32 user 14 critic

Born to Win (1971)

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


Ivan Passer


David Scott Milton (screenplay), Ivan Passer (screenplay) | 1 more credit »




Cast overview, first billed only:
George Segal ... J
Paula Prentiss ... Veronica
Karen Black ... Parm
Jay Fletcher ... Billy Dynamite
Hector Elizondo ... Vivian
Robert De Niro ... Danny (as Robert DeNiro)
Ed Madsen Ed Madsen ... Detective
Marcia Jean Kurtz ... Marlene
Irving Selbst Irving Selbst ... Stanley
Tim Pelt Tim Pelt ... Little Davey
José Pérez José Pérez ... Junior Conception (as Jose Perez)
Sylvia Syms Sylvia Syms ... Cashier (as Sylvia Simms)
Jack Hollander Jack Hollander ... Harry
Alex Colon ... Bus Boy
Max Brandt Max Brandt ... Store Clerk


J.J., a former New York City hairdresser, commits petty crimes, often with his friend Billy Dynamite, to support his drug habit. He's not very good at it, with something often going wrong. One of J.J.'s more regular gigs is working as a mule for Vivian - who J.J. calls Geek Man to Vivian's chagrin - a pimp for who J.J.'s ex-wife, Veronica, also a junkie, now hustles also to support her habit. J.J.'s life has the potential to change the result of two encounters. One is with a pair of NYPD narcs who have him over a barrel concerning his drug use and what they want out of him to make a drug conviction go away. Two is with a young woman named Parm who he meets in the act of one of his crimes. J.J. and Parm enter into a relationship, the love and support within that makes J.J. want to come out on top for once in his life. Written by Huggo

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:

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Did You Know?


Paula Prentiss received top billing, even though she appears on-screen for about three minutes. When asked about this at the New York Film Festival press screening, Ivan Passer said that her agent demanded it, adding, "After all, what difference does it make?" 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! That's love and peace. Love and peace. You just gotta keep sending it out. Love. That love and peace.
J: I'm not J for nothing, you know?
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Alternate Versions

The budget video releases of this film cut the film by approximately four minutes. Among the missing footage: Segal and Prentiss putting tourniquets on in a back room of the nightclub in preparation for taking heroin, an exchange involving Karen Black's character's breast size (and a retort involving Segal's breast size), an extension of the scene featuring Segal in the pink robe giving the "up-yours" sign to the girl on the balcony, dialogue when Black and Segal are making love, and assorted others. A 35mm print screened at New York's Museum of Modern Art in March 2009 retains these scenes. The video prints have been seemingly TV-edited for objectionable content. See more »


References Sudden Terror (1970) See more »


Ballad in C
Written by Karen Black
Sung by Karen Black
See more »

User Reviews

Life on the Dark Side
4 December 2006 | by HitchcocSee all my reviews

This is one of those movies where there isn't much to pull for. Like Taxi Driver, it takes place in a cesspool. Those who are trapped in their lives have no place to go. The die is cast and that's it. George Segal does an excellent performance as a small time addict who is powerless to overcome what he has become. He hooks up with Karen Black, who accepts him for what he is. She is the one bright spot in his existence. But the power of the drug world has its tentacles in him and no matter how happy he may feel, he can't move from the addiction. The first part of the movie shows his day to day existence. He seems like a good man. He has a kindness in him that comes through on his face. When confronted, he becomes really passive and powerless. The big boys don't see him as a player. There are also a couple of cops who want to use him, one of them being a young DeNiro. His relationship with Black is doomed (by the way, she comes across as a pretty interesting character) because when it is a contest between the drugs and her, she is going to come in a distant second, even thought intellectually, it sounds pretty sad. Good acting but don't expect an uplifting event. George Segal was really a hot actor at this time, even in a minor picture like this shows his talents.

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Release Date:

22 March 1972 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Scraping Bottom See more »

Filming Locations:

New York, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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