The Distinguished Gentleman (1992)

R | 112 mins | Comedy | 4 December 1992

Director:

Jonathan Lynn

Cinematographer:

Gabriel Beristain

Production Designer:

Leslie Dilley

Production Company:

Hollywood Pictures
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HISTORY

Shortly after his production company moved to Walt Disney Studios, producer Leonard Goldberg was given an early draft of Marty Kaplan’s script, as stated in a 30 Nov 1992 HR “Hollywood Report” column. Goldberg then met with Kaplan on the project, often referred to as a reversal of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939, see entry), and the two agreed to work together. A 16 Oct 1991 NYT article noted that Kaplan had insider knowledge of Washington, D.C., based on his experience as a staffer for Vice President Walter F. Mondale, and as Mondale’s chief speechwriter during his 1984 Presidential campaign. Kaplan transitioned to Hollywood in 1985, beginning as an executive at Disney.
       Goldberg envisioned The Distinguished Gentleman as a star vehicle for actor-comedian Eddie Murphy, and Walt Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was a friend of Murphy’s, offered him the role. A 16 Oct 1991 HR news brief confirmed Murphy’s casting, and noted that The Distinguished Gentleman marked the one project Murphy was allowed to do outside his otherwise exclusive deal with Paramount Pictures. Filming was scheduled to begin in Apr 1992.
       Although a 17 Jan 1992 Screen International item reported that Curtis Hanson would direct, no further mention of Hanson was found in AMPAS library production clippings. Ten days after the Screen International announcement, the 27 Jan 1992 DV stated that Jonathan Lynn was on board to direct.
       According to a 4 May 1992 Newsday item, principal photography was set to begin the following week. However, production notes stated that filming commenced two days later on ... More Less

Shortly after his production company moved to Walt Disney Studios, producer Leonard Goldberg was given an early draft of Marty Kaplan’s script, as stated in a 30 Nov 1992 HR “Hollywood Report” column. Goldberg then met with Kaplan on the project, often referred to as a reversal of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939, see entry), and the two agreed to work together. A 16 Oct 1991 NYT article noted that Kaplan had insider knowledge of Washington, D.C., based on his experience as a staffer for Vice President Walter F. Mondale, and as Mondale’s chief speechwriter during his 1984 Presidential campaign. Kaplan transitioned to Hollywood in 1985, beginning as an executive at Disney.
       Goldberg envisioned The Distinguished Gentleman as a star vehicle for actor-comedian Eddie Murphy, and Walt Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was a friend of Murphy’s, offered him the role. A 16 Oct 1991 HR news brief confirmed Murphy’s casting, and noted that The Distinguished Gentleman marked the one project Murphy was allowed to do outside his otherwise exclusive deal with Paramount Pictures. Filming was scheduled to begin in Apr 1992.
       Although a 17 Jan 1992 Screen International item reported that Curtis Hanson would direct, no further mention of Hanson was found in AMPAS library production clippings. Ten days after the Screen International announcement, the 27 Jan 1992 DV stated that Jonathan Lynn was on board to direct.
       According to a 4 May 1992 Newsday item, principal photography was set to begin the following week. However, production notes stated that filming commenced two days later on 6 May 1992, in Washington, D.C., where locations included: exteriors of the Capitol building; the lobby of the Daughters of the American Revolution building, which stood in for the “Senator’s Lobby off the floor of the House of Representatives”; the U.S. Treasury Building, in which offices doubled as Capitol offices; the Jefferson Memorial; the Washington Monument; the Mall at Capitol Hill; Union Station; and the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street, where an action sequence was shot. Filming also took place in Harrisburg, PA, and at Baltimore, MD’s Clarence Mitchell Courthouse, which doubled for the Arts and Caucus Room, and Baltimore’s U.S. Customs House, where interiors for the Cannon House Office Building were shot. After filming on the east coast wrapped, production moved to Warner Hollywood Studios in Los Angeles, CA. There, eight sets took ten weeks to build, including Capitol offices, a men’s sauna, Cannon Building offices, and Thomas’s apartment. A 27 May 1992 DV item stated that filming would continue through Jul 1992.
       On 25 May 1992, Murphy was excused from the set to shoot a new ending for Paramount’s Boomerang (1992, see entry).
       According to a 13 Dec 1992 LAT article, Kaplan added the “cancer cluster” plot point after reading a series of articles by Paul Brodeur, published in the New Yorker, which Brodeur later expanded upon in his 1989 book, Currents of Death.
       A 30 Nov 1992 premiere took place in New York City, according to the 2 Dec 1992 HR. A nationwide theatrical release followed on 4 Dec 1992, on over 1,600 screens, as stated in the 30 Nov 1992 HR.
       Critical reception was mixed. According to an article in the 28 May 1993 LAT, the film ultimately took in $46.5 million in domestic gross receipts.
       In a 15 Oct 2006 LAT article, Marty Kaplan recalled his attempts to arrange a special preview screening of the film for freshman members of Congress. Although Disney’s marketing department initially approved the idea, one of the studio’s Washington, D.C., liaisons did not. In turn, a preview screening was arranged for Speaker of the House Tom Foley, at a movie theater in Union Station. Foley disliked the film and nixed the idea of the screening for freshmen congressman. Although Kaplan and Lynn wanted to leak news of Tom Foley’s veto to the press, Disney refused.
       A 17 May 1992 Long Beach Press-Telegram item stated that Pennsylvania Representative Dwight Evans appears in the film as a background actor in a congressional party scene. Evans receives no onscreen credit.
       End credits include the following statement: “The producers wish to thank: The cities of Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Maryland, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; National Park Service, Fran Wigglesworth; Mayor’s Office of Motion Picture & TV Development (Washington, D.C.), Crystal Palmer, Director; Maryland Film Commission, Jay Schlossberg-Cohen; Pennsylvania Film Bureau, T. William Hanson, Director; Botany 500; Royal Worcester China.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
27 Jan 1992.
---
Daily Variety
27 May 1992.
---
Daily Variety
4 Dec 1992
p. 2, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 1992
p. 6.
Long Beach Press-Telegram
17 May 1992.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 Dec 1992
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1992
p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
28 May 1993
Section D, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
15 Oct 2006
Section M, p. 3.
New York Times
16 Oct 1991
Section C, p. 15.
New York Times
4 Dec 1992
p. 1.
Newsday
4 May 1992.
---
Screen International
17 Jan 1992.
---
Variety
7 Dec 1992
p. 71.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Hollywood Pictures Presents
In association with Touchwood Pacific Partners I
A Leonard Goldberg Production
A Jonathan Lynn Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Steadicam® op
Best boy elec
Rigging gaffer
Best boy grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Company grip
Company grip
Company grip
Company grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Still photog
Cam op
Cam op, Washington D.C. crew
1st asst cam, Washington D.C. crew
2d asst cam, Washington D.C. crew
Loader, Washington D.C. crew
Still photog, Washington D.C. crew
Generator op, Washington D.C. crew
Rigging gaffer, Washington D.C. crew
Best boy, Washington D.C. crew
Elec, Washington D.C. crew
Elec, Washington D.C. crew
Elec, Washington D.C. crew
Elec, Washington D.C. crew
Elec, Washington D.C. crew
Elec, Washington D.C. crew
Rigging grip, Washington D.C. crew
Best boy, Washington D.C. crew
Grip, Washington D.C. crew
Grip, Washington D.C. crew
Grip, Washington D.C. crew
Grip, Washington D.C. crew
Grip, Washington D.C. crew
Cranes & dollies by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
Illustrator
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
1st asst ed
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice film ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Asst set dec
Leadman
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Drapery
Set des
Set des
Set des
Const coord
Const foreman
Const foreman
Paint foreman
Standby painter
Greens foreman
Swing gang, Washington D.C. crew
Swing gang, Washington D.C. crew
Swing gang, Washington D.C. crew
Swing gang, Washington D.C. crew
Swing gang, Washington D.C. crew
Swing gang, Washington D.C. crew
Swing gang, Washington D.C. crew
Swing gang, Washington D.C. crew
Asst props, Washington D.C. crew
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Mr. Murphy's costumer
Men's costumer
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
Set costumer
Set costumer
Mr. Murphy's tailored clothing by
Ward asst, Washington D.C. crew
Ward asst, Washington D.C. crew
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus ed
Orch rec by
Orch contractor
Score rec at
SOUND
Boom op
Boom op
Utility sd
Post prod sd
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Digital dial ed
Digital dial ed
Supv ADR ed
ADR mixer
ADR group coord
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
Foley supv
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst dial ed
Asst dial ed
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Cableman, Washington D.C. crew
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Asst spec eff
Title des
Titles & opticals
Video displays by
Matte painting by
Matte artist
MAKEUP
Mr. Murphy's makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Addl makeup
Mr. Murphy's hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Los Angeles loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Asst prod coord
Prod accountant
1st asst accountant
Const auditor
Prod assoc
Prod assoc
Asst to Mr. Goldberg
Asst to Mr. Peyser
Asst to Mr. Lynn
Asst to Mr. Kaplan
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod office asst
Prod office asst
Prod office asst
Prod office asst
Prod office asst
Prod office asst
Prod office asst
Casting assoc
Studio teacher
Unit pub
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Cast asst
Cast asst
Driver
Craft service
Craft service
Craft service
Extras casting
Asst to Mr. Edelman
Personal mgr to Mr. Murphy, Eddie Murphy Productio
Creative asst, Eddie Murphy Productions staff
Exec asst to Mr. Murphy, Eddie Murphy Productions
Asst to Mr. Lipsky, Eddie Murphy Productions staff
Office prod asst, Eddie Murphy Productions staff
Personal prod asst, Eddie Murphy Productions staff
Personal prod asst, Eddie Murphy Productions staff
Personal prod asst, Eddie Murphy Productions staff
Personal prod asst, Eddie Murphy Productions staff
Security, Eddie Murphy Productions staff
Loc coord, Washington D.C. crew
Asst loc coord, Washington D.C. crew
Prod coord, Washington D.C. crew
Asst prod coord, Washington D.C. crew
Prod asst, Washington D.C. crew
Prod asst, Washington D.C. crew
Prod asst, Washington D.C. crew
Prod asst, Washington D.C. crew
Prod asst, Washington D.C. crew
Prod asst, Washington D.C. crew
Prod asst, Washington D.C. crew
Prod asst, Washington D.C. crew
Prod asst, Washington D.C. crew
Prod asst, Washington D.C. crew
Prod asst, Washington D.C. crew
Prod asst, Washington D.C. crew
Projectionist, Washington D.C. crew
Extras casting, Washington D.C. crew
Extras casting, Washington D.C. crew
Craft service, Washington D.C. crew
Craft service, Washington D.C. crew
First aid, Washington D.C. crew
First aid, Washington D.C. crew
Transportation capt (D.C.)
Transportation capt (Baltimore)
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Prod and distributed on
SOURCES
SONGS
"The Thunderer," written by John Philip Sousa
"Happy Days Are Here Again," written by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen
"Soul Trilogy III," written by Chuckii Booker and Derek "DOA" Allen, performed by Chuckii Booker, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
+
SONGS
"The Thunderer," written by John Philip Sousa
"Happy Days Are Here Again," written by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen
"Soul Trilogy III," written by Chuckii Booker and Derek "DOA" Allen, performed by Chuckii Booker, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"The Politics Of Love," written and performed by Phil Marshall.
+
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
4 December 1992
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 30 November 1992
Los Angeles and New York openings: 4 December 1992
Production Date:
6 May--July 1992
Copyright Claimant:
Hollywood Pictures Company, an accepted alt. of the Walt Disney Company
Copyright Date:
14 December 1992
Copyright Number:
PA583916
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Arriflex 35 cameras by Otto Nemenz
Prints
Prints by Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
112
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32185
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When Florida congressman Jeff Johnson dies in the midst of his re-election campaign, con artist Thomas Jefferson Johnson decides to shorten his name to “Jeff Johnson” and run for office. He uses leftover publicity materials from the dead congressman’s campaign, emblazoned with the slogan: “Jeff Johnson, the name you know.” Instead of collecting the necessary 5,625 signatures to get his name on the ballot, Johnson persuades the Silver Foxes, a senior citizen organization with third-party political status, to nominate him as their candidate. Johnson wins the vote by a slim margin, on name recognition alone. Accompanied by his team of fellow con artists – friends Armando and Van Dyke, and his cousin, “Miss Loretta” – Johnson arrives in Washington, D.C. with a wave of freshmen congressmen, who are immediately targeted by lobbyists to support various interest groups. Hoping to amass as much money as possible, Johnson blindly endorses any organization offering to throw him a campaign fundraiser. Florida congressman Dick Dodge, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, takes an interest in him, and Johnson learns that Dodge is head of the most lucrative congressional committee: Power and Industry. Although Johnson’s aide, Arthur Reinhardt, informs him that it would take a minimum twelve years’ seniority to gain a spot on Dodge’s committee, Johnson and his cohorts devise a scheme to get him on the board immediately. Pretending to represent various minority groups, they make fake calls to Dodge’s office, complaining that the Power and Industry Committee lacks minority representation. As planned, Dodge responds to the criticism by recruiting Johnson to join the committee. Meanwhile, Johnson meets Celia Kirby, the director of Pro Bono, a public interest advocacy group. As ... +


When Florida congressman Jeff Johnson dies in the midst of his re-election campaign, con artist Thomas Jefferson Johnson decides to shorten his name to “Jeff Johnson” and run for office. He uses leftover publicity materials from the dead congressman’s campaign, emblazoned with the slogan: “Jeff Johnson, the name you know.” Instead of collecting the necessary 5,625 signatures to get his name on the ballot, Johnson persuades the Silver Foxes, a senior citizen organization with third-party political status, to nominate him as their candidate. Johnson wins the vote by a slim margin, on name recognition alone. Accompanied by his team of fellow con artists – friends Armando and Van Dyke, and his cousin, “Miss Loretta” – Johnson arrives in Washington, D.C. with a wave of freshmen congressmen, who are immediately targeted by lobbyists to support various interest groups. Hoping to amass as much money as possible, Johnson blindly endorses any organization offering to throw him a campaign fundraiser. Florida congressman Dick Dodge, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, takes an interest in him, and Johnson learns that Dodge is head of the most lucrative congressional committee: Power and Industry. Although Johnson’s aide, Arthur Reinhardt, informs him that it would take a minimum twelve years’ seniority to gain a spot on Dodge’s committee, Johnson and his cohorts devise a scheme to get him on the board immediately. Pretending to represent various minority groups, they make fake calls to Dodge’s office, complaining that the Power and Industry Committee lacks minority representation. As planned, Dodge responds to the criticism by recruiting Johnson to join the committee. Meanwhile, Johnson meets Celia Kirby, the director of Pro Bono, a public interest advocacy group. As Dodge indoctrinates Johnson in the ways of political profiteering, including taking a luxurious hunting trip funded by the assault rifle lobby, Celia encourages him to develop a conscience. One day, Ellen Juba, a constituent of Johnson’s district, visits his office with her daughter, Mickey. Miss Loretta and Armando try to throw them out, but Johnson insists on hearing their complaints. Ellen informs him that Mickey and several of her young neighbors have developed brain cancer, and they suspect the “cancer cluster” was caused by a local power line that borders Mickey’s elementary school and surrounding residences. Johnson goes to Florida to see the problem for himself, and decides to join with an environmentally conscious Iowa congressman to propose congressional hearings on the potential public health hazard. As the head of the Power and Industry Committee, Dick Dodge refuses to support a public inquiry, but congratulates Johnson on attracting good publicity. He introduces Johnson to two of his biggest financial supporters: Zeke Bridges, the chief executive officer for an insurance company, and Olaf Andersen, the head of a Florida power company. Although Bridges recognizes Johnson, who once extorted money from him in a phone sex blackmail scheme, he is too embarrassed to acknowledge the connection. Zeke and Andersen argue that if the Power and Industry Committee were to enact any new regulations on power lines, electricity bills would skyrocket, and real estate values would plummet. As a concession to Johnson, Andersen offers to establish a political action committee (PAC) to support him, with a $200,000 donation. Later, Johnson goes to dinner with Celia’s uncle, Congressman Elijah “Eli” Hawkins, who denounces Dodge’s crooked politics. Miss Loretta joins, and offers them a ride home. Despite her careful driving, they are hit by a taxicab. The collision knocks Loretta and Eli unconscious. Johnson stumbles out of the wrecked car, calls an ambulance, and contacts Arthur Reinhardt, who advises him to keep the incident out of the press. However, Reinhardt secretly informs Dodge, who informs a reporter that Eli was found with Loretta, a former phone sex operator. Johnson suspects the story was leaked by Dodge, in cahoots with Reinhardt. To exact revenge, Johnson develops a scheme to expose Dodge’s corruption and call attention to the need for a power line investigation. He pretends to have a secret meeting with an employee of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), so that Reinhardt will relay the news to Dodge. Johnson then reveals to Dodge that the EPA is planning a large-scale investigation of the link between power lines and cancer clusters. In turn, Dodge plans to threaten EPA chief “Skeeter” Warburton with an audit of the agency’s funds. Disguised in a hazmat suit, Johnson barges into Warburton’s office and pretends to spray a toxic chemical. Warburton clears out just as Dodge calls. Posing as Warburton, Johnson answers the phone and confirms that he is preparing a testimony to the Power and Industry committee on cancer clusters. Upset by the news, Olaf Andersen promises to funnel $1 million into Dodge’s campaign funds if he promises to stop the EPA investigation. Johnson witnesses the bribe. Later, the Power and Industry Committee holds a “Clean Air” hearing, which Johnson interrupts by announcing that Dodge recently met with Andersen to discuss possible connections between power lines and cancer. He produces a video tape that he claims to have filmed during the meeting. Dodge calls for a recess. Johnson threatens him to resign, but when he plays the videotape he plans to use against Dodge and Andersen, it is blank. When the hearing reconvenes, Dodge publicly accuses Johnson of being a con artist, and produces his criminal “rap sheet” as evidence. Johnson admits he is an ex-convict, but argues that his crimes were nothing compared to the corruption in Washington, D.C. He plays a different videotape, this one showing Andersen reciting a laundry list of his illegal contributions to Dodge’s personal coffers. Dodge tries to attack Johnson, but is restrained by security guards. Triumphant, Dodge leaves the hearing with Celia. She asks him what he plans to do now that his stint as a congressman is certainly over, and he replies that he will run for president. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.