House of Games (1987)

R | 101 mins | Drama, Mystery | 1987

Director:

David Mamet

Producer:

Michael Hausman

Cinematographer:

Juan Ruiz Anchia

Editor:

Trudy Ship

Production Designer:

Michael Merritt

Production Company:

Filmhaus
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HISTORY

According to the booklet accompanying the film’s 2007 Criterion Collection DVD, which features an image of the film’s screenplay dated Jul 1986, the working title of House of Games was The Tell .
       The film marked writer-director David Mamet’s feature film directorial debut. Mamet had gained prestige as the author of successful stage plays, including Glengarry Glen Ross , which won a Pulitzer Prize. His screenplay for The Verdict (1982, see entry) was nominated for an Academy Award.
       According to production notes from AMPAS library files, Mamet met producer Michael Hausman on the set of Places in the Heart (1984, see entry). Mamet cast the film with colleagues from his theatrical productions, friends and family members, including actors Lindsey Crouse, who was married to Mamet at the time, and Joe Mantegna, who won a Tony Award for his performance in Glengarry Glen Ross . Costume designer Nan Cibula and production designer Michael Merritt also worked on the stage production of Glengarry Glen Ross and, according to production notes, made their first theatrical film with House of Games .
       A 5 Mar 1986 news item in Daily News reported principal photography was scheduled to begin in the summer of 1986.
       The film premiered at the 1987 Venice Film Festival, where it won the Cinecritica award, the Golden Ciak award for Best Film, the Golden Osella award for Best Screenplay and the Pasinetti award for Best Film. Mamet was nominated for a Golden Globe award in the category of Best Screenplay – Motion Picture.



The summary and note for this ... More Less

According to the booklet accompanying the film’s 2007 Criterion Collection DVD, which features an image of the film’s screenplay dated Jul 1986, the working title of House of Games was The Tell .
       The film marked writer-director David Mamet’s feature film directorial debut. Mamet had gained prestige as the author of successful stage plays, including Glengarry Glen Ross , which won a Pulitzer Prize. His screenplay for The Verdict (1982, see entry) was nominated for an Academy Award.
       According to production notes from AMPAS library files, Mamet met producer Michael Hausman on the set of Places in the Heart (1984, see entry). Mamet cast the film with colleagues from his theatrical productions, friends and family members, including actors Lindsey Crouse, who was married to Mamet at the time, and Joe Mantegna, who won a Tony Award for his performance in Glengarry Glen Ross . Costume designer Nan Cibula and production designer Michael Merritt also worked on the stage production of Glengarry Glen Ross and, according to production notes, made their first theatrical film with House of Games .
       A 5 Mar 1986 news item in Daily News reported principal photography was scheduled to begin in the summer of 1986.
       The film premiered at the 1987 Venice Film Festival, where it won the Cinecritica award, the Golden Ciak award for Best Film, the Golden Osella award for Best Screenplay and the Pasinetti award for Best Film. Mamet was nominated for a Golden Globe award in the category of Best Screenplay – Motion Picture.



The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Felipe Pruneda Sentíes, a student at University of Pittsburgh, with Lucy Fisher as academic advisor.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Jan 1988.
---
Daily News
5 Mar 1986.
---
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Oct 1987
p. 3, 119.
Los Angeles Times
15 Oct 1987
p. 1.
New York Times
11 Oct 1987
p. 94.
Variety
9 Sep 1987
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Gaffer
Best boy
Elec
Key dolly grip
Best boy
Grip
Film processing by
Lighting and grip equip by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Storyboard artist
FILM EDITORS
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Lead man
Set dresser
Prop master
Prop asst
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward asst
Ward asst
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom man
ADR ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Rec supv
Post-prod services by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Special Effects Unlimited
Main and end titles des by
MAKEUP
Hair stylist
Ms. Crouse's hairstyles by
Mr. Mantegna's hair by
PRODUCTION MISC
Loc mgr
Scr supv
Casting
Prod office coord
Prod office coord
Asst to the prod
Key prod asst
Prod accountant
Financial representative
Transportation coord
Driver capt
Caterer
Mac B's
Craft services
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Dailies courier
Coaching/consultant
Consultant on confidence games
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Fugue from the Toccata in C Minor," by Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 911), performed by Warren Bernhardt, piano.
SONGS
"This True Love Stopped for You (But Not for Me)," by Rokko Jans, sung by June Shellene.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1987
Premiere Information:
New York Film Festival screening: 11 October 1987
New York opening: 14 October 1987
Los Angeles opening: 16 October 1987
Copyright Claimant:
Orion Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
14 March 1988
Copyright Number:
PA360371
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision®; Prints by DeLuxe®
Duration(in mins):
101
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28269
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

As Seattle psychiatrist Margaret Ford walks to an appointment, she is asked to autograph her best-selling book about compulsive behaviors. Later, Margaret meets her friend, Dr. Maria Littauer, at a restaurant but is too busy to stay for lunch. When Margaret admires her gold cigarette lighter, Maria notices that her friend pronounces the word “pleasures” as “pressures.” Maria advises Margaret to enjoy life and treat herself to rewards. Later, at an appointment, Margaret’s patient, Billy Hahn, calls her a fraud. When the young man pulls a gun and threatens to kill himself, Margaret promises to help if he relinquishes the weapon. Handing her the gun, Billy confesses he has a gambling debt of $25,000 and his life is at stake. That night, Margaret decides to confront Billy’s gambling opponent, Mike, at the House of Games. When Margaret defends her patient, Mike reveals that Billy only owes $800. Mike proposes to forgive Billy’s debt if Margaret helps him defeat a poker player who has been winning all night. Mike tells Margaret that the man fiddles with his ring when he is bluffing and this gesture, or “tell,” indicates how to bet against him. The gambler, however, stopped making this gesture when he sensed Mike watching him. Mike plans to go to the restroom the next time the stakes are high so Margaret, posing as his girlfriend, can watch for his opponent’s tell and determine if he’s bluffing. When the gambler raises Mike $6,000, Mike accuses the man of bluffing and storms out of the room while Margaret observes. As Mike returns to the table, Margaret discreetly tells ... +


As Seattle psychiatrist Margaret Ford walks to an appointment, she is asked to autograph her best-selling book about compulsive behaviors. Later, Margaret meets her friend, Dr. Maria Littauer, at a restaurant but is too busy to stay for lunch. When Margaret admires her gold cigarette lighter, Maria notices that her friend pronounces the word “pleasures” as “pressures.” Maria advises Margaret to enjoy life and treat herself to rewards. Later, at an appointment, Margaret’s patient, Billy Hahn, calls her a fraud. When the young man pulls a gun and threatens to kill himself, Margaret promises to help if he relinquishes the weapon. Handing her the gun, Billy confesses he has a gambling debt of $25,000 and his life is at stake. That night, Margaret decides to confront Billy’s gambling opponent, Mike, at the House of Games. When Margaret defends her patient, Mike reveals that Billy only owes $800. Mike proposes to forgive Billy’s debt if Margaret helps him defeat a poker player who has been winning all night. Mike tells Margaret that the man fiddles with his ring when he is bluffing and this gesture, or “tell,” indicates how to bet against him. The gambler, however, stopped making this gesture when he sensed Mike watching him. Mike plans to go to the restroom the next time the stakes are high so Margaret, posing as his girlfriend, can watch for his opponent’s tell and determine if he’s bluffing. When the gambler raises Mike $6,000, Mike accuses the man of bluffing and storms out of the room while Margaret observes. As Mike returns to the table, Margaret discreetly tells him the gambler is bluffing. Even though Mike does not have $6,000, Margaret is confident he should play his hand and promises to write a check if he loses. When the rival wins, Mike tries to stall, but the man draws a pistol. As Margaret writes a check, she notices water dripping from the gun and refuses to pay. With the deception revealed, Mike complains to his partner, George, about the squirt gun. Margaret is angry but impressed by the men’s con game and laughs when Mike gives her a poker chip as a souvenir. Joining the poker players outside, Margaret learns a trick from Joey, another con man on Mike’s team. Before she leaves, Margaret reminds Mike about their deal and he gives her Billy’s I.O.U. Margaret thanks Mike for the evening and he flirtatiously invites her to spend more time with him. The next day, Margaret empathizes with a patient who is imprisoned for murder. Later, she expresses frustration to Maria over not being able to help her patients and calls their profession a con game. Maria advises her to enjoy herself and invites her to dinner. When Margaret looks at her calendar and sees the $6,000 check from the previous evening, she turns Maria down but assures her that she will pursue something pleasurable. That evening, Margaret finds Mike at Charlie’s Tavern, a bar across the street from The House of Games, and asks if she can study his operation so she can write about it. Mike agrees and takes her to a Western Union office, where he gains the confidence of a Marine. Afterwards, Mike says he can read Margaret’s mind through her “tells” and invites her to make love. They go to a hotel, where Mike steals a key, and they make love in a stranger’s room. As Mike dresses, he explains it is empowering to steal and when he leaves the room to wash up, Margaret takes a pocketknife from the dressing table. Outside the hotel, Mike says goodbye but Margaret is reluctant to part. When he tells her his team is about conduct an operation at the hotel, she begs him to include her. As the con game begins, George steps out of the hotel with a briefcase and leaves it on the sidewalk as his taxi pulls away. Joey, who has picked up a businessman in the hotel, convenes with Mike and Margaret on the street and Mike opens the briefcase to discover $80,000. Mike pretends the money was left by mistake and says they should turn it in to the hotel, but the businessman stops him. Gathering in a hotel room with Joey, Mike and Margaret, the businessman argues that the money must have been stolen and they should split it up instead of handing it over to the police. Mike claims to be a bank employee and offers to take the cash to work to make sure it’s not counterfeit, but the businessman and Joey object, fearing he will keep the money for himself. When Mike says he will give them a bank check for $20,000 as collateral, the businessman insists on taking the briefcase himself and offers $30,000 in cash. The next morning, the businessman goes to the restroom and Mike tells Margaret that they borrowed the $80,000 from the mafia to pull off the swindle. They plan to switch briefcases before they make the exchange with the businessman, gaining $30,000 and leaving the man with nothing. Before they head to the bank, Margaret sees a gun in the businessman’s waistband as he calls for backup on a walkie talkie. She warns Mike and Joey the man is a cop, but as they try to leave, the officer cuts them off at gunpoint. Margaret attempts to escape, but as she pushes past the cop, the gun fires and Mike determines the officer is dead. After they flee through the emergency stairway, Mike and Joey force Margaret to steal a red Cadillac convertible to drive them to safety. As Joey wipes their fingerprints from the car, they realize the briefcase was left behind. Joey tells Margaret that the mafia will come after them and she insists on giving them the money from her personal account. Driving away from her bank, Mike warns Margaret that she is going to feel the urge to confess, steal and murder. They part ways, but Margaret cannot shake the memory of the dead policeman. After seeking advice from Maria, who, without knowing the reasons for Margaret’s distress, tells her friend to forgive herself, Margaret locks herself in her office and cancels her appointments. She throws a copy of her best seller at the wall, smashing the glass frame of her diploma, and throws the document in the garbage along with the souvenirs of her criminal involvement over the past two days. As she gets ready to leave, Billy knocks on the door to inform Margaret he will miss their next appointment and asks if she is all right. When Margaret goes outside, she sees Billy drive away in the red Cadillac. That night, Margaret returns to Charlie’s Tavern where she finds Billy, George, Joey, Mike and their team of swindlers, including the cop. She watches from the shadows as they look at her book and divide her cash. Mike tells his partners that he knew Margaret would go along with their con when she stole his pocketknife from the hotel room because it confirmed that she was a compulsive thief. When Mike calls their lovemaking “a small price to pay” and discusses his plan to fly to Las Vegas, Margaret cries. That night, Margaret surprises Mike at the airport and tells him the police are following her. She claims to have withdrawn $250,000 cash so they can run away together. Although Mike tries to get rid of her, he is enticed by the cash and they hide in the luggage depot. When Margaret confesses stealing his knife, however, Mike realizes he is a victim of her con game because she could not have known the knife belonged to him. Unwilling to be duped, Mike apologizes for taking advantage of her but says that he was only doing his job and Margaret asked to be included. As Mike leaves, Margaret draws Billy’s gun and demands to know how he got away with deceiving her. Unrepentant, Mike turns to walk away, but she shoots him in the leg and demands he beg for his life. When Mike accuses her of bluffing, Margaret shoots him again. Mike points out that unlike Margaret, he never physically hurt anyone and she is the one who is sick. In the wake of Mike’s insults, Margaret shoots him dead. Sometime later at a restaurant, Margaret autographs her book with the message “forgive yourself” and joins Maria for a relaxed lunch. Margaret says she had a great time on her vacation and followed her friend’s advice about forgiveness. When Maria excuses herself to answer a phone call, Margaret observes a woman at a neighboring table with a gold lighter and slips it out of the woman’s purse. Smiling, Margaret uses the stolen lighter for her own cigarette. +

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

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