King of the Gypsies (1978)

R | 149 mins | Drama | 20 December 1978

Director:

Frank Pierson

Writer:

Frank Pierson

Cinematographer:

Sven Nykvist

Editor:

Paul Hirsch

Production Designer:

Gene Callahan

Production Company:

Dino De Laurentiis Corp.
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HISTORY

       Narration by actor Eric Roberts as “Dave” at various points throughout the movie elucidates the main character’s opinions and hopes.
       After meeting gypsy Steve Tene Bimbo in Spring 1974, author Peter Maas wrote an article about the young man’s journey from the gypsy community to the mainstream for the Sep 1974 New York. Later, Hollywood producer Dino De Laurentiis encouraged Maas to expand the article into a book, according to the 22 Feb 1978 LAT and production notes in AMPAS library files. News briefs in the 7 Oct 1974 LAHExam and the 3 Feb 1975 Box announced that Dino De Laurentiis Corp. had acquired film rights for Maas’s book, King of the Gypsies, which Viking Press was to publish in hardback Sept 1975. While Maas’s book purported to be a fact-based account of one gypsy family, the film adaptation was a fictionalized version of that clan’s life, according to the 18 Mar 1978 LAT.
       Although Peter Bogdanovich was hired at that time to produce, direct and adapt the book, the 22 Feb 1978 Var reported that De Laurentiis disagreed with Bogdanovich’s vision of the film as a comedy potentially starring Burt Reynolds. While the 5 Nov 1975 DV announced that Bogdanovich had begun working on King of the Gypsies, a few weeks later, the 26 Nov 1975 DV and 8 Dec 1975 Newsweek stated that the director had reneged on his deal and was no longer connected to the picture. The 21 Dec 1975 LAT noted that De ... More Less

       Narration by actor Eric Roberts as “Dave” at various points throughout the movie elucidates the main character’s opinions and hopes.
       After meeting gypsy Steve Tene Bimbo in Spring 1974, author Peter Maas wrote an article about the young man’s journey from the gypsy community to the mainstream for the Sep 1974 New York. Later, Hollywood producer Dino De Laurentiis encouraged Maas to expand the article into a book, according to the 22 Feb 1978 LAT and production notes in AMPAS library files. News briefs in the 7 Oct 1974 LAHExam and the 3 Feb 1975 Box announced that Dino De Laurentiis Corp. had acquired film rights for Maas’s book, King of the Gypsies, which Viking Press was to publish in hardback Sept 1975. While Maas’s book purported to be a fact-based account of one gypsy family, the film adaptation was a fictionalized version of that clan’s life, according to the 18 Mar 1978 LAT.
       Although Peter Bogdanovich was hired at that time to produce, direct and adapt the book, the 22 Feb 1978 Var reported that De Laurentiis disagreed with Bogdanovich’s vision of the film as a comedy potentially starring Burt Reynolds. While the 5 Nov 1975 DV announced that Bogdanovich had begun working on King of the Gypsies, a few weeks later, the 26 Nov 1975 DV and 8 Dec 1975 Newsweek stated that the director had reneged on his deal and was no longer connected to the picture. The 21 Dec 1975 LAT noted that De Laurentiis hoped to replace Bogdanovich with director Milos Forman.
       King of the Gypsies remained in development for years at Paramount Pictures Corp. before writer-director Frank Pierson was hired. Pierson researched the movie by spending one week among a band of gypsies in NM and anticipated starting principal photography in Los Angeles, CA, and New York City, in Summer 1977, according to the Apr 1977 Los Angeles and the 22 Apr 1977 Entertainment Today.
       Although principal photography was rescheduled for 6 Feb 1977, reported by the 5 Jan 1978 DV, it was delayed when the NY cinematographers union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Photographer’s Local 644, denied a waiver allowing director of photography and Los Angeles Local 659 member Sven Nykvist to shoot the movie. The NY union objected to the Los Angeles union’s refusal to allow NY members to work on the West Coast, and argued that King of the Gypsies should use a local cameraman instead of Nykvist. In response, De Laurentiis not only threatened to move King of the Gypsies to Chicago, IL, but promised to relocate other productions scheduled to shoot under the union’s jurisdiction if the organization could not reach a solution permitting him to use the photographer of his choice. New York City Mayor Ed Koch joined the president of IATSE and other entertainment union leaders in urging Local 644 to reconsider and on 11 Jan 1978, the NY union voted to approve Nykvist, announced LAHExam on 10 Jan 1978, DV on 11 Jan 1978 and DV and HR on 12 Jan 1978. King of the Gypsies began filming 23 Feb 1978, reported the 24 Feb 1978 HR.
       On 22 Feb 1978, Var referred to De Laurentiis’s son, Federico, as the line producer and on 18 Mar 1978, LAT referred to Dino and Federico as producer and executive producer respectively, but neither is credited as such onscreen. While Federico had co-produced King Kong (1976, see entry) with his father, King of the Gypsies marked his first credit as a movie’s sole producer.
       Although Desi Arnaz, Jr. and Kathleen Quinlan were under consideration for lead roles, reported HR on 25 Jan 1978 and 3 Feb 1978 respectively, Eric Roberts won the role of Dave when a mailroom error brought his screen test to the attention of a casting director, according to the LAT on 18 Mar 1978.
       Despite a report in the 22 Feb 1978 LAT that actor Sterling Hayden left the film after refusing to shave his beard, he returned to play the role of “King Zharko Stepanowicz.”
       According to production notes, Steve Bimbo and his sister, Lulu, visited the set occasionally and agreed to serve as consultants, but Lulu’s daughter, Gidget, is reportedly the only real gypsy to appear in the film. However, none of the gypsies received onscreen credit. In the 18 Mar 1978 LAT and 6 May 1978 LAHExam, Pierson noted that gypsies shun public attention and were dismayed when Maas’s book exposed their lifestyle. He found that the more the local gypsies learned about the film’s subject matter, the less interested they were in helping the production. The director confirmed that he received death threats from gypsies during filming, but the warnings were not taken seriously.
       While the 14 Feb 1978 HR noted that the production would shoot for ten weeks and the 18 Mar 1978 LAT stated the production had an eleven-week shooting schedule, production notes indicated that filming lasted fifty-two days. Pierson mentioned in the 6 May 1978 LAHExam that during the winter shoot, nearly everyone in the cast and crew contracted flu-like symptoms severe enough to push the production off schedule.
       Shot entirely on location, the movie filmed in NY at Bear Mountain State Park, Mama Leone’s restaurant, City Hall’s Surrogate Court, the Wolinnin Funeral Home, the Plaza Hotel and St. Nicholas’s Russian Orthodox Church on the lower East Side; and in NJ at Vernon Valley and the Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside. The production built a gypsy parlor storefront on Ninth Avenue and 49th Street and created some interiors at Pathe Studios in Spanish Harlem, according to production notes, the 18 Mar 1978 LAT and the 22 May 1978 Time.
       Descriptions of the movie’s budget ranged from $5 million, as announced by the 22 Feb 1978 Var, to $6 million, noted by the 10 Jan 1978 LAHExam, to $7 million, as stated by the 1 May 1975 DV, to $8 million, as reported by the 31 Jul 1978 HR.
       King of the Gypsies was scheduled to complete filming 4 May 1978, reported the 22 Feb 1978 LAT, and on 15 May 1978, HR announced principal photography had ended.
       Although the 23 Aug 1978 HR announced the film would be released Nov 1978, King of the Gypsies opened in Los Angeles and New York City on 20 Dec 1978, according to production notes and that day’s NYT.
      The following acknowledgment appears after the end credits: “With gratitude to the Office of the Manhattan Borough President and the New Jersey Film Commission.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Feb 1975.
---
Box Office
27 Mar 1978.
---
Daily Variety
1 May 1975
p. 1, 11.
Daily Variety
5 Nov 1975.
---
Daily Variety
5 Jan 1978
p. 1, 24.
Daily Variety
9 Jan 1978
p. 1, 26.
Daily Variety
11 Jan 1978
p. 1, 26.
Daily Variety
12 Jan 1978
p. 1, 30.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 1978
p. 1, 28.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 May 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 1978
p. 1, 17.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 1978
p. 3, 10.
LAHExam
7 Oct 1974
Section B, p. 3.
LAHExam
10 Jan 1978.
---
LAHExam
6 May 1978.
---
Los Angeles
Apr 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
26 Nov 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Dec 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Feb 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Mar 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Mar 1978
Section II, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1978
p. 1.
New York Times
20 Dec 1978
p. 17.
Newsweek
8 Dec 1975.
---
Variety
11 Jan 1978.
---
Variety
22 Feb 1978.
---
Variety
1 Mar 1978.
---
Variety
16 Aug 1978
p. 5, 38.
Variety
13 Dec 1978
p. 26.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Gypsy musicians:
Stephane Grappelli
[and]
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Dino DeLaurentiis Presents
A Frank Pierson Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
D.G.A. trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Wrt for the scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Collaborating dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
Best boy
Key grip
Still photog
Spec unit photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Master scenic artist
Const grip
Chief carpenter
COSTUMES
Asst cos des
Cost supplied by
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus arr, cond and addl mus comp
Mus arr, cond and addl mus comp
Mus supv
Mus ed
Mus ed
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Sd eff ed
Dial ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles by
DANCE
Choreog
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec in charge of prod
Casting
Casting
Extra casting
Transportation capt
Scr supv
Prod auditor
Prod auditor
Loc mgr
Loc coord
Loc coord
Prod office coord
Casting coord
Children's casting
Asst to Mr. Pierson
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Research
Unit pub
Gypsy medallion by
Period cars furnished by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Color by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Suggested by the book King of the Gypsies by Peter Maas (New York, 1975).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Be My Love," by Nicholas Brodszky and Sammy Cahn, sung by Robert Jason
"Ridin'," by Pegasus and Rich Galaher, performed by Pegasus.
DETAILS
Release Date:
20 December 1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 20 December 1978
Production Date:
23 February--early May 1978
Copyright Claimant:
Dino DeLaurentiis Corporation
Copyright Date:
5 March 1979
Copyright Number:
PA26335
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex Camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
149
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25463
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

King of the gypsies, Zharko Stepanowicz, visits the camp of fellow gypsy Spiro and demands the marriage of Spiro’s daughter, Rose, to his son, Groffo, a union for which Zharko paid $4,500. Spiro explains that Rose refuses the marriage because she does not like Groffo, but offers to refund half of the bride price to compensate Zharko for the inconvenience. Zharko finds the offer unacceptable, so the two men take the matter to the gypsy elders. When the elders rule in favor of Spiro, Zharko agrees to leave, but on the way out of the camp, he grabs Rose and drives away with her. Later, Rose is pleased when she gives birth to Groffo’s son, David, since he will one day be king of the gypsies. As a boy, Dave helps his family with various confidence games to earn money as they roam from state to state, but by the time they settle in New York City and his sister Tita is born, he knows he does not want to live as a gypsy. As alcoholic Groffo abuses Dave, Rose and Tita, Dave’s resentment against his father grows. When Zharko praises twelve-year-old Dave for his intelligence and offers to arrange a marriage with a gypsy girl named Persa, the boy runs away. As an adult, Dave continues to commit acts of fraud and petty larceny until his grandfather approaches him. Believing Groffo is unfit to become king, Zharko offers his ring and medallion, the symbols of the kingship, to Dave. Recoiling, Dave explains he doesn’t want to lead the gypsies; he wants to live the “normal” life everyone else has. ... +


King of the gypsies, Zharko Stepanowicz, visits the camp of fellow gypsy Spiro and demands the marriage of Spiro’s daughter, Rose, to his son, Groffo, a union for which Zharko paid $4,500. Spiro explains that Rose refuses the marriage because she does not like Groffo, but offers to refund half of the bride price to compensate Zharko for the inconvenience. Zharko finds the offer unacceptable, so the two men take the matter to the gypsy elders. When the elders rule in favor of Spiro, Zharko agrees to leave, but on the way out of the camp, he grabs Rose and drives away with her. Later, Rose is pleased when she gives birth to Groffo’s son, David, since he will one day be king of the gypsies. As a boy, Dave helps his family with various confidence games to earn money as they roam from state to state, but by the time they settle in New York City and his sister Tita is born, he knows he does not want to live as a gypsy. As alcoholic Groffo abuses Dave, Rose and Tita, Dave’s resentment against his father grows. When Zharko praises twelve-year-old Dave for his intelligence and offers to arrange a marriage with a gypsy girl named Persa, the boy runs away. As an adult, Dave continues to commit acts of fraud and petty larceny until his grandfather approaches him. Believing Groffo is unfit to become king, Zharko offers his ring and medallion, the symbols of the kingship, to Dave. Recoiling, Dave explains he doesn’t want to lead the gypsies; he wants to live the “normal” life everyone else has. Zharko says that he is dying, so the gypsies will soon need a new leader and he is counting on Dave to assume power. Agreeing to go back to the gypsies, Dave returns to his parents’ home to warn his father against beating Rose and Tita. Groffo berates Dave for renouncing the family’s ways in order to act like the despised gadjos, or non-gypsies. When Dave rejects Groffo as his father, the two men fight until Groffo pulls a gun and Dave escapes out of the apartment window. Later, Dave works as a singing waiter and dates a gadjo, Sharon, with whom he has dreams of moving to California. The two head back to his apartment one night to find Rose and Tita waiting for him. Explaining that Groffo has accepted $6,000 to wed Tita to a boy she doesn’t like, Rose asks Dave for the money to repay the bride price to get his sister out of the arranged marriage. Dave refuses. While leaving, Rose informs Dave that Zharko is dying in the hospital and asking for him. The next day, Dave goes to the hospital and runs into Persa, who invites him back to her apartment so Rose can have a private conversation with him. Dave proceeds to his grandfather’s bedside where Zharko bestows him with the king’s ring and medallion before passing away. Dave announces that he has been made king to Groffo, who is so hurt and betrayed that he refuses to take them. That night, Dave visits Persa to talk to his mother and Rose informs him that Groffo will wed Tita to her groom right after Zharko’s funeral. Rose proclaims that Dave is the king whether he wants the role or not and he is shirking his duties by refusing to help his family avoid the unwanted marriage. Dave refuses to accept the responsibility and leaves. On the way home, two thugs chase and attack Dave, but he escapes them and returns home to find Sharon cooking dinner. Dave explains that Groffo hired the two men to kill him and reassures her that they can still go to California after he handles family business. After escorting Sharon out, Dave returns to Persa, who comforts him, and the two make love. Later, at Zharko’s funeral, Dave notices Tita in a wedding dress and informs Groffo of his plan to reimburse the young groom’s parents so his sister will not have to marry. Groffo is enraged when Dave suggests that his father explain to the parents that the wedding cancellation is not Groffo’s choice, but rather the king’s decision. When Dave starts to leave with Tita, Groffo tries to stop him until Dave pulls a gun. Dave steals a car and drives away with his sister, promising to take her to California, but Groffo gives chase until both cars crash. Groffo flees the scene as Dave realizes Tita is dead. Later, Dave goes to his parents’ home with a shotgun. He chases Groffo throughout the apartment building before blasting his father out of a window. When the police arrive, Rose tells them an unknown gunman broke in and shot her husband. At Groffo’s funeral, Dave marvels at how many people showed up to pay their respects, even though his father was terrible. At the end of the service, Dave walks out of the cemetery with all the gypsies trailing behind him, noting that he never wanted the position of king, but perhaps he can lead the gypsies into the twentieth century. +

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

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