The Public Eye (1992)

R | 99 mins | Drama | 14 October 1992

Director:

Howard Franklin

Writer:

Howard Franklin

Producer:

Sue Baden-Powell

Cinematographer:

Peter Suschitzky

Editor:

Evan Lottman

Production Designer:

Marcia Hinds-Johnson
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HISTORY

According to an article in the 8 Dec 1991 LAT, director Howard Franklin became interested in the famous tabloid photographer, Weegee, in 1982, after seeing an exhibition of his work at the International Center for Photography (ICP) in NY. However, when interviewed in the 5-11 Nov 1992 Hollywood Drama-Logue, Franklin claimed that while Weegee was an inspiration, the film was not meant to be completely biographical. Franklin wrote the screenplay in 1983, but reportedly turned down several offers to produce the film until he was also hired to direct. The opportunity arose when director, Robert Zemeckis, who had worked with Franklin when he performed uncredited re-writes on Romancing the Stone (1984, see entry), offered his services as executive producer.
       The 10 May 1991 Screen International announced an anticipated Jul 1991 start date. Principal photography began on 24 Jul 1991, with locations in Cincinnati, OH, Chicago, IL, and Los Angeles, CA, according to a 10 Sep 1991 HR production chart.
       The 30 Aug 1991 HR reported that production began in Cincinnati and continued for five-weeks, before relocating that week to Chicago, where filming would take place until 15 Sep. The shoot concluded in Los Angeles in early Oct 1991. Because of a labor dispute in NY, filmmakers had to select different locations for the NY-based picture. Production notes in AMPAS library files report Cincinnati's historic “Over-the-Rhine” neighborhood was chosen for its “untouched” historic reminiscence of NY tenements and Little Italy streets. Chicago’s 135 S. LaSalle Building granted use for filming for the first time in history, and the art moderne lobby stood in for the entrance to the ... More Less

According to an article in the 8 Dec 1991 LAT, director Howard Franklin became interested in the famous tabloid photographer, Weegee, in 1982, after seeing an exhibition of his work at the International Center for Photography (ICP) in NY. However, when interviewed in the 5-11 Nov 1992 Hollywood Drama-Logue, Franklin claimed that while Weegee was an inspiration, the film was not meant to be completely biographical. Franklin wrote the screenplay in 1983, but reportedly turned down several offers to produce the film until he was also hired to direct. The opportunity arose when director, Robert Zemeckis, who had worked with Franklin when he performed uncredited re-writes on Romancing the Stone (1984, see entry), offered his services as executive producer.
       The 10 May 1991 Screen International announced an anticipated Jul 1991 start date. Principal photography began on 24 Jul 1991, with locations in Cincinnati, OH, Chicago, IL, and Los Angeles, CA, according to a 10 Sep 1991 HR production chart.
       The 30 Aug 1991 HR reported that production began in Cincinnati and continued for five-weeks, before relocating that week to Chicago, where filming would take place until 15 Sep. The shoot concluded in Los Angeles in early Oct 1991. Because of a labor dispute in NY, filmmakers had to select different locations for the NY-based picture. Production notes in AMPAS library files report Cincinnati's historic “Over-the-Rhine” neighborhood was chosen for its “untouched” historic reminiscence of NY tenements and Little Italy streets. Chicago’s 135 S. LaSalle Building granted use for filming for the first time in history, and the art moderne lobby stood in for the entrance to the Daily News. Los Angeles locations included soundstages where “Cafe Society” sets were reproduced. The 8 Dec 1991 LAT identified the Santa Clarita Studios as the soundstage used, and listed the Orpheum Theater as an additional Los Angeles location. LAT also reported a $15 million budget, and announced that the thirteen-week shoot had recently completed principal photography.
       The world premiere was held at the 1992 Toronto Festival of Festivals. The picture also screened at the Venice Film Festival, and the Deauville American Film Festival in France.
       End credits include the following acknowledgements: “Special Thanks to: Greater Cincinnati Film Commission; St. John’s Social Service; Mr. Robert Knopp - City of Cincinnati, Traffic Engineering; Mr. David Bowen - The Museum Center/Union Terminal; Cincinnati Police Department; Cincinnati Fire Department; Sheraton Plaza - Chicago; Seko Air Freight; the city of Chicago - Richard M. Daley, Mayor; Chicago Film Office; Chicago Police Department; the state of Illinois Film Office; Norm Miller, Central Post Office - Chicago; the Vernon Manor; Schafer & Sons Pianos.” The character "Thatcher Gray" is miscredited as "Thatcher White" in onscreen credits. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
4 Sep 1992.
---
Hollywood Drama-Logue
5-11 Nov 1992
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Aug 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Sep 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 1992
p. 7, 11.
Los Angeles Times
8 Dec 1991
p. 25, 29-32.
Los Angeles Times
14 Oct 1992
p. 4.
New York Times
14 Oct 1992
p. 17.
Screen International
10 May 1991.
---
Variety
14 Sep 1992
pp. 50-51.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Universal Pictures presents
A Robert Zemeckis production
A Howard Franklin film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog & cam tech adv
Gaffer
Best boy elec
Elec
Elec
Key grip
Dolly grip
Grip
Still photog asst
Grip and elec equip
Dolly's provided by
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Chicago art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
Art dept prod asst
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Post prod supv
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Asst set dec
Asst set dec
Const coord
On-set dresser
Standby painter
Prop master
Asst prop
Asst prop
Leadman
Leadman
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Prop asst
Prop asst
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Cost
Cost
MUSIC
Source mus arr by
Mus rec & mixed by
Mus contracted by
Mus arr & cond by
Mus ed
Addl mus ed
Asst mus ed
Mus rec at
Mus rec at
SOUND
Cable man
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Sd eff ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Supv re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Spec visual eff by
a division of LucasArts Entertainment, Marin County, California
Visual eff supv
Visual eff prod
Matte painter
Opt supv
Visual eff ed
Visual eff art dir
Eff cam op
Matte cam op
Eff gaffer
Eff still photog
MAKEUP
Key make-up artist
Asst make-up artist
Addl make-up
Key hairstylist
Asst hairstylist
Mr. Pesci's make-up hair
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod supv
Addl casting
Scr supv
Prod coord
Extras casting
Voice casting
Casting assoc
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Key set prod asst
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Asst prod coord
Asst prod coord
Asst prod coord
Asst to Mr. Zemeckis
Asst to Mr. Zemeckis
Asst to Ms. Baden-Powell and Mr. Franklin
Asst to Mr. Pesci
Photo researcher
Photo researcher
Caterer
Caterer
Caterer
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Driver
Driver
Transportation capt (Chicago)
Co-capt (Chicago)
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Video asst
Video asst
First aid
First aid
Craft service
Craft service
Extras casting asst
Extras casting asst
Bernzy's photographs by
Bernzy's photographs by
Bernzy's photographs by
Bernzy's photographs by
Bernzy's photographs by
Bernzy's photographs by
Bernzy's photographs by
Bernzy's photographs by
Bernzy's photographs by
a.k.a. Weegee
Photographs supplied by
Photographs supplied by
Photographs supplied by
Photographs supplied by
Photographs supplied by
Photographs supplied by
Photographs supplied by
Insurance provided by
Payroll service
Federal building murals by
Travel services provided by
Travel services provided by, Travel Bound
Stage facilities provided by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Dailies processed by
Dailies processed by
Black and white processing
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“You Can’t Say No To A Soldier,” written by Harry Warren, Mark Gordon, performed by Sammy Kaye and His Orchestra, courtesy of Sandy Hook Records
“Embraceable You,” written by George and Ira Gershwin, performed by Roy Eldridge, courtesy of MCA Records.
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 October 1992
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 14 October 1992
New York opening: week of 14 October 1992
Production Date:
24 July--early October 1991
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
12 April 1993
Copyright Number:
PA609213
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision camera and lenses
Duration(in mins):
99
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31926
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1942 New York City, street photographer Leon “Bernzy” Bernstein photographs crime scenes, always arriving a step ahead of police. Known by his newspaper credit, “The Great Bernzini,” he is friendly with everyone in town, from officers to gangsters, but stays unaffiliated to capture objective images. Bernzy develops his photographs from a makeshift darkroom in the trunk of his automobile, and sells them to the Daily News before other photographers arrive at the scene. Bernzy submits a book of his photographs to Rineman & Sons Publishers, hoping they will produce a book of his work. However, H. R. Rineman deems his images too “vulgar.” Later, Bernzy meets Kay Levitz, owner of the upscale dinner club “Cafe Society,” where he is directed to a back entry by the doorman, Danny. Kay recently inherited the establishment from her deceased husband, Lou, and tells Bernzy that her husband trusted him. She asks Bernzy to investigate a man named Emilio Portofino, who is demanding a stake in the nightclub. He claims that Lou Levitz owed him money and put the nightclub up as collateral. Bernzy is smitten by Kay, and agrees to the job, on condition that he is allowed to enter Cafe Society through the front door. Later, Kay orders Danny to admit Bernzy through the front entrance, but he argues that “shutterbugs” are bad for the club. After learning from his police contacts that Emilio Portofino has no criminal record, Bernzy pays a visit to his apartment, and finds Portofino lying in a pool of blood. When he telephones police to report the homicide, they already know the address. Bernzy telephones Kay Levitz ... +


In 1942 New York City, street photographer Leon “Bernzy” Bernstein photographs crime scenes, always arriving a step ahead of police. Known by his newspaper credit, “The Great Bernzini,” he is friendly with everyone in town, from officers to gangsters, but stays unaffiliated to capture objective images. Bernzy develops his photographs from a makeshift darkroom in the trunk of his automobile, and sells them to the Daily News before other photographers arrive at the scene. Bernzy submits a book of his photographs to Rineman & Sons Publishers, hoping they will produce a book of his work. However, H. R. Rineman deems his images too “vulgar.” Later, Bernzy meets Kay Levitz, owner of the upscale dinner club “Cafe Society,” where he is directed to a back entry by the doorman, Danny. Kay recently inherited the establishment from her deceased husband, Lou, and tells Bernzy that her husband trusted him. She asks Bernzy to investigate a man named Emilio Portofino, who is demanding a stake in the nightclub. He claims that Lou Levitz owed him money and put the nightclub up as collateral. Bernzy is smitten by Kay, and agrees to the job, on condition that he is allowed to enter Cafe Society through the front door. Later, Kay orders Danny to admit Bernzy through the front entrance, but he argues that “shutterbugs” are bad for the club. After learning from his police contacts that Emilio Portofino has no criminal record, Bernzy pays a visit to his apartment, and finds Portofino lying in a pool of blood. When he telephones police to report the homicide, they already know the address. Bernzy telephones Kay Levitz and tells her that Portofino was killed by the mafia. Inspector Conklin arrives to the crime scene with Agent Chadwick from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and Bernzy is taken to the station for questioning. However, Bernzy remains mum. After his release, Bernzy is forced into a vehicle by the henchmen of mob boss Frank Farinelli, and his camera is broken in the struggle. Farinelli asks Bernzy about the FBI’s involvement with the investigation. Bernzy has little information to share, and falsely claims that Portofino hired him to take his photograph. Farinelli senses that Bernzy is lying, but lets him leave. In time, Bernzy returns to Cafe Society and warns Kay that someone besides Portofino may come along and claim ownership of the nightclub. He asks her why she hired him, and Kay says he is different from other “shutterbugs.” She is intrigued by his hope of publishing a book of photographs, a rumor she learned from Danny the doorman, and Bernzy offers to show her the work in progress. Later, Bernzy sneaks into Agent Chadwick’s office and reads the file on Portofino. Everything has been blacked out on the “classified” report, except a reference to a case called “Black Gas,” which Bernzy suspects refers to the gas shortage, prompted by World War II. When he photographs a man that has been murdered in his vehicle, Bernzy identifies him as one of mobster Mark Anthony Spoleto’s men. Police on the scene find valuable gas coupons amongst the dead man’s possessions, and Bernzy suspects the killing is related to Portofino’s murder. While Bernzy waits for Kay outside her home, she arrives with Spoleto, who demands a stake in her business. Kay is surprised when Bernzy reveals that her husband and Portofino may have been involved in a gas coupon scheme, and she is surprised that Lou was involved in illegal activities. Kay reports that Spoleto asked why Bernzy was hired to take Portofino’s photograph, prompting him to remember fabricating that story for Farinelli. He realizes that one of Farinelli’s men is spying for Spoleto. Sometime later, Bernzy sneaks onto the grounds of Spoleto’s heavily guarded villa and secretly photographs a group of men as they leave. Developing the photographs, Bernzy recognizes one of Farinelli’s men, Sal Minetto, and a Washington, D.C., insider named Thatcher Gray. He asks Kay to hide the incriminating photographs, and give them to Farinelli if anything should happen to him. In time, Bernzy visits Sal Minetto at his home, shows him the photographs taken at Spoleto’s villa, and demands to know what Spoleto is up to. Sal reveals that a mafia war is looming, as rival mobs are fighting to obtain the valuable gas coupons, initially procured by Portofino from Thatcher Gray, who works at the Office of Price Administration (OPA). Portofino had first sold them to Lou Levitz, and Lou had made a deal to sell them to Spoleto before his death. Farinelli later threatened Portofino to reveal his gas coupon source, before killing him. Sal, filled with guilt for betraying his mafia family, confesses that Spoleto plans to murder Farinelli’s entire crew with his help. Bernzy begs to know the time and place of the massacre so he can be there to takes photographs. Soon after, Sal informs Bernzy that the massacre will occur during the monthly dinner Farinelli’s throws for his men, but the location is chosen at the last minute for their safety. Later, Kay finds Bernzy’s book of photographs in her office, and learns that he left them for her after Danny the doorman banished him from the club. Furious with Danny, she fires the doorman, and looks at the photographs, surprised to see a picture of herself with the caption: “Beauty.” Kay goes to Bernzy’s apartment and asks why he gave her his book, and he reluctantly reveals the upcoming mob massacre. Kay realizes he is risking his life to provide photos that will protect her from Spoleto, and kisses him. In time, Kay is surprised to see Danny back at the club. Spoleto waits outside and reveals that Danny told him about Bernzy’s discovery, prompting Kay to make a deal with Spoleto. On the night of the attack, Sal receives a telephone call from Farinelli, telling him the name of the restaurant where they are meeting, but he is murdered by Spoleto’s henchman before he can inform Bernzy. Learning of Sal’s death, Bernzy calls every restaurant in Little Italy to identify the site of the party, and finally tracks it down to “D’Angelo’s.” When Spoleto’s gunman arrives to kill him, Bernzy sneaks out his fire escape. He bribes a kitchen worker at the restaurant to sneak him into a closet where he hides before the guests arrive. As the massacre ensues, Bernzy takes photographs, but is spotted by a gunman. As he takes aim, Bernzy snaps a picture instead of ducking, and the gangster is killed by enemy fire. After the bloodbath, Spoleto’s men flee, and Bernzy is left shaken. Police arrive and spot Bernzy leaving the crime scene. He gives his film to his journalist friend, Arthur Nabler, to deliver to the newspapers, along with the photograph of Thatcher Gray with Spoleto. Arthur notices that Bernzy’s stomach is bleeding, but he insists that Arthur take him to the police station. There, the FBI accuses Bernzy of withholding evidence and orders his imprisonment. However, the chief of police enters with several newspapers, featuring Bernzy’s photographs of the mob massacre and a story about the gas coupon scandal. Bernzy is hailed a hero, and taken to a hospital to have his wounds treated. He wakes to find Kay by his side, and accuses her of causing Sal’s death by revealing their plan to Spoleto. He reveals that he would have done anything for her, even agreed not to photograph the massacre. Kay insists that all she ever wanted was to have her nightclub back, but admits that she and Bernzy shared “something special.” Outside the hospital, Bernzy is greeted by a cheering crowd. As “shutterbugs” snap his photograph, his friend, Arthur, announces he has found a publisher for Bernzy’s book, The Public Eye. +

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

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