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PETER STRAUSS AND NICK NOLTE PORTRAY 'RICH MAN, POOR MAN'

Robert Reed and Peter Strauss in RICH MAN, POOR MAN Year: 1976 Rating: ****1/2
The two title siblings from RICH MAN,  POOR MAN would have made the perfect singular male. Both having grown up very poor, one becomes rich and the other... other than poor... is outrageously cursed and unlucky: So the entire miniseries is about acquiring luck through hard work and/or being unlucky by following primary primal instincts...

Although, soon enough, the bad luck, permanently stained on Nick Nolte's Tom Jordache, spreads onto everyone around him, including the series' true lead, Peter Strauss as Rudy Jordache, whose story of a delivery boy turned businessman turned aspiring politician intentionally clashes (albeit separately) with Nolte's hardboiled cross-country escapades...
Rudy Strauss and Nick Nolte in an 11th hour celebration in RICH MAN, POOR MAN
The best parts concerning Nolte's Tom occurs in the 11th hour, when he finally starts doing well... Working a charter boat with partner Herbert Jefferson Jr., his young son and perfect girlfriend turned wife Kay Lenz, life never looked better than all those low-rent dives he'd sulked around in, eventually chased by the mafia and thrown on a merchant marine steamer ship to get outta town, quick...

And on that ship's where the most sinister and eclectically nefarious villain is introduced in William Smith's Anthony Falconetti: Not only bullying smaller guys onboard by beating them to the proverbial pulp, what he does to Jefferson's Roy, Tom's best friend, is liken to why men fear prison because of what "Bubba" will make them...
Nick Nolte as Tom Jordache in RICH MAN, POOR MAN
While great actors, Strauss and Nolte seem ten years too old for playing teenagers, taking place in the first "chapter," literally seconds after World War II, living under their tyrannical father, played by award winning ham Edward Asner as a German baker with a bloody past and the kind of bad choices Nolte's Tom would inherit, almost to exact detail...

Nolte winds up living with his even worse (although successful) uncle, and here his story really begins, having an affair with a voluminous older woman he'll eventually name his beloved charter boat after...
"I can bake bread to feed people; what can you do?" Rudy asks a spoiled hippie college kid, before going bonkers
Meanwhile, the most intriguing scenes involve Rudy's initial climb to success, starting in his college days while working for Ray Milland at an old fashion superstore that desperately needs modernizing...

The way Rudy climbs to the top is more intriguing and suspenseful than Nolte's roving Noir-inspired muscularity; the latter's story peaking once he's in the boxing game, which doesn't last long enough thanks to, again, horribly asinine (and downright frustrating) decisions. And in his own way, Strauss's Rudy is equally tough, providing a few wonderfully delivered lectures that, unlike his father (Asner), don't come across as overboard or melodramatic...
William Smith and Susan Blakely violently bond in RICH MAN POOR MAN the last chapter
But the glue connecting everything is Susan Blakely as Rudy's "childhood" semi-girlfriend Julie Prescott, the only of the three leads fitting the younger, teenage scenes as she curiously glimpses into the "mysterious side" of life with a tempestuous older-man affair (Robert Reed), and then, much like Tom, making her own path (in New York City) no matter the consequences....

A progressive young woman ahead of her time, she unfortunately finds the wrong man in a horribly cast Bill Bixby, delivering each line straight out of community theater. His random imitations of Jimmy Stewart and others, supposedly personifying an omnipresent charm, are so cringe-worthy, time practically stands still while he's on screen (you'll wish he'd turn into the Hulk simply to kick his own ass).
Kay Lenz as Kate Jordache in RICH MAN, POOR MAN
Towards the end of this, the original RICH MAN, POOR MAN miniseries... followed by an actual full-season series, BOOK II, sans Nolte and with Strauss fighting political corruption and especially William Smith's demonic madman Falconetti... Blakely's Julie, married to would-be politician Rudy, amounts to boozing and complaining, even more of an albatross on Rudy than his brother ever was...

At one point, before Tom's tragic yet predictable death, Rudy points out how much better the POOR brother's life is (even though Tom's sudden turnaround was all Rudy's doing), attributed to either contentment or a comparably perfect bedmate in Kay Lenz. But that, like everything else, relates to the personal choices from either of three central figures which is really, deep down, a "modernized" Greek tragedy about what paths not to take — and then what happens after willingly setting forth into an inevitable, self-fulfilled perdition.
Two uncredited cuties in France in the 11th hour chapters of RICH MAN POOR MAN
Falconetti Wants You... To Join The Merchant Marines: And on the Bottom Bunk You'll Stay
Row, Row, Row Ed Asner... Gently into oblivion... Jordache Patriarch's death in RICH MAN, POOR MAN
Kay Lenz in RICH MAN, POOR MAN
Kay Lenz in RICH MAN, POOR MAN with Nick Nolte
Herbert Jefferson Jr. in RICH MAN, POOR MAN with Nick Nolte
William Smith in RICH MAN, POOR MAN with Nick Nolte



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