like contrived dialogue and without being too longwinded or improvised, makes this Cassavete's finest film. A romance between director and actor, the gliding camera seems part of Gazarra's character as he roams in and out of the city and, within the club, controls his theater of the absurd like a real artist: each act headlined by one of the most bizarre characters in cinematic history.

Donna as Margo reacting to Cosmo's Cigar smoke
Meade Robert's Mr. Sophistication, an odd MC who stands out like a paper sack in a rose garden, is liken to Cassavetes writing/directing style: if you can survive this guy on stage inside the club full of ladies, you might understand the auteur's vision on the screen.

AzizI, Ben & Donna  ****1/2
But unlike many of Cassavete's prior films, this character study has a real destination, making THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE a unique and original Neo Noir created by a gutsy, groundbreaking filmmaker who never compromised. Although this particular review is for the 1978 director's cut, a shorter version than the rambling original (where side characters talked too much and important characters too little) that lasted eleven days in theaters. But make no mistake... having less screen time doesn't mean this version is an edited-down hatchet piece from the longer one. There are scenes not in the 1976 original, and most important, the plot line... of a man under the shadow of venomous mobsters... is sharper, clearer, and much more thrilling without the distractions.
Ben Gazarra, Timothy Carey, Seymour Cassel and Morgan Woodward

Autographed Blu Ray by Morgan Woodward

"I've got more to offer than that!" Donna as Margo to the right with Alice "Sherry" Friedland on the left
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