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HISTORY

Actor Walter McGinn, who signed to play Sgt. Nick Yanov, died in early Apr 1977 during the first week of filming, according to the 6 Apr 1977 LAT. Charles Haid replaced him.
       Joseph Wambaugh, who was paid $700,000 for the film rights to his novel and wrote early drafts of the script, ran a full-page ad in the 1 Apr 1977 HR with an open letter to the Writers' Guild, according to the Jul 1977 Los Angeles Magazine. The letter included the following statement: “Recently I wrote my first screenplay from my novel, The Choirboys. Lorimar Productions gave me a record-breaking, gross-percentage deal. They hired Robert Aldrich to direct. . . . They said they loved my screenplay. They said they loved me . I did four drafts and they said it was perfect.” The studio never sent Wambaugh a shooting script, however, and by the time he found one, Aldrich had begun filming. Wambaugh did not approve of the heavily altered script, and The Writers’ Guild agreed that Lorimar should remove Wambaugh’s screenwriting credit and replace it with “Screenplay by Christopher Knopf” . . . “based upon the novel by Joseph Wambaugh.” The novelist’s major objections were the movie’s tacked-on upbeat ending, the use of a studio set for MacArthur Park where the policemen held “choir practices,” the change from “Los Angeles Police Department” to “Metropolitan Police,” and a sadomasochistic scene between a dominatrix and a police officer.
       Principal photography began 28 Mar 1977, as stated in the Jul 1977 Los Angeles article. The 25 May 1977 HR noted that Aldrich was ... More Less

Actor Walter McGinn, who signed to play Sgt. Nick Yanov, died in early Apr 1977 during the first week of filming, according to the 6 Apr 1977 LAT. Charles Haid replaced him.
       Joseph Wambaugh, who was paid $700,000 for the film rights to his novel and wrote early drafts of the script, ran a full-page ad in the 1 Apr 1977 HR with an open letter to the Writers' Guild, according to the Jul 1977 Los Angeles Magazine. The letter included the following statement: “Recently I wrote my first screenplay from my novel, The Choirboys. Lorimar Productions gave me a record-breaking, gross-percentage deal. They hired Robert Aldrich to direct. . . . They said they loved my screenplay. They said they loved me . I did four drafts and they said it was perfect.” The studio never sent Wambaugh a shooting script, however, and by the time he found one, Aldrich had begun filming. Wambaugh did not approve of the heavily altered script, and The Writers’ Guild agreed that Lorimar should remove Wambaugh’s screenwriting credit and replace it with “Screenplay by Christopher Knopf” . . . “based upon the novel by Joseph Wambaugh.” The novelist’s major objections were the movie’s tacked-on upbeat ending, the use of a studio set for MacArthur Park where the policemen held “choir practices,” the change from “Los Angeles Police Department” to “Metropolitan Police,” and a sadomasochistic scene between a dominatrix and a police officer.
       Principal photography began 28 Mar 1977, as stated in the Jul 1977 Los Angeles article. The 25 May 1977 HR noted that Aldrich was shooting the $5.5-million film with two cameras to give him two viewpoints of every take. He was expecting to use 700,000 feet of film.
       For the film's “choir practice” scenes in Los Angeles, CA's MacArthur Park, a large indoor set was built on MGM’s Sound Stage 30, complete with a duck lake, according to the 6 Jun 1977 Canyon Crier, which called it "the largest indoor set in Hollywood history." Universal publicity materials in AMPAS library files stated that Aldrich also used more than forty locations around Los Angeles during the fifty-five-day shoot. He generally filmed at the studio during the day and on location at night. For a quiet residential night scene between James Woods and two actresses playing prostitutes, Aldrich filmed in Surfridge, a “ghost town” just west of Los Angeles International Airport that had recently been bought by the city to expand the runways for larger jet liners. Not long after the scene was filmed, the town was leveled. The exterior of the headquarters building where the policemen worked was the Highland Park police station.
       A gory scene from the novel in which Roscoe Rules picks up the head of a bride decapitated in a car accident was filmed in Culver City, according to the Jul 1977 Los Angeles Magazine, but it was subsequently cut from the film.
       Joseph Wambaugh sued Lorimar Productions for $1 million for “breach of contract,” according to the 7 Dec 1977 LAT, claiming that the studio had "distort[ed] and demean[ed]" his screenplay. An 8 Mar 1978 LAT news item reported that the lawsuit had recently been settled out of court. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
25 Apr 1977.
---
Canyon Crier
6 Jun 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Apr 1977
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
25 May 1977.
---
Los Angeles Magazine
Jul 1977
pp. 96-99, 112-115.
Los Angeles Times
6 Apr 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 May 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Dec 1977
Section IV, p. 1, 26.
Los Angeles Times
23 Dec 1977
p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
8 Mar 1978
Section F, p. 12.
New York Times
24 Dec 1977.
---
Variety
21 Dec 1977
p. 20.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Starring in alphabetical order:
as
Also co-starring:
as
Policemen:
[and]
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Lorimar Productions presents
A Lorimar/Airone Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Elec gaffer
Key grip
Asst cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
Still man
Best boy
Dolly grip
Dolly grip
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Const coord
Head painter
Prop master
Asst prop master
Greensman
Landscaping
Leadman
COSTUMES
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
MUSIC
Mus/Orig songs mus & lyrics
Mus ed
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Sd boom op
Rerec sd mixer
2d mic man
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Title des
Titles by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Loc mgr
Scr supv
Dial supv
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Unit pub
Tech adv
Lorimar liaison
Casting
Casting
Prod coord
Craft service
Extra casting
COLOR PERSONNEL
[Color by]
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh (New York, 1975).
SONGS
"I've Got A Crush On You," music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, published by New World/Harms. Melody of "I've Been Working On The Railroad," traditional American folk song.
DETAILS
Release Date:
23 December 1977
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 23 December 1977
Production Date:
began 28 March 1977 in Los Angeles, CA
Copyright Claimant:
Lorimar Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
2 August 1979
Copyright Number:
PA 46444
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Prints
Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
119
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
Italy, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25050
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1969, North Vietnamese soldiers trap Sam Lyles and another American soldier in a cave, and Sam is stricken with claustrophobia and terror. Years later, in 1977 Los Angeles, California, Sam works as a policeman under Sgt. Nick Yanov. At roll call one day, policeman Dean Proust needs to be roused from sleep, while Francis Tanaguchi answers, with a Bela Lugosi accent, only to “Count Dracula.” When Nick reports that one of the officers let a wino sleep in Lt. “Hard-Ass” Grimsley’s car last night, Grimsley enters the room. “Spermwhale” Whalen insults him, and the lieutenant responds by promising that he will help Spermwhale lose his pension before his scheduled retirement in six months. At the end of the meeting, after Grimsley leaves, Nick invites the officers to a party at his apartment that night. In the parking lot, African American officer Calvin Motts compliments policeman Roscoe Rules on being a fair-minded bigot who hates everybody and not just African Americans. That night, at Nick’s place, the policemen play cards and drink. Two female officers swim in the apartment complex’s pool until Spermwhale gropes them. When one of the women, “No Balls” Hadley, goes into a bedroom to towel off and change clothes, Cheech Sartino sneaks in, slides under the glass table she is sitting on and noisily kisses her naked bottom through the glass. On patrol the next night, Roscoe tells his partner, Dean, how he likes to put suspects in a chokehold that makes them squawk like a chicken. They get a call to an office building and take the elevator up to the roof, where a young woman is threatening to jump. Though Dean wants to ... +


In 1969, North Vietnamese soldiers trap Sam Lyles and another American soldier in a cave, and Sam is stricken with claustrophobia and terror. Years later, in 1977 Los Angeles, California, Sam works as a policeman under Sgt. Nick Yanov. At roll call one day, policeman Dean Proust needs to be roused from sleep, while Francis Tanaguchi answers, with a Bela Lugosi accent, only to “Count Dracula.” When Nick reports that one of the officers let a wino sleep in Lt. “Hard-Ass” Grimsley’s car last night, Grimsley enters the room. “Spermwhale” Whalen insults him, and the lieutenant responds by promising that he will help Spermwhale lose his pension before his scheduled retirement in six months. At the end of the meeting, after Grimsley leaves, Nick invites the officers to a party at his apartment that night. In the parking lot, African American officer Calvin Motts compliments policeman Roscoe Rules on being a fair-minded bigot who hates everybody and not just African Americans. That night, at Nick’s place, the policemen play cards and drink. Two female officers swim in the apartment complex’s pool until Spermwhale gropes them. When one of the women, “No Balls” Hadley, goes into a bedroom to towel off and change clothes, Cheech Sartino sneaks in, slides under the glass table she is sitting on and noisily kisses her naked bottom through the glass. On patrol the next night, Roscoe tells his partner, Dean, how he likes to put suspects in a chokehold that makes them squawk like a chicken. They get a call to an office building and take the elevator up to the roof, where a young woman is threatening to jump. Though Dean wants to wait for a senior officer to show up, Roscoe taunts the woman and challenges her to leap, which she does. Afterward, Roscoe tells a sergeant that she jumped before he and Dean reached the roof. Meanwhile, Spermwhale hires a prostitute to approach Grimsley in a diner and lure him to a motel, where Spermwhale and his partner, Baxter Slate, break in on them with drawn guns, claiming they got a report that a woman was being raped. When Grimsley realizes he has been set up, Spermwhale laughs and leaves. Baxter and Spermwhale stop by a strip club to see Baxter’s girlfriend, Foxy. While Spermwhale waits in the car, Baxter argues with Foxy about her other men, and although she tries to calm him down with sex, Baxter slaps her. Back in the car, Spermwhale says Baxter should drop Foxy because she has got him drinking too much and popping pills. Spermwhale pulls a photo of a boat he is buying out of his pocket and fantasizes about his upcoming retirement. At the end of their shift, the officers go for “choir practice” at a park and drink until dawn. After Roscoe passes out, Francis opens his fly, pours birdseed inside his pants and lures a duck from the pond to stick its head inside. Roscoe wakes up in a panic and falls into the pond. He loses his pants in the water as he climbs out, and the other officers handcuff him to a tree. When they go off with their girlfriends and leave Roscoe alone, an older gay man walks by with a pink poodle and cannot believe his luck. Roscoe threatens the man with bodily harm, then shouts for the others to save him. Hearing the officers approach, the man slips away. Later, three rookie squad members – Baxter, Sam and Harold Bloomguard – are briefly assigned to the Vice Division to arrest prostitutes. Sgt. Dominic Scuzzi tells them that to avoid entrapment charges, they have to wait for the prostitute to offer a price and a sexual act. Later, Baxter and Sam stand behind a grating in the wall at a department store bathroom where perverts hang out. Roscoe walks in and preens in front of the mirror. Pete Zoony, Baxter and Sam’s supervisor, appears, and, as a joke, pretends to be gay, but Roscoe beats up Zoony before Baxter and Sam can stop him. When Roscoe apologizes, Zoony knocks him out. Harold, the most innocent-looking of the three, drives around the streets until he picks up two prostitutes, but when he finally gets them to offer a price and tries to arrest them, they run away, screaming “Rape!” Sam later goes home to his wife and wants to make love, but she feigns sleep. The next night, Zoony brings in a teenager, Alexander Blaney, who propositioned him in a park. Crying, the young man says he cannot help himself, and Scuzzi lets him go with a promise that he will stay out of the parks. Meanwhile, Harold, Sam and Baxter are assigned to watch a woman who provides special services in an expensive neighborhood. Seeing only her silhouette in the window of her apartment, Baxter says she looks familiar. Meanwhile, Roscoe and Dean are called to a slum apartment to stop a fight between Mexican-American and African American tenants, but Roscoe insults everyone so bluntly that they turn on the two cops. The men throw Roscoe down the stairs and beat Dean into a stupor. A day or two later, on a parade ground, Deputy Chief Riggs gives Roscoe a citation for “exemplary service,” claiming that he is “an officer who wants to do something.” Then Riggs rails against a jury that acquitted a drug dealer who shot an undercover officer, thinking he was a robber. When Nick comments to Riggs afterward that his speech “turned eighty-five even-tempered men into seething, brutal avengers,” Riggs takes it as a compliment. Though Sam and Harold are back on patrol, they return to the prostitute’s apartment, bluff their way inside, and discover that the woman is Foxy, Baxter’s girlfriend, working as a dominatrix. While Harold stays with her in the living room, Sam finds Baxter in the bedroom, strapped down in leather and chains. Ashamed, Baxter tells Sam he wants to meet later to explain things. Sam tells Foxy that he will break her legs the next time he sees her, grabs Harold, and leaves. At the four o’clock roll call the next day, Nick announces that Baxter shot himself. Sam, in tears, walks out, as the squad room is deathly silent. At choir practice that night, Roscoe arrives in a paddy wagon and, as he giggles, tells everyone that a friend of his at the coroner’s office said that Baxter had whip marks on his back. Sam attacks Roscoe, as Harold realizes who was in Foxy’s bedroom last night. After Sam gets drunk and passes out in the back of the paddy wagon, Roscoe shuts the doors, then tells the others Sam is in the back of the wagon. Harold says that Sam cannot stand it when doors are closed. Meanwhile, Sam wakes up, sees the doors are locked and has flashbacks both to Vietnam and Foxy’s apartment. He starts choking and screaming. Alexander, who is cruising the park again, hears Sam and opens the wagon’s doors. Thinking that the young man is a Vietnamese officer, Sam shoots him. As the others rush to the wagon, Roscoe starts laughing because Sam shot a “park faggot.” Harold tries to construct a cover story to explain what happened. Later that day, Riggs and Grimsley discuss the shooting in Riggs’s office. Sam is a “catatonic” in the psychiatric ward and Harold is sticking to the story he told them, but Riggs knows that there is a cover-up. Grimsley suggests interrogating Spermwhale because he is the most vulnerable. Riggs drags Spermwhale into an interrogation room and threatens his pension if he does not tell the truth about what happened. Sometime later, Spermwhale is on a fishing boat coming in to the pier. He gets a letter from Calvin Motts, who says the guys all forgive him because he had to save himself in order to “beat the system.” The letter contains a news clipping that a police investigation found the shooting was an accident. Spermwhale returns to headquarters and, accompanied by Calvin, visits Riggs’s office, threatening to tell the truth to the press and the police chief that Riggs lied, which would likely lead to his prosecution. When Spermwhale gives signed depositions from the other officers at the park, Riggs agrees to wipe the case off the record and put the officers back on patrol. In the hallway, Calvin and Spermwhale laugh and slap palms. +

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

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