Working Girl (1988)

R | 110 mins | Romantic comedy | 21 December 1988

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HISTORY

       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the idea for Working Girl came in 1984, when writer Kevin Wade and producer Douglas Wick were in New York City together and noticed throngs of career women who commuted to their jobs in tennis shoes while carrying their high heels. According to a 17 Dec 1988 LAT article, actress Melanie Griffith read the script a year and a half before director Mike Nichols was hired, and although she immediately expressed interest in the role of “Tess McGill,” it was not until Nichols had signed on that the actress was able to audition. Nichols, who read the script and agreed to direct while in Fort Smith, AK, filming Biloxi Blues (1988, see entry), fought for Griffith to be cast and claimed he would not work on the film without her. Griffith was given the role only after Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver came onto the project, giving Twentieth Century Fox the “insurance” of two better-known box-office stars.
       To prepare for their roles as Wall Street businesswomen, Griffith and Weaver spent time in New York brokerage firms, sitting in on meetings and shadowing executives. While Griffith met with mergers and acquisitions employees at Bear Stearns & Co., the Apr 1988 issue of Manhattan, Inc. stated that Weaver studied under portfolio manager, Elaine Garzarelli, at the Manhattan firm of Shearson, Drexel. Although he does not receive onscreen credit, the 17 Dec 1988 LAT noted that Bear Stearns Vice President Liam Dalton served as a technical adviser on the film, and was also the model for Charlie Sheen’s character in the 1987 ... More Less

       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the idea for Working Girl came in 1984, when writer Kevin Wade and producer Douglas Wick were in New York City together and noticed throngs of career women who commuted to their jobs in tennis shoes while carrying their high heels. According to a 17 Dec 1988 LAT article, actress Melanie Griffith read the script a year and a half before director Mike Nichols was hired, and although she immediately expressed interest in the role of “Tess McGill,” it was not until Nichols had signed on that the actress was able to audition. Nichols, who read the script and agreed to direct while in Fort Smith, AK, filming Biloxi Blues (1988, see entry), fought for Griffith to be cast and claimed he would not work on the film without her. Griffith was given the role only after Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver came onto the project, giving Twentieth Century Fox the “insurance” of two better-known box-office stars.
       To prepare for their roles as Wall Street businesswomen, Griffith and Weaver spent time in New York brokerage firms, sitting in on meetings and shadowing executives. While Griffith met with mergers and acquisitions employees at Bear Stearns & Co., the Apr 1988 issue of Manhattan, Inc. stated that Weaver studied under portfolio manager, Elaine Garzarelli, at the Manhattan firm of Shearson, Drexel. Although he does not receive onscreen credit, the 17 Dec 1988 LAT noted that Bear Stearns Vice President Liam Dalton served as a technical adviser on the film, and was also the model for Charlie Sheen’s character in the 1987 film Wall Street (see entry).
       Principal photography began 16 Feb 1988, as noted in 8 Mar 1988 HR production charts. Filming took place entirely in New York City, with the exception of a half-day shoot in New Jersey, where the skiing sequence was filmed. Four different buildings were used to portray the offices of Petty Marsh: 1 State Street Plaza, where the secretarial pool was constructed on the building’s empty twenty-first floor; the Midday Club, which stood in for the company’s club room; the lobby of 7 World Trade Center; and the reading floor at L. F. Rothschild. The U.S. Customs House doubled as Trask Industries’ office, and two mansions on Fifth Avenue served as the site for Trask’s daughter’s wedding, including the Carnegie mansion (home to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum) and the 1904 Burden Mansion. A 19th century private residence on Irving Place doubled as “Katharine Parker’s” townhouse. Filming ended 27 Apr 1988, with a final sequence shot on the Staten Island Ferry.
       An item in the 8 Dec 1988 HR stated that Twentieth Century Fox’s promotions included mailings of pencils and buttons to 15,000 secretaries in thirty major cities, including U.S. President-elect George H. W. Bush’s secretary, and administrative assistants at the major Hollywood studios and the offices of the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Bank of America, and Donald Trump. The promotional buttons read: “Working Girl – There’s more to life than smiling, filing, and dialing.” HR also noted that a Christmas-themed premiere was set to take place 19 Dec 1988 at Fox studios.
       Critical reception was generally positive, with consistent praise going to Melanie Griffith’s performance. Carly Simon’s song “Let The River Run” received an Academy Award for Music (Original Song), and the film received the following Academy Award nominations: Actress in a Leading Role (Melanie Griffith); Actress in a Supporting Role (Joan Cusack); Actress in a Supporting Role (Sigourney Weaver); Directing; and Best Picture. Carly Simon’s Academy Award win helped boost soundtrack sales “more than 100% in some areas,” according to a 14 Apr 1989 DV news item, and box-office receipts increased by forty percent in the first weekend of Apr 1989, as stated in the 4 Apr 1989 LAT, bringing the box-office gross to $58 million.
       According to a 7 Mar 1990 DV item, Patricia Cheryl Everett filed a lawsuit against Twentieth Century Fox, claiming the studio stole her idea for the script after reading a screenplay submitted by her agent in 1987. Alleging that Working Girl bore striking similarities to her work, Everett sought $50,000 for the script, $250,000 for the “lost screen credit,” and $5 million in punitive damages. A 12 Mar 1990 LAT item stated that the studio denied the claim. The outcome of the lawsuit could not be determined as of the writing of this Note.
       A 10 Apr 1989 LAT news brief reported that the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) had ordered thirteen episodes of a television sitcom based on Working Girl, produced by Patchett-Kaufman Entertainment. Although Nancy McKeon was set to play “Tess McGill,” she was replaced by Sandra Bullock. The show, also titled Working Girl, aired on NBC 16 Apr--30 Jul 1990.
       Working Girl ranks #87 on AFI's list of 100 Most Inspiring Films of All Time.
      End credits include the following statement: “The producers wish to thank the following for their assistance: New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development, Jaynne Keyes, Deputy Commissioner; New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, Pat Scott, Director; Pat Birch; Computer/Video Displays Engineered by David Satin/SMA Video Inc.; Computer Images Designed by Tony Sabatini; 7 World Trade Center, Silverstein Properties, Inc.; Arenson Office Furnishings, Inc.; L.F. Rothschild & Co., Inc.; “Daily News” Masthead and People Page, New York News, Inc.; Blackcomb Mountain; Vernon Valley Great Gorge Ski Resort; St. Thomas Boys Choir; Elan Monark; Cartier; WOR Broadcasting.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
14 Apr 1989
p. 1, 36.
Daily Variety
7 Mar 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 1988
p. 24.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1988
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
21 Dec 1988
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
4 Apr 1989
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
10 Apr 1989.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 Mar 1990
Section D, p. 2.
Manhattan, Inc.
April 1988.
---
New York Times
21 Dec 1988
p. 22.
Variety
14 Dec 1988
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Mike Nichols Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Cam trainee
Video playback
Gaffer
Key grip
Best boy elec
Best boy grip
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
Asst ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
2d set dresser
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Master scenic artist
Standby scenic artist
Const coord
Chief const grip
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Women's ward
Men's ward
Ward shopper
Ward shopper
MUSIC
Scored by
Asst mus ed
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Cableman
Supv sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Rerec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opticals and titles by
Opticals and titles by
Opticals and titles by
MAKEUP
Hair/Makeup by
Hair stylist
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Assoc, Casting
Asst unit prod mgr
Prod supv
Prod coord
Prod auditor
Asst prod auditor
Scr supv
Asst prod coord
Asst to Mike Nichols
Asst to Mike Nichols
Asst to Robert Greenhut
Asst to Douglas Wick
Loc mgr
Loc asst
Loc asst
Loc asst
Studio mgr
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Post prod facilities by
Unit pub
Addl casting
Addl casting
Helicopter pilot
Wescam aerial op
Gyrosphere aerial op
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Craft services
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
"I'm So Excited," written by Anita & Ruth & June Pointer and Trevor Lawrence, performed by The Pointer Sisters, courtesy of RCA Records
"The Lady In Red," written and performed by Chris DeBurgh, courtesy of A&M Records
"Straight From The Heart," written by Greg C. Jackson, performed by The Gap Band, courtesy of Total Experience Records/Lonnie Simmons
+
SONGS
"I'm So Excited," written by Anita & Ruth & June Pointer and Trevor Lawrence, performed by The Pointer Sisters, courtesy of RCA Records
"The Lady In Red," written and performed by Chris DeBurgh, courtesy of A&M Records
"Straight From The Heart," written by Greg C. Jackson, performed by The Gap Band, courtesy of Total Experience Records/Lonnie Simmons
"St. Thomas," written by Sonny Rollins
"Isn't It Romantic," written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
"The Man That Got Away," written by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin
"Poor Butterfly," written by John Golden and Raymond Hubbell.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 December 1988
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 December 1988
Production Date:
16 February--27 April 1988 in New York City
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
25 January 1989
Copyright Number:
PA399471
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Prints
Prints by DeLuxe®
Duration(in mins):
110
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29266
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In New York City, secretary Tess McGill takes the Staten Island Ferry on her way to work at Petty Marsh, a Wall Street financial firm. During the ferry ride, Tess’s friend Cyn presents her with a cupcake for her thirtieth birthday and asks about her plans. In addition to work, Tess says she has a speech class and an emerging markets seminar. She guesses correctly that a surprise birthday party has been arranged for her and agrees to be home by 7:15 p.m. At her desk, Tess changes out of the tennis shoes she wears for commuting and into high heels. She becomes despondent when she learns she has been rejected, yet again, by the company’s “entrée program,” but David Lutz, her superior, suggests she meet with his friend, Bob Speck, who works in the company’s arbitrage department. Tess agrees to the meeting, but when Speck picks her up in a limousine and snorts cocaine in the backseat, Tess realizes he intends to have a sexual tryst and nothing more. Back at Petty Marsh, she complains to the personnel director, Ruth, who discourages Tess’s ambition but offers her one last chance in the mergers and acquisitions department. Tess meets her new boss, Katharine Parker, and is surprised to find that Parker is a few months younger than her. As she goes over some ground rules, Parker tells Tess to dress impeccably and suggests she wear less jewelry. Parker claims she is open to new ideas, so Tess comes to her one morning with a proposal for one of their clients, Trask Industries. Although Trask has been attempting to acquire television stations, Tess suggests they should look into radio ... +


In New York City, secretary Tess McGill takes the Staten Island Ferry on her way to work at Petty Marsh, a Wall Street financial firm. During the ferry ride, Tess’s friend Cyn presents her with a cupcake for her thirtieth birthday and asks about her plans. In addition to work, Tess says she has a speech class and an emerging markets seminar. She guesses correctly that a surprise birthday party has been arranged for her and agrees to be home by 7:15 p.m. At her desk, Tess changes out of the tennis shoes she wears for commuting and into high heels. She becomes despondent when she learns she has been rejected, yet again, by the company’s “entrée program,” but David Lutz, her superior, suggests she meet with his friend, Bob Speck, who works in the company’s arbitrage department. Tess agrees to the meeting, but when Speck picks her up in a limousine and snorts cocaine in the backseat, Tess realizes he intends to have a sexual tryst and nothing more. Back at Petty Marsh, she complains to the personnel director, Ruth, who discourages Tess’s ambition but offers her one last chance in the mergers and acquisitions department. Tess meets her new boss, Katharine Parker, and is surprised to find that Parker is a few months younger than her. As she goes over some ground rules, Parker tells Tess to dress impeccably and suggests she wear less jewelry. Parker claims she is open to new ideas, so Tess comes to her one morning with a proposal for one of their clients, Trask Industries. Although Trask has been attempting to acquire television stations, Tess suggests they should look into radio networks instead. She explains that owning radio stations would protect the company from being acquired by a foreign competitor because the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) forbids foreign ownership of U.S. radio entities. Parker likes the idea, and Tess suggests it might help her get into the entrée program if Parker supports it. When Parker agrees, Tess excitedly relays the news to her live-in boyfriend, Mick Dugan. The next day, Parker prepares to leave for a ski trip in the Alps and tells Tess she is expecting a marriage proposal from her boyfriend on the trip. Tess asks what she will do if he does not propose, but Parker argues that she makes things happen in her life and recommends that Tess do the same. Before she leaves, Parker informs Tess that Trask Industries did not respond well to her radio idea. Soon after, Parker breaks her leg on the ski slopes. She calls Tess from the hospital and asks her to take care of her house plants and mail for the next few weeks while she recuperates. Tess goes to the apartment and finds Parker’s tape recorder on her desk. Using the recorded messages to practice her speech, Tess discovers a dictated letter Parker planned to send to Jack Trainer at a company called Dewey Stone about the Trask radio acquisition. Although she has not sent the letter yet, Parker is planning to implement Tess’s idea without her knowledge. Dejected, Tess returns home to find Mick in bed with another woman. After sleeping at Parker’s apartment, Tess calls Jack Trainer and pretends to be an executive so that she can propose her idea for Trask Industries herself. Once the meeting is set up, Tess asks Cyn to cut her hair shorter and dons one of Parker’s expensive cocktail dresses for a Dewey Stone company party, where Tess hopes to have a casual run-in with Jack before their meeting. However, when Jack flirts with her at the bar and Tess asks where she can find “Jack Trainer,” he does not reveal his identity and says that “Jack” already left. Jack encourages her to have a drink with him, and Tess becomes inebriated after one shot of tequila because she took an antihistamine before the party. Seeing her colleagues from Petty Marsh, Tess flees and Jack follows her into a taxicab. She is too drunk to recall Parker’s address, so he takes her back to his apartment. Tess awakes in Jack’s bed the next morning and sneaks out. Later that day, she goes to her meeting at Dewey Stone and becomes flustered when she recognizes Jack from the night before. Tess proposes her idea for Trask, but Jack’s colleague, John Romano, rejects it. That afternoon, Tess tells Cyn that she botched her proposal, but Jack shows up to Petty Marsh, saying he wants to work together and has already found the ideal acquisition target – the family-owned Metro Radio Network. He asks her out to dinner, but Tess says she does not want to get romantically involved as long as they are working together. At Cyn’s engagement party, Mick attempts to make up with Tess and proposes to her in front of their friends. Tess responds with “Maybe,” prompting Mick to storm out and break up with her. The next day, Cyn comes to Tess’s office, begging her to give Mick another chance. Distracted, Tess wonders aloud if she could meet Oren Trask, the head of Trask Industries, by attending his daughter’s wedding, uninvited. They are interrupted by a call from Katharine Parker, who announces plans to return in a week. Later, Tess tells Jack she is going to meet with Oren Trask, but when he accompanies her, he discovers her scheme to infiltrate his daughter’s wedding reception. On the dance floor, Jack helps Tess approach Trask, switching dance partners with him. Tess introduces herself as a Petty Marsh associate and pitches her idea for a radio acquisition, and Trask agrees to meet with her the following week. The morning of their meeting at Trask’s office, Tess and Jack learn that another company has made an offer to buy Metro Radio Network. However, Tess argues that Metro is a family-oriented company and says its owner, Mr. Armbrister, would rather sell to Trask. She promises Armbrister will meet with him in person the next day. Back at his apartment, Jack and Tess and make love. Afterward, she starts to reveal her real job, but a phone call interrupts. Jack admits the call was from a girl friend with whom he plans to break up. When he mentions that the woman recently broke her leg on a ski trip, Tess realizes the girl friend is her boss, Katharine Parker, and rushes out. The next day, Parker returns home and instructs Tess to perform the menial tasks of carrying her luggage and picking up her prescriptions. When Jack comes to the apartment, Tess hides and overhears as he attempts to break up with Parker. Tess accidentally leaves her notebook on the bed, and Parker reads it after she leaves, discovering Jack’s phone number and notes about her next meeting with Trask. Livid, Parker barges into the meeting just after Armbrister accepts Trask’s offer of $68.5 million for his company. Identifying Tess as her assistant, Parker claims Tess stole her idea and feigns a fainting spell. Tess apologizes to everyone and leaves. The next week, Tess goes to Petty Marsh to pack up her desk. On the way out, she sees Jack and Parker enter the lobby with Trask. When Jack refuses to board the elevator with Parker and Trask unless Tess comes along, Trask is persuaded to join Jack and Tess in another elevator. Tess shows Trask her old files with the newspaper clippings that inspired her idea. When they arrive outside Parker’s office, Trask asks Parker how she came up with the idea, and Parker becomes flustered and says she cannot recall. Trask announces that he plans to have Parker fired and asks Tess to work for him. The next morning, Jack helps Tess get ready for her first day of work for Trask and presents her with a monogrammed lunch box. Tess finds her desk outside an office and sits down. However, her assistant, Alice Baxter, informs Tess that the office is hers. Thrilled, Tess calls Cyn from her new office to share the good news. +

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

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