Synopsis by Mark Deming
A musician finds his life and his career jumping off the rails in this moody, intelligent drama. Maury Dann (Rip Torn) is a singer and songwriter struggling to hold onto his footing as one of the top names in country & western music. This being 1972, long before the Nashville sound had gone "mainstream," Dann has a new Cadillac and a small entourage to show for his efforts, but most of his shows are one-nighters at beer-soaked honky tonks in the Deep South. Onstage Maury Dann comes off as a soft-hearted good ol' boy, but off the stand, Dann is a mean-spirited hell raiser with a nearly unquenchable appetite for booze, pills, and women. Over the course of a seemingly typical day and a half, Dann steals a fan's girlfriend; ditches his longtime mistress, Mayleen (Anna Capri); picks up a naïve groupie named Rosamond (Elayne Heilveil) and gives her a crash course in life on the road; fires his guitar player (and best friend) and hires a starry-eyed teenager as his replacement; tries to bribe a disc jockey with booze and free records; has a harrowing run-in with his speed-addicted mother (Cara Dunn); discovers he's missed his son's birthday by four months; and, in cahoots with his manager, Clarence (Michael C. Gwynne), fast-talks his loyal driver, cook, and gofer, Chicago (Cliff Emmich), into taking a possible murder rap. While Payday earned excellent reviews (particularly for Rip Torn's superb performance as Maury Dann) and a handful of awards (Daryl Duke's direction won him a citation from the National Association of Film Critics, while Don Carpenter's screenplay received a prize from the Writer's Guild of America) the film's downbeat themes made it a tough sell. However, Payday gained a cult following, and more than one "outlaw" country star of the 1970s has been said to claim the film was based on his own true story.
country-music, friendship, groupie, music-business, musician, singer, songwriter