The Black Marble (1980)

PG | 113 mins | Comedy | 7 March 1980

Director:

Harold Becker

Writer:

Joseph Wambaugh

Producer:

Frank Capra, Jr.

Cinematographer:

Owen Roizman

Editor:

Maury Winetrobe

Production Designer:

Alfred Sweeney

Production Company:

Black Marble Productions
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HISTORY

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the movie was the fifth of author Joseph Wambaugh’s best-selling novels to be filmed.
       Having had several of his books filmed for TV and features, Wambaugh was seeking more creative control for his most recent book The Black Marble, as reported in the 30 Sep 1977 Var. When selling film rights, Wambaugh stipulated that he wanted the book to be shot as a feature and for himself to be attached to the project as a co-producer. However, Wambaugh has no producer credit on-screen.
       A dispute over ownership of film rights was reported 13 Jun 1978 in both HR and Var when author Wambaugh was sued by Sed-Bar Productions, which was contracted to produce The Black Marble. According to Wambaugh through his representatives, the producers failed to raise the $3 million budget needed for production by a deadline of 30 May 1978 at which time the film rights reverted to the author. Sed-Bar asserted that Wambaugh had pursued the sale of the film rights to other parties and it was seeking $5 million in damages and “an injunction barring Wambaugh from making any other contracts to film the book.” On 5 Apr 1979, DV reported that Wambaugh received a “summary judgment in L.A. Superior Court” ruling that all film rights to his novel reverted to him 1 Jun 1978 when Sed-Bar Productions and producer George LeFave failed to raise production funds by the agreed deadline.
       It was reported 19 Jul 1979 in the LAT that publisher William Morrow & Company had become a major investor ... More Less

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the movie was the fifth of author Joseph Wambaugh’s best-selling novels to be filmed.
       Having had several of his books filmed for TV and features, Wambaugh was seeking more creative control for his most recent book The Black Marble, as reported in the 30 Sep 1977 Var. When selling film rights, Wambaugh stipulated that he wanted the book to be shot as a feature and for himself to be attached to the project as a co-producer. However, Wambaugh has no producer credit on-screen.
       A dispute over ownership of film rights was reported 13 Jun 1978 in both HR and Var when author Wambaugh was sued by Sed-Bar Productions, which was contracted to produce The Black Marble. According to Wambaugh through his representatives, the producers failed to raise the $3 million budget needed for production by a deadline of 30 May 1978 at which time the film rights reverted to the author. Sed-Bar asserted that Wambaugh had pursued the sale of the film rights to other parties and it was seeking $5 million in damages and “an injunction barring Wambaugh from making any other contracts to film the book.” On 5 Apr 1979, DV reported that Wambaugh received a “summary judgment in L.A. Superior Court” ruling that all film rights to his novel reverted to him 1 Jun 1978 when Sed-Bar Productions and producer George LeFave failed to raise production funds by the agreed deadline.
       It was reported 19 Jul 1979 in the LAT that publisher William Morrow & Company had become a major investor in the film. An additional article in the 6 Aug 1979 of Publishers Weekly stated that financing of the slightly more than $3 million budget was split three ways between William Morrow, Avco Embassy and “the Wambaugh family and private investors.”
       Actress Paula Prentiss ended a five-year hiatus from feature film work with her role as Detective Sergeant Natalie Zimmerman.
       Principal photography began 6 Aug 1979, according to a 25 Jul 1979 Var item. The film was shot at Hollywood General Studios and at other Los Angeles locations, as reported in the 5 Oct 1979 DV, which also stated that production ended on 4 Oct.
       A 11 Sep 1979 HR article stated that when real locations were logistically difficult, they were recreated on a sound stage. The police station interior and the dog kennel were built to give the production more flexibility. Five days of shooting was needed for the police station and a real location could not accommodate the production for that amount of time. Additionally, a café was built near the fountains at the Water & Power building to stand in for two scenes that were written to take place at the Music Center, where evening crowds, traffic and matinees prevented the production from filming.
       Many reviews of the time praised the chemistry between actors Robert Foxworth and Paula Prentiss and a strong supporting cast that outweighed any awkwardness in the script. Other critics felt that the central relationship between Foxworth and Prentiss did not work.
       It was announced in a news item in the 17 Jun 1981 LAT that Wambaugh was awarded the “Edgar Allan Poe Award of the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture for The Black Marble . The ceremony took place at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
24 Mar 1980.
---
Daily Variety
5 Apr 1979.
---
Daily Variety
5 Oct 1979.
---
Daily Variety
22 Feb 1980
p.3, 31.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Feb 1980
p. 3, 31.
Los Angeles Times
19 Jul 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Mar 1980
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jun 1981.
---
New York Times
7 Mar 1980
p. 13.
Newsweek
17 Mar 1980
p. 101.
Playboy
Jun 1980.
---
Publishers Weekly
6 Aug 1979.
---
Time
31 Mar 1980.
---
Variety
30 Sep 1977.
---
Variety
13 Jun 1978.
---
Variety
25 Jul 1979.
---
Variety
27 Feb 1980
p. 20.
Village Voice
17 Mar 1980.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Avco Embassy Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Leadman
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Const foreman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus ed
Mus mixer
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Dubbing mixer
Sd eff mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hair and makeup consultant
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Asst to Mr. Capra
Asst to Mr. Becker
Prod coord
Scr supv
Craft service
Transportation capt
Loc mgr
Dog show adv
Russian language adv
Violin adv
Russian dancing adv
Police tech adv
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Casting assoc
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Extra casting
Asst to Mr. Jarre
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Black Marble by Joseph Wambaugh (New York, 1978).
SONGS
"Wind Blow My Hair Free," music by Maurice Jarre, lyrics by Celeste Huston, sung by Donna Fein
"By the Old Oak Tree," vocals by Alexander Zelkin, courtesy of Monitor Recordings, Inc.
"When I Am Drunk," written by Theodore Bikel, vocals by Alexander Zelkin, courtesy of Monitor Recordings, Inc.
DETAILS
Release Date:
7 March 1980
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 7 Mar 1980; Los Angeles opening: 21 Mar 1980
Production Date:
6 Aug--4 Oct 1979
Copyright Claimant:
The Black Marble
Copyright Date:
7 May 1980
Copyright Number:
PA66495
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Deluxe®
Lenses/Prints
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
113
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25915
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Sgt. A.M. Valnikov writhes on the steps outside a church when his handcuffs snag on his testicles after he stuffs them in his pants. In another part of town, Philo Skinner, part owner of a kennel, has a fight with his business partner-wife Mavis about paying his gambling habit. Later, after a collector warns Skinner to settle his gambling debts, he hatches a plan to steal a show dog named Vicky from its wealthy owner and demand a ransom. Soon, Skinner takes Tutu, a show dog, to the dog show where he steals Vicky and leaves the tranquilized Tutu in her place. Later, Skinner calls Vicky's owner, Madeline Whitfield, and tells her he needs $85,000 to return her dog. She explains that she is not as wealthy as she seems, but he demands the ransom and threatens to harm Vicky if he is not paid. Soon, a veterinarian tells Madeline that her imposter dog has died. Meanwhile, Sgt. Natalie Zimmerman complains to the captain that she can't work with Valnikov because he is crazy, but the captain and another officer, Clarence Cromwell, calm her down. On patrol, Natalie listens to details about Valnikov's former partner, Charlie Lightfoot, a mentor who “cleared more unsolved murders than anybody,” and died alone in the woods in a hunting accident. Later, Madeline offers to pay Skinner in installments and he yells that he will harm her dog if he doesn't get the full ransom. Valnikov and Natalie stop for lunch at the restaurant owned by Valnikov's brother Alex, who informs her that Valnikov hasn't been the same since Charlie died. Back at the station, Captain Jack Packerton, from ... +


Sgt. A.M. Valnikov writhes on the steps outside a church when his handcuffs snag on his testicles after he stuffs them in his pants. In another part of town, Philo Skinner, part owner of a kennel, has a fight with his business partner-wife Mavis about paying his gambling habit. Later, after a collector warns Skinner to settle his gambling debts, he hatches a plan to steal a show dog named Vicky from its wealthy owner and demand a ransom. Soon, Skinner takes Tutu, a show dog, to the dog show where he steals Vicky and leaves the tranquilized Tutu in her place. Later, Skinner calls Vicky's owner, Madeline Whitfield, and tells her he needs $85,000 to return her dog. She explains that she is not as wealthy as she seems, but he demands the ransom and threatens to harm Vicky if he is not paid. Soon, a veterinarian tells Madeline that her imposter dog has died. Meanwhile, Sgt. Natalie Zimmerman complains to the captain that she can't work with Valnikov because he is crazy, but the captain and another officer, Clarence Cromwell, calm her down. On patrol, Natalie listens to details about Valnikov's former partner, Charlie Lightfoot, a mentor who “cleared more unsolved murders than anybody,” and died alone in the woods in a hunting accident. Later, Madeline offers to pay Skinner in installments and he yells that he will harm her dog if he doesn't get the full ransom. Valnikov and Natalie stop for lunch at the restaurant owned by Valnikov's brother Alex, who informs her that Valnikov hasn't been the same since Charlie died. Back at the station, Captain Jack Packerton, from another precinct, invites Natalie to the theater, while Madeline tearfully reveals to Valnikov that she is being blackmailed. The partners visit Madeline to discuss how to exchange Vicky for ransom money, so they then listen to a phone conversation between Skinner and Madeline. When Skinner tells her $20,000 isn't enough money, she informs him that that the imposter dog has died. He becomes distraught and slices off Vicky's ear. When Madeline hears Vicky's cries, she pleads with Skinner not to kill her dog, and when she asks him where she should leave the money, he says he'll let her know and hangs up. When the officers offer to help with the money drop, Madeline understands that if Vicky has been mutilated, she is not show worthy anymore, but she still wants to pay the ransom and would pay the entire $85,000 if she had it. Afterward, Valnikov invites Natalie to dinner at Alex's restaurant. She goes but makes it clear that she is not interested in him. Afterward, they go to his apartment to work on their cases, where he plays some gypsy music, demonstrates a Russian folk dance, waltzes with her, and translates Russian lyrics. They kiss repeatedly. Skinner phones Madeline and gives her instructions to drive to "suicide bridge" after midnight and drop the money out the window. He warns her that if she sabotages him, he'll kill Vicky. Natalie and Valnikov make love and she asks him to tell her more about Charlie Lightfoot. Just before Charlie died, Valnikov remembers they worked on several unrelated, unsolved torture-murder cases in one month, involving underage children. In one case, both parents committed their son's murder, although the husband blamed the wife before confessing to the crime. At the boy's autopsy, Valnikov fought with the coroner for additionally violating the boy's body after the boy's parents had already violated him. Valnikov cries in Natalie's arms that he doesn't want to become cynical like Charlie. She comforts him by saying that he is not anything like Charlie. At breakfast, Natalie is all business and encourages Valnikov to retire from the force. He thinks he might like to open a music store in Hollywood that sells imported records. She points out that his life is a mess and reflects choices that imply “picking the black marble,” while she's going on vacation in two weeks to Hawaii with Jack Packerton. At the station, Clarence informs Valnikov that Madeline has gone ahead and dropped off the ransom money without the help of the police. Valnikov visits Skinner because he knows many of the show dog owners in town, while Natalie remains at the station. Clarence shows Natalie one of Valnikov's drawings and asks what it means. Through tears, she tells him it is a picture of nightingales on a raspberry bush. Only she knows the words come from lyrics that Valnikov translated from gypsy music. Valnikov arrives at the kennel and, when Skinner peers through the door, he mistakes him for the collector. When Skinner tries to escape through a window into the alley, the men wrestle until Skinner gets possession of Valnikov's gun. He orders Valnikov to crawl into a kennel with a Doberman, which ends up attacking Skinner, who shoots the dog dead. After the cage door jams, Skinner climbs over the cage's chain link fence to escape. Valnikov falls into Vicky's cage and gathers up the injured dog in his arms. Later, Valnikov calls Natalie from the hospital to tell her that he will recover and come back to work. Meanwhile, Skinner becomes unconscious on a flight to Mexico and is taken to a hospital in Puerto Vallarta. The doctor tells him the Mexican police have confiscated his bag filled with money and he will be released to the authorities in Los Angeles, California. At the fountains where Valnikov and Natalie lunched in downtown Los Angeles, Valnikov listens to music from a violin player. Natalie sits down next to him, and says she has canceled her trip and would rather invest her money in a music store. She gives the violin player money to play a gypsy melody while Valnikov translates the lyrics, as they kiss under the stars. +

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

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