The Sterile Cuckoo (1969) From Pookie to Sally B-

DIRECTOR: Alan J. Pakula
BOTTOM LINE: In so many ways, Liza Minnelli’s Oscar-nominated turn as quirky, oddball and needy “Pookie” Adams in producer Alan J. Pakula’s directorial debut is a preview of her Oscar-winning performance three years later in Bob Fosse’s “Cabaret.” But while Sally Bowles was a creation for the ages, Pookie is a half-formed character that comes at you in spurts. Her justly famous telephone monologue comes to mind. However, sometimes, she seems lost in the moment and can be irritating and cruel. What she does have on Sally, though, is her gaydar.
Sally was clueless that her lover and her (male) best friend were lovers. Pookie thinks that her shy boyfriend (Wendell Burton in his film debut)’s roommate Charles (played by Tim McIntire) is gay. I think Pookie was correct on this one point. McIntire, the son of actors John McIntire and Jeanette Nolan, had made three movies before this one, and he is more comfortable on screen than his costars. It’s a lovely, understated performance; you can feel his love for Jerry. The fact that Pookie outs him in a most uncaring fashion makes us care about him all the more. Quite a coup in the year of Stonewall!

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