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Blue Collar (film)

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Title: Blue Collar (film)  
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Subject: Paul Schrader, Richard Pryor, Leonard Schrader, Yaphet Kotto, 1978 in film
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Blue Collar (film)

Blue Collar
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Schrader
Produced by Don Guest
Written by Paul Schrader
Leonard Schrader
Based on an article by
Sydney A. Glass
Starring Richard Pryor
Harvey Keitel
Yaphet Kotto
Music by Jack Nitzsche
Cinematography Bobby Byrne
Edited by Tom Rolf
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • February 10, 1978 (1978-02-10)
Running time
114 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.7 million[1]

Blue Collar is a 1978 American crime drama film directed by Paul Schrader, in his directorial debut. It was written by Schrader and his brother Leonard and stars Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto.

The film is both a critique of union practices and an examination of life in a working-class Rust Belt enclave. Although it has minimal comic elements provided by Pryor, it is mostly dramatic.

Schrader, who was at the time a renowned screenwriter for his work on Taxi Driver (1976), recalls the shooting as a very difficult one because of the artistic and personal tension between himself and the actors as well as between the stars themselves, also stating that it was the only occasion he suffered an on-set mental breakdown, which made him seriously reconsider his career.[2]


  • Plot synopsis 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Plot synopsis

A trio of Detroit auto workers, two black—Zeke Brown (Pryor) and Smokey James (Kotto)—and one white—Jerry Bartowski (Keitel)—are fed up with mistreatment at the hands of both management and union brass. Smokey is in debt to a loan shark, Jerry works a second job to get by and finds himself unable to pay for the dental treatment that his daughter needs, and Zeke cheats money out of the IRS in order to improve his family’s income.[3]

Coupled with the financial hardships on each man's end, the trio hatch a plan to rob a safe at union headquarters.

They commit the caper but find only a few scant bills in the process. More importantly, they also come away with a informing on the union's corruption, which could make him enemies with his co-workers as well as the union bosses. At the same time, corrupt union bosses try to get Zeke to work for them. By the end, once close friends, Jerry and Zeke turn against each another.



The film was shot on location at the Checker plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan and at locales around Detroit, including the Ford River Rouge Complex on the city's southwest side and the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle.

The three main actors didn't get along and were constantly fighting throughout the shoot. The tension became so great that at one point Richard Pryor (supposedly in a drug-fueled rage) pointed a gun at Schrader and told him that there was "no way" he was ever going to do more than three takes for a scene, an incident which may have caused Schrader's nervous breakdown.[2]


  1. ^ Writing His Way to the Top Kilday, Gregg. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 06 Apr 1977: e20
  2. ^ a b The Back Row, Robin's Underrated Gems: Blue Collar (1978)
  3. ^

External links

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