The Idolmaker (1980)

PG | 120 mins | Drama | 14 November 1980

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HISTORY

       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the personal manager to celebrities such as Frankie Avalon and Fabian Forte, Bob Marcucci, approached producer Gene Kirkwood one night at La Scala restaurant in Los Angeles, CA, with the movie’s title and pitched the idea. Afterward, Kirkwood paired Marcucci with screenwriter Edward Di Lorenzo to produce a first draft of the screenplay. Later, Kirkwood teamed with producer Howard W. Koch, Jr., to continue developing the script until a deal was secured with United Artists Corp. to fund and distribute the movie in Jul 1979.
       The 18 Oct 1979 DV announced that Taylor Hackford would make his feature directorial debut, which represented the first of a three-picture deal he had signed with Koch-Kirkwood Productions. Previously, Hackford produced a documentary about writer Charles Bukowski (1975) and won an Academy Award for best Short Film (Live Action) for Teenage Father in 1978.
       Although production notes and various trade articles reported that Hackford contributed to the screenplay, a 5 Feb 1981 HR “Letter to the Editor” from Di Lorenzo stated that Hackford’s credit dispute was reviewed by the Writers Guild arbitration board in Jun 1980, and Di Lorenzo was awarded sole screenwriter credit. Hackford appealed the decision, and the arbitration board again ruled in Di Lorenzo’s favor. Di Lorenzo reported that he was the sole writer for a period of two years and wrote five drafts in that time.
       An article in the 6 Jan 1981 Us magazine stated that actor Paul Land moved into Marcucci’s home to study under Marcucci’s guidance for eight weeks.
       Although the 18 Oct 1979 ... More Less

       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the personal manager to celebrities such as Frankie Avalon and Fabian Forte, Bob Marcucci, approached producer Gene Kirkwood one night at La Scala restaurant in Los Angeles, CA, with the movie’s title and pitched the idea. Afterward, Kirkwood paired Marcucci with screenwriter Edward Di Lorenzo to produce a first draft of the screenplay. Later, Kirkwood teamed with producer Howard W. Koch, Jr., to continue developing the script until a deal was secured with United Artists Corp. to fund and distribute the movie in Jul 1979.
       The 18 Oct 1979 DV announced that Taylor Hackford would make his feature directorial debut, which represented the first of a three-picture deal he had signed with Koch-Kirkwood Productions. Previously, Hackford produced a documentary about writer Charles Bukowski (1975) and won an Academy Award for best Short Film (Live Action) for Teenage Father in 1978.
       Although production notes and various trade articles reported that Hackford contributed to the screenplay, a 5 Feb 1981 HR “Letter to the Editor” from Di Lorenzo stated that Hackford’s credit dispute was reviewed by the Writers Guild arbitration board in Jun 1980, and Di Lorenzo was awarded sole screenwriter credit. Hackford appealed the decision, and the arbitration board again ruled in Di Lorenzo’s favor. Di Lorenzo reported that he was the sole writer for a period of two years and wrote five drafts in that time.
       An article in the 6 Jan 1981 Us magazine stated that actor Paul Land moved into Marcucci’s home to study under Marcucci’s guidance for eight weeks.
       Although the 18 Oct 1979 DV and the 21 Dec 1979 HR reported that filming would start Jan 1980 and 3 Mar 1980 respectively, the 5 Mar 1980 HR and Var announced that principal photography would begin 10 Mar 1980. An 18 Mar 1980 United Artists press release in AMPAS library files stated that filming began in Los Angeles that day, and production notes added that various Los Angeles locations were used to double for New York City and New Jersey interiors. Exteriors were filmed on location in New York City at the Fulton Fish Market, where shooting was done at night so as not to interfere with daytime commerce, the elevated train station at Ninth and Smith Streets, under the Brooklyn Bridge, and in an Italian community on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.
       Musical sequences involving the Memphis Civic Auditorium and the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre were staged at the Fox Wilshire Theatre, a Los Angeles Art Deco movie house that was restored to accommodate live theater. The crew used several devices to disguise the theater to appear as two separate venues, including a basic white color scheme for the Memphis Civic Auditorium sequence and built a grand wedding cake-looking set that dominated the stage. For the Brooklyn Paramount sequence, the theater’s Art Deco style was hidden from the camera’s eye, while various lighting effects created a distinct atmosphere for each sequence.
       American Bandstand host Dick Clark allowed filmmakers to screen kinescopes of his old shows, which provided the inspiration for the National Bandstand concert scenes that were filmed at Valley College’s theater in the San Fernando Valley. The set was dressed to look similar to New York City’s Little Theatre on West 44th Street, where Clark broadcast his show. Meanwhile, Gazzarri’s, a well-known music club on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip, was used to film a New Jersey club frequented by working class patrons.
       Actor Ray Sharkey won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. Producer Gene Kirkwood was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.
       A news item in the 30 Jan 1981 LAT reported that singer Fabian Forte filed a $64 million-lawsuit, alleging that the film slandered him and invaded his privacy. A main claim of the suit was that Forte was portrayed negatively as a “pretty face” without “singing ability.” Producers Kirkwood and Koch, Jr., screenwriter Di Lorenzo, United Artists and its parent company, Transamerica Corp., and Forte’s former manager Marcucci were all named as defendants. Marcucci, a technical advisor on the film, denied the allegations. Five year’s later, an article in the 17 Mar 1986 New York stated that Forte reached an out-of-court settlement with filmmakers whereby he received a cash award plus a percentage of all the film’s future profits, including the sale of video and television. The settlement also stipulated that the defendants run full-page advertisements in trade publications with apologies to Forte and his family regarding any embarrassment suffered.
       The 5 Mar 1980 HR stated that the film marked the theatrical film debuts of actors Peter Gallagher as “Caesare” and Paul Land as “Tommy Dee.”
      The following acknowledgements appear in the end credits: “ We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the City of New York. We would also like to thank the following people for their assistance: Matty Jordan from Matteo’s Restaurant, Madonna Man Inc., and Bill Gazzarri of Gazzarri’s on the Strip.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
18 Oct 1979.
---
Daily Variety
20 Mar 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Dec 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 1980.
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 1980
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 Nov 1980
p. 28.
Los Angeles Times
30 Jan 1981.
---
New York
17 Mar 1986.
---
New York Times
14 Nov 1980
p. 8.
US
6 Jan 1981
pp. 12-14.
Variety
5 Nov 1980
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Koch/Kirkwood Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Concert lighting dir
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Gaffer
Elec best boy
Key grip
Grip best boy
Dolly grip
Lighting tech
Lighting tech
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Graphic des
Story board
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set const supv
Set dec
Leadman
Prop master
Asst prop master
Leadman
Swing gang
Swing gang
Painter
COSTUMES
Cost by
MUSIC
Mus & lyrics by
Asst mus ed
Mus ed
All mus and lyrics
Saxophone solo and training
Mus contractor
Mus consultant
SOUND
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed, Sound FX Inc.
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
Sd mixer
Boom man
Cable man
Playback op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Titles des
DANCE
Choreog
Ballet instructor
MAKEUP
Head makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Head hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Casting
Casting
Asst casting dir
Prod coord
Asst to the prods
Asst to the dir
Prod secy
Prod assoc
Press agent
Press agent
Prod supv New York City
Scr supv
Special stills
Physical trainer
Prod asst
Miss Riggs' asst
Auditor
Asst auditor
Asst auditor
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Extra casting
Extra casting
Extra casting asst
Tech adv
Attorney
Asst to Bob Marcucci
Press agent
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“Sweet Little Lover,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by Jesse Fredericks
“A Boy And A Girl,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by The Sweet Inspirations & The London Fog
“Baby,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by Peter Gallagher
+
SONGS
“Sweet Little Lover,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by Jesse Fredericks
“A Boy And A Girl,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by The Sweet Inspirations & The London Fog
“Baby,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by Peter Gallagher
“However Dark the Night,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by Peter Gallagher
“Here Is My Love,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by Jesse Fredericks
“I Believe It Can Be Done,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by Ray Sharkey
“Come And Get It,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by Nino Tempo & The King Bees
“Shelley,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by Jimmy Carter
“I Know Where You’re Going,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by Nino Tempo & The King Bees
“It’s Never Been Tonight Before,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by Peter Gallagher
“Oo Wee Baby,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by Darlene Love
“I Can’t Tell,” music and lyrics written by Jeff Barry, sung by Colleen Fitzpatrick.
+
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 November 1980
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 14 November 1980
Production Date:
began mid March 1980 in Los Angeles, California
Copyright Claimant:
United Artists Corporation
Copyright Date:
25 November 1980
Copyright Number:
PA88924
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
120
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1959 New York City, waiter and aspiring musician Vince Vacarri, is told by his friend, Gino Pilato, that they have a time slot at a recording studio. Vince immediately leaves the family restaurant for the studio, where he fights with its gangster owner. Later, Vince tells his mother he does not have the charisma to be a singer, then watches his friend, Tommy Dee, play saxophone at a New Jersey nightclub. Afterward, Vince convinces Tommy that he is destined to be a headline act. In time, Vince coaches Tommy to be a singer, and they produce a record. In order to promote Tommy, Vince reluctantly meets with his father, Mr. Vacarri, to ask for a loan. At the meeting, Vince criticizes his father for being selfish, abandoning the family, and only caring about money and women. When Mr. Vacarri offers his son $10,000 to start a record company, Vince takes the loan but tells his father that his transgressions are not forgiven. Vince presses Tommy’s records, and the singer successfully performs his song on disc jockey Walt Bennett’s show. Afterward, Walt pretends Tommy’s song is mediocre until Vince slips Walt some money, and Walt agrees to put Tommy’s record in rotation on the radio. Later, Vince presents Teen Scene magazine editor Brenda Roberts with a bouquet of flowers and convinces her to feature Tommy on the magazine’s cover. Sometime later, Tommy performs on the television show Saturday Night Bandstand ignoring the rehearsed choreography and spontaneously interacting with the audience. The female audience swoons over Tommy’s singing. Soon, the magazine needs extra staff to handle ... +


In 1959 New York City, waiter and aspiring musician Vince Vacarri, is told by his friend, Gino Pilato, that they have a time slot at a recording studio. Vince immediately leaves the family restaurant for the studio, where he fights with its gangster owner. Later, Vince tells his mother he does not have the charisma to be a singer, then watches his friend, Tommy Dee, play saxophone at a New Jersey nightclub. Afterward, Vince convinces Tommy that he is destined to be a headline act. In time, Vince coaches Tommy to be a singer, and they produce a record. In order to promote Tommy, Vince reluctantly meets with his father, Mr. Vacarri, to ask for a loan. At the meeting, Vince criticizes his father for being selfish, abandoning the family, and only caring about money and women. When Mr. Vacarri offers his son $10,000 to start a record company, Vince takes the loan but tells his father that his transgressions are not forgiven. Vince presses Tommy’s records, and the singer successfully performs his song on disc jockey Walt Bennett’s show. Afterward, Walt pretends Tommy’s song is mediocre until Vince slips Walt some money, and Walt agrees to put Tommy’s record in rotation on the radio. Later, Vince presents Teen Scene magazine editor Brenda Roberts with a bouquet of flowers and convinces her to feature Tommy on the magazine’s cover. Sometime later, Tommy performs on the television show Saturday Night Bandstand ignoring the rehearsed choreography and spontaneously interacting with the audience. The female audience swoons over Tommy’s singing. Soon, the magazine needs extra staff to handle all of Tommy’s fan mail. With his newfound success, Vince buys his mother a designer-decorated mansion. When Vince and Brenda celebrate at the family restaurant, he has too much to drink, yells at a clumsy waiter, and complains that Tommy will not follow his advice to study acting. Brenda says that she is worried about him, but Vince becomes hostile and she walks out. Sometime later, Vince gives his father a check to repay part of the loan, and Mr. Vacarri warns him to remain humble and protect his investment. He advises his son to draw up a contract with Tommy and recruit more clients. Later, Vince meets with Phil Delano, an agent from I.A.A., a large talent agency, and he agrees to find Tommy a movie role. Meanwhile, Vince follows his father’s advice and decides to transform the busboy, Guido, at the family restaurant into a singer named “Caesare.” Tommy becomes jealous when he sees Vince grooming Caesare instead of joining him on tour, but Vince calms him down. Later, when Vince thinks Caesare is ready, he arranges a tryout for his protégé at a small club. In the dressing room, Tommy encourages Caesare to smoke to calm his nerves but it sickens him. On stage, Caesare is a bundle of nerves and runs off before finishing the first song. As Caesare vomits in the alley, Vince gives him a pep talk and promises that he will not let him fail. After Caesare heads home, Vince and Brenda share a cab. When she tries to comfort Vince, they fight but end up making love. Afterward, Vince tries a new strategy to market Caesare, splashing Caesare’s photograph all over town. As Vince continues to rehearse Caesare, Tommy feels abandoned and he also wants the part in a television series that Vince refused. As Tommy leaves, he threatens to fire Vince. At Caesare’s next concert, girls attack him on stage, ripping his clothing. Once more security is added, Caesare finishes his performance and is a big hit. Instead of touring, Vince decides it would be more effective for Caesare to go into seclusion. After five months, Caesare becomes restless and borrows Gino’s car for the night. With two bottles of wine and flowers, Caesare spends the evening with Teen Scene reporter Ellen Fields. On the way home, a policeman gives Caesare a ticket for running a red light. Before word of Caesare’s misdeed leaks to the press, Vince gives the officer concert tickets and threatens to drop Caesare as an act. Meanwhile, Vince reveals Ellen’s relationship with Caesare, but Brenda is reluctant to fire Ellen, her best reporter. When Vince hands her a report, showing Ellen has had similar past relationships, Brenda warns that Caesare will be upset with Ellen gone. However, Vince claims Caesare will not have time to sulk because he will be on tour, and Teen Scene can cover the story exclusively. The tour begins in Memphis, Tennessee, in Elvis country, but Vince is on edge. He yells at Gino for noticing that the local press has buried Caesare’s concert news in its pages. In the theater, Brenda points out that Vince is manipulative and his behavior has turned ugly. She warns him in the future, she will cover his acts without special favors. Meanwhile, Caesare wins over the Memphis audience but, afterward, he and Vince fight about who should get credit for the success. Caesare claims he proved himself on stage while Vince argues that Caesare is nothing without his support. Caesare leaves town, deciding to switch management, and signs with Phil Delano. Gino is asked to join the new team but he remains loyal to Vince, who urges Gino to help Caesare. Vince goes home and wanders through the old neighborhood. Nothing seems to matter until his mother gives him a pep talk to get back to work. Months later, Vince invites Brenda to see a new act, but she declines. On concert night, Brenda sneaks into the club and sees Vince on stage singing his own material. Vince catches Brenda’s eye, and she nods her approval. +

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

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