Private Lessons (1981)

R | 87 mins | Comedy | 28 August 1981

Director:

Alan Myerson

Writer:

Dan Greenburg

Producer:

R. Ben Efraim

Cinematographer:

Jan de Bont

Editor:

Fred Chulack

Production Designer:

Linda Pearl

Production Company:

Barry & Enright Productions
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HISTORY

An item in the 19 May 1969 DV announced that Dan Greenburg’s novel Philly had been optioned by Universal Pictures, and Harry Keller would produce the screenplay to be written by Greenburg. A 1 Sep 1981 DV article reported that Greenburg’s screenplay was optioned in 1972 by Universal from Irving Oshman’s Vision Feature Associates. Five years later, director Paul Bartel, who ultimately left the project, brought it to Barry & Enright Productions, who “took over the option and bought the rights from Universal,” with Universal retaining a small profit participation. The 3 Jun 1981 Var noted that Vision Features Corporation obtained the option from Universal in 1975, and gave Barry & Enright Films the “sole option” for Vision’s rights in 1979. Vision president Irving Oshman is credited as co-executive producer on the film.
       Articles in the 17 Oct 1979 Var and the 4 Oct 1981 LAT noted that executive producers Jack Barry and Dan Enright’s company was successful in the television quiz-show market prior to branching out to features. Producer, R. Ben Efraim, was a vice president and partner at Barry & Enright. Philly marked their second feature film, and was the first to be fully financed by the company, with a production budget of $1.65 million.
       The 4 Feb 1980 DV announced principal photography began that day. The film was now titled Private Lessons. As tracked in articles in the 7 Aug 1981 HR, the 1 Sep 1981 DV, and the 4 Oct 1981 LAT, the ... More Less

An item in the 19 May 1969 DV announced that Dan Greenburg’s novel Philly had been optioned by Universal Pictures, and Harry Keller would produce the screenplay to be written by Greenburg. A 1 Sep 1981 DV article reported that Greenburg’s screenplay was optioned in 1972 by Universal from Irving Oshman’s Vision Feature Associates. Five years later, director Paul Bartel, who ultimately left the project, brought it to Barry & Enright Productions, who “took over the option and bought the rights from Universal,” with Universal retaining a small profit participation. The 3 Jun 1981 Var noted that Vision Features Corporation obtained the option from Universal in 1975, and gave Barry & Enright Films the “sole option” for Vision’s rights in 1979. Vision president Irving Oshman is credited as co-executive producer on the film.
       Articles in the 17 Oct 1979 Var and the 4 Oct 1981 LAT noted that executive producers Jack Barry and Dan Enright’s company was successful in the television quiz-show market prior to branching out to features. Producer, R. Ben Efraim, was a vice president and partner at Barry & Enright. Philly marked their second feature film, and was the first to be fully financed by the company, with a production budget of $1.65 million.
       The 4 Feb 1980 DV announced principal photography began that day. The film was now titled Private Lessons. As tracked in articles in the 7 Aug 1981 HR, the 1 Sep 1981 DV, and the 4 Oct 1981 LAT, the production ran into several problems. Eighteen days into the planned twenty-eight day shoot, the male lead, Neil Barry, was replaced. All the footage featuring Barry was “scrapped,” and this “necessary” decision added twenty-six days to the shooting schedule and cost an additional $450,000. A call sheet in AMPAS library files reveals that Eric Brown was originally cast as “Sherman” before the filmmakers chose him to take over the role of “Philly.” Private Lessons marked Brown’s feature film debut. Eric Brown was fifteen years old, and child labor laws were a consideration, since he was in almost every scene and needed to work long hours. The LAT noted that the filmmakers filed a special petition in Los Angeles Superior Court, providing a shooting script for the judge to approve before Brown was able to work. Phoenix, AZ, was selected as the filming location because labor laws in that state allowed Brown to work longer hours. However, citizens observing the filming complained to police, who informed the production company that their actions were contributing to the delinquency of a minor (CDM). Arizona authorities prohibited the filmmakers from shooting any scenes in which Brown was simulating sex with actress Sylvia Kristel, and they could not photograph Brown in the same room with Kristel when she was nude. To circumvent the Arizona obscenity law, the filmmakers shot those scenes in Albuquerque, NM.
       When the director’s cut was viewed, the film was almost written off as “unreleasable.” Foreign distributors felt the film was not erotic enough for the European market, and domestic distributors felt it was too sexual. Efraim told the HR that the filmmakers were in a “state of shock.” He noted the film was “badly directed, sloppily shot, lacked a concept, there were bad performances.” However, the company did not want to write-off their $2 million investment. Efraim believed the film could be reworked to appeal to the teenage market and could potentially earn approximately $6 million. Director James Fargo, who is uncredited, was hired to shoot new footage. The final film contains sixty-eight minutes of the original 145 minutes filmed by director Alan Myerson, and twenty minutes of new footage. The filmmakers spent six months in the editing room to “re-tailor” Private Lessons for the fourteen to eighteen-year-old market, and $100,000 was spent on a “pop-rock” soundtrack. The film received an R rating, for nudity, but Efraim noted that an R rating makes films “more desirable to young audiences.”
       Major distributors, including Universal, declined to release the film domestically. According to the 28 Apr 1981 LAHExam, Efraim approached Filmways and offered to have Barry & Enright pay the cost of prints and advertising, but Filmways turned down the offer, as did Avco Embassy Pictures. The 4 Oct 1981 LAT noted that some foreign distributors refused to market the film to the teenage audience. For example, Switzerland’s campaign focused on Sylvia Kristel and was aimed at the twenty to forty-year-old market, and the film “bombed” in Switzerland. However, Japan’s distributor marketed a “very, very soft campaign” featuring Eric Brown standing on a stack of books and leaning to kiss Kristel. The logo read, “What happened to him should happen to you.” The film grossed $2 million in Japan. After Universal passed on domestic distribution, Mike Ridges, Universal’s vice president of special projects, left Universal to form ADI Marketing with Neil Wise, and ADI agreed to distribute Private Lessons. ADI employed the Japanese advertising approach and tested the film in three percent of the country, with a marketing budget of $75,000. On 5 Jun 1981, Private Lessons opened in Denver, CO; Phoenix, AZ; Austin, TX; and Las Vegas, NV. If the box-office grosses from the test markets were double the cost of the advertising expenses, ADI planned to slowly release the film on a regional basis over the next eighteen months. The film surpassed expectations, grossing more than $500,000 in the test markets. Private Lessons was released simultaneously in Hawaii, which was considered “easy money, but not predictive as a test market.” The first six-week box-office gross in Hawaii was $45,000, with an advertising cost of $14,000. The film was considered too successful to release as originally planned, and the test market results interested major distributors in the film. However, Efraim and Ridges made a distribution deal with Jensen Farley Pictures, Inc. (JFP), successor to Sunn Classic Pictures, a distribution company founded by Mike Ridges twelve years earlier. Private Lessons was JFP’s first acquisition, and a “speeded-up” region by region release was implemented, starting with San Antonio, TX, on 21 Aug 1981. The film was released in Southern California, New York, and Detroit, MI, on 28 Aug 1981.
       The 18 Sep 1981 HR stated that foreign distribution had recouped almost one hundred percent of the film’s production cost prior to its domestic distribution. The first two-week domestic box-office gross was $3,397,322 from 180 theaters, representing seventeen percent of the domestic market. The 9-15 Dec 1981 Village Voice list of “Fall 1981 Releases” stated that Private Lessons was a “hit” with box-office grosses of $12-$15 million. An item in the 23 Apr 1982 HR stated the film had grossed $24.5 million to date, and announced a “swing of national re-openings” starting on 23 Apr 1982. The 17 May 1993 HR stated the film’s box-office gross was $70 million.
       An article in the 3 Jun 1981 Var reported that Vision Features Corp. filed a $15 million lawsuit against Barry & Enright Films and R. Ben Efraim in U.S. District Court in New York. Breach of contract claims included non-payment of fees and expenses, failure to consult with Vision’s president Irving Oshman on the film, and lack of proper credit. The outcome of the suit has not been determined.
       The 1 Sep 1981 DV noted that Barry & Enright planned a sequel, titled Higher Education. to be written by Greenburg. However, that project did not come to fruition. The 17 May 1993 HR stated that the Carnegie Film Group was promoting More Private Lessons, featuring actress Joanna Pacula and Japanese pop star Goro Inagaki, at the Cannes Film Festival. Dan Greenburg wrote the screenplay and R. Ben Efraim was credited as a producer on the sequel, also known as Private Lessons II. It filmed in Japan and was released by Warner Bros. in that country in 1993. There is no indication Private Lessons II was distributed domestically in theaters or on video.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 May 1969.
---
Daily Variety
4 Feb 1980.
---
Daily Variety
1 Sep 1981
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Aug 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 1981
p. 1, 37.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Apr 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 May 1993
p. 4, 27.
LAHExam
28 Apr 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Sep 1981
Section J, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
4 Oct 1981
Section M, p. 3.
New York Times
30 Aug 1981
p. 56.
Variety
17 Oct 1979.
---
Variety
3 Jun 1981.
---
Variety
2 Sep 1981
p. 14.
Village Voice
9-15 Dec 1981.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
also starring:
as Miss Phipps
as Joyce
as Waiter
and
as Jack Travis
Ron Foster
as Fillmore
as Green
+

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
also starring:
as Miss Phipps
as Joyce
as Waiter
and
as Jack Travis
Ron Foster
as Fillmore
as Green
as Hotel owner
as Florence
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Barry & Enright Film
an R. Ben Efraim Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Co-exec prod
Co-exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit dir of photog
Gaffer
Key grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Prop master
COSTUMES
Ward
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles & opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod asst
New York's casting
Loc services & Extra casting
Loc equip by
Insurance provided by
Insurance provided by
STAND INS
Miss Kristel's double
COLOR PERSONNEL
Filmed in
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Philly by Dan Greenburg (New York, 1969).
AUTHOR
SONGS
Rod Stewart performed “Hot Legs,” composed by Rod Stewart, publisher: Riva Music, courtesy of Riva Records, Inc.
John Cougar performed “I Need A Lover,” composed by John “Cougar” Mellencamp, publisher: G.H. Music, Ltd., administered in the U.S. and Canada by H.G. Music, Inc., courtesy of Riva Records, Inc.
Earth, Wind & Fire performed “Fantasy,” composed by M. White, E. del Barrio, V. White, publisher: Saggfire Music and Criga Music, courtesy of CBS Records
+
SONGS
Rod Stewart performed “Hot Legs,” composed by Rod Stewart, publisher: Riva Music, courtesy of Riva Records, Inc.
John Cougar performed “I Need A Lover,” composed by John “Cougar” Mellencamp, publisher: G.H. Music, Ltd., administered in the U.S. and Canada by H.G. Music, Inc., courtesy of Riva Records, Inc.
Earth, Wind & Fire performed “Fantasy,” composed by M. White, E. del Barrio, V. White, publisher: Saggfire Music and Criga Music, courtesy of CBS Records
Eric Clapton performed “Next Time You See Her,” composed by Eric Clapton, publisher: Stigwood Music, courtesy of RSO Records, Inc.
Earl Klugh performed “Doc,” composed by Earl Klugh, publisher: United Artists Music Co., Inc./Earl Klugh Music, courtesy of Liberty Records, Inc.
Earl Klugh performed “Spanish Night,” composed by Earl Klugh, publisher: United Artists Music Co., Inc./Earl Klugh Music, courtesy of Liberty Records, Inc.
Randy Van Warmer performed “Just When I Needed You Most,” composed by Randy Van Warmer, publisher: Fourth Floor Music, Inc., courtesy of Bearsville Records, Inc.
Rod Stewart performed “Tonight’s The Night,” composed by Rod Stewart, publisher: Riva Music, courtesy of Riva Records, Inc.
Air Supply performed “Lost In Love,” composed by Graham Russell, publisher: Careers Music, Inc./BRM Publishing/Riva Music, Ltd./BMI, courtesy of Arista Records, Inc. and Wizard Records/Bigtime, Australia
Crazy Horse performed “I Don’t Want To Talk About It,” composed by Danny Whitten, publisher: Crazy Horse Music, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc.
Rod Stewart performed “You’re In My Heart,” composed by Rod Stewart, publisher: Riva Music, courtesy of Riva Records, Inc.
Willie Nile performed “That’s The Reason,” composed by Willie Nile, publisher: Lake Victoria Music, courtesy of Arista Records, Inc.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Philly
Release Date:
28 August 1981
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 28 August 1981
Production Date:
began 4 February 1980
Copyright Claimant:
Barry & Enright Productions
Copyright Date:
16 November 1981
Copyright Number:
PA122713
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
87
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During a high school graduation party, fifteen-year-old “Philly” Fillmore and his friend, Sherman, spy on Joyce, a graduating senior, as she changes in the bathroom. Miss Phipps, a high school teacher and party chaperone, discovers them, and Sherman runs off as the teacher counsels Philly to find a girl more appropriate for his age. The next day, Sherman notices Philly’s attractive new housekeeper, Miss Nicole Mallow, which leads the teenagers into a discussion of sex. Philly’s mother is dead and when Mr. Fillmore leaves for a three-week business trip, Philly is left alone with the staff, including Miss Mallow and chauffeur, Lester Lewis. When Mallow sits with Philly for a chat, she teases him about looking up her skirt, and he walks away, embarrassed. Lester drives Mallow to go shopping, and orders her to seduce Philly before Mr. Fillmore returns. Mallow is hesitant, but Lester threatens to report her for being an illegal immigrant. Meanwhile, Philly snoops through Mallow’s room, particularly her lingerie drawer. That night, Philly and Sherman sneak outside Mallow’s room to watch her change, but she shuts off the lights before they see anything. When Philly goes inside, Lester tells him that Mallow has a heart condition, and he hopes Philly is not doing anything to upset her. The next day, Philly gets up early with the hope of watching Mallow dress, but she is already busy at work. Later, Philly walks by the pool while she suns herself, topless. When the sprinklers go off, she sits up, and Philly sees her breasts and falls into the pool. That night, Philly watches ... +


During a high school graduation party, fifteen-year-old “Philly” Fillmore and his friend, Sherman, spy on Joyce, a graduating senior, as she changes in the bathroom. Miss Phipps, a high school teacher and party chaperone, discovers them, and Sherman runs off as the teacher counsels Philly to find a girl more appropriate for his age. The next day, Sherman notices Philly’s attractive new housekeeper, Miss Nicole Mallow, which leads the teenagers into a discussion of sex. Philly’s mother is dead and when Mr. Fillmore leaves for a three-week business trip, Philly is left alone with the staff, including Miss Mallow and chauffeur, Lester Lewis. When Mallow sits with Philly for a chat, she teases him about looking up her skirt, and he walks away, embarrassed. Lester drives Mallow to go shopping, and orders her to seduce Philly before Mr. Fillmore returns. Mallow is hesitant, but Lester threatens to report her for being an illegal immigrant. Meanwhile, Philly snoops through Mallow’s room, particularly her lingerie drawer. That night, Philly and Sherman sneak outside Mallow’s room to watch her change, but she shuts off the lights before they see anything. When Philly goes inside, Lester tells him that Mallow has a heart condition, and he hopes Philly is not doing anything to upset her. The next day, Philly gets up early with the hope of watching Mallow dress, but she is already busy at work. Later, Philly walks by the pool while she suns herself, topless. When the sprinklers go off, she sits up, and Philly sees her breasts and falls into the pool. That night, Philly watches again from outside her window. She sees him and invites him inside. She asks if he wants to see her undress and Philly says yes. She takes off her clothes and offers to let him touch her breasts, but he is unnerved and refuses. The next day, she asks Philly if something is wrong. He insists he was not embarrassed and she invites him to her room again that evening. Philly tells Sherman about his adventure, and his friend cannot believe that Philly merely left the room after seeing Mallow naked. At the tennis club, as the two teenagers sneak a peek into the girls’ locker room, Jack Travis, the tennis coach, catches them and suggests they practice their tennis game. That evening, Philly finds Mallow bathing in his father’s bathtub. She invites him to join her and he accepts, after first changing into swim trunks. Mallow kisses and bathes him, but when the teen becomes aroused, he jumps out of the tub. The next day, Sherman suggests Mallow might be a whore and Philly defends her. Philly and Mallow go to the movies, and when he tentatively puts his arm around her shoulder, she moves his hand onto her breast. As they drive home in the limousine, Lester smirks as he watches them kiss. In Mallow’s room, Philly admits he is inexperienced and she promises to guide him. He declares that he loves her and wants to get married. She claims they do not have to marry, but he is fervent in his love. Mallow is not as impassioned, and Philly leaves, upset. Later, he apologizes for acting like a juvenile, and Mallow suggests they could go “steady.” Philly takes her on another date, and when they return to her room, he once again declares his love. This time, he stays and they make love. However, Mallow “dies” during sex, and Philly frantically rushes to get Lester. When they return to the room, Lester checks her pulse and declares she is dead. Philly realizes it must have been her heart and declares he killed her. He begs for Lester’s help, and they stuff the body into a suitcase and put it into the freezer while they dig a grave in the garden. They bury the suitcase and Philly places flowers on the dirt. However, in the morning, the grave is dug up and the body is missing. A blackmail note demands $10,000 for the return of the body. Philly gets the money from his father’s safe, but wonders what to say if his father discovers the missing money. Lester suggests it is better to answer that question than tell his father about the dead housekeeper. When Lester returns to his quarters, Mallow is waiting for him, but he becomes angry that she is not hiding at the hotel as they planned. She does not want to follow through with Lester’s scheme, but he threatens to contact immigration authorities, and declares that she is now a felon because seducing a minor is illegal. Later, Mallow goes to Philly and apologizes, revealing Lester’s threats against her. Philly is upset, but does not want her to turn herself into authorities. He comes up with a plan to get the money back before his father returns, and Mallow agrees to help. She convinces tennis coach Jack Travis to pose as a police detective. Travis confronts Lester, and declares police received a tip that Mallow was murdered. Travis puts pressure on Lester, who promises she will be home soon, and “Officer” Travis promises to return later to meet with Mallow. Lester races to the hotel and learns that Mallow checked out earlier. Philly informs Sherman and Mallow that the plan is working. While they drive back to Philly’s home, Lester gets the money from its hiding place. As Lester drives to the airport, he passes Philly’s group and Jack Travis. They are close behind as Lester reaches the airport, grabs the money bag, and runs inside. Mr. Fillmore spots Lester and wonders why he is late in picking him up. Philly, Mallow and Travis arrive as Mr. Fillmore orders Lester to get his baggage. Lester starts to rush off, but Philly offers to help and grabs Lester’s bag. Lester struggles for a moment, but notices “Officer” Travis and relinquishes the bag. Philly and Mallow head to the limousine with the money, and Lester goes to pick up Mr. Fillmore’s luggage. Later, Philly joins Mallow in her room. She plans to leave before Mr. Fillmore learns of their affair. She promises to keep in touch, and they make love one more time before she leaves. When Philly returns to high school, Miss Phipps does not recognizes him and claims he changed over the summer. Philly thanks her for advising him to find girls more age appropriate. He asks the teacher out to dinner and she accepts. +

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

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