Before he got fat and decided to spend more time courtside at Laker games than working on film sets, three-time Oscar winner Jack Nicholson was one of the most compelling actors in the history of film, especially during his unparalleled run between 1969 and 1975. Tonight, Turner Classic Movies presents three of Jack's finest performances from that period, starting with "Carnal Knowledge" at 11:45 p.m., followed by "Five Easy Pieces" at 1:30 a.m., and "Easy Rider" at 3:15 (all times Central).
In 1971's "Carnal Knowledge," Nicholson plays consummate bastard Jonathan from horny college kid to bitter middle-aged man. Director Mike Nichols and writer Jules Ffeiffer get the best from Jack, Ann-Margaret, Art Garfunkle and Candice Bergen as a quartet of misbegotten and misguided lovers. With Rita Moreno, who has a great moment playing a hooker engaged by Nicholson's character in the film's final scene.
"Five Easy Pieces," from 1970, was Nicholson's first major starring role (not counting his early leads in such '50s B-flicks as "The Cry Baby Killer" and "The Wild Ride") is a tour-de-force performance as musical prodigy turned itinerant oil rigger Bobby Dupea, with Karen Black as his girlfriend Rayette. Directed by Bob Rafelson, from a script by Adrien Joyce (Carole Eastman).
Directed by Dennis Hopper, produced by Peter Fonda, and written by Terry Southern (Hopper and Fonda helped themselves to a co-writing credit), 1969's "Easy Rider" was a cultural phenomenon, as well as a huge box-office hit that ushered in a series of films designed to exploit the youth market. Nicholson steals the show from Fonda and Hopper as George Hanson, a small-town Southern lawyer the two meet when jailed for "parading without a permit." A star-making performance, which earned him the first of many Oscar nominations.