'A Classy Broad': Film Review

A Classy Broad Still - H 2016
Courtesy of Santa Barbara International Film Festival

A Classy Broad Still - H 2016

Sharp portrait of a Hollywood pioneer.

This doc chronicles the career of trailblazing Hollywood executive Marcia Nasatir, who broke through the glass ceiling back in the '70s.

At a time when gender inequality in Hollywood continues to make headlines, Anne Goursaud’s documentary A Classy Broad, which had its world premiere in Santa Barbara, seems especially savory. The film surveys the long career of Marcia Nasatir, one of the first women to achieve success as a producer and studio executive. At the age of 89, Nasatir continues to pursue projects to produce and keeps up with all current movies, taking the bus to Academy screenings from her home in Santa Monica.

Her journey was not a simple one, as this affectionate film demonstrates. As a Jewish girl growing up in San Antonio, Nasatir was never content to stick to prescribed roles for women. She moved to New York, married and raised two sons on her own after her divorce. She got jobs in publishing, then moved to Los Angeles to work as a literary agent. When Mike Medavoy, who had also started as an agent, got the job as West Coast chief at United Artists, he hired Nasatir as his story editor and quickly promoted her to vice president. There she helped to shepherd such films as Carrie and Rocky and won a lot of respect for her shrewdness and candor.

The loyalty of her male mentors went only so far. When the UA executives broke away to form Orion Pictures, they did not offer Nasatir a partnership, and the new regime at UA also cut her loose. Yet she continued to work at other companies and to sponsor landmark films like The Big Chill (along with a number of losers, as she freely admits). Equally important, she supported other women who were entering the business and eventually saw several of these women rise to higher positions than she ever attained. (She was probably less political but more gifted than some of her successors, but that’s another story.)

Goursaud, a veteran film editor on such films as Francis Coppola’s One From the Heart and Dracula, does a good job of intercutting Nasatir’s history with a series of telling present-day interviews. The interviewees include other Hollywood personalities — Medavoy, Glenn Close, screenwriter Robert Towne, actor-producer Tony Bill, Big Chill director Lawrence Kasdan — along with one of her more prominent clients, Nixon aide John Dean, and Nasatir’s sister, a judge who was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court. Nasatir herself makes a feisty camera subject.

Years after her producing career slowed, Nasatir found a new identity as a film critic on a web show called Reel Geezers, in which she jousted with her friend and fellow octogenarian, screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr. One of the movies they reviewed was Superbad: he loved it, she hated it. So Nasatir continued to speak her mind. Her sister calls her fearless, while others call her tireless. Her story, engagingly chronicled by Goursaud, should entertain and inspire a new generation of women who refuse to be stymied by the status quo.

Production: Fancy Film Post Services
: Anne Goursaud
Executive producer: Rose Spector
Director of photography: Shea William Vanderpoort
Music: Leo Birenberg

Not rated, 93 minutes.