The Day of the Locust (1975)

R | 143-44 mins | Drama | May 1975

Director:

John Schlesinger

Writer:

Waldo Salt

Producer:

Jerome Hellman

Cinematographer:

Conrad Hall

Editor:

Jim Clark

Production Designer:

Richard MacDonald

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures
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HISTORY

A 19 Jun 1963 HR news item states that independent producer Joseph Strick had acquired the rights to Nathanial West’s 1939 novelette, The Day of the Locust . According to a 4 Aug 1963 NYT article, co-producer Lewis Allen said that Strick was to direct and co-produce the film to keep the budget down. Allen added that he believed that West’s story was not so much a “scathing commentary” on Hollywood, but rather “a broader commentary” on all America. A 19 Feb 1970 HR item revealed that the property had been purchased by Warner Bros. and Waldo Salt assigned to the adaptation. John Schlesinger, who had partnered with Salt for the controversial but successful 1969 United Artist production, Midnight Cowboy (see also), was listed in the item as director. A DV 27 May 1970 item added that Ronald Shedlo was producing. In 1973 a 4 Apr Var news item announced that Warner Bros. had dropped Day of the Locust from its production schedule and that Paramount was expected to pick up the rights. In Aug, 1973 a NYT article confirmed that Schlesinger and Salt were also retained by Paramount, as was producer Jerome Hellman, and the production was slated to begin principle photography in Oct. Hellman had also worked with Schlesinger and Salt on Midnight Cowboy . On 8 Nov 1973, a DV article noted that the shooting for the sequence featuring “Harry Greener” and evangelist “Big Sister” was to be shot at the Hollywood Palladium with two ... More Less

A 19 Jun 1963 HR news item states that independent producer Joseph Strick had acquired the rights to Nathanial West’s 1939 novelette, The Day of the Locust . According to a 4 Aug 1963 NYT article, co-producer Lewis Allen said that Strick was to direct and co-produce the film to keep the budget down. Allen added that he believed that West’s story was not so much a “scathing commentary” on Hollywood, but rather “a broader commentary” on all America. A 19 Feb 1970 HR item revealed that the property had been purchased by Warner Bros. and Waldo Salt assigned to the adaptation. John Schlesinger, who had partnered with Salt for the controversial but successful 1969 United Artist production, Midnight Cowboy (see also), was listed in the item as director. A DV 27 May 1970 item added that Ronald Shedlo was producing. In 1973 a 4 Apr Var news item announced that Warner Bros. had dropped Day of the Locust from its production schedule and that Paramount was expected to pick up the rights. In Aug, 1973 a NYT article confirmed that Schlesinger and Salt were also retained by Paramount, as was producer Jerome Hellman, and the production was slated to begin principle photography in Oct. Hellman had also worked with Schlesinger and Salt on Midnight Cowboy . On 8 Nov 1973, a DV article noted that the shooting for the sequence featuring “Harry Greener” and evangelist “Big Sister” was to be shot at the Hollywood Palladium with two full choirs, 100 extras and an additional 1,500 elderly people from local various senior citizen organizations. A 8 Jul 1975 LAHE article noted that The Day of the Locust was under fire from the American Humane Society for the cock fight scene.
       The Day of the Locust , set in Hollywood 1938, featured the participation of several film industry personnel who had worked in that same era, including Billy Barty (“Abe Kusich”), who appeared as a notoriously “wise” baby in the “Pettin’ in the Park” number from Warner Bros. 1933 hit, Golddiggers of 1933 ; silent star Madge Kennedy (“Mrs. Johnson”), as well as character actor Paul Stewart (“Helverston”) and director William Castle (“Director”) whose careers began in the early 1940s. According to a modern biography on director John Schlesinger, director George Cukor was offered the role of the director, but did not feel comfortable performing in front of the camera. The role of movie star Dick Powell, who appears at the premiere at the end of The Day of the Locust , was played by his son, Dick Powell, Jr. Marge Champion, who had appeared with her husband, dancer and choreographer Gower Champion, in several films during the 1940s and 1950s, choreographed the performances in The Day of the Locust . An 8 Jul 1975 LAHE article noted that the character of “Audrey Jennings” was based on the infamous 1930s Hollywood madam Lee Francis. The character of Big Sister was modeled by author Nathanael West on evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, also known as Sister Aimee, a Canadian evangelist and media celebrity in the 1920 and 1930s. Although most of the film was shot on the Paramount lot, the scene when “Tod Hackett” visits “Claude Estee” was shot at the famous Ennis House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1924 in the Hollywood Hills Los Feliz district.
       In the film, the scene where “Faye Greener” anxiously watches a movie to see her small role, footage of Karen Black as Faye was cut into the Twentieth Century-Fox’s 1937 release, Ali Baba Goes on the Town (see also), starring Eddie Cantor and directed by David Butler. In that film a star-struck movie fan arrives in Hollywood and inadvertently gets involved in a movie production. Similar to the film being shot within The Day of the Locust , the Cantor film had a real on-set accident in which a prop maker and grip were killed when the 1,500 pound “flying carpet” they were testing fell on them. Although The Day of the Locust features the “world premiere” of Cecil B. DeMille’s Paramount production, The Buccaneer (see also), the film actually premiered in New Orleans in Jan 1938 and had its Los Angeles opening and general release in Feb of that year.
       Schlesinger’s biography adds the following information: Jon Voight, who had co-starred in Midnight Cowboy , lobbied for the role of Tod Hackett, but Schlesinger offered him the relatively minor role of “Earle Shoop,” which Voight rejected. Hellman urged Schlesinger to cast Goldie Hawn as Faye. Schlesinger considered Tuesday Weld and was also close to casting Raquel Welch before becoming enthused by a test with Sally Struthers. Hellman, however, believed that Struthers would be overly associated with her role in the popular television program, All in the Family . Both Hellman and Schlesinger agreed on Karen Black for the role. Schlesinger initially cast veteran character actor Paul Hartman as Harry Greener, but only a few days into rehearsal, Hartman died of a heart attack. Long-time character actor William Demarest and dancer Ray Bolger were tested before Burgess Meredith was finally cast in the role.
       The Day of the Locust was the final novel written by Nathaneal West (1903-1940), who died at the age of 37 in a car accident while enroute to the funeral of F. Scott Fitzgerald. West had spent some time as a contract writer for Columbia Pictures and it was thought that he based many of his characters in The Day of the Locust on that experience. There are some differences between the book and the film. In the book, Faye is a seventeen-year-old, whereas in the film she is in her twenties. Unlike in the film, Claude Estee is a screenwriter and a close friend of Tod’s. There is no on-set disaster in the book and, in the conclusion, Homer simply disappears into the mob as Tod is injured and breaks down in a police car. The Day of the Locust received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Meredith) and for Best Cinematography for Conrad Hall. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
5 May 1975
p. 19.
Daily Variety
27 May 1970.
---
Daily Variety
8 Nov 1973.
---
Daily Variety
26 Nov 1973.
---
Daily Variety
15 Apr 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1963.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 1973
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Apr 1974
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Apr 1975
p. 8.
Los Angeles Herald Express
23 Apr 1975.
---
Los Angeles Herald Express
8 Jul 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 May 1975
Section IV, p. 1, 24, 28.
New York Times
4 Aug 1963.
---
New York Times
19 Aug 1973.
---
New York Times
8 May 1975
p. 48.
Variety
4 Apr 1973.
---
Variety
30 Apr 1975
p. 19.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
a Jerome Hellman Production
a Jerome Hellman Production; a John Schlesinger film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam asst
Cam asst
Best boy
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Unit still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Set des
Set des
Set des
Set des
Prop master
Asst prop man
Construction coord
Construction foreman
Leadman
Paint foreman
Standby painter
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Margaret Aikens Jenkins Chorale cond by
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd asst
Sd asst
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec photog eff
Title des
DANCE
Dance supv
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Prod assoc
Addl casting
Unit prod mgr
Prod asst
A.F.I. observer
Prod services
Prod secy
Secy to the prod
Secy to the dir
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Loc mgr
Controller
Craft services
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Accounting clerk
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West (New York, 1939).
MUSIC
Feldeinsamkeit Opus 86 No. 2 by Johannes Brahms.
SONGS
"Jeepers Creepers," by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer, sung by Louis Armstrong (courtesy of MCA Records)
"I Wished on the Moon," by Dorothy Parker and Ralph Rainger, sung by Nick Lucas
"Sing You Sinners," by Sam Coslow and W. Franke Harling, sung by Pamela Myers
+
SONGS
"Jeepers Creepers," by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer, sung by Louis Armstrong (courtesy of MCA Records)
"I Wished on the Moon," by Dorothy Parker and Ralph Rainger, sung by Nick Lucas
"Sing You Sinners," by Sam Coslow and W. Franke Harling, sung by Pamela Myers
"Everything's in Rhythm With My Heart," by Maurice Sigler, Al Goodhart and Al Hoffman, recorded by the Jimmie Grier Orchestra (courtesy of CBS Record)
"Dancing on a Dime," by Burton Lane and Frank Loesser, recorded by Grey Gordon and His Tic Toc Rhythm (courtesy of RCA Records)
"Mama Don't Want No Pease an' Rice an Coconut Oil," by L. Charles and L. Wolfe Gilbert
"Paramount on Parade," by Elsie Janis and Jack King
"June in January," by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin
"Isn't It Romantic?" by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers, sung by Michael Dees
"Hot Voodoo," by Leo Robin, Sam Coslow and Ralph Rainger, sung by Paul Jabara
"It's Easy to Remember," by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers
"I'm Feelin' High," by Burton Lane and Ralph Freed
"Who's Your Little Who-Zis!," by Walter Hirsch, Al Goeing and Ben Bernie
"The Invaders," by Victor Young.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
May 1975
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 7 May 1975
Production Date:
15 October 1973--early April 1974
Copyright Claimant:
Long Road Productions
Copyright Date:
31 December 1974
Copyright Number:
LP44328
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Lenses/Prints
Movielab
Duration(in mins):
143-44
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24113
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1938, Yale art school graduate Tod Hackett arrives in Hollywood to work as a set designer at Paramount Pictures. Moving into the San Bernardino Arms garden apartments, nicknamed the “San Berdoo” by its tenants, Tod is immediately attracted to young, blonde neighbor Faye Greener, a Hollywood extra, who lives with her father Harry, a former vaudeville clown. Among the other tenants are Abe Kusich, a bookkeeper dwarf who loathes all the movie business aspirants, Mrs. Loomis and her bratty eight-year-old son, Adore, whom she grooms to be the next big child star, and apartment landlady, Mrs. Johnson. At the studio, Tod is quickly disappointed by the lack of assignments and the cramped office space he shares with other budding designers, who are managed by department head Ned Grote. Hoping to impress the flirtatious Faye, Tod buys a second-hand car and one afternoon drives her to the “Hollywoodland” sign in the Hollywood Hills. Later, Faye convinces Tod to drive her to a movie house in nearby Glendale, to see a film in which she has a small speaking part. To Tod’s dismay, Faye has also arranged to meet Earle Shoop, a cowboy who does occasional extra work, at the theater. Back at the San Bernardino, Faye sneaks over to Tod’s apartment and playfully flirts with him. When Tod kisses her and declares that he is in love with her, Faye only laughs and returns home. A few days later at the studio, Tod spots director, Claude Estee, and, despite Grote’s attempt to interfere, introduces himself. Learning that Tod is a fellow Yale alumni, Estee tells Grote to assign the young man ... +


In 1938, Yale art school graduate Tod Hackett arrives in Hollywood to work as a set designer at Paramount Pictures. Moving into the San Bernardino Arms garden apartments, nicknamed the “San Berdoo” by its tenants, Tod is immediately attracted to young, blonde neighbor Faye Greener, a Hollywood extra, who lives with her father Harry, a former vaudeville clown. Among the other tenants are Abe Kusich, a bookkeeper dwarf who loathes all the movie business aspirants, Mrs. Loomis and her bratty eight-year-old son, Adore, whom she grooms to be the next big child star, and apartment landlady, Mrs. Johnson. At the studio, Tod is quickly disappointed by the lack of assignments and the cramped office space he shares with other budding designers, who are managed by department head Ned Grote. Hoping to impress the flirtatious Faye, Tod buys a second-hand car and one afternoon drives her to the “Hollywoodland” sign in the Hollywood Hills. Later, Faye convinces Tod to drive her to a movie house in nearby Glendale, to see a film in which she has a small speaking part. To Tod’s dismay, Faye has also arranged to meet Earle Shoop, a cowboy who does occasional extra work, at the theater. Back at the San Bernardino, Faye sneaks over to Tod’s apartment and playfully flirts with him. When Tod kisses her and declares that he is in love with her, Faye only laughs and returns home. A few days later at the studio, Tod spots director, Claude Estee, and, despite Grote’s attempt to interfere, introduces himself. Learning that Tod is a fellow Yale alumni, Estee tells Grote to assign the young man to draw character sketches for an upcoming project set in the Napoleonic era. Happy to be working at last, Tod researches the period thoroughly and does numerous sketches of people and settings, often using Faye and her friend, Mary Dove, as models. Uneasy with Tod’s dedication to the project, Faye tells him that she cannot see him any longer as she needs a wealthy and handsome suitor. Some days later, Estee approves of Tod’s work and after assigning him to the production, invites him to dinner. After dining with Estee, his wife Alice, and other studio personnel, Tod accompanies the group to the home of Audrey Jennings, a former silent film star, who now runs a tasteful bordello. Bored with the pornographic films screened, Tod wanders outside and is fascinated to recognize Mary Dove with the other escorts and asks her if Faye could contact Audrey for work. The next day, Tod drives Harry to “work” as a door-to-door salesman for a “miracle” cleaner. Although Harry spends all day using many of his vaudeville routines on prospective customers, he makes no sales. Finally at the faded home of bland, retired bookkeeper Homer Simpson, the exhausted Harry makes a final attempt to sell his product, only to collapse in Homer’s living room. At Harry’s behest, Homer contacts Faye, who arrives soon after. Stunned by her blond looks and slim figure, Homer invites Faye to lunch while Harry remains sprawled on the sofa. Over lunch, Faye insists that performing is in her blood, as Harry is an actor and her mother was a dancer before she abandoned them both. Utterly entranced by Faye, Homer inadvertently breaks a glass he is clutching, but hides the deep cut from her just as Harry revives. A few nights later, a hysterical Faye wakens Tod believing that Harry is dying. Although Tod finds Harry wheezing and uncomfortable, the old man spiritedly croaks out some one liners, which infuriates Faye. Cringing at the vicious father and daughter squabble, Tod nevertheless uses the opportunity to get back into Faye’s good graces. One night, Tod drives Faye into the hills where they meet his friend, Miguel, who owns fighting cocks, a few of which he is not above roasting for dinner over an outdoor campfire. Earle is also visiting, and the group drink and dance around the fire. Increasingly frustrated by Faye’s sensuous dancing with Miguel, a drunken Tod chases her into the woods where he tries to force himself on her, but Faye escapes to his car. Sobered by Faye’s terror, Tod sheepishly gives her the car keys. Returning to his work on the production sketches days later, Tod pauses only to visit Harry and Faye. Harry happily introduces Tod to some of his friends, but Faye remains offended by their outing and ignores him. Soon after, Faye begins dating Homer and, on his recommendation, takes Harry to a religious meeting led by the ebullient revivalist, Big Sister. The evangelist exhorts her audience to make cash donations while she heals those who are ill including the ashen Harry who has been pushed to the stage in a wheelchair. Although Big Sister hauls Harry to his feet declaring that that he is cured, he collapses, but when Big Sister pulls him up again, the stage lights and cheering crowd keeps him standing. Back at the San Bernardino, Tod sits with the bedridden Harry who relates stories about his days in vaudeville. Angered when Faye returns from a date with Homer, Tod departs and, moments later, while Faye dances and sings to herself, Harry dies muttering lines from his act. Mrs. Johnson advises Faye to give Harry a proper funeral through an acquaintance and Mary offers to loan Faye the money to cover it. Instead of accepting, Faye asks Mary if she can get her a job with Audrey. Angered by Faye’s continued rejection, Tod appears at the funeral drunk and unshaven and demands to know why she has sacrificed her virginity to become one of Audrey’s girls. Not long after Harry’s funeral, Faye moves in with Homer but soon grows restless and bored as the repressed Homer refuses to have sex with her. Acknowledging his dull personality, Homer nevertheless promises Faye everything material that she wants if she stays with him. After Faye convinces Homer to allow Earle and Miguel to move into Homer’s garage, she spends more time with the young men than with Homer, who suffers in silence. One afternoon during the on-set filming of the battle of Waterloo, Tod watches the director berate the cast and sees Faye and Earle participating as extras. As the crowd of soldier extras charge up a hill, Tod walks under the set and, to his horror, realizes that it is not completed. Finding warning signs piled in a heap ignored, Tod rushes to stop the scene, just as the set collapses sending the extras plummeting to the concrete floor. Alarmed, Tod looks for Faye in vain until he discovers her safe by the costume department. Relieved that she is unhurt, Tod nevertheless avoids her suggestion that they have dinner together. Summoned to meet with Estee, Grote and studio head Helverston, Tod tells them that warning signs were not posted on the incomplete set, but is overridden by Estee. Having learned that no deaths occurred in the mishap, Helverston is content to allow the losses to be covered by the studio’s insurance company. Back at the San Bernardino, Tod begins work in earnest on a personal painting depicting the destruction of Los Angeles, where faceless, howling minions are engulfed in flames. He is interrupted when Homer stops by to invite Tod to dine with he and Faye at a popular nightclub. Angry when Homer refuses to drink at the club, Faye dances with Tod and assures him that she is not sleeping with Homer. When Tod invites her to his apartment, however, Faye refuses, saying that she needs him to be her friend. Tod persists, and Faye becomes indignant, explaining that she is with Homer because he treats her with respect and makes no demands on her. The next day, Estee invites Tod to his swank art deco designed home, and admits that he married his wife because she owned the house. Tod asks Estee if it would have made a difference if anyone had died in the on-set accident and Estee frankly admits it would not have. Tod insists that the warning signs were not posted and Estee again says it would not have mattered if they were. Offering to buy Tod’s “girl” a magnum of champagne, Estee drives Tod to Homer’s house where they join a party with Faye, Miguel, Earle Shoop and Abe Kusich. Estee buys one of Miguel’s fighting cocks, in order to stage a fight. The violence disturbs Tod. Later in the house, as the others dance around drunkenly, Homer’s tells Tod that Faye is the simple, pure light of his life. Tod angrily calls Faye a whore and forces Homer to drink champagne. The party breaks up when Miguel attacks Abe for groping Faye during a dance. Unable to find Tod who is in the garden, Estee drives away. The next morning when Tod walks in on Faye and Miguel having sex, he is troubled but Earle is outraged and throws Miguel out. Some days later, a mob of fans, including Faye, Adore and his mother, and Tod, are packed around Grauman’s Chinese Theatre for the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Buccaneer . Spotting a catatonic looking Homer walking along alone carrying two suitcases, Tod calls to him, but is unable to reach him through the crowd. As various film stars arrive at the theater, the crowd grows increasingly agitated. Coming upon the glassy eyed Homer sitting at a bus stop bench, Adore taunts him repeatedly with no result. In desperation, the boy hurls a rock at Homer, striking him in the head. Outraged, Homer explodes and leaps up, chasing Adore through the crowd. Catching Adore between two parked cars, Homer pushes him to the ground then in a frenzy kicks and stomps him to death. As several in the crowd become aware of the attack, they turn on Homer in their own fury. Tod frantically tries to reach the bloodied and battered Homer before the hysterical crowd lynches him, he is trampled and breaks his leg. Dragging himself painfully to prop up against a lamp post, Tod looks about in horror as the rampant mob becomes the image of his art work of the destruction of Los Angeles. Some days later, Faye visits Tod’s empty apartment where only a withered paper rose remains in a large crack in the wall. +

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

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