Stay Hungry

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Stay hungry cover.jpg

Stay Hungry is a 1972 novel by Charles Gaines which tells the story of Craig Blake, a young Birmingham scion who gets involved in a shady real-estate deal. In order to close the deal, he needs to buy a gym building to complete a multi-parcel lot. When he visits, however, he finds himself drawn to the carefree way of life of the Canadian Indian bodybuilder Joe Santo, as well as to Mary Tate, who works in the gym. Blake struggles to balance his upper-crust social life with his new interests. The story concludes with a dramatic series of events set during a Mr Universe competition at Boutwell Auditorium.

1976 Film

Gaines adapted the novel for a 1976 film directed by Bob Rafelson. The film was shot on location in Birmingham in 1975 with Jeff Bridges as Craig, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Joe Santo (now Austrian), and Sally Field as the gym receptionist, Mary Tate. Best known then as "Mr Universe", Schwarzenegger was happy to mingle with the crowds of extras and lookers-on during filming. Speaking with what Birmingham magazine described as a "slight Austrian accent", he said "I love the people of Birmingham. I think they are very warm and affectionate, and they still have enough time to talk to each other. I really like the people here, and the hospitality."

Poster for Stay Hungry (1976)


The rest of the cast included R. G. Armstrong, Scatman Crothers, Robert Englund, Ed Begley Jr, Joe Spinell, Roger Mosley, Fannie Flagg, Joanna Cassidy, Helena Kallioniotes, Woodrow Parfrey, Kathleen Miller, Richard Gilliland, Mayf Nutter, John David Carson, Clifford A. Pellow, Dennis Fimple, Garry Goodrow, Bart Carpinelli, Bob Westmoreland, Brandy Wilde, Laura Hippe, John Gilgree, Murray Johnson, Dennis Burkley, Autry Pinson, Roger Callard, Franco Columbu, and Martin Hames.

Schwarzenegger won a Golden Globe for "Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture" for his performance in Stay Hungry.


The film opens with exterior shots all around Birmingham as three separate drivers converge on the Bank for Savings Building, which serves as the setting for the Developer's office. The Blake Manor is actually a house on Mountain Brook Parkway. The Olympic Gym is set on 2nd Avenue North downtown. Craig walks down 20th Street North with Mary Tate after dinner at Joy Young Restaurant. The party scene takes place at the Country Club of Birmingham and the Mr. Universe competition is staged at Boutwell Auditorium. The final mayhem spreads from Boutwell, down 20th and ends, famously, with bodybuilders posed on the fire escape stairs of the Lyric Theatre.

It was expected that the crew of Stay Hungry spent in excess of half a million dollars while in the city.

See also


  • Gaines, Charles (1972) Stay Hungry. New York: Doubleday & Company.
  • "'Stay Hungry' - We're Making Movies!" (July 1975) Birmingham magazine. Vol. 15, No. 7, pp. 126-7
  • Rafelson, Bob, Jeff Bridges and Sally Field. (2004) DVD Commentary for Stay Hungry
  • Stay Hungry (1976) at - accessed March 25, 2006
  • Tonguette, Peter. "Bob Rafelson and His Odd American Places". The Film Journal. Issue 11 - accessed Dec. 21, 2005.