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Mr. Movie: Donald Sutherland

Donald Sutherland left us at 88 and also left us more than 200 movie and TV appearances, all of them professional and polished.


He had minor roles in The Bedford Incident (1965) and The Dirty Dozen (1967). But his first starring role was as Hawkeye Pierce in the darkly hilarious M*A*S*H (1970). He is one of the prankster physicians in a hospital unit in Korea. Also on hand are Elliott Gould as Trapper John and Sally Kellerman as Hot Lips Houlihan. The film is much darker than the popular TV series with Alan Alda. But though the cast is often up to its elbows in blood and gore, they still manage to make us laugh a lot.


Start The Revolution Without Me (1970) is perhaps an acquired taste. Sutherland and co-star Gene Wilder play two sets of twins somehow switched at birth. One set is haughty and aristocratic and the other is poor and rather stupid. All of them get mixed up in the French Revolution with often comic results.


In Kelly’s Heroes (1970), Clint Eastwood portrays the title character, a disgraced private who captures a German officer, gets him drunk and discovers a cache of gold bars in a nearby bank. He hatches a plan to steal the gold. A spaced-out tank commander, affectionally called Oddball (Sutherland), wants to join in, and suggests his tank brigade would make a nice complementary group. When both Oddball’s Sherman tank and the last German Panzer tank both break down, the two sides make a deal to blow open the bank doors and share the gold.


Sutherland plays the title character in Klute (1970). He is a private detective hired to find a missing Pennsylvania executive. The hunt leads him to high-end prostitute Bree Daniel (Jane Fonda). He rents an apartment in her building and proceeds to track her and tap her phone. He finally confronts her and their relationship quickly turns romantic. There are lots of twists and turns. The couple appears to stay together but it’s not for sure. The screenplay is nominated for the Oscar, but loses to scripters of The Hospital. However, Fonda wins the Oscar as Best Actress.


In Don’t Look Now (1973), Sutherland and Julie Christie portray bereaved couple John and Laura Baxter, whose daughter was drowned near their home in England. They journey to Venice, where John has accepted a job to renovate a cathedral. Laura contacts a woman who says she is clairvoyant and in touch with the deceased daughter. She also says that John is in great danger and should leave Venice. He disparages this idea. They are notified that their son has been injured at boarding school in Britain, and Laura departs to be with him. Things keep happening to John and he keeps seeing a mysterious small figure in a red coat. This film is now considered a classic and features very innovative editing.


All of the films in this article are for grown-ups.  If you Google any film in this article and click on Watch Movie, you will find where you can stream it. Caveat: None are available for free.