A truly great essential, especially in my book of lists. Steve McQueen's Bullitt (1968) a screening I have made 50-100 times and I feel I know this film backwards and forewords with many footnote documented attributes in between. After the viewing the movie again last Saturday night (June 13th) and re-confirming my love and appreciation for a film 98% flawless, I was surprised at Sally Field's remarks about Jacqueline Bisset's part. True it was a very small part as was the majority of supporting players but just as vitally important to the overall picture.
Over the last number of recent viewings I have made of Bullitt trying to break it apart (analytically) to try and figure out just what makes it such an awesome and entertaining film. My conclusion, like the film itself is multi-layered. First and foremost Steve McQueen fits his part like a tailor made suit. And as Sally pointed out, often Frank Bullitt did not have to speak. His eyes and expression spoke volumes. When he did speak it was direct and to the point.
Jacqueline Bisset, of course she is very beautiful but much more than just eye candy in this film. She is a professional, working in her opening scene, on the water flow problem to an art sculpture fountain (which by the way is a real functioning fountain located at the Embarcadero in San Francisco). According to director Peter Yates in the documentary The Making of Bullitt, he mentions how careful he was to cast the woman in Steve McQueen's Frank Bullitt's life and she had to be of a sincere quality to be with this type of man. I believe it is also an important factor to show Frank Bullitt's love interest to round out and complete his character. He is much more than just a shoot'em cop. He's a thinking man's detective, he cares about Cathy and works hard to keep the violent aspects of his work out of their relationship. That private glance he makes of her, as she chats with friends in the jazz club, beaming of admiration and/or love is a priceless scene. Yet he doesn't say a word, it's all mimed and framed with the sound of cool jazz. Later they are in bed together but being the total professional he is, he still keeps tabs on his team of partners watching over Ross, the informant. With all due respect to Sally Field, I believe Jacqueline Bisset's part was well played and an important integral part of the film. I think it fair to say that all of these supporting parts, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Duvall, Simon Oakland, Don Gordon and Norman Fell were "small parts" only in terms of "screen time", but we would all love to have seen bigger and juicer expanded parts for this super talented cast but that would be a much different movie. Sally pretty much said the same of Robert Duvall's part at the end of the show. I just felt that observation should apply all the way around to the rest of the cast. Great movie!