Noises Off... (1992)

PG-13 | 103 mins | Comedy | 20 March 1992

Writer:

Marty Kaplan

Producer:

Frank Marshall

Cinematographer:

Tim Suhrstedt

Editor:

Lisa Day

Production Designer:

Norman Newberry

Production Companies:

Touchstone Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, Inc., Touchwood Pacific Partners I
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HISTORY

In the 26 Mar—1 Apr 1992 issue of Hollywood Drama-Logue, director and executive producer Peter Bogdanovich stated that Michael Frayn’s play, Noises Off, which debuted 31 Mar 1982 at London, England’s Savoy Theater, and opened 11 Dec 1983 at the Brooks Atkinson Theater on Broadway, was “one of the most popular regionally produced plays in the United States,” with 750 regional productions since 1983. The title, Noises Off, refers to the British theatrical term for sounds occurring off stage.
       A possible film adaptation was announced in a 6 Apr 1984 HR brief, which stated that Columbia Pictures was interested in acquiring film rights, if Steven Spielberg agreed to direct. However, in the 22 Jun 1984 DV, Spielberg was said to be interested in producing, but not directing. Columbia did acquire film rights, but the project went into turnaround, according to a 3 Jun 1991 DV item. The Walt Disney Company’s Touchstone Pictures joined with Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment to take on the project, and Disney chief Jeffrey Katzenberg was credited with getting the film made on a $13.5 million budget, by arranging “favored nations agreements” among cast members, based on their previous salaries.
       Production notes in AMPAS library files state that Peter Bogdanovich spent nearly a year working on script revisions with screenwriter Marty Kaplan. The final draft was 225 pages, but fast pacing resulted in one page equaling twenty-five seconds of “film-time,” instead of the usual minute per page. According to Bogdanovich, the screenplay strayed from Frayn’s play by adding a happy ending and presenting “a rather good cast, putting on a rather good ... More Less

In the 26 Mar—1 Apr 1992 issue of Hollywood Drama-Logue, director and executive producer Peter Bogdanovich stated that Michael Frayn’s play, Noises Off, which debuted 31 Mar 1982 at London, England’s Savoy Theater, and opened 11 Dec 1983 at the Brooks Atkinson Theater on Broadway, was “one of the most popular regionally produced plays in the United States,” with 750 regional productions since 1983. The title, Noises Off, refers to the British theatrical term for sounds occurring off stage.
       A possible film adaptation was announced in a 6 Apr 1984 HR brief, which stated that Columbia Pictures was interested in acquiring film rights, if Steven Spielberg agreed to direct. However, in the 22 Jun 1984 DV, Spielberg was said to be interested in producing, but not directing. Columbia did acquire film rights, but the project went into turnaround, according to a 3 Jun 1991 DV item. The Walt Disney Company’s Touchstone Pictures joined with Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment to take on the project, and Disney chief Jeffrey Katzenberg was credited with getting the film made on a $13.5 million budget, by arranging “favored nations agreements” among cast members, based on their previous salaries.
       Production notes in AMPAS library files state that Peter Bogdanovich spent nearly a year working on script revisions with screenwriter Marty Kaplan. The final draft was 225 pages, but fast pacing resulted in one page equaling twenty-five seconds of “film-time,” instead of the usual minute per page. According to Bogdanovich, the screenplay strayed from Frayn’s play by adding a happy ending and presenting “a rather good cast, putting on a rather good play in a reasonably respectable tour,” as opposed to Frayn’s “poor third-rate tour.” Bogdanovich noted that the changes were predicated upon the expectations of a movie-going audience, who would have less interest than theater-goers in watching a bad play that begins disastrously and only worsens. Despite the changes, almost no alterations were made to Frayn’s dialogue.
       A 19 Mar 1991 HR brief noted a possible title change to Doors and Sardines, as the original title might not convey the “wild-and-crazy comedy elements” of the story.
       The nine principal cast members were personally chosen by Bogdanovich and producer Frank Marshall, without the help of a casting director. Actor Christopher Reeve stated in Hollywood Drama-Logue that he became involved after a brief run-in with Bogdanovich at the airport, in which the two discussed future projects. When Bogdanovich mentioned Noises Off…, Reeve expressed interest in playing “Frederick Dallas.” At the time, John Ritter had already been cast as “Gary Lejeune.” A 7 May 1991 DV item noted that actress Annie Potts was initially cast as “Belinda Blair” but was forced to drop out due to a leg injury, and was replaced by Marilu Henner.
       Four weeks of rehearsals began on 23 Apr 1991, according to a DV item published that day. Michael Frayn visited and gave input that led to some changes in the second act. Michael Blakemore, who directed the play in London, also gave input and provided notes from the stage production, in exchange for a fee. Technical advisor Elizabeth Cameron, who had worked as Blakemore’s assistant on the play, helped choreograph the action.
       Principal photography commenced on 20 May 1991. The majority of the thirty-day shoot took place on Stage 37 at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, CA. Long takes required the use of a Louma crane on a forty-foot track. Theater exteriors were shot at the Wadsworth Theater in West Los Angeles. A 9 Aug 1991 HR stated that exteriors were currently being shot in downtown Des Moines, IA.
       Critical reception was mixed. The 20 Mar 1992 HR called the film a “sharply calibrated farce,” while the NYT review of the same date lamented that the play-within-the-play, Nothing On, was not set up as well as it had been in the stage production, which undermined its relevance in offstage scenes.
       End credits include: “Playbill® reproduced by permission.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
22 Jun 1984.
---
Daily Variety
23 Apr 1991.
---
Daily Variety
3 Jun 1991
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 May 1991.
---
Hollywood Drama-Logue
26 Mar--1 Apr 1992
pp. 4-5.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Mar 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Aug 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Mar 1992
p. 9, 16.
Los Angeles Times
20 Mar 1992
p. 14.
New York Times
20 Mar 1992
p. 10.
Variety
23 Mar 1992
p. 106.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Touchstone Pictures and Amblin Entertainment
In association with Touchwood Pacific Partners I present
A Peter Bogdanovich Picture
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc.
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir, 2d unit crew
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
1st asst dir, 2d unit crew
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog, 2d unit crew
Cam op
Addl cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
1st asst cam, 2d unit crew
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Louma crane op
Louma crane tech
Chief lighting tech
Best boy elec
Best boy elec
Lamp op
Key grip
Key grip, 2d unit crew
Best boy grip
Best boy grip
Best boy grip, 2d unit crew
Dolly grip
Dolly grip
Produced and distributed on
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Addl editing
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Const foreman
Plasterer foreman
Labor foreman
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker gang boss
Paint foreman
Set painter
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
MUSIC
Mus adaptations by
Mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
Mus contractor
Featured musician
Featured musician
Featured musician
Featured musician
Featured musician
Featured musician
Featured musician
Featured musician
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Cableman
Video assist
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Dubbing rec
Rec by
Supv sd ed
Supv ADR ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
ADR mixer
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Amblin post prod supv
Group ADR by
L. A. Maddogs, Group ADR
L. A. Maddogs, Group ADR
L. A. Maddogs, Group ADR
L. A. Maddogs, Group ADR
L. A. Maddogs, Group ADR
L. A. Maddogs, Group ADR
L. A. Maddogs, Group ADR
L. A. Maddogs, Group ADR
L. A. Maddogs, Group ADR
L. A. Maddogs, Group ADR
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Key makeup artist
Key makeup artist
Makeup artist
Body makeup
Key hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
"Noises Off" presented on the New York Stage by
"Noises Off" presented on the New York Stage by
"Noises Off" presented on the New York Stage by
"Noises Off" presented on the New York Stage by
"Noises Off" presented on the New York Stage by
"Noises Off" presented on the New York Stage in as
"Noises Off" presented on the New York Stage in as
As staged in London and New York by
Scr supv
Amblin prod controller
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Craft services
Unit pub
Press liaison
Tech coord
Addl casting
Addl casting
Extras casting
Dialect coach
Loc mgr
Prod assoc
Asst to Mr. Bogdanovich
Asst to Mr. Marshall
Asst to Mr. Starkey
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
New York prod by, 2d unit crew
New York prod by, 2d unit crew
New York prod by, 2d unit crew
New York prod by, 2d unit crew
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stand-in for Ms. Burnett
Stand-in for Mr. Caine
Stand-in for Mr. Elliott
Stand-in for Ms. Hagerty
Stand-in for Ms. Henner
Stand-in for Mr. Linn-Baker
Stand-in for Mr. Reeve
Stand-in for Mr. Ritter
Stand-in for Ms. Sheridan
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timing
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Noises Off by Michael Frayn (London, 31 Mar 1982).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Broadway Melody," written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, vocal performed by Niki Haris
"There's No Business Like Show Business," written by Irving Berlin, vocal performed by Niki Haris
"Another Op'nin,' Another Show," written by Cole Porter
+
SONGS
"Broadway Melody," written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, vocal performed by Niki Haris
"There's No Business Like Show Business," written by Irving Berlin, vocal performed by Niki Haris
"Another Op'nin,' Another Show," written by Cole Porter
"Lullaby of Broadway," written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin
"With A Little Help from My Friends," written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
+
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Doors and Sardines
Release Date:
20 March 1992
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 20 March 1992
New York opening: week of 20 March 1992
Production Date:
20 May--late June 1991
Copyright Claimant:
Touchstone Pictures, an accepted alternative of the Walt Disney Company
Copyright Date:
30 March 1992
Copyright Number:
PA558826
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex® cameras by Panavision®; Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
103
Length(in feet):
9,360
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31432
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When the sex farce, Noises On, opens on Broadway, director Lloyd Fellowes cannot bring himself to watch. Certain the play will be a disaster, he recalls the regional opening, months ago, in Des Moines, Iowa: at dress rehearsal, veteran actress Dotty Otley plays “Mrs. Clackett,” the maid at an English country house. Dotty begins the show by answering a ringing phone, but rehearsal is held up when she forgets to take a plate of sardines with her off stage. Lloyd Fellowes reprimands Dotty, but actor Garry Lejeune comes to her defense. Garry argues that two weeks of rehearsals have been insufficient, especially because the play is only scheduled for one week in Des Moines, before they begin a rigorous tour across the U.S. Rehearsal resumes. The first act of the play entails Garry’s character, “Roger Tramplemain,” sneaking into a client’s country house with “Vicki,” a tax auditor with whom he is having an affair. Roger pretends to own the house, while the real owners, “Philip” and “Flavia Brent,” return home unexpectedly. Unaware that Roger and Vicki are there, Philip tells Mrs. Clackett that he and Flavia have come home in secret. For tax purposes, they are supposed to be abroad, and if they are caught in England, they could be charged with tax evasion. Confusion ensues as Roger, Vicki, Philip, and Flavia go in and out of rooms, narrowly missing each other, but leaving behind clues that there are other ... +


When the sex farce, Noises On, opens on Broadway, director Lloyd Fellowes cannot bring himself to watch. Certain the play will be a disaster, he recalls the regional opening, months ago, in Des Moines, Iowa: at dress rehearsal, veteran actress Dotty Otley plays “Mrs. Clackett,” the maid at an English country house. Dotty begins the show by answering a ringing phone, but rehearsal is held up when she forgets to take a plate of sardines with her off stage. Lloyd Fellowes reprimands Dotty, but actor Garry Lejeune comes to her defense. Garry argues that two weeks of rehearsals have been insufficient, especially because the play is only scheduled for one week in Des Moines, before they begin a rigorous tour across the U.S. Rehearsal resumes. The first act of the play entails Garry’s character, “Roger Tramplemain,” sneaking into a client’s country house with “Vicki,” a tax auditor with whom he is having an affair. Roger pretends to own the house, while the real owners, “Philip” and “Flavia Brent,” return home unexpectedly. Unaware that Roger and Vicki are there, Philip tells Mrs. Clackett that he and Flavia have come home in secret. For tax purposes, they are supposed to be abroad, and if they are caught in England, they could be charged with tax evasion. Confusion ensues as Roger, Vicki, Philip, and Flavia go in and out of rooms, narrowly missing each other, but leaving behind clues that there are other people there. A “burglar” adds to the confusion, especially when it is revealed that he is Vicki’s long-lost father. Selsdon Mowbray, who plays the burglar, is an alcoholic who frequently disappears and misunderstands Lloyd Fellowes’s direction. Dotty acts erratically, and actress Belinda Blair, who plays Flavia Brent, whispers to Lloyd that Dotty and Garry are dating. Lloyd is surprised, because Dotty is significantly older than Garry. Belinda also tells him that Frederick Dallas, who plays “Philip Brent,” was abandoned by his wife that morning. With this knowledge, Lloyd exercises more patience with Frederick, who frequently stops to ask for his character’s motivation. Rehearsals continue late into the night. Brooke Ashton, who plays Vicki, loses a contact lens and asks for help finding it, only to discover it is still on her eyeball. Later, she takes a cue from Frederick and asks why her character would say a certain line. Losing his temper, Lloyd shouts at Brooke. She runs away in tears, and he follows. Belinda reveals that Lloyd and Brooke have been sleeping together, causing Poppy Taylor, the assistant stage manager, to flee. Lloyd chases after Poppy, and she slaps him. Despite being a gossipmonger, Belinda admits she had no idea about Lloyd and Poppy’s relationship. The play opens to relative success in Des Moines, with later performances in Decatur, Illinois; Cairo, Missouri; and Paducah, Kentucky. In the meantime, Lloyd goes to New York City to work on a production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He hears of problems in Decatur and Paducah, and finally steals away from his duties in New York to attend a matinee performance in Miami Beach, Florida. Minutes before the Miami Beach show begins, Lloyd finds the cast and crew in disarray. Dotty and Garry have had a fight, and Dotty refuses to come out of her dressing room. Brooke, who was recently diagnosed with nervous exhaustion, lies on the ground to meditate. Lloyd sends stagehand Tim Allgood to buy flowers for Brooke, but urges Tim not to let Poppy see the flowers. However, Poppy is the first to see the flowers and assumes Tim bought them for her. Meanwhile, Belinda flirts with Frederick, who reveals that he and Dotty had drinks the night before. Belinda assumes Dotty is trying to seduce Frederick, but he insists they were only commiserating over relationship problems. Belinda realizes that Garry is mad at Dotty because he assumes she and Frederick are having an affair. Lloyd discovers the mix-up with the flowers, yells at Tim, and sends him to buy another bouquet for Brooke. As the play begins, Garry attacks Frederick backstage, and continues to fight him throughout the show. Tim brings back the second bouquet of flowers, and various actors assume it is for them. Finally, Tim buys a small cactus, which Lloyd tries to give to Brooke, but she rejects it. Selsdon goes missing but reappears to find a bottle of whisky Lloyd intended to drink with Brooke. As Selsdon sneaks a drink of whisky, Garry vengefully drops a plate of sardines onto Dotty’s head. She retaliates by tying his shoelaces together, causing Garry to trip and fall the next time he walks onstage. Brooke also trips onstage after losing her contact lens. When Frederick and Lloyd try to help Dotty get a sardine out of her dress, Garry catches them in what looks like a sexual position, and shoves the cactus in Lloyd’s backside. As the play becomes more chaotic, Poppy tries to pull Lloyd aside, but he claims to be too busy. She loses her patience and, loud enough for the audience to hear, shouts that she is pregnant. At an even worse performance in Cleveland, Ohio, an exhausted Dotty spills a plate of sardines on the set. She slips in and out of character, sometimes delivering lines in an English accent and sometimes muttering to herself. When she absentmindedly carries the telephone prop offstage, leaving behind a sardine mess, the play devolves into mayhem. A doorknob falls off one of the doors, trapping Brooke backstage. Garry trips over a misplaced prop and falls down a stairwell on the set. The actors break character, wondering if he will be okay. As usual, Selsdon goes missing, but reappears just when he is needed. However, miscommunication leads to both Lloyd and Tim standing in for Selsdon. Within seconds of each other, the three burglars appear onstage, echoing each other’s lines. Back in the present, Lloyd returns to the theater just as the Broadway opening concludes. Surprised to hear uproarious laughter and applause, he goes backstage at curtain call. Belinda and Frederick take their bows and kiss passionately. Likewise, Garry surprises Brooke with a kiss, and Dotty kisses Selsdon. The cast beckons Lloyd, who comes out with the visibly pregnant Poppy, to whom he is now engaged, and everyone takes a final bow together. +

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

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