Grand Theft Auto (1977)

PG | 88 mins | Comedy | 17 June 1977

Director:

Ron Howard

Producer:

Jon Davison

Cinematographer:

Gary Graver

Editor:

Joe Dante

Production Designer:

Keith Michl

Production Company:

New World Productions
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HISTORY

Grand Theft Auto was actor Ron Howard's feature film directorial debut. After Howard's success in the television series Happy Days (ABC, 15 Jan 1974--12 Jul 1984), producer Roger Corman asked him to star in his upcoming production, Eat My Dust (1976, see entry). Howard agreed to perform for free if Corman permitted him to direct a film, but Corman added a condition that Howard also star in the picture, the 26 Oct 1978 LAT noted. According to the 15 Jun 1977 Var, Corman gave Howard and his father, Rance Howard, who co-wrote the screenplay for Grand Theft Auto, four requirements: (1) That the film be an action-comedy about a car chase; (2) have "young people on the run"; (3) star Ron Howard; and (4) have the title Grand Theft Auto, which had been pre-tested for audience acceptance. An added requirement, the article stated, was that Howard shoot the film in four weeks, which forced him to stage ninety-one camera set-ups in one day. The 22 Apr 1977 DV noted that Howard finished the film in twenty-three days on a $1-million budget, though the 19 Aug 1977 LAT put the figure at a much lower $602,000. The 15 Jun 1977 Var noted that Corman demanded an extra chase scene after Howard finished principal photography.
       Corman wanted to call the film The Car, but Universal Pictures was already making a film under that title (1977, see entry), the 19 Aug 1977 LAT noted.
       Marion Ross, the actress who played Collins Hedgeworth's overprotective mother in Grand Theft ... More Less

Grand Theft Auto was actor Ron Howard's feature film directorial debut. After Howard's success in the television series Happy Days (ABC, 15 Jan 1974--12 Jul 1984), producer Roger Corman asked him to star in his upcoming production, Eat My Dust (1976, see entry). Howard agreed to perform for free if Corman permitted him to direct a film, but Corman added a condition that Howard also star in the picture, the 26 Oct 1978 LAT noted. According to the 15 Jun 1977 Var, Corman gave Howard and his father, Rance Howard, who co-wrote the screenplay for Grand Theft Auto, four requirements: (1) That the film be an action-comedy about a car chase; (2) have "young people on the run"; (3) star Ron Howard; and (4) have the title Grand Theft Auto, which had been pre-tested for audience acceptance. An added requirement, the article stated, was that Howard shoot the film in four weeks, which forced him to stage ninety-one camera set-ups in one day. The 22 Apr 1977 DV noted that Howard finished the film in twenty-three days on a $1-million budget, though the 19 Aug 1977 LAT put the figure at a much lower $602,000. The 15 Jun 1977 Var noted that Corman demanded an extra chase scene after Howard finished principal photography.
       Corman wanted to call the film The Car, but Universal Pictures was already making a film under that title (1977, see entry), the 19 Aug 1977 LAT noted.
       Marion Ross, the actress who played Collins Hedgeworth's overprotective mother in Grand Theft Auto, concurrently played Ron Howard's mother in television's Happy Days series.
       The film opened in Chicago, IL, on 17 Jun 1977, according to the 15 Jun 1977 Var, and grossed $1.25 million in 300 theaters during its first two weeks of release, as reported in the the 29 Jun 1977 issue of HR. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
4 Jul 1977
cover.
Box Office
27 Jun 1977.
---
Daily Variety
22 Apr 1977.
---
Daily Variety
15 Jun 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 1977
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Aug 1977
p. E-13.
Los Angeles Times
24 Aug 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
26 Oct 1978
p. E-28.
New York Times
29 Sep 1977
p. 19.
Variety
15 Jun 1977
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Prod mgr
2d unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
2d unit prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit cam
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Grip
Stills
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Ward
Asst ward
MUSIC
Mus prod
SOUND
Rec mixer
Boom person
Sd co-ord
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Make-up
PRODUCTION MISC
Transportation
Scr supv
Auditor
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
STAND INS
Stunt co-ord
Stunt driver
Stunt driver
Stunt driver
Stunt driver
Stunt driver
Stunt driver
Stunt driver
COLOR PERSONNEL
Color by
SOURCES
SONGS
"I'm Sorry, Alice," furnished courtesy of Warner Bros. Records and Ivers Songs
"Send Your Love Over," furnished courtesy of Warner Bros. Records and Ivers Songs
"Love In Flight," written by Peter Ivers, furnished courtesy of Ivers Songs ©Ivers Songs
+
SONGS
"I'm Sorry, Alice," furnished courtesy of Warner Bros. Records and Ivers Songs
"Send Your Love Over," furnished courtesy of Warner Bros. Records and Ivers Songs
"Love In Flight," written by Peter Ivers, furnished courtesy of Ivers Songs ©Ivers Songs
"Love Thief," furnished courtesy of Windfall Music and Lotus
"Whatcha Gonna Do?," written by David Michael Jenkins and Cory Charles Lerios, furnished courtesy of A&M Records and performed by Pablo Cruz.
+
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Car
Release Date:
17 June 1977
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 24 August 1977
New York opening: 28 September 1977
Production Date:
began in early 1977
principal photograhy was shot in 23 days
Copyright Claimant:
Concorde-New Horizons Corporation
Copyright Date:
15 June 1977
Copyright Number:
PA144291
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Prints
MGM Laboratories
Duration(in mins):
88
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Paula Powers brings Sam Freeman home to her father, millionaire gubernatorial candidate Bigby Powers, and mother, Priscilla, to inform them that she and Sam are to be married in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her parents are outraged, because Paula has already agreed to marry Collins Hedgeworth, whose family is wealthier than the Powers. Sam Freeman, on the other hand, is a nobody. Bigby accuses Sam of being a gold digger and orders him out of the house. Paula calms the situation by telling Sam to wait outside. After Sam leaves, Bigby says he will disinherit Paula and take away her car. When he grabs her car keys, Paula says she is going to her room. She sneaks out her bedroom window, disables her car, steals Bigby’s Rolls-Royce and picks up Sam outside the estate. Unable to follow them in Paula’s car, Bigby calls private detective Ned Slinker, ordering him to stop the couple and return Paula without alerting the police or the media. At that moment, Collins Hedgeworth calls to invite Paula to see him play polo; he screams when Priscilla tells him the girl has eloped to Las Vegas. In full polo gear, Collins gets into his Porsche and careens through the streets until he crashes. He then runs to a nearby car dealer, gets into a Dodge Charger, gives his card to the salesman, and crashes through the display window. When police call the Hedgeworth home, Vivian Hedgeworth tells them to stop harassing her son, because he only "borrowed" the car. Her own car won't start, so she takes her chauffeur’s Volkswagen to rescue Collins. Meanwhile, as Collins catches up with Sam and Paula, he has another accident, ... +


Paula Powers brings Sam Freeman home to her father, millionaire gubernatorial candidate Bigby Powers, and mother, Priscilla, to inform them that she and Sam are to be married in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her parents are outraged, because Paula has already agreed to marry Collins Hedgeworth, whose family is wealthier than the Powers. Sam Freeman, on the other hand, is a nobody. Bigby accuses Sam of being a gold digger and orders him out of the house. Paula calms the situation by telling Sam to wait outside. After Sam leaves, Bigby says he will disinherit Paula and take away her car. When he grabs her car keys, Paula says she is going to her room. She sneaks out her bedroom window, disables her car, steals Bigby’s Rolls-Royce and picks up Sam outside the estate. Unable to follow them in Paula’s car, Bigby calls private detective Ned Slinker, ordering him to stop the couple and return Paula without alerting the police or the media. At that moment, Collins Hedgeworth calls to invite Paula to see him play polo; he screams when Priscilla tells him the girl has eloped to Las Vegas. In full polo gear, Collins gets into his Porsche and careens through the streets until he crashes. He then runs to a nearby car dealer, gets into a Dodge Charger, gives his card to the salesman, and crashes through the display window. When police call the Hedgeworth home, Vivian Hedgeworth tells them to stop harassing her son, because he only "borrowed" the car. Her own car won't start, so she takes her chauffeur’s Volkswagen to rescue Collins. Meanwhile, as Collins catches up with Sam and Paula, he has another accident, and runs to a nearby phone booth to call popular disc jockey Curly Q. Brown at 10 Q Radio. Collins offers $25 thousand to anyone who can save Paula from the rapist who kidnapped her. When Curly makes Collins' reward a "10 Q exclusive" on the air, the announcement is heard by Sam and Paula, as well as two garage mechanics, Ace and Sparky, who take the racing car they are working on out for a “test spin” in hope of getting the $25 thousand. Vivian also hears her son and calls the station to offer another $25 thousand to anyone who brings Collins back before he hurts himself. When Vivian runs a stop light, police officer Norman Tad gives chase until she hits a tree. An old-time gospel preacher hurries to Vivian as Norman pulls her from the wrecked car. When she promises the preacher $25 thousand if he brings back her son, he steals Officer Tad's squad car and joins the chase. Vivian gets back into her chauffeur's beat-up VW and follows. Officer Tad commandeers a bus full of retired people and tells the driver to "follow that car." On the radio, Curly tells his audience that the reward is up to $50 thousand for the return of both Paula and Collins. Meanwhile, Paula calls Curly on the car phone to tell him that she was not kidnapped and is not engaged to Collins, but when Collins, who has stolen a pickup truck, hears Paula on the radio, he thinks she has been brainwashed. Collins pulls alongside the Rolls-Royce and raps on the window with his horse whip, but Paula speeds up to evade him. Ace and Sparky catch up with the Rolls-Royce and spray fire retardent on the windshield. Sam tells Paula to take a dirt road. The detour kicks up clouds of dust, causing Ace and Sparky to jump out of the race car when its steering mechanism stops working. Meanwhile, Ned Slinker has dispatched a helicopter and a fleet of cars to head off the lovers. Collins tries to catch up with Paula, but the preacher in the police car shouts at him on the loudspeaker to "turn off your engine for Jesus." The detectives try to box Paula in with their three cars, but are blinded by dust and crash into each other. When two men stop to take pictures of the wreck, the detectives steal their Jeep. Ace and Sparky steal a honeymoon couple's camper and continue the chase. Curly takes his radio show airborne in the station's helicopter in order to report the growing chase to his listeners. Meanwhile, Officer Tad stops Vivian, wrestles her to the ground, and takes her prisoner on the bus. After Paula and Sam gas up at a service station, the owner, Jack Klepper, learns who they are and phones ahead to his sons, Carroll and Max, telling them to stop the Rolls-Royce at any cost. The boys set dynamite under a wooden bridge but destroy it moments after the luxury car passes over and just in time to wreck their father’s car. Jack jumps into the back of their truck and orders his sons to join the chase. Overhead, Curly gives a play-by-play to his listeners. When Collins crashes his pickup and is jumped by the preacher, he convinces the holy man to join forces and get all $50 thousand instead of just $25 thousand. Bigby and Slinker join the chase in Slinker’s van, and as Curly listens in on their citizens’ band radio conversation with other detectives, he reports to his audience that the runaway girl is the daughter of Bigby Powers. Sam phones Curly from the Rolls-Royce to complain that he is giving away their location to everyone. When Slinker calls ahead to Las Vegas and hires a mobster to stop Sam, the "wise guy" dispatches four thugs to the state border. As Jack’s sons catch up to Paula and Sam, he tries to stop their car by throwing sticks of dynamite from the back of the pickup, but he blows up a parked car and knocks down a telephone pole instead. A car full of Chicano lowriders joins the chase. So do several police cars. Paula and Sam duck into a junk yard to hide and argue. Sam is mad because Paula mishandled her breakup with Collins, and failed to listen to him while they were being chased. When Paula decides to forget the wedding, Sam tells her he loves her and they make up. Sam takes the wheel as they resume their race to Las Vegas, but Curly spots the Rolls-Royce and reveals their location. The various pursuers jockey for position. The mobsters shoot the wrong car, and the dynamite-throwing Jack blows up the preacher's police car, forcing the preacher and Collins to steal a clown's ice cream wagon to resume the chase. With a dozen vehicles behind them, Sam pulls into a speedway where a demolition derby is about to start. Sam veers around dozens of old cars and tries to escape, but the bus with Officer Tad and Vivian blocks the exit. Sam and Paula leap from the Rolls-Royce seconds before it is hit by a dozen cars. When Ned and Bigby rush to grab Paula, a demolition car topples their van. The crowd, hearing Curly's voice on the loudspeakers, cheers for Sam and Paula and stops their pursuers from coming into the stands after them. As Sam and Paula get into a cab and head for the chapel, police round up the car thieves inside the speedway. Reunited with her son, Vivian tells Collins that it was all for the best because Paula is socially inferior. Overhearing her, Bigby insults Vivian, and Collins comes to his mother’s defense, but Bigby sends him blubbering back to Vivian with one punch. Bigby tells Slinker that Paula did choose the right suitor after all. Following their quick nuptials, Sam and Paula are met by a crowd outside the chapel, along with a representative of a hotel who offers them a free stay in the honeymoon suite. As they head for the hotel, Curly follows in a car, broadcasting, but loses control and crashes through a house, leaving Sam and Paula to drive to the hotel alone. +

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

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