The Flamingo Kid

The best Garry Marshall (1934–2016) movie you never heard of is a little gem called The Flamingo Kid (1984). If you want to watch something in memory of him, I highly recommend it. Starring Matt Dillon, Janet Jones, Richard Crenna (in a brilliant performance), Jessica Walter, and Hector Elizondo (and look for John Turturro and Marisa Tomei in bit parts), it is a coming-of-age comedy-drama with, as one review said, “more on its mind that stale sex jokes.” In Brooklyn, 1963, the summer after Jeffrey Willis (Dillon) graduated from high school, he chances to land a job parking cars at the swanky El Flamingo Beach Club (the real life Silver Gull Beach Club of Queens, which still exists looking much as it did in 1963; it is being featured in a series of New York Times articles this summer). There he is dazzled by the resort atmosphere, the girls, and the relative opulence. He falls under the sway of one of the club’s most well-to-do members, Phil Brody (Crenna), owner of a chain of high performance sports car dealerships (Ferraris, etc.). Brody is friendly, approachable, and evidently determined to be the best at whatever he undertakes. Significantly, he has no son of his own. He is called “The King” because of his prowess at gin rummy, the obsession of all the male club members. Jeffrey also excels at gin; this is how he happened to be invited to the club in the first scene. Brody is impressed by Jeffrey’s brains and card sense, and takes him under his wing. Brody’s charm and obvious success put Jeffrey’s blue collar father (Elizondo) in the shade, with predictable consequences when Jeffrey decides to follow Brody into car sales instead of going to college in the fall. The theme, obviously, is values. It all comes to a climax in a showdown over—what else?—gin rummy.

Dialogue excerpt that will show all readers of this blog why they must watch this movie:

[Jeffrey and Brody are riding in one of Brody’s dealership Ferraris, which Brody is letting Jeffrey test drive.]

Brody: You going to school?

Jeffrey: Yeah.

Brody: Where are you going?

Jeffrey: I’m probably going to be studying at Columbia.

Brody: Good for you! That’s great!

Jeffrey: Did you go to college, Mr. Brody?

Brody: Yeah, well, I mean, I didn’t… You know, I didn’t go to college. My older brother used all the money, so there was nothing left for me. I went to night school. I graduated, NYU. Took a lot of business courses. Let me give you some advice. You can forget that literature, religion… music, philosophy, things like that. I mean, it’s okay, but… What are you going to do with philosophy? You’ve never seen a philosopher making fifty grand a year. You’ve never seen a philosopher driving a car like this.

Jeffrey: No.

Brody: Remember what I’m telling you. Socrates rode around on the back of a donkey.

Jeffrey: That’s a good one, Mr. Brody.


6 thoughts on “The Flamingo Kid

  1. Re “values”: for the record, I drive a 2001 Volvo S40. (At least three members of this blog have had the privilege of riding in it.) It may not be a Ferrari, but it’s boxy and safe, albeit highly prone to expensive breakdowns. In short, I’ve made my peace with my financial lot as a philosopher. Most days.


  2. I can’t be the only person with no desire to drive a Ferrari, let alone own one. I definitely desire not to own one; I might even desire not to drive one. I would, however, be alright with making $50,000 a year — though I wonder what the equivalent of $50,000 in 1984 would be, adjusted for inflation? Ah, the Inflation Calculator tells me it would be $115,995.19. That’s certainly more than I ever plan on making.

    Is this film available for viewing in anything other than old-fashioned formats?


  3. It looks like you can watch it here and at other, similar sites. It’s too bad they never issued it in Blu-ray, but the DVD is under $10.

    My own modern day donkey is a 2005 Ford Focus that sometimes has its window smashed by street people in search of loose change. At least there are no dents.


    • Cool. I think my DVD player still works, I just can’t remember the last time I used it. Not that I watch very much at all these days, but it’s online streaming when I do; I hadn’t even realized that until I saw that this one wasn’t available to stream on Amazon.


  4. Pingback: Popularity is Overrated | Policy of Truth

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