Dogfight (1991)

R | 95 mins | Drama, Romance | 13 September 1991

Director:

Nancy Savoca

Writer:

Bob Comfort

Cinematographer:

Bobby Bukowski

Editor:

John Tintori

Production Designer:

Lester W. Cohen

Production Company:

DF Productions
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HISTORY

       Various contemporary sources refer to the picture as Dog Fight, rather than the correct single-word title, Dogfight.
       Producer Peter Newman recalled reading Bob Comfort’s screenplay in 1986, according to a 22 Jul 1990 LAT article, and he was “immediately” motivated to see the script become a motion picture. Casting the overweight “Rose,” however, proved to be a challenge. Over several years, more than 500 women auditioned, but few possessed both the physical traits and emotional depth required for the part. The role was still unfilled when the 25 Feb 1988 DV article announced that production on the Atlantic Entertainment picture would begin on 12 May 1988. Various contemporary sources confirmed that Michael Dinner would direct, with Peter Newman and Lewis Allen producing.
       On 10 Jul 1988, the LAT reported that actor John Cusack had been cast in the role of “Birdlace.” Three months later, a 26 Oct 1988 Var news brief announced that actor Kevin Anderson had also signed on to the picture, now under the Cineplex Odeon banner. Up to this date, contemporary sources indicated that filming would take place in San Diego, CA.
       Over a year later, on 27 Jan 1990, Screen International announced that director Nancy Savoca was slated to helm Dogfight for Warner Bros. Pictures. Peter Newman and Lewis Allen remained on the project as producers. The news item did not indicate where filming would take place, although it noted that Bob Comfort’s screenplay remained set in San Diego. One week later, a 3 Feb 1990 Screen International news brief noted that filmmakers had decided to ... More Less

       Various contemporary sources refer to the picture as Dog Fight, rather than the correct single-word title, Dogfight.
       Producer Peter Newman recalled reading Bob Comfort’s screenplay in 1986, according to a 22 Jul 1990 LAT article, and he was “immediately” motivated to see the script become a motion picture. Casting the overweight “Rose,” however, proved to be a challenge. Over several years, more than 500 women auditioned, but few possessed both the physical traits and emotional depth required for the part. The role was still unfilled when the 25 Feb 1988 DV article announced that production on the Atlantic Entertainment picture would begin on 12 May 1988. Various contemporary sources confirmed that Michael Dinner would direct, with Peter Newman and Lewis Allen producing.
       On 10 Jul 1988, the LAT reported that actor John Cusack had been cast in the role of “Birdlace.” Three months later, a 26 Oct 1988 Var news brief announced that actor Kevin Anderson had also signed on to the picture, now under the Cineplex Odeon banner. Up to this date, contemporary sources indicated that filming would take place in San Diego, CA.
       Over a year later, on 27 Jan 1990, Screen International announced that director Nancy Savoca was slated to helm Dogfight for Warner Bros. Pictures. Peter Newman and Lewis Allen remained on the project as producers. The news item did not indicate where filming would take place, although it noted that Bob Comfort’s screenplay remained set in San Diego. One week later, a 3 Feb 1990 Screen International news brief noted that filmmakers had decided to shoot the movie in Seattle, WA.
       Screen International news briefs on 3 Feb and 17 Mar 1990 reported casting updates: Actor River Phoenix would play “Birdlace,” replacing John Cusack, with actress Lily Taylor co-starring as “Rose.” Production notes in AMPAS library files indicate that the actress gained twelve pounds for the part. In addition, she wore body padding during production. Director Nancy Savoca recalled being “really pleased” with how Taylor embodied the role of Rose, both physically and emotionally.
       According to a 24 Apr 1990 HR production chart, principal photography began on 2 May 1990 in Seattle, WA. Savoca’s husband, Richard Guay, had by this time replaced Lewis Allen as producer. Although actor Kevin Anderson was still listed among the cast, he does not appear in the film.
       Production notes state that filming took place in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, which was intended to represent a bohemian neighborhood in San Francisco, CA. The streets of Ballard felt almost like a backlot to cast and crew, though one contemporary review noted that the Seattle locale presented a “strangely underpopulated” version of San Francisco. One key scene required a more authentic look, which filmmakers achieved by spending three days in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. There, Beat Generation landmarks such as Vesuvio Cafe, City Lights Bookstore, and the intervening Jack Kerouac Alley served as the backdrop to Rose and Eddie’s argument.
       On 6 Jul 1990, HR announced that filming had ended. Although filmmakers anticipated a Dec 1990 premiere, the film did not screen until 30 Aug 1991 at the Telluride Film Festival. In a 5 Oct 1991 ^LAT article, director Nancy Savoca alluded to tensions with Warner Bros. during the post-production process. The studio, hoping for a “teen movie” with an MPAA rating of “PG” asked for changes to the picture and score, and urged Savoca to shoot a new ending. The director held firm to her vision, insisting on making “the picture I wanted to make.” Following a presentation at the Boston Film Festival in early Sep 1991, Dogfight opened in New York on 13 Sep 1991. Reviews were mixed, with Kenneth Turan’s 27 Sep 1991 LAT review suggesting that the picture might have been “perfectly satisfying” as two “self-contained” short films. Taylor’s performance, however, was praised as “exceptional.”
      End credits include the following acknowledgments: “Jazz radio clip courtesy KJAZ of San Francisco; [John F.] Kennedy clip courtesy NBC news archives; ‘The Immoral Mr. Teas’ clip courtesy Russ Meyer”; “Thank you: The City of Seattle; Washington State Film Commission; Sailors Union of the Pacific.” End credits conclude with the statement: “Developed with the assistance of the Sundance Institute.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1988
p. 1, 35.
Daily Variety
24 Jun 1991.
---
Daily Variety
3 Sep 1991
p. 2, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jul 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Sep 1991
p. 12, 50.
Los Angeles Times
10 Jul 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Jul 1990.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 Sep 1991
p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
5 Oct 1991
Section F, p. 1, 3.
New York Times
13 Sep 1991
Section C, p. 13.
Screen International
27 Jan 1990.
---
Screen International
3 Feb 1990.
---
Screen International
17 Mar 1990.
---
Variety
26 Oct 1988.
---
Variety
16 Sep 1991
pp. 86-87.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Warner Bros. presents
a Peter Newman production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
and
Prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
3d asst cam
Gaffer
Best boy elec
Rigging gaffer
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept asst
Art dept asst
Art dir, Chinatown segment
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Post prod supv
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Set dec
Leadman
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Standby painter
Const coord
Const foreman
Prop master
Asst props
Asst props
Set dec, Chinatown segment
Set dec, Chinatown segment
Const coord, Chinatown segment
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Cost supv
MUSIC
Orig mus comp by
Asst mus supv
Mus supv
Folk music resource
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Re-rec eng
Supv sd ed
Asst sd ed
ADR ed
ADR asst
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and optical effects by
MAKEUP
Key makeup
Asst makeup
Key hair
Makeup spec eff
Makeup spec eff
Makeup spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Seattle casting
Seattle casting
Seattle casting
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Prod office coord
Asst office coord
Prod secretary
Prod auditor
Asst auditor
Unit pub
Asst to Ms. Savoca/Mr. Guay
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation
Craft services
Caterer
First aid
Military consultant
Asst military consultant
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"The Oogum Boogum Song," written by Alfred J. Smith, published by Bonnyview Music Corp., performed by Brenton Wood, courtesy of Original Sound Records Co., Inc.
"Turkey Trot," written by Gerry Goffin and Jack Keller, used by permission of Screen-Gems EMI Music Inc., performed by Little Eva, courtesy of Rhino Records, Inc.
"Twist, Twist Señora," written by Frank Guida, Gene Barge and Joseph Royster, published by Rockmasters International Network, performed by Gary U.S. Bonds, courtesy of Legrand Records/F. Guida Productions by arrangement with Original Sound Entertainment
+
SONGS
"The Oogum Boogum Song," written by Alfred J. Smith, published by Bonnyview Music Corp., performed by Brenton Wood, courtesy of Original Sound Records Co., Inc.
"Turkey Trot," written by Gerry Goffin and Jack Keller, used by permission of Screen-Gems EMI Music Inc., performed by Little Eva, courtesy of Rhino Records, Inc.
"Twist, Twist Señora," written by Frank Guida, Gene Barge and Joseph Royster, published by Rockmasters International Network, performed by Gary U.S. Bonds, courtesy of Legrand Records/F. Guida Productions by arrangement with Original Sound Entertainment
"Night Train," written by Jimmy Forrest, Oscar D. Washington and Lewis Simpkins, used by arrangement with Frederick Music Company, performed by The Rumblers, courtesy of MCA Records
"What Have They Done To The Rain," written by Malvina Reynolds, published by Schroder Music Co.
"Hey Liley, Liley Lo (Married Man Gonna Keep Your Secret) (Hey Lolly Lolly)," written by Alan Lomax and Elizabeth Austin, published by Tro-Ludlow Music, Inc., performed by Woody Guthrie, courtesy of Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc.
"Sugar Shack," written by K. McCormick and F. Voss, published by Dundee Music (Clovis, N.M.), performed by Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs, courtesy of Norman Petty Studios (Clovis, N.M.)
"The Nitty Gritty," written by Lincoln Chase, published by Al Gallico Music Corp., performed by Shirley Ellis, courtesy of MCA Records
"Travelin' Man," written by Jerry Fuller, published by Acuff-Rose Music Inc., performed by Ricky Nelson, courtesy of EMI, a division of Capitol Records, Inc. by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"Since I Fell For You," written by B. Johnson, performed by Lenny Welch, published by Warner Bros, Inc., courtesy of Columbia Records by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
"Easier Said Than Done," written by William B. Linton and Larry F. Huff, published by Windswept Pacific Entertainment Co., d.b.a. Longitude Music Co., performed by The Essex, courtesy of Rhino Records, Inc.
"Party Lights," written by Claudine Clark, published by Music Corporation of America, Inc., performed by Claudine Clark, courtesy of Chancellor Records Inc. by arrangement with Celebrity Licensing Inc.
"The Bird's The Word," written by Al Frazier, Carl White, John Harris and Turner Wilson, Jr., used by permission of Beechwood Music Corp., performed by The Rivingtons, courtesy of EMI, a division of Capitol Records, Inc. by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"Silver Dagger (traditional)," performed by Joan Baez, courtesy of Vanguard Records, a Welk Music Group Co. by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"Smoky Places," written by Abner Spector, published by Bonnyview Music Corp., performed by The Corsairs, courtesy of Original Sound Records Co., Inc.
"Wimoweh (Mbube)," words and music by Solomon Linda, additional words and music by Paul Campbell, published by Tro-Folkways Music Publishers, Inc., performed by The Weavers, courtesy of Vanguard Records, a Welk Music Group Co. by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"Guitar Highway," written by Brownie McGhee, published by Stormking Music, Inc., performed by Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry, courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Records
"Good Morning Little School Girl," written by Sonny Boy Williamson, published by ARC Music Corp., performed by Muddy Waters, courtesy of MCA Records
"Let Me In," written by Yvonne Baker, published by ARC Music Corp. and Dandelion Music, Inc., performed by The Sensations, courtesy of MCA Records
"Would You Care," written by Chas. K. Harris, published by Chas. K. Harris Music Publishing Co., Inc.
"Let Me Call You Sweetheart," written by Leo Friedman and Beth Slater Whitson, published by Shawnee Press, Inc. and Shapiro, Bernstein & Co., Inc.
"Shake Sugaree," written by Elizabeth Cotten published by Stormking Music, Inc., performed by Elizabeth Cotten, courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Records
"Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," written by Bob Dylan, published by Dwarf Music and Warner Bros. Inc., performed by Bob Dylan, courtesy of Columbia Records by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
"We Shall Overcome," written by Zilphia Horton, Guy Carawan, Frank Hamilton and Pete Seeger, published by Tro-Ludlow Music, Inc., performed by Pete Seeger, courtesy of Columbia Records by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
"T. B. Sheets," written by Van Morrison, published by Songs of Polygram International, Inc., performed by Van Morrison, courtesy of Columbia Records by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
"Groovin'," written by Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati, Jr., used by permission of Purple Records Dist. Corp., Fun City Music Corp. and Delicious Apple Music Corp., performed by The Rascals, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp. by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"Sunflower River Blues," written by John Fahey, published by Tortoise Music, performed by John Fahey, courtesy of Shanachie Records Corp. and Folklore Prods., Inc.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 September 1991
Premiere Information:
Telluride Film Festival screening: 30 August 1991
New York opening: 13 September 1991
Los Angeles opening: 27 September 1991
Production Date:
2 May--early July 1990
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
14 February 1992
Copyright Number:
PA557323
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Duration(in mins):
95
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30963
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On November 21, 1963, a group of young Marines take a bus to San Francisco, California. Marines Birdlace, Burzin, Okie, and Benjamin, wager money on who can find the homeliest date by evening. They part ways and spend the afternoon wooing various unattractive young women. Exasperated at not having found a suitable girl, Corporal Edward “Eddie” Baines Birdlace enters Rose’s Coffee Shop, where he meets Rose Fenny, a frumpy waitress with a passion for folk music. He attempts to impress her with his knowledge of folk singers, but she is unconvinced by the falsehoods he tries to pass off as facts. When Eddie invites her to a party that evening, the shy girl says she cannot go. Moments later, she changes her mind, asking Eddie to wait outside while she changes clothes. Rose is dismayed when several of the dresses in her closet turn out to be too small for her plump figure. She settles on wearing a matronly yellow dress and rejoins Eddie on the sidewalk. As they walk to the party, the idealistic Rose tells the Marine about her desire to join the Peace Corps. However, Eddie is too distracted to listen to her small talk. Before entering the nightclub, he encourages her to apply more of her garish-colored lipstick. Inside, Eddie introduces his unwitting date to Burzin, Okie, and Benjamin, who present their less-than-glamorous female companions. After several rounds of drinks, they all go to the dance floor, where three senior officers surreptitiously rank each woman. Burzin’s date, Marcie, who has no teeth, wins the pool of money. Just then, Rose gets sick to her stomach and rushes to the restroom. There, Marcie informs the naïve ... +


On November 21, 1963, a group of young Marines take a bus to San Francisco, California. Marines Birdlace, Burzin, Okie, and Benjamin, wager money on who can find the homeliest date by evening. They part ways and spend the afternoon wooing various unattractive young women. Exasperated at not having found a suitable girl, Corporal Edward “Eddie” Baines Birdlace enters Rose’s Coffee Shop, where he meets Rose Fenny, a frumpy waitress with a passion for folk music. He attempts to impress her with his knowledge of folk singers, but she is unconvinced by the falsehoods he tries to pass off as facts. When Eddie invites her to a party that evening, the shy girl says she cannot go. Moments later, she changes her mind, asking Eddie to wait outside while she changes clothes. Rose is dismayed when several of the dresses in her closet turn out to be too small for her plump figure. She settles on wearing a matronly yellow dress and rejoins Eddie on the sidewalk. As they walk to the party, the idealistic Rose tells the Marine about her desire to join the Peace Corps. However, Eddie is too distracted to listen to her small talk. Before entering the nightclub, he encourages her to apply more of her garish-colored lipstick. Inside, Eddie introduces his unwitting date to Burzin, Okie, and Benjamin, who present their less-than-glamorous female companions. After several rounds of drinks, they all go to the dance floor, where three senior officers surreptitiously rank each woman. Burzin’s date, Marcie, who has no teeth, wins the pool of money. Just then, Rose gets sick to her stomach and rushes to the restroom. There, Marcie informs the naïve waitress that they are participants in a “dogfight,” a contest between the Marines involving girls who are short on looks. Horrified, Rose confronts her date, slapping him across the face and calling him a liar. Eddie is speechless as she storms out of the bar. Rose returns home and listens to folk music records, until the sound of a barking dog alerts her to activity in the backyard. She goes to the window, surprised to see a note from Eddie pressed against the glass. Rose meets the Marine in front of the coffee shop, where he apologizes for the evening’s events. He insists on taking Rose out for a proper dinner, and she warily accepts. The two take a cable car downtown and attempt to get a table at the Ritz-Carlton, but the maître d’ turns them away. Rose takes her date to a second-hand shop, waking the shopkeepers and pleading with them to sell Eddie a jacket. They return to the Ritz-Carlton, and the chagrined maître d’ seats them in the restaurant. Rose reprimands Eddie when he continues to antagonize the host. The Marine says he deserves to be shown respect, but Rose disapproves. After an elegant meal, they walk through San Francisco, and Eddie confesses that he is leaving for Vietnam in the morning. Rose is disappointed and insists on showing him her favorite café in North Beach. As they walk through Chinatown, she argues that music is more politically persuasive than war, citing the protest song, “We Shall Overcome,” as an example. Eddie says he knows the song because Berzin parodies it. Rose expresses her disgust with Berzin, explaining that he bribed the toothless Marcie to be his date by sharing half his winnings with her. Eddie asks Rose not to be mad, and the couple continues to the café, which is closing for the evening. Onstage, Rose shares her dream of writing her own songs and performing as a folk singer. At Eddie’s encouragement, she sings a song, accompanying herself on piano. Afterward, they visit an arcade, where Eddie shows Rose a room full of old player pianos and mechanical music-making machines. Amidst the din of overlapping tunes, they dance and begin kissing. Meanwhile, Eddie’s buddies carouse through North Beach, getting their arms tattooed and paying a prostitute for sexual favors. Eddie walks Rose home, and the young woman invites him up to her room. After an intimate evening together, Eddie leaves at dawn. He meets his buddies at the bus station. They want to know all the details of his evening, but, rather than telling the truth, Eddie fabricates a racy story. When Okie and Benjamin fall asleep, Eddie accuses Burzin of fixing the dogfight. Burzin admits to paying off his date, before telling his friend that he saw him with Rose in Chinatown. The two Marines agree to cover for each other’s lies. That afternoon, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is announced on television. Three years later, Birdlace, Burzin, Okie, and Benjamin play cards at a makeshift camp in South Vietnam. Suddenly, bombs begin exploding around them. Benjamin is killed instantly, while Eddie Birdlace suffers a severe leg wound. Sometime later, Eddie takes a bus to San Francisco, limping as he walks through downtown to Rose’s Coffee Shop. He goes into a bar across the street, where the bartender shows kindness to the discharged soldier. From the window, Eddie sees Rose talking to customers in front of the coffee shop. By the time he walks over to the café, it is closed for the day. However, the door is ajar, and he steps inside, much to the astonishment of the bohemian waitress. Tears fill Eddie and Rose’s eyes as they embrace. +

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

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