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HISTORY

       As noted in a 17 Oct 1976 LAT article, writer-director Alan Parker was relatively “unknown” when he made Bugsy Malone, his first theatrically-released feature film. A 6 Sep 1976 article in Time stated that Parker entertained his four children on long car rides with “improvised stories” about a gangster named “Bugsy” and the character provided inspiration for his screenplay. Parker and producer Alan Marshall had difficulty selling their idea of an all-child gangster musical to studios and personally invested at least $50,000 to get the production started. According to Time, Paramount Pictures and other unnamed investors added roughly $1.5 million in funding.
       Various contemporary sources stated that the children in the cast were all relatively new to theatrical filmmaking with the exception of thirteen-year-old Jodie Foster, who had recently received critical acclaim for her role in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976, see entry). According to LAT, Parker auditioned American children living in England at U.S. Air Force bases, but he eventually found most of his young actors in the U.S., where he interviewed approximately 10,000 public school students in and around New York City.
       Although a 2 Jul 1975 Var news item announced that filming was scheduled to begin 21 Jul 1975 on location in London and at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, U.K., a 10 Jul 1975 Var article reported that principal photography was already underway with 200 child actors. According to studio production notes from AMPAS library files, a 1929 New York City street set was constructed at Pinewood and the costumes were tailored ... More Less

       As noted in a 17 Oct 1976 LAT article, writer-director Alan Parker was relatively “unknown” when he made Bugsy Malone, his first theatrically-released feature film. A 6 Sep 1976 article in Time stated that Parker entertained his four children on long car rides with “improvised stories” about a gangster named “Bugsy” and the character provided inspiration for his screenplay. Parker and producer Alan Marshall had difficulty selling their idea of an all-child gangster musical to studios and personally invested at least $50,000 to get the production started. According to Time, Paramount Pictures and other unnamed investors added roughly $1.5 million in funding.
       Various contemporary sources stated that the children in the cast were all relatively new to theatrical filmmaking with the exception of thirteen-year-old Jodie Foster, who had recently received critical acclaim for her role in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976, see entry). According to LAT, Parker auditioned American children living in England at U.S. Air Force bases, but he eventually found most of his young actors in the U.S., where he interviewed approximately 10,000 public school students in and around New York City.
       Although a 2 Jul 1975 Var news item announced that filming was scheduled to begin 21 Jul 1975 on location in London and at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, U.K., a 10 Jul 1975 Var article reported that principal photography was already underway with 200 child actors. According to studio production notes from AMPAS library files, a 1929 New York City street set was constructed at Pinewood and the costumes were tailored to fit the children from actual period clothing. The film’s pedal-powered cars were reportedly hand-made at the approximate cost of a road-worthy automobile. The child actors were only legally able to work four hours each day and a school was established at Pinewood with six teachers. The film’s “splurge guns” that used custard pies as ammunition took three months to fabricate with the assistance of a gunsmith. Parker later admitted in a 13 Nov 2011 Telegraph article that the guns actually fired ping pong balls, and the custard pies were thrown by crew members. On 23 Oct 1975, a DV news item announced that filming was complete.
       As stated in a 27 Sep 1976 New Yorker article, songwriter Paul Williams’s soundtrack was performed by adults, including Williams, himself. According to a 29 Mar 1976 New York item, Jodie Foster’s contract required her to sing three songs in the picture, but Foster’s parts were previously recorded by Williams’s girlfriend. Foster reportedly wanted to re-record her own voice for the soundtrack and legal arbitration was underway at the time of the article, but no such change was made in the final soundtrack.
       The film made its U.S. premiere at the Baronet Theatre in New York City on 15 Sep 1976 according to a 21 Jul 1976 Box news item. A 21 Apr 1976 Var news item reported that the picture was selected to represent the U.K. at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival, although it was initially rejected by the festival’s director for not being suitably “esoteric.”
       Bugsy Malone was released to mixed reviews. While it was hailed by Cosmopolitan and received the “Best Picture of the Month” Blue Ribbon award from Box on 10 Jan 1977, the 27 Sep 1976 New Yorker review condemned the film as “wholesome grotesqueness.”
       The picture brought actors Scott Baio, John Cassisi, Dexter Fletcher and Mark Curry, among others, to the attention of the public. A novelization of the screenplay, also written by Parker, was published following the film’s release.
       Paul Williams was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Music (Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Adaptation Score). The film won the following British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards: Production Design (Geoffrey Kirkland); Screenplay (Alan Parker); Supporting Actress (Jodie Foster); Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles in 1977 (Jodie Foster, for Bugsy Malone and Taxi Driver ); and Soundtrack (Les Wiggins, Clive Winter, and Ken Barker). BAFTA also nominated Bugsy Malone in the following categories: Anthony Asquith Memorial Award (Paul Williams); Costume Design (Monica Howe); Direction (Alan Parker); and Best Film.
      In the end credits, producers thank the following individuals: Robert Littman; Gary Ulmer; Denny Bond; Jules Chaikin; Sally Marshall; Fanny Oliver; John Gorham; Bill Ashton; and everyone at the Huntley and Palmer Biscuit Factory.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
21 Jul 1976.
---
Box Office
10 Jan 1977
p. 17.
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 1976
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
13 Oct 1976
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
17 Oct 1976
Calendar, p. 34.
New York
29 Mar 1976.
---
New York Times
16 Sep 1976
p. 54.
New Yorker
27 Sep 1976
p. 124.
Telegraph
13 Nov 2011.
---
Time
6 Sep 1976
pp. 60-63.
Variety
2 Jul 1975.
---
Variety
10 Sep 1975.
---
Variety
21 Apr 1976.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Goodtimes Enterprises production of
Alan Parker's film
in association with the National Film Finance Consortium
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Cam op
Lighting cam
Lighting cam
Sd cam
Follow focus
Clapper loader
Stills photog
Elec supv
ART DIRECTORS
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const mgr
Prop master
Prop buyer
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward
MUSIC
Words and mus
Addl orch and cond
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Sd ed
Dubbing mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Make up
Hairdressing
Make up
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Continuity
Prod accountant
Prod asst
Prod's secy
Transport mgr
Casting in U.S.A.
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 September 1976
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 15 September 1976
Los Angeles opening: 13 October 1976
Production Date:
early July--mid October 1975
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
94
MPAA Rating:
G
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On a rainy night in 1929 New York City, a lone figure is chased by four gunmen. Cornered in a dead-end alleyway, the man reveals that he is Roxy Robinson, an employee of mob kingpin Fat Sam, and the pursuers open fire with whipped cream-loaded “Splurge guns.” Meanwhile, a failed boxer named Bugsy Malone enters a bookstore where a false wall opens to reveal Fat Sam’s Grand Slam, an art moderne speakeasy populated with well-dressed patrons. Inside, Sam hears the news of Roxy’s fate over the radio and blames his archrival, Dandy Dan. Although Fizzy, a janitor with tap-dancing ambitions, and Blousey, an aspiring singer, wait for Sam in the hope of gaining employment, Sam is distracted and tells them to come back the next day. As Blousey leaves, Bugsy runs into her and knocks a valise out of her hand. Besotted by Blousey’s good looks, Bugsy invites her to his table. Just then, Dandy Dan’s four gunmen enter the speakeasy and open fire with whipped cream as patrons hide under tables, but Sam and his henchmen calm the crowd. The gunmen leave and continue their attack at a barbershop and, later, at a fancy restaurant. When police captain Smolsky arrives at the scene, reporters question him about the new-fangled weapon, but Smolsky refuses to comment. Back at the speakeasy, Bugsy leaves with Blousey while Sam waits for a showgirl named Tallulah. As Fizzy sweeps the floor inside the bar, Bugsy flirts with Blousey and wins her over with the offer of a dinner date. At a diner, Blousey explains that she wants to be a Hollywood movie ... +


On a rainy night in 1929 New York City, a lone figure is chased by four gunmen. Cornered in a dead-end alleyway, the man reveals that he is Roxy Robinson, an employee of mob kingpin Fat Sam, and the pursuers open fire with whipped cream-loaded “Splurge guns.” Meanwhile, a failed boxer named Bugsy Malone enters a bookstore where a false wall opens to reveal Fat Sam’s Grand Slam, an art moderne speakeasy populated with well-dressed patrons. Inside, Sam hears the news of Roxy’s fate over the radio and blames his archrival, Dandy Dan. Although Fizzy, a janitor with tap-dancing ambitions, and Blousey, an aspiring singer, wait for Sam in the hope of gaining employment, Sam is distracted and tells them to come back the next day. As Blousey leaves, Bugsy runs into her and knocks a valise out of her hand. Besotted by Blousey’s good looks, Bugsy invites her to his table. Just then, Dandy Dan’s four gunmen enter the speakeasy and open fire with whipped cream as patrons hide under tables, but Sam and his henchmen calm the crowd. The gunmen leave and continue their attack at a barbershop and, later, at a fancy restaurant. When police captain Smolsky arrives at the scene, reporters question him about the new-fangled weapon, but Smolsky refuses to comment. Back at the speakeasy, Bugsy leaves with Blousey while Sam waits for a showgirl named Tallulah. As Fizzy sweeps the floor inside the bar, Bugsy flirts with Blousey and wins her over with the offer of a dinner date. At a diner, Blousey explains that she wants to be a Hollywood movie star. When it’s time to pay, Bugsy locks the waitress in a phone booth because he cannot afford the bill. The following day, newspapers herald the Splurge gun as the new gangland weapon. A group of mobsters congregate at Dandy Dan’s elegant estate while a string quartet plays on the front lawn. Dan congratulates his henchman for their good work the night before and places a flower on each of their lapels with the exception of Doodle, who made the mistake of dropping his gun. Dan and his henchmen dispatch Doodle with custard pies as punishment. Meanwhile, Bugsy accompanies Blousey to an audition. All of the hopefuls who try out before her are rejected and when it’s Blousey’s turn to sing, a temperamental star named Lena Marelli upstages her. Blousey is crestfallen but Bugsy tells her not to be discouraged. Elsewhere in the city, Sam, knowing that custard pies are no match for Dandy Dan’s firepower, seeks to stockpile his own arsenal of Splurge guns and gets a tip that he can acquire weapons from a Chinese laundry; however, three of Sam’s henchmen are greeted at the laundry by a barrage of Splurge fire and only Knuckles survives the attack. Back at the speakeasy, Bugsy sits at the bar as several showgirls leave their dressing room and greet him, but Tallulah wants Bugsy to herself and chases the other girls away. Tallulah kisses Bugsy on the forehead just as Blousey arrives, provoking the young woman’s anger. As Blousey marches into Sam’s office to ask for a job, she is hired on the spot. Later, Sam arranges a private meeting with Dandy Dan to stage a covert ambush. With Bugsy as his driver and a professional hit man waiting in the car, Sam arrives in a wooded area to meet Dandy Dan. Although Sam thinks he has the advantage, Dan’s gunmen appear from the bushes and attack Sam. However, Bugsy is determined to save Sam and a chase ensues, leading Dan’s car into a pond. Back at Sam’s speakeasy, Blousey, now a chorus girl, fantasizes about becoming a silent movie star and Bugsy calls to tell her that he’s earned $200. The couple spends the day together in the country and Bugsy promises to take Blousey to Hollywood, but later that evening, Bugsy is robbed by thugs. When a passer-by named Leroy Smith chases the muggers away, Bugsy is impressed by Leroy’s strength and becomes determined to make him a star boxer. Meanwhile, Sam’s empire crumbles as Dapper Dan becomes the city’s lead racketeer and the police bungle their investigation of Dan’s crimes. When Knuckles misfires a homemade Splurge gun, Sam is without a gang and Tallulah asks Bugsy to come to Sam’s aid. Accepting the challenge, Bugsy and Leroy embark on a mission to locate Dandy Dan’s Splurge gun warehouse and recruit a new gang at a soup kitchen. Meanwhile, Blousey believes that Bugsy has forsaken his promise to take her to Hollywood and returns to the speakeasy with a broken heart. Bugsy and the new gang raid the Splurge warehouse and supply Sam with an arsenal of weapons, inciting a showdown with Dandy Dan’s henchmen. Drenched in whipped cream and custard, the rival gangs realize that their war is futile and decide to make amends. Bugsy and Blousey reunite and leave for Hollywood. +

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

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