Before Rocky And The Fonz, They Were Lords Of Flatbush

By | July 2, 2019

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Left: Paul Mace, Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler and Perry King in a detail of the poster for 'The Lords Of Flatbush.' Right: Sylvester Stallone as Stanley Rosiello. Sources: LMPC via Getty Images; IMDB

The 1974 indie film The Lords of Flatbush became a hit on the backs of its stars Sylvester Stallone and Henry Winkler, who were nobodies at the time the movie was made. Naturally, getting Rocky and The Fonz in the same film can only lead to good things. But the Brooklyn-set Lords of Flatbush gave us more than we could ever expect: a nostalgic and relatable coming of age story -- leather jackets, teen attitude and all. 

How can you fail with a poster tagline like "When was the last time someone gave you a hickey?" 

The Lords Of Flatbush was one of the first successful independent feature films -- according to director Stephen Verona, it's among the most profitable films ever, in terms of returns on its (very low) budget. With stars who ascended after the movie was out of theaters, it also quickly found an audience among the early adapters of a new technology -- the VCR.

The '50s Was Coming Back

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Stallone and Winkler in 'The Lords of Flatbush.' Source: IMDB

When The Lords of Flatbush debuted in the early ‘70s, a wave of '50s nostalgia was rising, perhaps due to the bad trips of the just-ended Vietnam War. The novelty musical act Sha Na Na (who had actually played Woodstock) was re-popularizing doo-wop, while the 1971 musical Grease (later a movie) and 1973 film American Graffiti aimed to bring a simpler, less complicated time back to stage and screen. Little did we know that The Lords of Flatbush wouldn’t just offer escapism for moviegoers, but provide the breeding ground for two of the great fictional '50s characters: The Fonz and Rocky Balboa.