Lifeguard came out in 1976 and many believed it was made because of the big $$ success that Shampoo had the previous year (please see the VGMH story on Shampoo, earlier this month with Warren Beatty). Both movies trace the emotional comlications of sexy men who are at personal crossroads.
Rick Carlson (Elliott) is a Los Angeles beach lifeguard in his early thirties. He's still darn sexy and he knows it, but after 8 years on the beach, his time as a prime stud is passing quickly in the world of hard bodied twenty-somethings. Parker Stevenson appears as a college kid learning the ropes of lifesaving from Elliott. Rick's father thinks he's wasting his life, and after his 15th high school reunion Rick may agree with him. He's having an identity crisis. And the poor guy has women problems...one with a seventeen-year-old (jail bait) high schooler who has a crush on him (who he's noticed as well), and the second is the recently-divorced high school sweetheart from his youth, who he reconnects with at his reunion.
Elliott is hunky and hairy with a great slow voice and a studly mustache, but the real meat in this film rests in the quiet scenes where Mr. Elliott contemplates and reacts to some radical changes in his character's easygoing existence, as new opportunities seem to provide the perfect escape from being an aging sex object. Will he grow up and wear clothing all the time, or remain in shorts at the beach?
Most of the cast & crew were from TV work, as director Daniel Petrie was also very comfortable with the small screen. Keeping things simple helps the movie define itself, and the performances are very natural. After Lifeguard, Sam Elliot went back to TV before his film career got a boost via Peter Bogdanovich'sMask (1985).