Catch-22 (1970)

122 mins | Comedy-drama | 24 June 1970

Director:

Mike Nichols

Writer:

Buck Henry

Cinematographer:

David Watkin

Editor:

Sam O'Steen

Production Designer:

Richard Sylbert

Production Companies:

Paramount Pictures Corp., Filmways, Inc.
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HISTORY

The paradoxical term “Catch-22” is defined in the script as follows: Bombadier “Captain John Yossarian” says to “Doc Daneeka,” “Let me get this straight. In order to be grounded I have to be crazy. And I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded—that means I’m not crazy any more and I have to keep flying.” The doctor replies, “You got it. That’s Catch-22.”
       The 23 Feb 1966 Var reported that Columbia Pictures, which had bought the film rights to Joseph Heller’s best-selling 1961 novel, Catch-22, a year-and-a-half earlier for $150,000, sold the property to producer Martin Ransohoff at Filmways, Inc. During the time Columbia tried to develop the project, actor Jack Lemmon wanted to portray Yossarian, and directors Richard Brooks and Richard Quine separately worked on pre-production, but none of these men were involved after Filmways took over the project. Heller was reportedly unhappy with Brooks and Quine because he felt them “incapable of pursuing the wildly satirical (and anti-military) point of view of his novel.” Filmways had already attached director Mike Nichols to the project at the time of purchase. Articles in the 25 Jan 1967, 16 Aug 1967, and 13 Sep 1967 editions of DV announced that filming would begin in “late 1967-early 1968” in Italy and Yugoslavia, and that Andre Previn would score the picture. The following year, Nichols told the 17 Jun 1968 DV he had switched the main location to Mexico, because he and producer John Calley were unable to find the right terrain in Italy, Sicily, or Sardinia that had not been built up and developed since the end ... More Less

The paradoxical term “Catch-22” is defined in the script as follows: Bombadier “Captain John Yossarian” says to “Doc Daneeka,” “Let me get this straight. In order to be grounded I have to be crazy. And I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded—that means I’m not crazy any more and I have to keep flying.” The doctor replies, “You got it. That’s Catch-22.”
       The 23 Feb 1966 Var reported that Columbia Pictures, which had bought the film rights to Joseph Heller’s best-selling 1961 novel, Catch-22, a year-and-a-half earlier for $150,000, sold the property to producer Martin Ransohoff at Filmways, Inc. During the time Columbia tried to develop the project, actor Jack Lemmon wanted to portray Yossarian, and directors Richard Brooks and Richard Quine separately worked on pre-production, but none of these men were involved after Filmways took over the project. Heller was reportedly unhappy with Brooks and Quine because he felt them “incapable of pursuing the wildly satirical (and anti-military) point of view of his novel.” Filmways had already attached director Mike Nichols to the project at the time of purchase. Articles in the 25 Jan 1967, 16 Aug 1967, and 13 Sep 1967 editions of DV announced that filming would begin in “late 1967-early 1968” in Italy and Yugoslavia, and that Andre Previn would score the picture. The following year, Nichols told the 17 Jun 1968 DV he had switched the main location to Mexico, because he and producer John Calley were unable to find the right terrain in Italy, Sicily, or Sardinia that had not been built up and developed since the end of World War II. Nichols wanted Walter Matthau and Al Pacino to join the cast, according to the 12 Feb 1968 DV and 14 May 1969 Var, but neither was involved with the film. Nor was Stacy Keach, who was listed as a cast member in the 4 Dec 1968 DV, a month before filming began. Likewise, Andre Previn was not involved in the production.
       Principal photography began 13 Jan 1969 in the state of Sonoma, Mexico, according to a production chart in the 22 Jan 1969 Var. Nora Ephron, writing for the 16 Mar 1969 NYT, visited the set on a desolate coast, twenty miles from the small town of Guaymas. Flanked by the Pacific on one side and mountains on the other, the location “was reachable only by boat” until the production spent $180,000 to build a five-mile highway and “$250,000 more for [a] 6,000-foot runway,” both of which were constructed by the mayor of Guaymas, who owned a contracting company. Seventy-five local Mexicans cleared a one-square-mile site with machetes, “leaving only mesquite trees, which resemble the small olive trees native to Italy.” The production then built the novel’s “Pianosa airfield,” complete with tents, huts, buildings, and a control tower. Stunt pilot Frank Tallman was given the task of “rounding up a group of authentic fighter pilots” and “assembling a squadron of B-25s—18 of them, each purchased, repaired and made skyworthy at an average cost of $10,000.” After the first week of shooting, Nichols sent over 200 extras back to the U.S. because he wanted the military base to have a more sparse, surreal look. Midway through the production’s Mexican sojourn, Orson Welles arrived for two weeks to portray “General Dreedle” in a couple of scenes. Having tried without success to buy Catch-22 for himself in 1962, Welles signed on in order to earn enough money to direct one of his own independent films. He flew to the location with an entourage that included a cook and Peter Bogdanovich, who was filming a documentary about him. The cast and crew were initially intimidated by Welles’s towering presence, but by the time he finished his eight days of shooting, most were reportedly relieved to see him leave. However, Nichols, who remained conciliatory toward Welles during filming, told the 18 May 1969 LAT he later received “an extremely generous letter [from Welles] that means a lot to me.” A year later, when Welles appeared on The David Frost Show (Group W Network, 7 Jul 1969 – 16 Jul 1972), he stated that Mike Nichols was the only director in current Hollywood who had “the same sort of control” on his films that Welles had on Citizen Kane in 1941 (see entry), as noted in the 10 Jun 1970 Var. .
       The film’s budget, according to the 24 Aug 1969 LAT, was $15 million.
       While supervising two cameramen in an airplane, second unit director John Jordan fell to his death over the Pacific Ocean on 17 May 1969 when a gust of wind knocked the aircraft off balance and sent him though an open door, according to the 28 May 1969 Var.
       The production spent a week of night shooting in a flower market outside Rome, Italy’s Palazzo Farnese, the 11 Jun 1969 Var noted. However, when filming moved to the Piazza Navona, one of the city’s most picturesque squares, for three days, local residents protested the many real and cardboard World War II tanks, along with production trucks, that crowed the space. They were also unhappy that municipal authorities were charging the film company only $80 a night in fees.
       After five months of filming on location, Nichols left Rome on 12 Jun 1969 and returned to Hollywood for two months of “final interiors and process photography,” according to two articles in the 25 Jun 1969 Var. The 13 Aug 1969 DV announced that the film “will wind up within three or four days,” with the completion of “process shooting involving Alan Arkin and Chuck Grodin.”
       Folk musician Arthur “Art” Garfunkel made his film debut in Catch-22.
       Catch-22 debuted in Westwood, CA, on 24 Jun 1970 to “record opening grosses,” the 29 Jun 1970 DV reported. Reviews were mixed. The 10 Jun 1970 Var called it “the most expensive Cinema-of-the-Absurd film ever made,” while the 28 Jun 1970 LAT reviewer found it “awfully good, and also a disappointment” because of its “chilly detachment.” A month later, the 22 Jul 1970 Var praised Catch-22 as Paramount’s “heftiest breadwinner…with gross to date of approximately $2,500,000 from 22 first engagements.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 Jan 1967
p. 18.
Daily Variety
16 Aug 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Sep 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Feb 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Jun 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Jul 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Dec 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 May 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
13 Aug 1969
p. 5.
Daily Variety
29 Jun 1970
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
18 May 1969
View, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
24 Aug 1969
View, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jun 1970
View, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
28 Jun 1970
View, p. 1.
New York Times
16 Mar 1969
Sunday magazine, p. 30.
Variety
23 Feb 1966
p. 4.
Variety
22 Jan 1969
p. 20.
Variety
14 May 1969
p. 28.
Variety
28 May 1969
p. 79.
Variety
11 Jun 1969
p. 79.
Variety
18 Jun 1969
p. 30.
Variety
25 Jun 1969
p. 2.
Variety
25 Jun 1969
pp. 20.
Variety
10 Jun 1970
p. 18, 42.
Variety
22 Jul 1970
p. 4.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Paramount Pictures Corporation in association with Filmways, Inc. Presents
A Mike Nichols Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Key grip
Gaffer
Cam op
1st asst cam
Helicopter photog
2d unit photog
2d unit cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Ed asst
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Cost des
Men's ward
MUSIC
Mus cond
Mus: "thus spake zarathustra"
SOUND
Supv sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec photog eff
Title layout
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairstyle supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Dial coach
Casting
Rome prod coord
Flying supv
Local casting
Prod asst
Pilot, picture helicopter
Transportation capt
B-25 pilot
B-25 pilot
STAND INS
Stunts
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (New York, 1961).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Also Sprach Zarathustra," [composed by Richard Strauss], conducted by Fritz Reiner. ["September Song," music by Kurt Weill, words by Maxwell Anderson
"I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," music by George Bassman, words by Ned Washington, performed by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra.]
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 June 1970
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 24 June 1970
Los Angeles opening: 26 June 1970
Production Date:
13 January - mid August 1969
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures
Copyright Date:
5 June 1970
Copyright Number:
LP38130
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Col by Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed in Panavision
Duration(in mins):
122
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27141
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

B-25 bombadier Captain John Yossarian, stationed with the 256th Squadron on the Mediterranean island of Pianosa during World War II, begs Doc Daneeka to certify him unfit for flying. Daneeka explains, however, that "Catch-22" prevents him from grounding Yossarian for insanity since anyone who voluntarily flies a bombing mission is crazy; therefore, anyone requesting to be grounded must be sane. Meanwhile, the ambitious Colonel Cathcart, who longs to be the subject of a feature article in The Saturday Evening Post, forces more missions on the men, and the inevitable strain on the unit results in bizarre behavior. Milo Minderbinder sells parachutes and morphine from the flyers' first-aid kits as part of his black market operation; Major Major agrees to admit visitors to his office only when he is away from the premises; the idealistic Captain Nately decides to marry an Italian whore, but he is killed in a bombardment of the airbase arranged by Milo in another of his financial schemes; General Dreedle awards medals to the participants of a mission who dropped their bombs in the sea; Yossarian arrives naked at the ceremony because Gunner Sergeant Snowden died in his arms and drenched his uniform with blood; Yossarian's attempt to make love with Nurse Duckett on the beach fails, and she kicks him in the groin; and Captain McWatt, flying over the ocean, slices fellow airman Hungry Joe in half with his propeller. Yossarian goes AWOL to inform Nately's whore in Rome of her lover's death, and discovers that all the prostitutes now work for Milo's corporation. Later, Colonel Cathcart offers to send Yossarian ... +


B-25 bombadier Captain John Yossarian, stationed with the 256th Squadron on the Mediterranean island of Pianosa during World War II, begs Doc Daneeka to certify him unfit for flying. Daneeka explains, however, that "Catch-22" prevents him from grounding Yossarian for insanity since anyone who voluntarily flies a bombing mission is crazy; therefore, anyone requesting to be grounded must be sane. Meanwhile, the ambitious Colonel Cathcart, who longs to be the subject of a feature article in The Saturday Evening Post, forces more missions on the men, and the inevitable strain on the unit results in bizarre behavior. Milo Minderbinder sells parachutes and morphine from the flyers' first-aid kits as part of his black market operation; Major Major agrees to admit visitors to his office only when he is away from the premises; the idealistic Captain Nately decides to marry an Italian whore, but he is killed in a bombardment of the airbase arranged by Milo in another of his financial schemes; General Dreedle awards medals to the participants of a mission who dropped their bombs in the sea; Yossarian arrives naked at the ceremony because Gunner Sergeant Snowden died in his arms and drenched his uniform with blood; Yossarian's attempt to make love with Nurse Duckett on the beach fails, and she kicks him in the groin; and Captain McWatt, flying over the ocean, slices fellow airman Hungry Joe in half with his propeller. Yossarian goes AWOL to inform Nately's whore in Rome of her lover's death, and discovers that all the prostitutes now work for Milo's corporation. Later, Colonel Cathcart offers to send Yossarian back to the United States if he promises to go on a public relations tour for their unit. On the way back from the colonel's office, however, Yossarian is stabbed by Nately's whore disguised as a soldier. While recuperating in the hospital, he learns from Chaplain Tappman that Captain Orr, who has crashed many planes, is now in Sweden after paddling across the sea for 16 weeks. Inspired by Orr's success, Yossarian jumps out the hospital window, grabs a rubber raft, and begins paddling across the Mediterranean. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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