Born to Win (1971)

R  |   |  Comedy, Crime, Drama  |  13 July 1972 (Denmark)
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A smart-mouthed junkie/loser known as J.J. (George Segal) spends his days looking for just "one more fix".



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jay Fletcher ...
Billy Dynamite
Danny (as Robert DeNiro)
Ed Madsen ...
Irving Selbst ...
Tim Pelt ...
Little Davey
José Pérez ...
Junior Conception (as Jose Perez)
Sylvia Syms ...
Cashier (as Sylvia Simms)
Jack Hollander ...
Alex Colon ...
Bus Boy
Max Brandt ...
Store Clerk


A smart-mouthed junkie/loser known as J.J. (George Segal) spends his days looking for just "one more fix".

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Their story is written on his arm. If they can get a grip on each other, maybe they can turn their lives around.


Comedy | Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

13 July 1972 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

Scraping Bottom  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The title of the original screenplay was 'Scraping Bottom'. The copyright can be read under the title clearly as being credited to Scraping Bottom Productions. See more »


[first lines]
J: They same I'm a charmer... that I charm the people I hustle. Well, that comes after dealing with women, after hairdressing. I love to dress hair! But being that I know what to do, being that I'm hip enough to know, I do it!
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References Sudden Terror (1970) See more »


Ballad in C
Sung by Karen Black
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User Reviews

One of many fine overlooked movies of the 1970s. George Segal is terrific as JJ, a hairdresser turned junkie hipster.
24 February 2004 | by (Perth, Australia) – See all my reviews

I have a great interest in American movies of the 1970s, many of my all time favourites being made during that decade, both within and without Hollywood. Several movies from that period are so well known, and so discussed, especially those of Scorsese and Coppola, that many fine movies are overlooked - 'Hi Mom!', 'Scarecrow', 'The Panic In Needle Park', 'Tracks', 'Fingers',etc.etc. Add 'Born To Win' to that list. Director and co-writer Ivan Passer was a recent Czech immigrant, but he manages to conjure up a very realistic and believable look at the seedy underbelly of NYC. Only 'Midnight Cowboy' and 'The Panic In Needle Park' come close. This isn't the New York of Woody Allen, it's the New York of Lou Reed. Passer displays a lot of talent in this movie, but I know little about his subsequent work apart from his 80s sleeper starring John Heard and Jeff Bridges 'Cutter's Way', which I also highly recommend. George Segal will surprise a lot of people with his performance in 'Born To Win', especially those who only have a one dimensional idea of him from his comedy work. Segal plays JJ, a hairdresser turned junkie hipster, who is, well one has to say it, a born loser. Segal is both funny and cool and sad, and he's just as good in this as Pacino, De Niro or Keitel were in more celebrated roles from this period. De Niro in fact pops up in a small supporting role as a cop, something which is exploited on the DVD cover. He's okay but has a very small role, so fans beware. Hector Elizondo has a much more important part as a drug pusher, and Karen Black, hot off 'Five Easy Pieces', plays JJ's girlfriend, who he meets in a funny scene where he steals her car. Both Elizondo and Black give excellent performances. Also in the supporting cast are Paula Prentiss ('The Parallax View') who plays JJ's junkie wife, and one of the first jobs for character actor Burt Young, who plays a hood. I also liked JJ's pal Billy Dynamite played by Jay Fletcher. If you like gritty and realistic 1970s movies you'll love 'Born To Win', a film which doesn't deserve to languish in such obscurity.

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