Lucky Lady (1975)

PG | 128 mins | Comedy | 25 December 1975

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HISTORY

According to an article in the 29 Jun 1975 LAT, married writers Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz discovered some U.S. Coast Guard diaries in the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) library in 1973 that chronicled the adventures of two infamous rum runners during the prohibition era. They pitched the idea to producer Michael Gruskoff who gave them $75 thousand to develop the story. The title and the name of the heroes’ yacht, The Lucky Lady, was said to have been derived from the nickname of Huyck’s father’s WWII B-24 bomber, but that bomber was actually called Lazy Lady. Once the script was completed, Gruskoff sold it to Twentieth Century-Fox for $450 thousand with the writers receiving $100 thousand. A news item in the 21 Aug 1975 DV stated that the writers received ten percent of the budget with a minimum guarantee of $300 thousand and maximum potential of $450 thousand.
       According to a 6 Dec 1973 DV news brief, Alan Ladd Jr., vice-president of Fox creative affairs, personally picked Stanley Donen to direct. Actress Liza Minnelli was first to be cast, but according to the 29 Jun 1975 LAT article, multiple actors turned down the male leads, and it took eighteen months to cast the film. Burt Reynolds was next to sign, as reported in a 19 Nov 1974 HR news item, followed by actor George Segal. However, a 9 Apr 1975 Var brief announced that Segal was replaced at the last minute by Gene Hackman.
       A 6 May 1974 Box item stated ... More Less

According to an article in the 29 Jun 1975 LAT, married writers Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz discovered some U.S. Coast Guard diaries in the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) library in 1973 that chronicled the adventures of two infamous rum runners during the prohibition era. They pitched the idea to producer Michael Gruskoff who gave them $75 thousand to develop the story. The title and the name of the heroes’ yacht, The Lucky Lady, was said to have been derived from the nickname of Huyck’s father’s WWII B-24 bomber, but that bomber was actually called Lazy Lady. Once the script was completed, Gruskoff sold it to Twentieth Century-Fox for $450 thousand with the writers receiving $100 thousand. A news item in the 21 Aug 1975 DV stated that the writers received ten percent of the budget with a minimum guarantee of $300 thousand and maximum potential of $450 thousand.
       According to a 6 Dec 1973 DV news brief, Alan Ladd Jr., vice-president of Fox creative affairs, personally picked Stanley Donen to direct. Actress Liza Minnelli was first to be cast, but according to the 29 Jun 1975 LAT article, multiple actors turned down the male leads, and it took eighteen months to cast the film. Burt Reynolds was next to sign, as reported in a 19 Nov 1974 HR news item, followed by actor George Segal. However, a 9 Apr 1975 Var brief announced that Segal was replaced at the last minute by Gene Hackman.
       A 6 May 1974 Box item stated principal photography was set to begin in Oct 1974, while a 19 Nov 1974 HR set the start date for Feb 1975. A 10 Mar 1975 Box item reported that filming was finally underway. Twelve weeks of principal photography were scheduled in the small port town of Guaymas, Mexico, followed by another four weeks in Mexico City.
       Various contemporary sources reported on the difficulties of shooting on the open water, including the 9 Apr 1975 Var, which stated that eighty percent of the shooting schedule occurred aboard a thirty-seven foot boat. Besides the three actors and the director, the technical crew and three sailors were onboard.
       Various contemporary sources estimated the final budget between $9,000,000 and $13,000,000.
       An article in the 14 Dec 1975 NYT stated that Donen was unhappy with the original ending he shot, which had the two male characters killed by government agents and Claire married to a rich, but boring, business man, fondly remembering their romance. After the director had changed the character of the Coast Guard Captain, "Aaron Mosely," from a menacing figure into a buffoon, the film took on a more comic tone and the brutal ending no longer seemed to fit. Donen tried various fixes, including deleting the last ten minutes of the film. Then, he, Burt Reynolds and Gene Hackman flew to Rome, Italy, where Liza Minnelli was shooting A Matter of Time (1976, see entry), to film a new ending that took place ten years in the future with all three characters living together. Neither Reynolds nor Hackman requested additional payment. Dissatisfied with how the actors looked in age makeup, Donen decided to re-edit the scene with the three sailing off on their yacht. Later, in a 29 Dec 1975 Time interview, Reynolds complained that Minnelli “was cheated out of an Academy Award by the new ending to the movie.”
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
6 May 1974.
---
Box Office
10 Mar 1975.
---
Box Office
5 Jan 1976.
---
Daily Variety
6 Dec 1973.
---
Daily Variety
21 Aug 1975.
---
Daily Variety
16 Dec 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Nov 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 1975
p. 3, 15.
Los Angeles Times
29 Jun 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
28 Dec 1975
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
14 Dec 1975.
---
New York Times
26 Dec 1975
p. 47.
Time
29 Dec 1975.
---
Variety
9 Apr 1975.
---
Variety
17 Dec 1975
p. 23.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Gruskoff/Venture Production
A Stanley Donen Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit battle shots
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
2d unit photog
2d unit photog
2d unit cam op
2d unit cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Battle seq ed
SET DECORATOR
Const mgr
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Scoring mixer
SOUND
Sd ed
Sd ed
Rerec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title seq des
Title illustrations
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Make up
Make up
Liza's makeup des by
Hairdresser
Liza's hair styles des by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
SONGS
"Get While The Gettin' Is Good," music and lyrics by Fred Ebb and John Kander
"Lucky Lady," music and lyrics by Fred Ebb and John Kander
"Ain't Misbehavin'," words by Andy Razaf, sung by Sammy Fain, music by Thomas Waller and Harry Brooks, clarinet Benny Goodman
COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
25 December 1975
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 25 December 1975
Production Date:
February 1975 in Guaymas, Mexico
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
14 December 1975
Copyright Number:
LP45460
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
DeLuxe®
Duration(in mins):
128
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

One night in 1930 Tijuana, Mexico, Claire, a nightclub singer, and Ellison Walker, a low level rum runner, visit the grave of Claire’s recently deceased husband, Harry. After Claire offers Walker Harry’s rum running business, they agree to rekindle their old love affair. They go to Harry’s bar and discuss a plan for Walker to smuggle a truckload of Mexicans across the U.S. Border in order to make enough money to buy a shipment of whiskey. Walker steps outside and discovers that Kibby Womack, one of his human cargo, is American. When they reach the border, Walker gets out of the truck and gives the password, only to have the U.S. Border patrol open fire. The Mexicans run away as Kibby returns fire. When Walker finally gets his pistol out of his pocket, he accidently shoots the truck’s gas tank, which explodes. Walker runs right into the hands of the disgruntled Mexicans who demand their money back and beat him. Kibby chases them off, then robs Walker. As the two walk back to town, Walker offers Kibby a quarter of the rum running operation if he returns the six hundred dollars he needs to buy whiskey. Kibby holds out for a third. When Claire finds out, she becomes angry, but reluctantly agrees. The next day, the trio board the Lucky Lady, ... +


One night in 1930 Tijuana, Mexico, Claire, a nightclub singer, and Ellison Walker, a low level rum runner, visit the grave of Claire’s recently deceased husband, Harry. After Claire offers Walker Harry’s rum running business, they agree to rekindle their old love affair. They go to Harry’s bar and discuss a plan for Walker to smuggle a truckload of Mexicans across the U.S. Border in order to make enough money to buy a shipment of whiskey. Walker steps outside and discovers that Kibby Womack, one of his human cargo, is American. When they reach the border, Walker gets out of the truck and gives the password, only to have the U.S. Border patrol open fire. The Mexicans run away as Kibby returns fire. When Walker finally gets his pistol out of his pocket, he accidently shoots the truck’s gas tank, which explodes. Walker runs right into the hands of the disgruntled Mexicans who demand their money back and beat him. Kibby chases them off, then robs Walker. As the two walk back to town, Walker offers Kibby a quarter of the rum running operation if he returns the six hundred dollars he needs to buy whiskey. Kibby holds out for a third. When Claire finds out, she becomes angry, but reluctantly agrees. The next day, the trio board the Lucky Lady, Walker’s beat up yacht, and meet Billy Weber, a young sailor. Kibby soon discovers that this is Walker’s first time smuggling liquor. Later, below deck, Claire pulls a pistol and orders Kibby to swim to shore, but he easily disarms her and tells her that until they reach the States, she is not getting rid of him. The would-be rum runners rendezvous with a Canadian ship only to discover that the cargo master has promised their shipment to Christy McTeague, a vicious gangster trying to monopolize the illegal whiskey trade. Rockwell, the ship’s captain, hears Claire’s complaints and orders the shipment to be released to her. Later, McTeague boards the ship, finds his liquor gone and chases after the yacht in a speedboat. A gunfight ensues until Kibby throws a Molotov cocktail, setting fire to McTeague’s boat. The next morning, off the California coast in international waters, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter appears. Billy Weber explains that this happened to his father who also ran whiskey. The Coast Guard trailed him for weeks until he ran out of water and made a run for shore. He died when the Coast Guard sank him. Kibby suggests that they try bribing their way out, and row over to the cutter. However, Coast Guard Captain Aaron Mosely, not only refuses the bribe, but orders a sailor to shoot them. The sailor misses and Kipper and Walker leap into their skiff. Before they can reach the yacht, however, Mosely sinks the skiff with a machine gun, forcing them to swim for their lives. Later, Kibby tries to seduce Claire, but she rejects him until he convinces her that Walker is useless. Claire kisses him and they go below deck. That night, Billy comes up with an escape plan. He and Walker make a decoy by attaching a running light to a barrel, and slowly let out the line, allowing the yacht to slip away. The plan works until Claire and Kibby come topside. Seeing Claire’s disheveled dress, Walker punches Kibby. During the fight, the line breaks and the Coast Guard runs into the barrel. Captain Mosely orders his men to fire all guns into the darkness, hitting the yacht repeatedly. Billy uses the darkness to escape, and after the firing is over, Claire tells Walker she wants both him and Kibby. The next day, after they sell their cargo to bootlegger Rass Huggins, they go to a fancy hotel. After the three have sex, Claire talks Kibby and Walker into smuggling more whiskey. Soon they are so successful they have custom built speedboats and a small army of henchmen. One day, Billy, Kibby and Walker attend a government auction for confiscated speedboats, and McTeague appears with Dolph, a representative of the mob. After Billy tricks McTeague into buying a boat at twice its value, Dolph warns McTeague that if he cannot get the liquor smuggling monopoly soon, he will be killed. Later, Walker, Billy and Kibby sail out to meet Rockwell’s ship and spot flotsam from dozens of small boats. They board the ship to find Rockwell with a bullet hole between his eyes. Walker looks overboard and spots McTeague’s boat, just as McTeague steps out of the pilot house and kills Billy with a machine gun. A gun battle ensues resulting in both Walker and Kibby being shot and Rockwell’s ship set aflame. Walker and Kibby get overboard before the ship blows up. Months pass as Claire nurses the wounded men back to health at Harry’s. One day, Rass Huggins appears and Walker and Kibby agree to help him stop McTeague’s takeover. A few days later, they disguise one of their boats to look like a Coast Guard cutter. They raid McTeague’s dockyard, and force one of his men to radio that there was a gunfight with the Coast Guard, who are returning in force. Fearing the loss of fifty-thousand cases of whiskey, McTeague and Dolph arrive in the Lucky Lady with a small flotilla of armored speedboats. As they dock their boats, a seaplane flies overhead and drops a message demanding their surrender. Just then, a smuggler’s fleet appears over the horizon, led by the fake Coast Guard cutter. McTeague orders his men back to their armored boats and a sea battle erupts with machine guns, cannons, grenades and aerial bombardment. During the battle, Dorph falls overboard and Claire throws him a rope. Once Dorph secures it around his waist, Claire throws the anchor it is attached to into the water. Meanwhile, Walker finds himself astride an overturned lifeboat with McTeague’s boat about to ram him. Kibby, who has boarded another armored speedboat, throws a line around McTeague’s neck and jumps into the water seconds before the two vessels collide and explode. With the liquor stored on the fake Coast Guard cutter, they set sail for the U.S. A lookout spots Captain Mosely’s cutter approaching and Walker orders his sailors to stand and salute as they pass. Unaware of the deception, Mosely returns the honors. Later, Walker reminds Kibby that if he did not save him he could have had Claire all to himself, but Kibby tells him that Claire would have never forgiven him. However, he admits that the thought had crossed his mind. The three sail off in the Lucky Lady. +

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

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