Segal was a respected, well-liked, plugging-away actor throughout the ’60s, and he definitely elevated his stock rating with his lead performance in Irvin Kershner‘s Loving (’70 — 3.4.70). But Reiner-Yates added the boldface, above-the-title stardom factor to Segal’s guilt-ridden, self-flagellating, Jewish-guy thing, and he was off to the races.
Poppa (a cult film, not a hit) was released on 11.10.70, and The Hot Rock (a silly ensemble caper comedy for guys) arrived on 1.26.72 or 14 months later. Pre-Poppa and post-Hot Rock Segal were entirely different entities.
With these two in the bag, Segal landed the titular role in Paul Mazursky‘s Blume in Love (6.17.73), and thereafter he wasn’t just a star but a complex ’70s soul man — the highest rung of the realm. And then, 14 months after Blume, came Segal’s Bill Denny in California Split (8.7.74) — a grand-slammer.
And then God lost interest and his hot streak ended, just like that. Segal kept working for another 40 years after that, and good for his spirit and tenacity. But what a rude jolt. 1970 through ’74: “You’re finally really hot, George…you’re totally cool and everyone digs you.” 1975 and onward: “Okay, you’re still good but time to cool things down.”
Temporary, pre-release trade ad title for Pert Yates’ The Hot Rock.