$ (aka Dollars) (1971): Richard Brooks’ Heist Movie, Starring Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn

Marking a change of pace for director Richard Brooks, who’s better known for melodramas (Blackboard Jungle), $ (aka Dollars), is a heist picture that benefits from its exotic locations of Scandinavia, Bavaria, and Hamburg, as well as from the presence of its two appealing stars, Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn, then at the prime of their careers.

Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

$ (Dollars)
$ (movie poster).jpg

Original film poster

The $ title was a gimmick, which the studio (Columbia) exploited in its marketing campaign. However, the Oscar-nominated Brooks, known for his serious melodramas such as “Blackboard Jungle,” “The Brothers Karamazov,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and “In Cold Blood,” might not have been the right choice for a rather frivolous “caper” picture, which he also scripted.

Though giving an appealing, quite physical performance, Beatty was criticized by some reviewers for choosing such mindless fare.

So was co-star Goldie Hawn, fresh off from winning a Supporting Actress Oscar for the comedy Cactus Flower, in 1969.  Hawn was beginning to be typecast, having appeared in “There’s a Girl in My Soup,” in which she played yet another cookie tart.

The success of caper films often relies on their physical action and visual sights, and, indeed, the scene that most viewers remembered from $ is the lengthy, suspenseful, well-shot chase across a frozen lake until the villain’s car sinks through the ice (regards from a similar scene in “Psycho”).

Beatty plays Joe Collins, an American security expert who steals the contents of three safe deposit boxes from a Hamburg bank. The owners are crooks who, of course, cannot report the theft to the authorities.  Collins’ chance comes while installing a new alarm system.

Dawn Divine (Hawn), a Hamburg whore and former Vegas showgirl, helps and abets him because she likes his looks and the reward.  After a bomb scare, Collins persuades bank officials to lock him in the vault, where he stashes away the contents of three boxes into the one that Divine has rented.  She walks with the swag, and the crooks begin their pursuit.

The sex in the picture is more titillating than graphic. The first shot shows Divine’s backside in transparent underwear, as a tired, old-looking Scott Brady, a crooked army sergeant who specializes in heroin deals, slips money into her lingerie.

Arthur Brauss gives a strong performance as Candy Man, whose specialty is transporting LSD in champagne bottles.  The other villain, Robert Webber, is also effective as an American lawyer who has vaulted tax-and-syndicate ill-gotten gains.  Gert Frobe plays Kessel, a bank official who plays into Collins’ hands.

The critical reaction to $ was mixed to negative–some reviewers felt that the yarn was pretentious and overwritten–resulting in a commercial failure.   Even so, there are minor rewards, such as Beatty’s display of his narcissistic, charm, and a few thrilling set pieces.

End Note:

In 1972, Beatty participated actively in the McGovern presidential campaign, after which he didn’t make any movie for over two years.


Warren Beatty (Joe Collins)

Goldie Hawn (Dawn Divine)

Gert Frobe (Mr. Kessel)

Robert Webber (Attorney)

Scott Brady (Sarge)

Arthur Brauss (Candy Man)

Robert Stiles (Major)

Wolfgang Kieling (Granich)

Robert Herron (Bodyguard)

Christiane Maybach (Helga)

Hans Hutter (Karl)

Monica Stender (Betta)

Francoise Blanc (Stripper)

Walt Trott (Stars & Stripes Reporter)

Darrell Armstrong (A.P. Reporter)

Horst Hesslein (Bruno)

Wolfgang Kuhlman (Furcoat)

Klaus Tschichan (Knifeman)

Tove Platon, Kirstein Lahman (Customs Officials)


Columbia Picture.

M.J. (Mike) Frankovich Production.

Producer: M.J. Frankovich.

Director: Richard Brooks.

Writer: Richard Brooks.

Photographer: Petrus Schloemp.

Music: Quincy Jones.

Songs: “Money Is” and “Do It to It” sung by Little Richard; “When You’re Smiling,” composed by Mark Fisher, Joe Goodwin and Larry Shay, sung by Roberta Flack.

Editor: George Grenville.

Art Directors: Guy Sheppard, Olaf Ivens.

Sound: Arthur Piantadosi, Richard Tyler, Jack Haynes.

Wardrobe: Johannes Kohner.

Makeup: Ernest Schmekel, Bob Jiras.

Hair Styles: Berry Richardson.

Assistant Director: Tom Shaw.

Released in New York: December 15, 1971.

Running time: 119 minutes.