John Milius saw an advance screening of 1941. He declared it the greatest comedy in the history of film.
Steven put Kathleen Kennedy in charge of 1941’s premiere. Kathy outdid herself. This premiere became the last great over-the-top Hollywood premiere ever produced. Kathy gave me and my girlfriend Alison Buckles tickets to the premiere. I dressed up as a WWII fighter pilot with flared at the thigh breeches, long boots and a vintage WWII leather flight jacket. The premiere was held at Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome with klieg lights scanning the skies. The Dome appeared to be packed with Old Hollywood’s elite.
I really enjoyed 1941 — but it felt like I was the only audience member who did. I found Eddie Deezen hilarious (Kathy told me that in person, he was exactly like the character he was playing). But when I laughed at anything in the movie, the people around me turned and glared. They were not having a good time and seemed to resent that I was.
When the picture finished, Alison and I left the theater to discover that Kathy had Sunset Boulevard closed from the Cinerama Dome to the Hollywood Palladium.
Vintage WWII ambulances manned by period costumed drivers shuffled audience members down the street to the Palladium. WWII soldiers and nurses were everywhere. Air raid sirens blared. On a billboard overlooking Sunset Boulevard, the propellers of a P-40 being flown by John Belushi suddenly started spinning, and then both the propellers and plane lit up with fireworks.
We walked to the Palladium. It was a re-creation of World War II era Hollywood all the way. As soon as we arrived, we were escorted inside. The interior of the Palladium was decked out to look like a 1940s USO club. An Andrews Sisters look-alike trio were singing on stage. After the Andrews Sisters, a 1940s-style crooner took the stage. All kinds of take-home swag was waiting for us at our dinner table, including a model kit of Belushi’s P-40. The waitresses and busboys were all dressed according to the vintage roles they were playing. Alison and I had a blast.
The reviews for 1941 that came out the next day were devastating. The critics had been waiting for Hollywood’s Golden Boy to fall — and their knives were sharpened and ready.
“My god,” Milius said. “From the reviews you’d have thought that Steven had slaughtered innocent women and children. He just made a bad movie.”
Later, though, Milius decided that “The only honorable thing for Steven to do is to commit Seppuku.”
After 1941’s premiere, we at A-Team were instructed to never mention 1941 in Steven’s presence ever again.