Jay Cronley: More Popular than you might Think

Jay Cronley
Jay Cronley

You may have never heard of Jay Cronley and that would not be surprising. He currently resides in Tulsa and is mostly known in northeastern Oklahoma as a weekly columnist for The Tulsa World for the past 20 years or so. He is also suspected by many as the writer hiding behind the pseudonym, “The Picker”, who writes blogs over the latest sports news in a rather blunt fashion.

So how does this character fit into the movie scene?

Well, Jay Cronley also happens to be the author of three books that got turned into somewhat popular movies.

Funny Farm (1988)

Andy Farmer (Chevy Chase) tires of the city life and moves to the country, along with his wife (Madolyn Smith), so he can write the “Great American Novel” and together they find out that living in the country isn’t as laid back as they might have thought.

“Funny Farm” is a hit ‘n miss affair, but it’s mostly on target with maniacal mail truck drivers, movers that don’t arrive with the furniture, and dogs that either run away or are so catatonic that even when their fur is smoldering, they don’t move. In other words, it’s a typical country life.

Chase is still near the top of his game and he gets some decent support from the lovely, dimple-chinned Smith. Her foray into writing a children’s book adds some much needed tension to the storyline.

Some of the farce, such as the “special” at the local diner that Chase gobbles down in torrents may be a bit on the “salty” side, though pretty tame stuff compared to today’s comic fair.

Cronley’s book seems to have provided enough structure to enable this pretty good effort to realize its potential. If anything, it may help people forget Chase’s follow-up film to his Fletch series, “Fletch Lives”.

Interesting enough, “Funny Farm” turned out to be the last feature film directed by George Roy Hill, whose previous efforts included “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, “The Sting”, and one of my personal favorites, “Slap Shot”.

Let It Ride (1989)

Jay Trotter (Richard Dreyfuss, who’s right on target) is an ordinary man with a slight gambling problem, slight as in a lot I mean, and he decides one day to hit the track and for some unexplained reason, everything goes his way.

Virtually ignored when it came out, “Let It Ride” garnered some attention when it hit cable TV and deservedly so as it is a very funny comedy, buoyed by an excellent supporting cast including Jennifer Tilly in her most “Jennifer Tilly” type role, a bombshell who may not have everything upstairs, but it’s all well furnished down below. Teri Garr who is always perfect and David Johansen, who may be best known for his hit single “Hot Hot Hot” and used that popularity to garner some pretty good supporting roles like this one before reality smacked him in the face with “Car 54, Where Are You?”. And in early roles in their careers, Cynthia Nixon, best known for “Sex in the City” and for those fans of NBC’s “Wings” TV series, you get to see David Schramm (who played Roy Biggens).

This is definitely a feel-good comedy in the best sense of the phrase. I found the ending of the film perfectly appropriate and even somewhat inspired. Too bad there is no way, no day this film gets the Blu-Ray treatment or even its own DVD by itself as it seems. Still “Let It Ride” is a funny, well paced comedy that’s worth tracking down.

Quick Change (1990)

Three bank robbers pull of the perfect heist and that was the easy part, getting out of New York City is proving to be a lot harder.

Oh, “Ghostbusters” was bigger, “Meatball” more insane, perhaps “Lost In Translation” more subtle, but hands-down the best, most iconic performance in Bill Murray’s career happens in this film. He plays the always cool, always thinking Grimm (no first name is ever heard) who arrives at the bank dressed as a gun-toting clown and with his two cohorts Phyllis (a great Geena Davis) and Loomis (Randy Quaid) pull off the heist in such a perfect, yet simple way that you marvel as why anyone didn’t’ think of trying this method before.

Of course, that’s only the beginning of their problems as our lucky trio face one catastrophe after another in trying to leave NYC from road signs that are down, to getting robbed on the streets, and even watching their car get destroyed. But what makes this film special, aside from the letter-perfect performance of Jason “Why do I want this $#%&in’ job?” Robarts as the chief of police is Murray’s character. No matter what happens, you can see him thinking his way out, especially when the trio accidentally breaks into a mob warehouse and faces certain death.

The other big highlight is the small role of a fanatic bus driver played to dry perfection by Philip Bosco whose strict observance of the schedule and exact change creates a hilarious attempt by Murray to rectify the situation.

Along with “Let It Ride”, another “Wings” star appears in “Quick Change”, that’s Tony Shaloub as the cab driver who cannot speak a word of English…or any other recognizable language it seems.

While many would point out that this film marks the directorial debut of Murrey, who shares the credit with screenwriter Howard Franklin, what may be more interesting is that this is NOT the first movie filmed that was based on Jay Cronley’s book. That honor goes to a French film, “Hold Up” that was done five years earlier.

So if you want to ask a really tough trivia question for your movie-loving friends, you can try this;

What Tulsa resident wrote three novels that were turned into feature films?

If you said Jay Cronley, you would only be half right. S. E. Hinton, who was born in Tulsa, wrote “Tex”, “The Outsiders” and “Rumble Fish”, but that is for another hub.

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