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HISTORY

Although the film is credited onscreen as being directed by Alan Smithee, that is the pseudonym the Directors Guild of America allowed at the time for directors to use when they wanted their name removed from the credits of a film. According to the 11 Apr 1984 Var, the director was Lee Madden. The Var notice also stated the film was titled Benny and Beaufor, but the spelling of the second name in the title would change twice. The 2 May 1984 Var added the letter “d” at the end of the second name to make the title Benny and Beauford. However, by the time principal photography began on 17 May 1984 at Mexico’s Estudios America in Mexico City, the spelling had changed to Benny and Buford, according to production charts in the 5 Jun 1984 HR. The name again altered to Benny and Buford Meet the Bigoted Ghost according to the 21 Aug 1984 DV, but that title apparently did not stick as subsequent articles still referred to it as Benny and Buford.
       Co-produced by Infinite Productions in the United States and Enfoque Films in Mexico, Benny and Buford represented a different kind of co-production according to the 11 Apr 1984 Var. Madden was to shoot the film in English based on the script by Ron Ritchie. At the same time, Mexican director Miguel Rico was to shoot the film in Spanish based on an adaptation of Richie’s script done by Hector Kiev. The English version of the script was ... More Less

Although the film is credited onscreen as being directed by Alan Smithee, that is the pseudonym the Directors Guild of America allowed at the time for directors to use when they wanted their name removed from the credits of a film. According to the 11 Apr 1984 Var, the director was Lee Madden. The Var notice also stated the film was titled Benny and Beaufor, but the spelling of the second name in the title would change twice. The 2 May 1984 Var added the letter “d” at the end of the second name to make the title Benny and Beauford. However, by the time principal photography began on 17 May 1984 at Mexico’s Estudios America in Mexico City, the spelling had changed to Benny and Buford, according to production charts in the 5 Jun 1984 HR. The name again altered to Benny and Buford Meet the Bigoted Ghost according to the 21 Aug 1984 DV, but that title apparently did not stick as subsequent articles still referred to it as Benny and Buford.
       Co-produced by Infinite Productions in the United States and Enfoque Films in Mexico, Benny and Buford represented a different kind of co-production according to the 11 Apr 1984 Var. Madden was to shoot the film in English based on the script by Ron Ritchie. At the same time, Mexican director Miguel Rico was to shoot the film in Spanish based on an adaptation of Richie’s script done by Hector Kiev. The English version of the script was to emphasize the comic racial overtones between the two leads, black and Hispanic policemen; but the Spanish version satirized class and social differences rather than racial differences. In the final version of the film Miquel Rico is credited as “executive in charge of production.” Hector Kiev is not included in the film’s credits. 5 Jun 1984 HR production charts indicated Teri Togemann was the film’s unit production manager, but film credits list her as production coordinator.
       The 31 May 1984 HR stated that the writer’s last name was “Rich” rather than “Richie.” Credits for the movie also list his name as “Ron Rich.” Additionally, Rich is credited as a producer as well as the person who staged the boxing sequences. The HR story also said the Madden and Luis Avalos had done the screenplay with Rich. However, neither is given a writing credit in the final film. Avalos, did however, go on to co-star in the film, playing the title role of “Benny.”
       Actor Sherman Hemsley, best known for playing “George Jefferson” on the long-running CBS [Columbia Broadcasting System] television series The Jeffersons (18 Jan 1975--2 Jul 1985) had his first feature film starring part playing the dual roles of the ghost “Jethro” and the cop “Buford.” The 11 Apr 1984 Var article stated that actor Andre Pavon was starring with Hemsley, but Pavon’s name is not listed in final credits.
       The film’s premise involved the two policemen being trapped in a Southern mansion with a bigoted ghost. Director Madden was to play that ghost according to the 12 Oct 1984 DV. However, Madden is not credited with playing the part in the final version. Actor Pepper Martin received credit for playing bigoted ghost “Beauregard Lee.” The 12 Oct 1984 DV also stated that a screening for distributors had just occurred.
       The 11 Dec 1984 HR announced that Ross Vannelli and Alan Howarth were set to score the comedy, but neither receive that credit in the final film. The pair was also scheduled to write three songs for the film, including one called “Benny and Buford.” That song is not included in the film. Two other songs, “Eyes In The Dark” and “Don’t Count Me Out,” which, according to HR , the pair composed, were included. However, Howarth is not credited on screen with either song. Vannelli receives sole credit for writing the two songs.
       A casting notice for Ghost Fever appeared in the 15 Aug 1985 DV, stating that Edward Coe was producing and Herbert Strock was directing the comedy about two detectives battling supernatural forces. The production company was listed as Kodiak Films, Inc. The 24 Sep 1986 DV explained that Kodiak, an independent production company created in 1978, had taken over the Sherman Hemsley vehicle in mid-production and shut it down. They then restructured the story and rewrote the script. While Coe is listed as a producer in the film’s credits, Strock is not credited. Kodiak’s head, Wolf Schmidt, who is listed as executive producer, did not give a specific budget for Ghost Fever, but told HR that Kodiak intended to make films in the $2.5 million to $5 million range.
       In the 26 Mar 1987 DV, Miramax Films placed an advertisement announcing that it had acquired distribution rights to Ghost Fever. The 1 Apr 1987 DV stated the film opened 27 Mar 1987 in Atlanta, GA; Houston, TX; Dallas, TX; Nashville, TN; St. Louis, MO; and Tampa-St. Petersburg, FL. The film opened in Los Angeles, CA on 11 Sep 1987, according to information in AMPAS library files and in New York City on 18 Sep 1987 according to the 23 Sep 1987 DV.
       Two lawsuits were filed in connection to the film. The 18 Dec 1987 DV reported that Infinite Productions, Inc. had sued Kodiak Films for $250,000 in damages and $250 million in punitive damages over accounting disputes. Infinite said Kodiak failed to consult with them on creative and financial decisions, did not make proper payments and overbilled them for film costs. The outcome of that lawsuit is undetermined.
       Actor Sherman Hemsley also filed suit against Kodiak and its head Wolf Schmidt in Dec 1987. According to a 8 Mar 1996 HR legal brief, a jury awarded the actor $2.8 million for profits and interest owed him on the film, which, although it was a box office failure, had become profitable thanks to cable television deals and video rentals. The 24 Apr 1998 HR reported that an appellate court upheld the verdict and the $2.8 million award.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
21 Aug 1984.
---
Daily Variety
12 Oct 1984.
---
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1985.
---
Daily Variety
24 Sep 1986.
---
Daily Variety
26 Mar 1987.
---
Daily Variety
1 Apr 1987.
---
Daily Variety
23 Sep 1987.
---
Daily Variety
18 Dec 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 May 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Dec 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 1996.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 1998.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Sep 1987
p. 7.
Variety
11 Apr 1984.
---
Variety
2 May 1984.
---
Variety
18 Nov 1987
p. 15, 89.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir-Spanish version
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Prod
Prod
Co-prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Wrt
Wrt-original screenplay
Wrt-original screenplay
Wrt-Spanish version
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam asst
2d cam asst
Best boy
Asst grip
Asst grip
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Supv ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set const
Prop man
Prop man
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost des
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd eng
Sd mixer
Boom man
Cable man
Asst sd ed
Sd eff created by
Synclavier programming by
Re-rec eng
Re-rec eng
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opticals by
DANCE
MAKEUP
Makeup
Asst makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec in charge of prod
Prod supv
Prod asst
Prod asst
Unit mgr
Unit mgr
Prod coord
Scr supv
Scr supv
Boxing staged by
STAND INS
Stunt man
Stunt man
ANIMATION
SOURCES
SONGS
“Swanee,” music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Irving Caesar
“Eyes In The Dark,” produced and written by Ross Vannelli, vocal by Sherman Hemsley, arranged by Tom Saviano
“Don’t Count Me Out,” produced, written and performed by Ross Vannelli
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SONGS
“Swanee,” music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Irving Caesar
“Eyes In The Dark,” produced and written by Ross Vannelli, vocal by Sherman Hemsley, arranged by Tom Saviano
“Don’t Count Me Out,” produced, written and performed by Ross Vannelli
“Feet Of The Pony,” music by Randall Rumage and James Hart, lyrics by Sandy Sherman, vocal by James Carnelli, produced by James Hart
“Ghost Fever,” music by James Hart and James Carnelli, lyrics by Sandy Sherman, vocal by Sherman Hemsley, produced and arranged by James Hart and Carlos Wilson.
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DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Benny and Beauford
Benny and Buford
Benny and Buford Meet the Bigoted Ghost
Release Date:
11 September 1987
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 11 Sep 1987; New York opening: 18 Sep 1987
Production Date:
began 17 May 1984 in Mexico City, Mexico
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
86
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After the 1880 Greendale County, Georgia, funeral of plantation owner Andrew “Andy” Lee, his spirit is called from the grave by “Jethro,” a ghost “district supervisor” whose job it is to keep the “spooks” in line. Jethro tells Andy that he is now free to roam the world, but Andy says he wants to stay at the only home he knows: Magnolia House. Andy also says he can help keep the ghost of his father, Beauregard Lee, who also haunts Magnolia House, in line. Years later in Greendale County, Sheriff Clay sends two deputies, Buford, an African American, and Benny, a Puerto Rican, out to serve eviction papers at Magnolia House. The Andrew Lee Foundation had been paying the expenses for the house until it ran out of money and now the government wants to build a freeway through the property. When the sheriff tells the deputies that two old ladies still live in the house, Buford remarks they must be one hundred years old. He recalls going trick or treating at the house once as a child, but was chased away by a man in a vampire outfit and two witches. When the deputies arrive, the front door opens by itself and the lights flicker on and off. The ghost Jethro, who is there observing the deputies with Andy, says that Buford is his grandson. Looking around, Buford picks up a book called Groins of the Darker Species. When he sits in a chair to read it, the wall turns around, whisking him to a basement laboratory. There, he finds ... +


After the 1880 Greendale County, Georgia, funeral of plantation owner Andrew “Andy” Lee, his spirit is called from the grave by “Jethro,” a ghost “district supervisor” whose job it is to keep the “spooks” in line. Jethro tells Andy that he is now free to roam the world, but Andy says he wants to stay at the only home he knows: Magnolia House. Andy also says he can help keep the ghost of his father, Beauregard Lee, who also haunts Magnolia House, in line. Years later in Greendale County, Sheriff Clay sends two deputies, Buford, an African American, and Benny, a Puerto Rican, out to serve eviction papers at Magnolia House. The Andrew Lee Foundation had been paying the expenses for the house until it ran out of money and now the government wants to build a freeway through the property. When the sheriff tells the deputies that two old ladies still live in the house, Buford remarks they must be one hundred years old. He recalls going trick or treating at the house once as a child, but was chased away by a man in a vampire outfit and two witches. When the deputies arrive, the front door opens by itself and the lights flicker on and off. The ghost Jethro, who is there observing the deputies with Andy, says that Buford is his grandson. Looking around, Buford picks up a book called Groins of the Darker Species. When he sits in a chair to read it, the wall turns around, whisking him to a basement laboratory. There, he finds the diary of Beauregard Lee, detailing his torture experiments on his slaves. When Benny is transported to the laboratory, he reads aloud one of Beauregard’s experiments. Just then, Buford is trapped in a device which hits him in the groin with a sledgehammer. Buford quickly realizes he has to perform pelvic gyrations to avoid the sledgehammer. Finally, Benny sees what is happening and frees Buford. Back in foyer, Buford is pinned against a door by an invisible force. Neither Andy nor Jethro are responsible and wonder if the ghost of Beauregard is involved. Jethro says a Voodoo curse should be keeping Beauregard in his grave, but Andy reports that Beauregard’s mistress was a spiritual medium who could have broken the curse. Just then, two young women dressed in Southern belle gowns, Lisa and Linda, start playing “Dixieland” on the harp and piano. They say they are Andy’s granddaughters, Beauregard’s great-granddaughters. When Buford and Benny try to telephone for help, the phone is disconnected. Lisa and Linda say that the ghost of Beauregard does not like African Americans and must have cut the line. Madame St. Esprit, Beauregard’s mistress, arrives, announcing that Beauregard has locked all the doors and windows. When the deputies serve the eviction papers, bolts of lightning hit them. Madame says that Beauregard is responsible. Benny attempts to talk to the unseen Beauregard, who responds with more bolts of lightning. Madame suggests they hold a séance at midnight to talk with Beauregard. Lisa and Linda invite the deputies to have dinner since they are trapped in the house. The men try to escape out an upstairs window by tying bed sheets together, but Buford feels an intense tickling sensation as he tries to climb down and goes back into the house. At dinner, the girls announce they are having a chicken dish, “coq au vin.” However, when Buford opens the trays, he finds “chitlins” (pig intestines), grits, and watermelons. Madame says Beauregard must have transformed the food. Just then, an invisible figure eats a whole cooked chicken, leaving only the bones, and drinks a glass of wine. Madame reports this phenomena is Beauregard. After dinner, while the unseen Beauregard is snoring, Benny manages to open a downstairs window and jump out. However, he is suddenly pulled back inside and awakens in a giant bubble bath with Linda. Meanwhile, Buford awakens in bed to find Lisa playing a jazz saxophone. Benny dresses in a French army outfit and plays billiards with the invisible Beauregard, who cheats at the game. The two get into a sword fight using pool cues. Benny ultimately wins by throwing a curtain over Beauregard. The deputies and the girls dress in formal Southern attire and go to the grand ballroom to dance until the séance begins at midnight. Beauregard also dances with his granddaughters while Benny and Buford perform a tap dance. Beauregard also does a dance, but Benny complains he can only hear the tapping, he cannot see it. In response, Beauregard wraps himself in a sheet to look like a mummy and performs a break dance. During the séance, Beauregard can finally be seen. However, a Voodoo curse has transformed him into a vampire. Jethro and Andy, who are observing the activities but are invisible to everyone, comment that the only way to get rid of a vampire is for a real human to drive a wooden stake through his heart. Beauregard opens a trap door floor that sends the deputies to a prison cell in the basement. When Beauregard says they will be transformed into zombies to haunt the graveyard, Andy magically shoots fire to remove the bars from the cell, thus allowing the pair to escape. As they run through the yard, Beauregard and many zombies give chase. Benny and Beauregard get into another sword fight, this time using long wooden sticks. Benny pierces the stick through Beauregard’s heart, destroying him. The deputies offer to help Lisa and Linda find a new place to live after the eviction. The girls explain they actually died many years ago, but managed to retain their youth and beauty through Voodoo. They will be forever young only inside Magnolia House. If they leave the house permanently, they will cease to exist. They can, however, take ectoplasm pills and leave for a few hours while retaining their youth. Jethro magically sends an idea into Benny’s mind convincing him that he is the greatest fighter of all time. Benny then goes to fight the champion fighter “Terrible Tucker” while Buford acts as his coach. Initially, Benny dances around the ring to avoid Terrible Tucker, at one point even getting on his back. Eventually, Tucker punches Benny in the face, but he does not fall. Instead Benny uses his head to pummel into Tucker’s stomach, then collapses to the floor. As the referee is counting down the time for Benny to get back up, Jethro shoots lightning bolts at Tucker, who responds to each as if it is a punch. Jethro then uses magical forces to pull Benny up and push him to punch Tucker, who is finally knocked out. Benny wins the $60,000 prize and says he will use it to pay the taxes on Magnolia House. However, the deputies are sad they will never see Lisa and Linda again. As they drive away, they each say they would be better off dead than having to live in a world without the girls. Listening in on their conversation, Jethro is inspired and sends lightning bolts to blow out the car’s tires. The car veers over a cliff and explodes. After their funeral, Buford and Benny go to live at Magnolia House where they drink champagne with the girls.
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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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