Theme Song: Richard Baskin (son of ice cream magnate Irv Baskin) was a California-based musician/composer who got a big break when asked to write about a dozen songs for Nashville. This led right into the composing, writing, and arranging of the Welcome To L.A. soundtrack. Baskin even parlayed this into an appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1977, but he was never able to find any chart success.
“City of One Night Stands” Vocals by Richard Baskin
“The Best Temptation of All” Vocals by Richard Baskin
Keith Carradine also does a few vocal turns on the soundtrack album.
“Welcome to L.A.” Vocals by Keith Carradine
The songs aren’t very exciting. They are a good time capsule of the late-70s California singer/songwriter boom. Sort of a post-Laurel Canyon, post-Cocaine high haze example of what things were like back then, and equally as unmemorable.
Interesting Dated References: Pulling a small bottle of Southern Comfort from your breast pocket, offering it to anyone you’re speaking with (regardless of sex or age), and asking if they’d “like a steamboat” (in reference to the steamboat on the label); Exhaling/sighing very deeply after drinking Southern Comfort straight as if your thirst was being quenched; Saying, “No,” when a guest asks if you have a coat hanger; Trying really super-hard to get a chick with a terrible cough to come home with you for the night so you can make love to her.
Best Line: “Daydreams and traffic, that’s what Los Angeles is all about!”
Social Context: Robert Altman’s film Nashville was a huge success both critically and at the box office. Alan Rudolph, a 2nd Assistant Director on Nashville looking to kickstart his own career, decided it best to lift a few actors from Nashville and drop them into a similar multi-character story based in Los Angeles. Altman must have really liked this idea since he signed on to produce, and thus, Welcome To L.A. was released to audiences who quickly forgot about it.
Summary: The movie opens with Richard Baskin in some type of studio, singing songs from behind a piano. Baskin really parlayed that Nashville success into major screen time in Welcome To L.A.
Sensing confusion right off the bat, the filmmakers decided to display each actor and their corresponding character name over this opening song sequence. Even with this clarification, Welcome To L.A. is hard to follow.
In fact, any attempt at itemized summary for this movie would sound like a laundry list of boring scenarios: A woman in a cab writes in her journal about love; a man has a party and some woman he has sexual tension with shows up; some guy hits on a maid; some women talk about a famous musician; another guy rents an apartment and hits on women; some businessmen talk about business; some other guy walks around with a soul patch and sandals and tries to get laid; a couple struggles with infidelity; a bunch of people in baggy, beige clothes have unprotected sex; Harvey Keitel incessantly smokes some type of white pipe.
It goes on and on, it’s not very engaging, and the entire time the songs of Richard Baskin are played over shots of Richard Baskin behind a piano singing the songs of Richard Baskin. The whole movie is late-seventies, cocaine-induced, navel-gazing to the highest degree, but that’s not to say there aren’t some curiosities here.
For example, Sissy Spacek shows her boobs because she’s a maid who likes to clean houses topless. So, if you were curious about or sexually aroused by Sissy Spacek’s breasts and wanted to briefly see them, then Welcome To L.A may be an enjoyable experience for you.
Also, if you were curious about the size and/or shade of the areolae of Geraldine Chaplin (daughter of Charlie Chaplin), then you would probably find Welcome To L.A engaging.
Similarly, if you were curious about the fullness of Geraldine Chaplin’s pubic mound, then you would probably be satisfied in watching Welcome To L.A.
But outside of those examples and Keith Carradine’s chin pussy/soul patch combo, Welcome To L.A. is a series of meandering, interweaving storylines that are mostly boring. Carradine plays Carroll Barber, a songwriter and son of a yogurt millionaire who arrives in L.A. to supervise the recording of several songs he wrote. Carradine is basically playing Richard Baskin, who as we said earlier is the son of an ice cream millionaire.
Keitel plays Ken Hood, who is the assistant to yogurt-millionaire Carl Barber, who is estranged from his songwriting son Carroll (Carradine). Keitel is unhappily married to Karen, played by Geraldine Chaplin, and the two of them each struggle with infidelity, resulting in a closing where Keitel cries a lot (but not in the awesome way he cried in Bad Lieutenant).
Chaplin wanders around all day writing in her poetry book, and eventually starts to fall in love with Carradine after randomly meeting him one day. Oh, and her character also has a terrible cough throughout the entire film.
Sally Kellerman is also in love with Carradine. I think she’s his agent or realtor or has some L.A.-type job like that. She also has a husband who becomes obsessed with Spacek’s character, and he eventually pays her for sex.
And Lauren Hutton is also lounging about, playing a photographer who also gets involved with Carradine. All of these women find his chin pussy/soul patch, sandal/sock combo totally irresistible.
I don’t mean to be dismissive of the story, but there’s seriously no engaging way to describe all the intermingling going on. Look, if you like Alan Rudolph or meandering, interconnecting storylines about whites, then perhaps you will enjoy this movie.
A few other things of note:
A cabbie sits around and reads one of Ed Ruscha’s original self published copies of Some Los Angeles Apartments.
Robert DeNiro’s first wife, Diahnne Abbott, has a minor role as a secretary who, yes, is also wooed or in the past was wooed by Carradine.
There’s also this awesome painting Spacek and Chaplin sit in front of after they’ve both sort of had emotional breakdowns. It’s possibly the best fucking painting I’ve ever seen and if you can help identify it we’ll be forever grateful.
Along with many righteously washed-out late 70s California interiors. In fact, the interiors play a pretty large role, and Rudolph works with them pretty well, going so far as to use mirrors and reflections as a cinematic device during several scenes of the film.
Things eventually end when Richard Baskin sleeps with Sissy Spacek, and then decides not to record Carradine’s songs anymore because he doesn’t like them, and Harvey Keitel is redeemed when he cries a lot over the phone to his wife as she’s about to have an affair.
Poster and Box Art: All the type on Welcome To L.A., from the opening credits, entire closing credits, to the poster and soundtrack album, were done by hand. This is a testament to how cool things used to be in the 70s. Movies budgeted for things like typefaces and design, instead of just slapping fucking Papyrus font on everything and calling it a day. The type for Welcome To L.A. is credited to Dan Peri. I can’t seem to find anything about him online, but good job, Mr. Peri!
Availability: Available on DVD and Bluray as part of MGM’s on-demand series of discs. Slightly restored and in widescreen.