Joe (1970): John Avildsen’s Oscar-Nominated Tale of Racist Worker, Featuring Peter Boyle, Susan Sarandon in her Screen Debut (Race)

The great character actor Peter Boyle gives a powerful performance as the titular character of Joe, a tale of a racist factory worker who hates “hippies and niggers.”

The film, directed by Joe Avildsen before making the “Rocky” and the “Karate Kid” pictures, centers on New York City advertising executive Bill Compton (Dennis Patrick), who kills Frank (Patrick McDermott), the junkie lover of his daughter Melissa (Susan Sarandon), when she ends up in a mental hospital after suffering a drug overdose.

Joe Carter (Boyle), who holds Bill in great regard for killing the drug pusher, congratulates Bill, and a friendship between the two men begins.

When Melissa escapes from the hospital, Bill and Joe go to Greenwich Village to find her.  Invading a hippie pot party, the two reactionaries go on a killing spree.

At the time, the movie was a sleeper hit, due to its approach to the characters and to the material, which is both satirical and empathetic.

At present, it’s mostly known as Avildsen’s first big picture and as the stunning debut of Susan Sarandon, who would become a major star in the 1970s and 1980s.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Story and Screenplay (Original): Norman Wexler

Oscar Awards: None


Oscar Context:

The winners of the Original Screenplay Oscar were Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North for “Patton,” which also won Best Picture, Director and Actor.


Running time: 107 Minutes.

Directed by John Avildsen

Released July 15, 1970.

DVD on April 16, 2002



Dennis Patrick as Bill Compton

Peter Boyle as Joe Curran

Susan Sarandon as Melissa Compton

Patrick McDermott as Frank Russo

Audrey Caire as Joan Compton

K Callan as Mary Lou Curran

Marlene Warfield as Bellevue Nurse

Gloria Hoye as Janine

Patti Caton as Nancy

Gary Weber as George

Claude Robert Simon as Bob

Francine Middleton as Gail

Mary Case as Teeny Bopper