dir. Seymour Robbie
"Those bikers over there, that's what gives motorcycling a bad name."
The year was 1969. A nation, torn apart on all sides by racial strife, an unpopular war, and political turmoil; looked for a hero to heal its wounds. With the world of rock bringing nothing but false prophets, and the civil-rights and political worlds bringing extremely mortal figures; the nation turned to the next logical bastion of heroics, professional sports. Although the twin juggernauts of Hockey and Soccer had consistently held the joint title of America's national pastime, the nation had yet to be plunged into full-on Bobby Orr/Pele mania. Baseball, the perennial number two sport (soccer and hockey being tied for number one, of course), was on the wane as Football gained in popularity. It was in this environment that the nation geared up for the third annual AFL-NFL Championship Game (soon to be renamed The Super Bowl) between the favorite Baltimore Colts (touted, at the time, as, "the greatest football team in history") and the New York Jets (of the underdog AFL). The Jets' flashy, cocky young superstar quarterback, Joe Namath, stunned the nation with his eerily prophetic pronouncement at a press conference that, "We're gonna win this game. I guarantee it." Although he didn't complete a single touchdown pass, Namath completed 17 of 28 passes for 206 yards and led his team to victory, in the process, giving legitimacy to the AFL and uniting the world under the warm glow of his Christ-like charm. [Side Note: writing in obnoxious hyperboles is far more fun than it ought to be. I should write biopics.] Making his way through a mad throng of celebratory Jets players and fans, an awestruck reporter approached the deliriously joyful Namath, "You just won the Super Bowl. What are you going to do next?"
To which, Namath replied, "I'm gonna join a biker gang and fuck Ann-Margaret."
When told by his agent that this would interfere with his schedule, Namath compromised by starring in a biker movie alongside Ann-Margaret, and fucking Mamie Van Doren. It would be an understatement to say that Namath let his success and popularity go to his head. Although many subsequent football stars have tried, none have been able to best Namath in the vanity department. In the aftermath of his Super Bowl win, Namath opened a bar, Bachelors III, and took part in his fair share of vanity projects, including the short lived "Joe Namath Show". It was in Seymour Robbie's biker film C. C. and Company, however, that his cocksure smugness truly shined.
In this film, Namath plays the title character, C. C. Ryder (you'll never guess what song plays over the opening credits), a man who, tired of his dead end job and headache-inducing ladies on the side, longs for the carefree, wanton destruction, petty larceny, and casual sex with disease-ridden-biker-whores filled life of a drifter in a biker gang. It is in this mood that he joins The Heads, a notorious biker gang headed by the delightfully evil Moon (William Smith). Things go swimmingly until Ryder becomes smitten with fashion photographer Ann McCalley (Ann-Margaret), whom he runs off with. From there he runs afoul of both Ann's boy-toy Eddie Ellis (Don Chastain) (or as he was known in the screenplay's first draft, Pompous Van Stuffedshirtington), and the aforementioned Moon. After Moon's men kidnap Ann; Ryder and Moon must compete in a motorcycle race that will determine whether Ryder wins a few thousand dollars or The Heads gang bang Ann. As can be gathered, C. C. and Company is the thinking man's biker movie.
Although the biker movie experienced its greatest success with the previous year's Easy Rider, this genre was on the decline. Started in the early fifties with the Marlon Brando starring The Wild One, biker movies continued throughout the sixties, each film upping the ante in terms of violence and degradation (most notably in AIP productions), finally culminating with Al Adamson's experiment in brutality, Satan's Sadists. By the time C. C. and Company came along, the biker movie tropes had been well established and the filmmakers here clearly had fun with the form (not as much fun, of course, as some filmmakers would have a few years later with Werewolves on Wheels [Side Note: this movie is every bit as awesome as its title would lead one to believe.]). Indeed, during the film's motorcycle race climax, held at a college sports arena; when a security guard wanders by and asks what all of the ruckus is, two of the biker whores inform him that they are using hidden cameras to film a cinema verite picture about bikers -- "a cross between Antonioni and AIP." (apparently, when not having sex for money, biker womenfolk like to spend their time at the local art-houses, soaking up the latest in European cinema.)
(Sid Haig and Ann-Margaret share a special moment)
As is evident from the security guard and biker whore exchange, C. C. and Company is a movie unafraid to wink at its audience. Much of the time, this comes in the form of Namath's smug "I'll grant you the privilege of coming to my room after the game" wink. Given that this movie's selling point was the prospect of seeing the non-acting football player Namath play himself as a biker, the director Robbie knew full well the need to fulfill his audience's expectations, specifically in the area of wardrobe. Although clad in biker leathers for much of the movie, Broadway Joe eventually dons his trademark stylish threads (though not his fur coat, sadly), much to the chagrin of Moon, who questions Ryder's manhood. What Moon is unaware of, however, is that Ryder previously bedded Moon's woman Pom Pom (Jennifer Billingsley) before absconding with the gang treasury.
In this film, Namath's character rarely engages in the sort of sadistic behavior more natural to his abhorrent biker compatriots. He, instead, is a variation on Namath, albeit a Namath who occasionally pulls small crimes. In our introduction to Ryder, he walks through a supermarket, makes himself a sandwich, eats it, and then goes to the checkout lane to buy a pack of gum. He engages in the sort of illicit activity here that a ten year old would find scandalous. Late in the movie, Ann asks Ryder if, like Robin Hood, he steals from the rich to give to the poor. He responds, "No, I steal from the rich cause the poor have no money." After which point, he may as well have added, "Ain't I a stinker."
For a long time, Namath's acting in C. C. and Company stood as a benchmark in the world of athletes turned actors cinema. Indeed, until Shaq's performance in the transcendently beautiful Kazaam, Namath's performance would be the one against which every other athlete actor would be judged. As with most athlete (or musician) turned actor vanity projects, Namath found it important to project the idea that he was having a good time. Whether or not he gave a good performance or needed to waste celluloid on his extra-curricular money making activity was irrelevant. It was important that he convey the idea that, contrary to popular belief, it is actually fun to be this awesome. [Side Note: the original title for this movie was I'm Joe Namath and You're Not.] [Second Side Note: Before anyone says anything, I am well aware that the athletes turned actors have sometimes been successes. Fred Williamson, Woody Strode, and Jim Brown, for instance, excelled at both.]
With that I leave you with Namath and Ann-Margaret dancing to some Wayne Cochran.