Big Business (1988)

PG | 93 mins | Comedy | 10 June 1988

Cinematographer:

Dean Cundey

Editor:

Harry Keramidas

Production Designer:

William Sandell

Production Companies:

Touchstone Pictures, Silver Screen Partners III
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HISTORY

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, first cousins and writing partners Dori Pierson and Marc Rubel were inspired by William Shakespeare’s farce, The Comedy of Errors, and began researching the stories of identical twins separated at birth. The four leading characters were named after Rubel’s mother, Sadie, and her fraternal twin sister, Rose.
       On 3 Feb 1987, WSJ reported that Silver Screen Partners III would provide full funding for Big Business and seventeen other films to be produced by The Walt Disney Company. Two days later, DV announced that Bette Midler joined the project as part of a three-picture deal with Disney’s Touchstone Pictures. Lily Tomlin signed soon after. Big Business marked the first solo directorial effort of Jim Abrahams, who previously co-directed Airplane! (1980), Top Secret! (1984), and Ruthless People (1986, see entries) with David Zucker.
       Despite commitments from both leads, the 4 Mar 1987 DV stated production was delayed until late summer to avoid potential complications regarding the expiration of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) contract on 30 Jun 1987. According to a 14 Aug 1987 DV news item, principal photography began 10 Aug 1987 in New York City. After a few days filming exteriors of the Plaza Hotel, production relocated to Burbank, CA, where interiors of the hotel were reconstructed on Disney Studio sound stages. The 13 Oct 1987 DV listed the cost of the set as $1 million. End credit acknowledgments note that filming also took place in Wondering Woods, KY; Petersburg, OH; Cumberland Gap, TN; and Disney's Golden Oak ... More Less

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, first cousins and writing partners Dori Pierson and Marc Rubel were inspired by William Shakespeare’s farce, The Comedy of Errors, and began researching the stories of identical twins separated at birth. The four leading characters were named after Rubel’s mother, Sadie, and her fraternal twin sister, Rose.
       On 3 Feb 1987, WSJ reported that Silver Screen Partners III would provide full funding for Big Business and seventeen other films to be produced by The Walt Disney Company. Two days later, DV announced that Bette Midler joined the project as part of a three-picture deal with Disney’s Touchstone Pictures. Lily Tomlin signed soon after. Big Business marked the first solo directorial effort of Jim Abrahams, who previously co-directed Airplane! (1980), Top Secret! (1984), and Ruthless People (1986, see entries) with David Zucker.
       Despite commitments from both leads, the 4 Mar 1987 DV stated production was delayed until late summer to avoid potential complications regarding the expiration of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) contract on 30 Jun 1987. According to a 14 Aug 1987 DV news item, principal photography began 10 Aug 1987 in New York City. After a few days filming exteriors of the Plaza Hotel, production relocated to Burbank, CA, where interiors of the hotel were reconstructed on Disney Studio sound stages. The 13 Oct 1987 DV listed the cost of the set as $1 million. End credit acknowledgments note that filming also took place in Wondering Woods, KY; Petersburg, OH; Cumberland Gap, TN; and Disney's Golden Oak Ranch in Newhall, CA.
       Items in the 24 May 1987 LAT and 13 May 1988 Long Beach Press-Telegram indicated that the special effects crew originally attempted to dress body doubles with full-face prosthetics and wigs so that Midler and Tomlin did not have to appear in every scene. However, Abrahams called the tactic “a complete bomb,” and the shots featuring both the actresses’ dual roles were achieved through five months of postproduction work and special in-camera techniques developed by Industrial Light & Magic and Dream Quest Images.
       Prior to the film’s release, the 25 Feb 1988 DV reported that Touchstone considered changing the title to Double Trouble, but ultimately decided against it.
       A city planning document on the Los Angeles City website indicates that the premiere took place in early Jun 1988 at Pacific’s newly redecorated Crest Theatre. Among the generally positive reviews, critics praised Midler and Tomlin’s performances, as well as the seamlessness of the effects. The Aug 1988 issue of Box listed a two-week box-office gross of $14.2 million.
       End credits are superimposed over clips from the film, followed by a brief scene in which the Plaza Hotel concierge is stunned by the arrival of identical triplets.
       Between the “New York Crew” and “Second Unit” credits, a statement reads: “Don’t go, it’s almost over.”
       Credits also include the following acknowledgments: “The Producers wish to thank the Plaza Hotel in New York for its cooperation and assistance”; “Special Thanks to: Don Hogan and the people of Wondering Woods, Kentucky; The New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting, Pat Scott, Director; The Thompson Brothers Mine in Petersburg, Ohio; The people of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee; Butler & Wilson Costume Jewelry; Herman Miller Furniture; National Car Rental”; “Dynasty footage courtesy of Richard & Esther Shapiro Productions in association with Aaron Spelling Productions”; and, “Filmed on location in New York City, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and at The Walt Disney Ranch and The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California.”
       Composer Dmitri Shostakovich is erroneously listed as “E. Shostakovich” in music credits. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Aug 1988
Section R, p. 64.
Daily Variety
5 Feb 1987
p. 6, 8.
Daily Variety
4 Mar 1987.
---
Daily Variety
14 Aug 1987.
---
Daily Variety
13 Oct 1987.
---
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1988
p. 3, 18.
Long Beach Press-Telegram
13 May 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 May 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Jun 1988
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
10 Jun 1988
Section C, p. 10.
Variety
8 Jun 1988
p. 13.
WSJ
3 Feb 1987.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Touchstone Pictures presents
In Association With Silver Screen Partners III
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d asst dir, New York crew
2d asst dir, New York crew
DGA trainee, New York crew
Dir, 2d unit
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Video playback
Chief lighting tech
Best boy elec
Best boy elec
Key grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
Dir of photog (2d unit), New York crew
Cam op, New York crew
Cam op, New York crew
Key grip, New York crew
Gaffer, New York crew
Still photog, New York crew
Addl photog, 2d unit
Key grip, 2d unit
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Art dir, New York crew
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Set des
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Const foreman
Standby painter
Set dec, New York crew
Prop master, New York crew
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Cost supv
Costumer
MUSIC
Ms. Midler's vocal arr and New York montage mus by
Mus ed
Asst mus ed
Mus rec eng
SOUND
Sd mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley sd eff
Foley sd eff
Boom op
Utility sd
Cable boy
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Dubbing rec
Sd mixer, New York crew
Boom, New York crew
VISUAL EFFECTS
Background compositing by
Titles & opticals by
Visual eff supv
Spec visual eff by
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
Spec visual eff, Dream Quest Images
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Body makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Prod controller
Prod accountant
Money watcher
Money watcher
Prod coord
Asst to Mr. Peyser
Asst to Mr. Abrahams
Asst to Mr. Tisch
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Unit pub
Tech adv
Asst to Bill Beasley
Prod assoc
Prod assoc
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Asst to Ms. Tomlin
Asst to Ms. Tomlin
Extras casting
Casting asst
Transportation coord
Animals furnished by
Loc mgr, New York crew
Loc mgr, New York crew
Prod coord, New York crew
Money watcher, New York crew
Asst to Mr. Rose, New York crew
Extras casting, New York crew
Transportation capt, New York crew
Prod staff, New York crew
Prod staff, New York crew
Prod staff, New York crew
Prod staff, New York crew
Transportation capt, 2d unit
STAND INS
Sadie photo double
Rose photo double
Stunt coord (NY)
Stunt coord (LA)
Rukeyser stunt double
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Higher Love," written by Steve Winwood and Will Jennings, performed by Steve Winwood, courtesy of Island Records
"On Broadway," written by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, performed by George Benson, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"Little Ole Lady," words and music by Richard Wilbur, special lyrics by Marc Shaiman
+
SONGS
"Higher Love," written by Steve Winwood and Will Jennings, performed by Steve Winwood, courtesy of Island Records
"On Broadway," written by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, performed by George Benson, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"Little Ole Lady," words and music by Richard Wilbur, special lyrics by Marc Shaiman
"Music Box Dancer," written by Frank Mills, vocal arrangement by Marc Shaiman, performed by The Trinidad Serenaders Steel Band
"Sing Sing Sing," written by Louis Prima, performed by Benny Goodman, courtesy of RCA Records
"Reilly Theme," written by E. Shostakovich, arrangement by Harry Rabinowitz, courtesy of Red Bus Records
"Pennies From Heaven," written by J. Burke and A. Johnson
"I'm In The Mood For Love," written by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Double Trouble
Release Date:
10 June 1988
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 10 June 1988
Production Date:
began 10 August 1987
Copyright Claimant:
Touchstone Pictures a.a.d.o. the Walt Disney Company
Copyright Date:
7 June 1988
Copyright Number:
PA367117
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
93
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the late 1940s, wealthy businessman Hunt Shelton and his pregnant wife, Binky, get lost in the backwoods of West Virginia while searching for their friend’s vacation home. When Binky suddenly goes into labor, the couple rushes to Jupiter Hollow Hospital, a private facility reserved exclusively for the employees of Hollowmade Furniture. Mr. Shelton buys the company on the spot, and Binky gives birth to identical twin girls. At the same time, Jupiter Hollow resident Iona Ratliff arrives at the hospital and also gives birth to twin girls. Amid the chaos, the nurse puts the babies in the wrong cribs, giving each couple a mixed pair. Mr. Shelton proposes they name the children Rose and Sadie, after his great aunts. Overhearing them from the hallway, Iona’s husband suggests the same names for their daughters. Forty-some years later, Rose and Sadie Shelton are the successful co-owners of their father’s corporation, Moramax. While the ruthlessly business-minded Sadie treats her employees and bratty son Jason with contempt, Rose is flighty and dreams of settling down in the country with her noncommittal boyfriend, Dr. Jay Marshall. As part of a new business plan, Sadie proposes they liquidate Hollowmade, but the board informs her that she must receive approval from company stockholders. Although Sadie assures board members that the people of Jupiter Hollow support the sale, Rose Ratliff, now Hollowmade’s forewoman, sends a letter to Moramax threatening to fly to New York City in protest. Sadie Ratliff, who yearns to escape small-town Jupiter Hollow, decides to accompany her sister and start a new life in the big city. Moramax employee Graham Sherbourne reads Rose’s letter, which she signed using only her first initial. Sadie ... +


In the late 1940s, wealthy businessman Hunt Shelton and his pregnant wife, Binky, get lost in the backwoods of West Virginia while searching for their friend’s vacation home. When Binky suddenly goes into labor, the couple rushes to Jupiter Hollow Hospital, a private facility reserved exclusively for the employees of Hollowmade Furniture. Mr. Shelton buys the company on the spot, and Binky gives birth to identical twin girls. At the same time, Jupiter Hollow resident Iona Ratliff arrives at the hospital and also gives birth to twin girls. Amid the chaos, the nurse puts the babies in the wrong cribs, giving each couple a mixed pair. Mr. Shelton proposes they name the children Rose and Sadie, after his great aunts. Overhearing them from the hallway, Iona’s husband suggests the same names for their daughters. Forty-some years later, Rose and Sadie Shelton are the successful co-owners of their father’s corporation, Moramax. While the ruthlessly business-minded Sadie treats her employees and bratty son Jason with contempt, Rose is flighty and dreams of settling down in the country with her noncommittal boyfriend, Dr. Jay Marshall. As part of a new business plan, Sadie proposes they liquidate Hollowmade, but the board informs her that she must receive approval from company stockholders. Although Sadie assures board members that the people of Jupiter Hollow support the sale, Rose Ratliff, now Hollowmade’s forewoman, sends a letter to Moramax threatening to fly to New York City in protest. Sadie Ratliff, who yearns to escape small-town Jupiter Hollow, decides to accompany her sister and start a new life in the big city. Moramax employee Graham Sherbourne reads Rose’s letter, which she signed using only her first initial. Sadie sends Graham to find the Ratliffs and prevent them from sabotaging the meeting. On the day of the Ratliff sisters’ arrival, the Shelton sisters go to the airport to greet a prospective Hollowmade buyer, Italian businessman Fabio Alberici. However, Mr. Alberici mistakenly gets into the Sheltons’ limousine with the Ratliffs, who believe that Graham Sherbourne arranged for their transportation. The limousine takes them to the Plaza Hotel, and the women bask in its grandeur. Meanwhile, the Shelton sisters do not have cash for cab fare and are forced to take the subway back to the city. Once they arrive at the Plaza, they are disgruntled to learn that their usual suite has been given away and they must be relocated to the adjacent room. Later, Sadie Shelton gets into the elevator with Mr. Alberici, who invites her for a drink. Believing him to be a lecherous stranger, she rebuffs his advances, leaving him confused. When the concierge identifies the man moments later, Sadie is horrified by her mistake and reconciles with Mr. Alberici in the hotel bar. Meanwhile, Sadie Ratliff eagerly explores the city and runs into Sadie Shelton’s son, Jason; ex-husband, Michael; and Rose Shelton’s boyfriend, Jay Marshall; who are all dumbfounded by her suddenly softer, jovial attitude. That evening, Sadie Ratliff receives an envelope of cash from someone named “Sly,” unaware that it is a bribe from Mr. Alberici intended for Sadie Shelton. Later, Jay Marshall goes to the Plaza intending to finally propose to Rose Shelton, but bumps into Rose Ratliff instead. Assuming he is “Sly,” she dismisses his engagement ring as another bribe, but cannot help being flattered. Back in West Virginia, Rose Ratliff’s longtime boyfriend, professional miniature-golfer Roone Dimmick, is heartbroken to learn that Rose left for New York City without telling him. Determined to get her back, Roone takes a bus to New York and tracks her down at the Plaza Hotel. Upon his arrival, he mistakenly embraces Rose Shelton. Frightened, she seeks help from Graham Sherbourne, who is convinced that Roone is the “R. Ratliff” they are looking for. Over dinner, Roone criticizes city life and unwittingly appeals to Rose’s secret desire to settle down in the country. In the lobby, Sadie Ratliff bumps into Michael, who has fallen for the woman he believes to be his reformed ex-wife. They agree to have lunch the following afternoon, and he kisses her goodbye. After an evening of flirting, Sadie Shelton and Mr. Alberici consummate their business deal. Meanwhile, Graham detains Roone in his suite, but discovers that the Ratliffs are actually a pair of sisters. In the morning, Rose and Sadie Ratliff have breakfast together to plan their protest at the stockholders meeting. Sadie purposely spills syrup on her jacket, using the accident as an excuse to spend “Sly’s” bribe money on a new polka-dotted outfit at the hotel boutique. Moments after she leaves to change, Sadie Shelton takes her place at the table. Rose criticizes the businesswoman’s severe grey suit, so Sadie agrees to swap it for the same polka-dotted ensemble on display in the shop window. As they prepare to leave for the meeting in the hotel conference room, the four women cross paths in the lobby bathroom and discover that they are long-lost sisters. Despite their newfound connection, Sadie Shelton still plans to go through with the sale, and appeals to her twin for support. However, Sadie Ratliff refuses to see her hometown brought to ruin and helps the two Roses lock Sadie Shelton in the closet. Taking Rose Shelton’s arm, Sadie Ratliff poses as her New York counterpart, marches into the meeting, and convinces the stockholders to cancel the deal. Afterward, the four women return to the lobby to find their respective partners. As they leave the hotel, Sadie Shelton and Mr. Alberici plan to vacation on her yacht, Sadie Ratliff decides to stay in the city with Michael, Jay invites Rose Ratliff out for coffee, and Rose Shelton shares a romantic hansom cab ride with Roone to plan their life together in the country. +

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

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