Moscow on the Hudson (1984)

R | 115 mins | Comedy | 6 April 1984

Director:

Paul Mazursky

Producer:

Paul Mazursky

Cinematographer:

Donald McAlpine

Editor:

Richard Halsey

Production Designer:

Pato Guzman

Production Company:

Columbia Pictures
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HISTORY

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the story was inspired by filmmaker Paul Mazursky’s own family, who immigrated to the U.S. from Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century. Before completing the initial draft, Mazursky and co-writer Leon Capetanos researched and interviewed Russian immigrants in Los Angeles, CA, and New York City. They continued to polish the story by visiting the Russian cities of Kiev, Leningrad, and Moscow. Capetanos and Mazursky had previously collaborated on the script for Tempest (1982, see entry) and would later co-write Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986, see entry) and Moon Over Parador (1988, see entry).
       Principal photography began 11 Jul 1983 at Arriflex Studios in Munich, West Germany, which housed the set for “Vladimir Ivanoff's” Moscow apartment. After three days, the production relocated to the “Bergmanstrasse” backlot of Munich’s Bavaria Studios, where the streets and storefronts were transformed to look like Moscow in winter. The production also shot on location around Munich at Leopoldstrasse, Ludwigstrasse, Circus Kronen, and near the Marienplatz. Following four weeks of filming in Germany, cast and crew moved to New York City. Interior sets for Bloomingdale’s department store and “Vladimir’s” New York apartment were constructed at a studio in Harlem, and the production also visited the following New York locales: Brooklyn, Brighton Beach, Central Park, Greenwich Village, the Bowery, Times Square, Lincoln Center, and Bloomingdale’s department store.
       In a 22 May 1984 NYT interview, Mazursky stated that he wanted to emphasize the ethnicity and diversity of New York’s population, and regarded the selection of background actors and minor speaking ... More Less

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the story was inspired by filmmaker Paul Mazursky’s own family, who immigrated to the U.S. from Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century. Before completing the initial draft, Mazursky and co-writer Leon Capetanos researched and interviewed Russian immigrants in Los Angeles, CA, and New York City. They continued to polish the story by visiting the Russian cities of Kiev, Leningrad, and Moscow. Capetanos and Mazursky had previously collaborated on the script for Tempest (1982, see entry) and would later co-write Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986, see entry) and Moon Over Parador (1988, see entry).
       Principal photography began 11 Jul 1983 at Arriflex Studios in Munich, West Germany, which housed the set for “Vladimir Ivanoff's” Moscow apartment. After three days, the production relocated to the “Bergmanstrasse” backlot of Munich’s Bavaria Studios, where the streets and storefronts were transformed to look like Moscow in winter. The production also shot on location around Munich at Leopoldstrasse, Ludwigstrasse, Circus Kronen, and near the Marienplatz. Following four weeks of filming in Germany, cast and crew moved to New York City. Interior sets for Bloomingdale’s department store and “Vladimir’s” New York apartment were constructed at a studio in Harlem, and the production also visited the following New York locales: Brooklyn, Brighton Beach, Central Park, Greenwich Village, the Bowery, Times Square, Lincoln Center, and Bloomingdale’s department store.
       In a 22 May 1984 NYT interview, Mazursky stated that he wanted to emphasize the ethnicity and diversity of New York’s population, and regarded the selection of background actors and minor speaking roles as significant as the main cast. He compared certain scenes, such as the courtroom location, to filming a documentary. In the Moscow sequences, real Russian actors and extras, based in Munich, were cast as Russian-speaking characters. During the five months prior to filming, actor Robin Williams studied Russian and learned to play the saxophone. In the NYT interview, Mazursky also defended the film’s “patriotism,” which had been criticized by some viewers. “What I’m saying is, in America, it’s possible for immigrants to be integrated into society and have a life. That’s not true in other countries.”
       According to a 10 Apr 1984 LAHExam article, the picture earned over $3.5 million during opening weekend on 618 screens.
       As reported in a 24 Dec 1984 DV article, illustrator Saul Steinberg filed a federal lawsuit against Columbia Pictures, the film’s production and distribution company, claiming the print advertisement for Moscow on the Hudson copied “at least twenty-three specific features” of Steinberg’s 29 Mar 1976 New Yorker cover. The RCA Corporation and advertising agency Diener Hauser Bates were also named as defendants in the case. A 29 Jun 1987 DV article announced that a New York federal court decided in favor of Steinberg, finding that “even at first glance one can see the striking stylistic relationship between the posters.”
       End credits include “Special Thanks To: Pat Scott and The New York Mayors Office for Motion Picture and Television Production; Bloomingdale’s; Lt. Jesse Peterman and The New York City Police Department; Dennis Wendling and The New York City Transit Authority.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
24 Dec 1984.
---
Daily Variety
29 Jun 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Mar 1984
p. 4, 19.
LAHExam
10 Apr 1984.
---
Los Angeles Times
6 Apr 1984
Section I, p. 1.
New York Times
6 Apr 1984
p. 12.
New York Times
22 May 1984.
---
Variety
28 Mar 1984
p. 22.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures presents
A Paul Mazursky film
From Columbia-Delphi Productions
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
DGA trainee, New York
Unit prod mgr, Münich
Asst dir, Münich
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam, New York
2d asst cam, New York
Addl cam op, New York
Gaffer, New York
Key grip, New York
Grip, New York
Grip, New York
Elec, New York
Elec, New York
Video playback op, New York
Still photog, New York
Gaffer, Münich
Head driver
Loc asst
Elec, Münich
Key grip, Münich
Grip, Münich
Focus puller, Münich
Clapper loader, Münich
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir, New York
Art dir, Münich
Draftsman, Münich
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Apprentice ed, New York
Apprentice ed, New York
Ed asst, Münich
Apprentice ed, Hollywood
Negative ed, Hollywood
Negative ed, Hollywood
SET DECORATORS
Set dec, New York
Prop master, New York
Head carpenter, New York
Const grip, New York
Standby carpenter, New York
Set dresser, New York
Set dresser, New York
Prop man, New York
Prop man, New York
Scenic artist, New York
Asst scenic artist, New York
Draftsman, Münich
Prop buyer, Münich
Prop man, Münich
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Asst cost des, New York
Ward, New York
Ward, New York
Cost supv, Münich
Ward mistress, Münich
MUSIC
Mus ed, Hollywood
Asst mus ed, Hollywood
Mus eng, Hollywood
Saxophone played by, Hollywood
SOUND
Prod mixer
Boom man, New York
Rec, New York
Sd asst, Münich
Supv sd ed, Hollywood
Dial ed, Hollywood
Re-rec mixer, Hollywood
Re-rec mixer, Hollywood
Re-rec mixer, Hollywood
A.D.R., Hollywood
A.D.R., Hollywood
Sd eff, Hollywood
Sd eff, Hollywood
Sd eff, Hollywood
Sd apprentice, Hollywood
Group A.D.R., Hollywood
Foley artist, Hollywood
Foley artist, Hollywood
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff chief, Münich
Spec eff asst, Münich
Titles by, Hollywood
Opticals by, Hollywood
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup artist, New York
Hair and makeup, Münich
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting coord
Prod office coord
Auditor
Unit pub
Asst to Mr. Mazursky
Tech consultant
Tech consultant
Loc mgr, New York
Transportation capt, New York
Head driver, New York
Asst loc auditor, New York
Studio coord, New York
Loc asst, New York
Loc asst, New York
Exec secy, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Unit mgr, Münich
Loc mgr, Münich
Casting, Münich
Extras casting, Münich
Gaffer, Münich
Prod accountant, Münich
Prod asst, Münich
Prod asst, Münich
Prod runner, Münich
Head driver, Münich
Studio facilities, Münich
Studio facilities, Münich
Russian translations, Hollywood
Post prod asst, Hollywood
Mr. Williams' Russian instructor, Hollywood
Mr. Williams' saxophone instructor, Hollywood
Asst to Mr. Williams, Hollywood
Catering by, Hollywood
Locs equipped by, Hollywood
STAND INS
Stunt coord, New York
COLOR PERSONNEL
Timer, Hollywood
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“Freedom,” written by David McHugh, produced by Chaka Khan and David McHugh, performed by Chaka Khan, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
“Starting Over,” written by David McHugh, produced by Chaka Khan and David McHugh, performed by Chaka Khan, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
“People Up In Texas,” written & performed by Waylon Jennings, courtesy of RCA Records
+
SONGS
“Freedom,” written by David McHugh, produced by Chaka Khan and David McHugh, performed by Chaka Khan, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
“Starting Over,” written by David McHugh, produced by Chaka Khan and David McHugh, performed by Chaka Khan, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
“People Up In Texas,” written & performed by Waylon Jennings, courtesy of RCA Records
“Long Day,” written by David McHugh, produced by The Motels and David McHugh, performed by The Motels, courtesy of Capitol Records
“Sueños,” written & produced by David McHugh, performed by Maria Conchita Alonso, courtesy of A&M Records
“Party Train,” written by Lonnie Simmons, Charlie Wilson, Ronnie Wilson & Rudy Taylor, performed by The Gap Band, courtesy of Total Experience Records
“Blue Towns,” composed by Andrey Petrov
“It’s Possible,” composed by Arkadii Il’ich Ostrovskii.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
6 April 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 6 April 1984
Production Date:
began 11 July 1983
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
18 May 1984
Copyright Number:
PA212229
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Dolby Stereo® in selected theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
115
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27316
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the Soviet Union, musician Vladimir Ivanoff plays saxophone for the Moscow circus and is devoted to his family and friends, particularly his rascally grandfather. Meanwhile, Vladimir tolerates communist bureaucracy by waiting in long lines for toilet paper, sharing a crowded one-bedroom apartment, and placating KGB secret service agents. Before the circus troupe’s tour to New York City, Vladimir and his circus clown friend, Anatoly, practice speaking English. The outspoken Anatoly confides that he hates his life and wants to defect. Although Vladimir adores American jazz music, he claims he is content in the Soviet Union and warns his friend to be careful. Arriving in Manhattan, Vladimir is amazed by the diversity of people, the street musicians, and the colorful signage. Anatoly still plans to defect, but when an opportunity arises while shopping at Bloomingdale’s department store, he loses his nerve. Vladimir, however, makes a spontaneous decision and flees from his KGB handler, Boris. At Bloomingdale’s, he is befriended by Lucia Lombardo, a beautiful cosmetic clerk, and a security guard named Lionel Witherspoon, who invites the Russian to stay at his Harlem apartment. Although Vladimir has gained freedom, he left his saxophone on the tour bus and is unable to work as a musician. He encounters circumstances similar to those in Moscow, as he faces a bureaucratic immigration process and lives in a small apartment with Lionel’s family. In the meantime, he works a series of jobs as a dishwasher, hot dog vendor, taxicab driver, and chauffeur, while seeking advice from Cuban-American immigration attorney, Orlando Ramirez. He also begins a romance with Lucia, an Italian immigrant who ... +


In the Soviet Union, musician Vladimir Ivanoff plays saxophone for the Moscow circus and is devoted to his family and friends, particularly his rascally grandfather. Meanwhile, Vladimir tolerates communist bureaucracy by waiting in long lines for toilet paper, sharing a crowded one-bedroom apartment, and placating KGB secret service agents. Before the circus troupe’s tour to New York City, Vladimir and his circus clown friend, Anatoly, practice speaking English. The outspoken Anatoly confides that he hates his life and wants to defect. Although Vladimir adores American jazz music, he claims he is content in the Soviet Union and warns his friend to be careful. Arriving in Manhattan, Vladimir is amazed by the diversity of people, the street musicians, and the colorful signage. Anatoly still plans to defect, but when an opportunity arises while shopping at Bloomingdale’s department store, he loses his nerve. Vladimir, however, makes a spontaneous decision and flees from his KGB handler, Boris. At Bloomingdale’s, he is befriended by Lucia Lombardo, a beautiful cosmetic clerk, and a security guard named Lionel Witherspoon, who invites the Russian to stay at his Harlem apartment. Although Vladimir has gained freedom, he left his saxophone on the tour bus and is unable to work as a musician. He encounters circumstances similar to those in Moscow, as he faces a bureaucratic immigration process and lives in a small apartment with Lionel’s family. In the meantime, he works a series of jobs as a dishwasher, hot dog vendor, taxicab driver, and chauffeur, while seeking advice from Cuban-American immigration attorney, Orlando Ramirez. He also begins a romance with Lucia, an Italian immigrant who aspires to be a sportscaster and is studying for her citizenship exam. After a while, Vladimir is able to afford a new saxophone and his own studio apartment in the East Village. During a party to celebrate Lucia becoming a U.S. citizen, Vladimir asks her to move in with him. However, she is unsure if she is ready for a serious relationship and rejects his offer. After the couple quarrels, Lionel takes Vladimir to a jazz club where he encourages the Russian to meet other women and arranges for him to play saxophone with the house band that night. Vladimir is disappointed in his performance and throws his saxophone in the trash, but Lionel retrieves the instrument and reminds Vladimir that white men cannot expect to play “soul” music in a few months. As Lucia continues to ignore him, Vladimir receives news that his beloved grandfather has passed away. Homesick and grieving, he visits a Russian nightclub, becomes intoxicated, and dances with his fellow countrymen. Returning to his apartment building, Vladimir is mugged in the hallway and expresses anger about America’s so-called “freedom.” Orlando Ramirez takes Vladimir to a diner where a fellow Russian and other immigrants remind him about the rights given to all human beings in the Declaration of Independence. Vladimir begins to feel more hopeful and arrives home to find Lucia waiting for him. The couple reconciles when Lucia declares that she misses him and would be proud to live with a fellow immigrant. The next time Vladimir writes to his Russian family, he mourns the death of his grandfather, but also shares the good news that he finally got a job playing saxophone at a nightclub. One day, he encounters his former KGB handler, Boris, who now works as a hot dog vendor. Boris could not go back to the Soviet Union after failing to prevent Vladimir’s defection and thanks him for giving him the opportunity to stay in the U.S. +

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

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