One of the great classics of all time, Taxi Driver featured 32-year-old Robert DeNiro as Travis Bickle, a Vietnam veteran who works as a taxi driver due to his insomniac personality. Travis is highly disenchanted with the grime and filth he encounters in the city of New York in the 1970s before the clean-up campaign that arrived decades later.

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Perhaps as a result of his wartime service, Travis Bickle was a loner, alienated from society and unable to fit in. He imagined that his fortunes had changed when he met Betsy (played by blond Cybill Shepherd) after stalking her for a time as she worked as a volunteer to Presidential candidate Charles Palatine. When he dressed up, Travis was very presentable, and Betsy finally agreed to a movie date with him. Unfortunately, the movie proved to be pornographic and Betsy left the theatre, incensed that Travis had brought her there.

This set off a series of incidents in Travis’ life. He imagined himself assassinating candidate Charles Palatine, and purchased several guns with which he practiced for hours at a time. He also worked at getting into better physical shape. His main purpose in all of these plans was to impress Betsy. The assassination attempt failed to materialize and Travis was lucky to escape from the watchful eye of the Secret Service.

Jody Foster then enters the scene in her debut performance as 12-year-old prostitute Iris who engenders in Travis the desire to save her from her fate. He achieved success in this endeavor, discounting the fact that he had to kill Iris’ pimp, a bouncer and her customer in the flurry of activity, as well as being wounded himself.

Travis is regarded as a hero in the media for his actions but returns to his job as the only thing left to him. It is a sad commentary on the fate of our war veterans who have lifelong afflictions from their patriotic service.

Director Martin Scorsese apparently liked working with Robert DeNiro and cast him in a number of successes, including Raging Bull for which DeNiro won the Academy Award. He also was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Travis Bickle. Likewise, Jodie Foster received a nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her debut performance in the film as the 12-year-old prostitute Iris.

An interesting sidelight to this movie is the effect it had on John F. Hinckley Jr. who became obsessed with the film. In order to impress Jodie Foster, with whom he was also obsessed, he attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan after viewing the movie Taxi Driver at least fifteen times.

The movie will always trigger the memory of the assassination attempt and Hinckley’s obsession with Jodie Foster. It may be one reason why the film has remained a classic in the American film industry.

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