Hair (1979): Milos Forman’s Version of Popular Stage Musical, Starring Treat Williams and John Savage

Milos Forman’s screen version of Hair, from a screenplay by Michael Weller, based on the hit musical play by Gerome Ragni, James Rado, and Galt MacDermot, is an uneven musical that displays energy and some good acting, but suffers from over-stylization and artifice.

Oscar: Amadeus (1984)–Milos Forman’s Second Best Picture Winner

There is no doubt that “Hair” would have been better-received, both critically and commercially, if it were made earlier, during the Vietnam War and anti-war movement. On the one hand, this adaptation is distant from its political context to be truly relevant, and on the other, it’s not distant enough to be enjoyable as a stylized period piece.

Even so, the film boasts a fresh, strong cast, with John Savage, Treat Williams, Beverly D’Angelo, as the central romantic triangle, all turning in likeable performances.

Milos Forman, the Czech director riding high after sweeping the 1975 Oscars for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” is determined to put his personal signature on the text, which often works against its spontaneity.

But in going against the grain, and against the usual conventions of the Hollywood musical, he often comes up with positive results, particularly as far as the coherence of the narrative and the staging of some of the musical numbers are concerned.

Cast

Claude (John Savage)
Berger (Treat Williams)
Sheila (Beverly DÁngelo)
Jeannie (Annie Golden)
Hud (Dorsey Wright)
The General (Nicholas Ray)