California Split Movie Review – The Real Face of Gambling

Over the years, gambling has been portrayed in various lights across movies. Some show it as a glamorous and fun activity, filled with high-stakes excitement. Others present the darker underside, with criminals and addiction ruining people's lives. But few have as realistic a portrayal as California Split. In our California Split movie review, you will learn more about this fascinating film. You will find information on its production and the California Split cast, a brief synopsis of the plot and even where to watch California Split online. Use the quicknavi below to navigate through this blog.

California Split 1974 – A Long and Storied Production

Released on the 7th of August 1974, the California Split movie was produced by Joseph Walsh and Robert Altman. It began production in 1971 when Walsh became frustrated with the portrayal of gambling in films and his career as an actor. He initially worked with Steven Spielberg, but he was hired for a different movie, leaving Walsh stranded until he met Robert Altman.

🎬 Director: Robert Altman
✍️ Writer: Joseph Walsh
📅 Release date: 7th of August 1974
⌚ Runtime: 108 minutes
🌟 IMDB Rating: 7.2/10
🍅 Rotten Tomatoes Rating 83% Audience Score
💰 Box Office: $5 Million (rentals)

Despite their initial disagreements, Walsh and Altman made an excellent team and would perfectly capture Walsh’s vision in the California Split 1974 movie. Columbia Pictures approved the script, becoming their distribution company, and the two secured financing from Won World Productions, a production company formed by Altman, Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg. After many setbacks, Walsh would finally be able to create the movie he wanted.

California Split Movie Plot – The Real World of Gambling

The California Split Movie is about the friendship between Bill Denny and Charlie Waters. Charlie is an experienced gambler, betting on anything from horse racing events to roulette games. Meanwhile, Bill gambles casually and works as a magazine writer. The two meet after getting robbed by a card player and bond over their love for gambling.

As the movie goes on, Bill becomes enamoured with the gambling lifestyle and wishes to become a full-time gambler like Charlie. Unfortunately, he develops an addiction and goes into serious debt to his bookie. Bill’s last resort is to take a trip to Reno and solve his debt by winning big at a variety of games, including blackjack casino games.

With Charlie and Bill pooling their money to play at a high-stakes poker game, will they finally catch their big break? Or will they end up losing it all? Enjoy the exciting and realistic tale of California Split 1974 and its splendid cast of characters, immersing you into one of the best gambling movies.

$20 says you can’t name the seven dwarfsBill Denny, gambling with Charlie Waters in a bar

Joseph Walsh was highly knowledgeable of gambling and had suffered from gambling addiction, which is why he wanted to create a movie that would speak to the heart of gamblers. The premise is similar to Lookin’ to Get Out, but this film is much darker. Instead of the glamorous Las Vegas, we visit Reno and dive into the true gambling experience in stale, crowded rooms.

Despite this, the story also never becomes too bleak. There are comedic moments, such as the characters eating cereal and drinking beer for breakfast. The movie perfectly showcases both the positive and negative sides of gambling, painting a complete picture of a gambler’s life without exaggeration. Ultimately, the abrupt ending leaves audiences to contemplate the movie and make their conclusions.

California Split Cast – The Perfect Fit

In this section of our California Split movie review, we will go over the actors. Part of the movie’s success is owed to the fantastic California Split cast. Bill Denny is played by George Segal, who perfectly emulates an average working man entering a strange new world. He idolises the free-spirited life of the gamblers and wishes to experience the same level of excitement, which ends up leading him towards a dark path.

Meanwhile, Elliott Gould is a perfect fit for the role of Charlie Waters. As someone who had struggled with gambling addiction himself, Gould captures the essence of a wisecracking gambler. He drinks alcohol for breakfast, spends all day gambling and always has a quip ready, giving a lively performance as the ideal gambler.

🤵 Actor 🎭 Role
George Segal Bill Denny
Elliott Gould Charlie Waters
Joseph Walsh Sparkie
Jeff Goldblum Lloyd Harris
Ann Prentiss Barbara Miller
Gwen Welles Susan Peters

Together, the main characters deliver excellent banter and entertain the audience with crazy antics such as betting on the names of the seven dwarfs. Whether they win big or get robbed by an armed crook, the two friends stick together and form a deep bond. That is why their eventual parting is exceptionally bittersweet.

California Split 1974 has an excellent cast with some popular actors, with each character getting plenty of time to shine. Billy and Charlie sometimes blend in with the crowd of other colourful characters, making them feel like they are a part of the world.

California Split Movie Reception – A Sleeper Hit

In this part of our California Split movie review, we will go over its reception. Both critics, such as Roger Ebert, and the audience praise the movie as one of Altman’s greatest works. Altman expertly combines humour and drama, creating a realistic atmosphere, where the characters begin the day eating cereal and reminisce in a bar at night.

The realism also extends to the setting. Instead of supermodels in suits in Las Vegas, we see elderly ladies and middle-aged men in casual clothes in Reno. There’s no flair or glamour, as the players argue over technicalities and get into fights. California Split 1974 also portrays the aimlessness of addiction. Even when Bill wins big, he feels empty and tired, deciding to cut his losses and leave.

Altman’s trademark overlapping dialogue helps create a sense that this is just one small story in a larger world. There is no grand plot, and the characters’ adventures begin as abruptly as they end. The movie earned $5 million in the box office and garnered a cult following for its originality. If you want to watch California Split online, it is available for rent, buying or streaming at the following services:

  • Amazon Prime
  • Apple iTunes
  • Vudu
  • Tubi
  • DIRECTV
  • Reelgood

California Split Trivia

This movie was the first of Altman’s works to use the eight-track sound system, which allows for overlapping dialogue, creating a realistic atmosphere in a crowded environment. As such, extras and supporting actors were given even more importance. The scenes in Reno were filmed at an actual casino in the Mapes Hotel in Reno. That helped the actors immerse themselves, as real casino games were running in the background when filming.

Initially, Robert De Niro and Peter Falk were considered for the role of Charlie Waters. However, Joseph Walsh would always return to his friend Elliott Gould, who convinced him he was suitable for the role. Gould was so good at playing his character, due to having lived a similar life, that George Segal was initially intimidated by his skill. He would later find his own style and made a great pair with Gould.

Interesting fact:
To make the poker scene with Bill Denny feel more authentic, Altman hired former world champion Amarillo Slim to play and had George Segal use his own money to play. That would help the actor feel the pain of loss for better performance. However, Segal had a lucky break and won the game.

Finally, Joseph Walsh initially planned on working with Steven Spielberg to produce the movie with MGM as their distributor. However, MGM wanted to turn the film into a mafia movie, and Walsh would be removed as producer. The two men then went to Universal Pictures, hoping to work with Richard Zanuck and David Brown. This plan would also fall apart when Spielberg was hired to direct a different movie, leaving Walsh alone.

California Split Movie Conclusion – End of the Road

The California Split movie is a unique portrayal of gambling. Gamblers are not presented as geniuses or complete wrecks but as ordinary people seeking some entertainment. The abrupt ending allows the audience to come to their own conclusions on gambling. It is one of Altman’s best works with thought-provoking themes, a fun cast of characters and many memorable moments.

We hope you enjoyed our California Split movie review. If you’re interested in seeing other exciting gambling movies, you can check out the best blackjack movies. Enjoy one of the most realistic and impressive gambling movies and try out the best online poker sites if you wish to play some games for yourself.

California Split Movie Review FAQ

This part of our California Split movie review will answer all your pressing questions regarding this movie. You can learn some extra details on the movie’s production or get some information about the cast of characters. We will also mention where you can watch this great movie online and more.

🎥 Who directed California Split 1974?

According to official information on California Split, the movie was originally going to be directed by Steven Spielberg. However, the director was changed to Robert Altman, known for his unique artistic style and visual storytelling. His use of overlapping dialogue creates realistic settings, where every character works together to create an immersive experience for the audience.

📜 What is the plot of the California Split movie?

California Split 1974 is the story of two gamblers experiencing all aspects of gambling. It's a series of events as the two develop their friendship through highs and lows and try to find the next source of entertainment. The closest it has to an overarching plot is Bill developing a gambling addiction and paying off his debt.

❓ Who are the main characters in California Split?

The California Split movie has two main characters: Bill Denny and Charlie Waters. They are played by George Segal and Elliott Gould who make an excellent comedic duo. Segal's average man is a great contrast to Gould's wisecracking professional gambler. Whether it's a comedic situation or a dramatic moment, the characters always seem interesting and relatable.

🤔 Why was Elliot Gould chosen to play Charlie Waters?

According to some interesting behind-the-scenes information Elliot Gould was not the first pick for the California Split cast. Robert de Niro and Peter Falk were considered to play Charlie, but Gould convinced Walsh that he would be perfect for the role. Gould managed to truly get into Charlie's mindset as someone who had suffered from a gambling addiction.

🖥️ Where can I watch California Split online?

California Split received a widespread positive reaction from fans and critics alike, so it can easily be found online. It can be bought or rented with HD quality at Amazon Prime, Apple iTunes, and Vudu. Choose your preferred service and enjoy one of Altman's best works from the comfort of your own home with high-quality graphics.

📘 How did California Split end?

As mentioned in our California Split conclusion the movie ends abruptly. Bill loses after a long streak and realises gambling is no longer enjoyable. After splitting the winnings with Charlie, Bill quits and goes home while Charlie continues gambling. It perfectly captures the feeling of apathy and emptiness as the addiction has drained all the joy of gambling.

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