Ishtar (1987)

PG-13 | 107 mins | Comedy, Adventure | 15 May 1987

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HISTORY

A Feb 2010 Vanity Fair article reported that the film’s inception occurred during a New York City dinner between actor-producer Warren Beatty, writer-director Elaine May and their attorney, Bert Fields. May was fascinated with the Middle East and also wanted to do a film that would pay homage to the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope Road pictures from the 1940s. She began throwing out ideas about a couple of sub-par singer-songwriters clinging to their dreams of stardom. The partners would take a job in Morocco when opportunities dried up at home and, in the process, get caught in a conflict between the CIA and left-wing extremists.
       A 19 May 1987 NYT article reported that actor-producer Warren Beatty sold the picture in broad strokes without a script to then-Columbia Pictures chairman, Guy McElwaine. Beatty received $28 million to produce the film, which greatly underestimated the costs involved.
       According to a 16 Mar 1987 New York article, Beatty invited trusted friends to his Hollywood Hills home in 1985 for a reading of the Ishtar script. Participants included director Elaine May’s longtime friend, Marlo Thomas, writer Peter Feibleman, an executor of Lillian Hellman’s estate, actor Charles Grodin, playwright Herb Gardner, Beatty’s cousin, David MacLeod, and actor Dustin Hoffman. “It was very clear that we were hearing a terrific script,” said one participant, “one that should…get made into a movie. It had problems, but it was very, very funny, and very Elaine.”
       A 9 Aug 1985 DV production chart announced that principal photography on “Elaine May Untitled” would begin 7 Oct 1985. An 11 Aug 1985 ... More Less

A Feb 2010 Vanity Fair article reported that the film’s inception occurred during a New York City dinner between actor-producer Warren Beatty, writer-director Elaine May and their attorney, Bert Fields. May was fascinated with the Middle East and also wanted to do a film that would pay homage to the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope Road pictures from the 1940s. She began throwing out ideas about a couple of sub-par singer-songwriters clinging to their dreams of stardom. The partners would take a job in Morocco when opportunities dried up at home and, in the process, get caught in a conflict between the CIA and left-wing extremists.
       A 19 May 1987 NYT article reported that actor-producer Warren Beatty sold the picture in broad strokes without a script to then-Columbia Pictures chairman, Guy McElwaine. Beatty received $28 million to produce the film, which greatly underestimated the costs involved.
       According to a 16 Mar 1987 New York article, Beatty invited trusted friends to his Hollywood Hills home in 1985 for a reading of the Ishtar script. Participants included director Elaine May’s longtime friend, Marlo Thomas, writer Peter Feibleman, an executor of Lillian Hellman’s estate, actor Charles Grodin, playwright Herb Gardner, Beatty’s cousin, David MacLeod, and actor Dustin Hoffman. “It was very clear that we were hearing a terrific script,” said one participant, “one that should…get made into a movie. It had problems, but it was very, very funny, and very Elaine.”
       A 9 Aug 1985 DV production chart announced that principal photography on “Elaine May Untitled” would begin 7 Oct 1985. An 11 Aug 1985 LAT stated that location scouting was underway for the movie, which was also known by the working titles, Untitled Comedy and The Beirut Hilton. The Feb 2010 Vanity Fair stated that the film’s budget was $51 million.
       The 16 Mar 1987 New York reported that production designer Paul Sylbert designed the Ishtar nightclub set of "Chez Casablanca" as a parody of Rick’s Café in Casablanca (1943, see entry). The NYC nightclub Amsterdam’s was transformed into a singles bar. A 15 May 1987 LAHExam article stated that the basement quarters of the shuttered Trax nightclub on West 72nd Street became “The Song Mart,” where Beatty and Hoffman performed on open mike night, and the Comic Strip, a nightclub on the Upper East Side, was also used during shooting.
       Briefs in the 28 Mar 1986 HR and 28 Mar 1986 Back Stage reported principal photography was completed on 25 Mar 1986 at Kaufman Astoria Studios in New York City. According to a 24 Mar 1986 NYDN article, although some media outlets reported the completion of principal photography, Columbia Pictures executives were reluctant to make an official announcement because of May’s post-production track record. May edited A New Leaf (1970, see entry) for ten months before Paramount Pictures seized the picture from her control. By that time, the film’s budget ballooned to nearly triple its original $1.8 million cost, and the shooting schedule had doubled. May had also spent three years in post-production on Mikey and Nicky (1976, see entry).
       The 16 Mar 1987 New York pointed out that a decision was made to shoot various scenes in New York City when locations in the Middle East could not be found for “three important indoor sequences.” A set was dismantled and shipped to the East Coast, while other new sets were built at an added cost of $250,000.
       The movie’s cost overruns developed because May worked with photographer, Vittorio Storaro, and his Italian camera crew in New York City. According to the city’s union rules, it was necessary for the production to hire additional “standby” crew. Beyond that, May often insisted her actors perform a scene fifty times without any direction, while three cameras rolled. May also opted to shut down production for several days in late Feb 1986 to give Beatty and Hoffman time to polish their singing act.
       In a 10 May 1987 Chicago Sun-Times article, Beatty claimed that the production saved money by filming in Morocco because the pay scale in America was much higher and the winter weather more unpredictable and bound to affect the shooting schedule. However, the 19 May 1987 NYT contradicted Beatty, saying location shooting was “difficult and expensive.”
       According to Vanity Fair, in spring 1986 in New York City, the designated editors began wading through 108 hours of film, whereas a typical comedy might generate thirty hours of raw footage. According to the 15 May 1987 LAHExam, May shot approximately between 450,000 to 500,000 feet of film although only 10,000 feet went into the final film, “a ratio of fifty to one.”
       As noted in the 19 May 1987 NYT, during post-production, there was a period where three different teams of editors worked around the clock. Fees were paid for “double time, triple time, and the even more expensive golden time.” Rumors circulated that May, Beatty and Hoffman each worked on their own final cuts of the film. Vanity Fair reported that the working relationship between Beatty and May deteriorated as Beatty felt he was being undermined. At one point, attorney Bert Fields became a mediator in the editing room, taking notes on various preferences that would eventually be incorporated into a final cut.
       Meanwhile, earlier Guy McElwaine was forced to resign as Columbia Pictures chairman, and David Putnam came on board as the new studio chief. Putnam had no attachment to the project, and Beatty suspected that the studio wanted to dump the picture and leaked damaging publicity to the press. Given the negative circumstances surrounding the film, Beatty and May remained estranged for nearly two years after its release.
       A 22 Aug 1986 HR news item stated that plans to release the film on 26 Nov 1986 on 650 screens, then expand on 19 Dec 1986 was switched to a May 1987 release date. As reported in the 22 Aug 1986 LAHExam, Columbia executives gave May additional editing time, given her penchant for perfectionism.
       The 19 May 1987 NYT noted that Columbia Pictures spent $8 million on prints, promotion, print and television advertising, and publicity. The 15 May 1987 LAHExam stated that the film would have to gross $100 million to be profitable.
       According to a letter in AMPAS library files from Faris Bouhafa, public relations director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, sent to Los Angeles Times film critic Charles Champlin, the organization expressed its disappointment that a special screening of the movie promised by Columbia Pictures executive Ed Russell was held 7 May 1987, a week before its release when it would be too late to re-cut the picture based on the group’s feedback. Bouhafa took offense to racist dialogue such as actress Isabelle Adjani’s comment, “We are an ancient and devious culture,” and later, a plot point in which Beatty tells Hoffman to “go act like an Arab.” Bouhafa further criticized Hollywood’s use of three Arab stereotypes including the Arab oil sheik, the bumbling Arab idiot and the Arab terrorist. The letter asked Champlin to take these concerns into consideration in his review of the film.
       A 30 Jan 1989 LAT news item reported that Beatty, Hoffman, and May filed a lawsuit against Columbia Pictures on 27 Jan 1989 in Los Angeles Superior Court to recoup more than $7 million in wages owed. The complaint alleged that the studio failed “to meet advertising agreements,” which negatively impacted the movie’s performance at the box office. After Columbia reported the picture earned $38.9 million in gross theatrical receipts, and $7.4 million in videocassette (VHS) revenue, plaintiffs stated that they were owed an additional $1.4 million from the theatrical release and $352,184 from VHS sales. According to a 16 Mar 1989 WSJ article, Columbia agreed to pay the talent a percentage of the gross receipts, if the movie earned between $30--$47.5 million. The initial percentage that would kick in was determined to be 31.5%. The 30 Jan 1989 LAT added that Beatty and Hoffman also stated they received payments of $500,000 each one year late, and were entitled to $50,000 each in interest. Additionally, Hoffman claimed that he was owed $227,876 in development fees from Columbia for his input on Ishtar, as well as four other properties. The outcome of the dispute has not been determined.
       An 11 Aug 2013 LAT article reported that the film was released on Blu-Ray format the week of 5 Aug 2013 although it was never released on DVD in North America. Contemporary filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino, Lena Dunham, and Edgar Wright, as well as writer Joe Swanberg, have lauded the film in recent years, chipping away at its legacy of mediocrity and excess.
       End credits state: “Interiors filmed at Kaufman Astoria Studios, Inc.” The following acknowledgments appear in end credits: “The Producers wish to gratefully acknowledge the kindness and co-operation of His Majesty Hassan II, King of Morocco” and, “The Producers Wish to Thank: Bermans and Nathans Limited, City of New York Mayor’s Office for Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, New York City Police Department MTV Unit.” End credits conclude with the dedication, "This film is for Lydia Fields." More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Back Stage
28 Mar 1986.
---
Chicago Sun-Times
10 May 1987.
---
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Mar 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 1987
p. 8.
LAHExam
22 Aug 1986.
Section A, p. 2.
LAHExam
15 May 1987
p. 7.
LAHExam
29 Jan 1989
Section A, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
11 Aug 1985.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 May 1987
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
30 Jan 1989.
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Aug 2013.
---
New York
16 Mar 1987
p. 36-43.
New York Daily News
24 Mar 1986.
---
New York Times
15 May 1987
p. 3.
New York Times
19 May 1987.
---
New York Times
4 Jun 1987
Section C, p. 21.
The Wall Street Journal
16 Mar 1989.
---
Vanity Fair
Feb 2010
p. 117-118, 120-125, 142-144.
Variety
13 May 1987
p. 19.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Columbia Pictures Presents
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
DGA trainee
Prod mgr, Moroccan unit
Prod mgr, Moroccan unit
2d asst dir, Moroccan unit
2d asst dir, Moroccan unit
3d asst dir, Moroccan unit
3d asst dir, Moroccan unit
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
1st asst cam
2d cam asst
Dimmer op
Video op
Gaffer, New York unit
Key grip, New York unit
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Best boy
Dolly grip
Grip
Cam op, Moroccan unit
2d cam, Moroccan unit
2d cam, Moroccan unit
Steadicam op, Moroccan unit
Video op, Moroccan unit
Key grip, Moroccan unit
Cam grip, Moroccan unit
Cam grip, Moroccan unit
Grip, Moroccan unit
Grip, Moroccan unit
Grip, Moroccan unit
Best boy, Moroccan unit
Best boy, Moroccan unit
Stills photog, Moroccan unit
Elec, Moroccan unit
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Artistic consultant
Art dir, New York unit
Art dir, New York unit
Sketch artist
Art dept asst
Art dir, Moroccan unit
Art dir, Moroccan unit
Art dept asst, Moroccan unit
Art dept asst, Moroccan unit
Art dept asst, Moroccan unit
FILM EDITORS
Assoc film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
Apprentice film ed
Apprentice film ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Set dec, New York unit
Set dec, New York unit
Set dresser, New York unit
Prop master, New York unit
Const mgr, New York unit
Const grip, New York unit
Scenic chargeman, New York unit
Spec manufacturing, New York unit
Asst set dresser
Asst set dresser
Prop asst
Prop asst
Const grip
Const grip
Carpenter
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Set dresser, Moroccan unit
Set buyer, Moroccan unit
Prop master, Moroccan unit
Prop storeman, Moroccan unit
Drape, Moroccan unit
Standby prop, Moroccan unit
Chargehand dressing prop, Moroccan unit
Dressing prop, Moroccan unit
Propman, Moroccan unit
Armourer, Moroccan unit
Props dept, Moroccan unit
Props dept, Moroccan unit
Props dept, Moroccan unit
Const mgr, Moroccan unit
Supv chargehand, Moroccan unit
Supv chargehand, Moroccan unit
Supv chargehand, Moroccan unit
Supv chargehand, Moroccan unit
Supv chargehand, Moroccan unit
Supv chargehand, Moroccan unit
Supv chargehand, Moroccan unit
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Ward, New York unit
Ward, New York unit
Ward master, Moroccan unit
Ward master, Moroccan unit
Ward asst, Moroccan unit
Ward dept, Moroccan unit
Ward dept, Moroccan unit
Ward dept, Moroccan unit
Ward dept, Moroccan unit
Ward dept, Moroccan unit
MUSIC
Mus coord by
Orig score by
Orig songs by
Orig songs by
Asst mus ed
Asst mus ed
Asst mus ed
Asst mus ed
Mus consultant
Orig Moroccan mus by
SOUND
Sd coord by
Sd mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
ADR ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst ADR ed
Apprentice sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Sd eff rec
Re-rec mixer
Standby mixer
Boom op
Cableperson
Sd asst, Moroccan unit
Boom op, Moroccan unit
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff, New York unit
Main and end titles des by
New York City
Sr spec eff tech, Moroccan unit
Spec eff tech, Moroccan unit
Spec eff tech, Moroccan unit
Spec eff supv
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist, New York unit
Makeup asst, Moroccan unit
Makeup asst, Moroccan unit
PRODUCTION MISC
Columbia Pictures prod rep
Scr supv
Administrative asst to Ms. May
Asst to Mr. Beatty
Asst to Mr. MacLeod
Asst to Mr. Sylbert
Columbia accountant
Casting, New York unit
Loc mgr, New York unit
Crowd casting, New York unit
Prod office coord, New York unit
Prod office coord, New York unit
Post prod supv
Marketing consultant
Public relations
Prod accountant
Asst to Mr. Beatty
Asst to Mr. Beatty
Loc scout
Loc scout
Loc asst
Studio mgr
Teamster capt
Teamster
Teamster
Teamster
Teamster
Teamster
Teamster
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Loc mgr, Moroccan unit
Loc mgr, Moroccan unit
Crowd casting, Moroccan unit
Prod office coord, Moroccan unit
Prod office coord, Moroccan unit
CCM Representative, Moroccan unit
Prod accountant, Moroccan unit
Casting - London, Moroccan unit
Prod secy, Moroccan unit
Prod secy, Moroccan unit
Asst loc mgr, Moroccan unit
Prod asst, Moroccan unit
Prod asst, Moroccan unit
Prod asst, Moroccan unit
Prod asst, Moroccan unit
Prod asst, Moroccan unit
Prod asst, Moroccan unit
Helicopter pilot, Moroccan unit
Helicopter pilot, Moroccan unit
Helicopter pilot, Moroccan unit
Transport chief, Moroccan unit
Transport mgr, Moroccan unit
Catering mgr, Moroccan unit
Unit driver, Moroccan unit
Unit driver, Moroccan unit
Unit driver, Moroccan unit
Unit driver, Moroccan unit
Unit driver, Moroccan unit
Unit driver, Moroccan unit
Unit driver, Moroccan unit
Unit driver, Moroccan unit
Unit driver, Moroccan unit
Unit driver, Moroccan unit
Unit driver, Moroccan unit
Helicopter eng, Moroccan unit
Helicopter eng, Moroccan unit
Helicopter eng, Moroccan unit
Camel trainer, Moroccan unit
Camel trainer, Moroccan unit
Vulture trainer, Moroccan unit
Vulture trainer, Moroccan unit
Asst animal trainer, Moroccan unit
Asst animal trainer, Moroccan unit
STAND INS
Stunt coord, New York unit
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“Dangerous Business,” lyrics and music by Paul Williams, produced by Michael James Jackson and Paul Williams, executive producer Paul Williams
“What’s Wrong With That?,” lyrics and music by Bruce Gordon, performed by Screamin’ Honkers
“You Took My Love,” lyrics by Elaine May, music by The Swing, performed by The Swing
+
SONGS
“Dangerous Business,” lyrics and music by Paul Williams, produced by Michael James Jackson and Paul Williams, executive producer Paul Williams
“What’s Wrong With That?,” lyrics and music by Bruce Gordon, performed by Screamin’ Honkers
“You Took My Love,” lyrics by Elaine May, music by The Swing, performed by The Swing
“I’m Quitting High School,” lyrics by Elaine May, music John Strauss, performed by Teacher’s Daughters
“Little Darlin’,” lyrics and music by Maurice Williams, produced by Michael James Jackson
“One For My Baby (And One For The Road),” lyrics by Johnny Mercer, music by Harold Arlen, performed by Frank Sinatra, courtesy of Capitol Records
“Portable Picnic,” lyrics by Elaine May and Paul Williams, music by Paul Williams
“That’s Amore,” lyrics by Jack Brooks, music by Harry Warren
“Love In My Will,” lyrics by Elaine May and Paul Williams, music by Paul Williams
“Software,” lyrics by Elaine May, music by Paul Williams
“The Echo Song.” lyrics by Elaine May, music by Paul Williams
“Carol,” lyrics and music by Paul Williams
“That A Lawnmower Can Do All That,” lyrics and music by Paul Williams, produced by Michael James Jackson and Paul Williams, executive producer Paul Williams
“Wardrobe Of Love,” lyrics and music by Paul Williams
“Half Hour Song,” lyrics and music by Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman
“Sitting On The Edge Of My Life,” lyrics and music by Dustin Hoffman
“Tomorrow,” lyrics by Martin Charnin, music by Charles Strouse
“Hello Ishtar,” lyrics and music by Paul Williams, produced by Michael James Jackson and Paul Williams, executive producer Paul Williams
“Harlem Girl,” lyrics and music by Dustin Hoffman
“Bridge Over Troubled Water,” lyrics and music by Paul Simon
“Strangers In The Night,” lyrics by Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder, music by Bert Kaempfert
“There’s No Business Like Show Business,” lyrics and music by Irving Berlin
“My Lips On Fire,” lyrics by Elaine May, music by Warren Beatty
"Have Not Blues," lyrics by Elaine May, music by Warren Beatty
“I Look To Mecca,” lyrics by Elaine May, music by Paul Williams, produced by Paul Williams and Michael James Jackson, executive producer Paul Williams
“How Big Am I?,” lyrics by Elaine May, music by Paul Williams, produced by Paul Williams and Michael James Jackson, executive producer Paul Williams.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Elaine May Untitled
The Beirut Hilton
Release Date:
15 May 1987
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 15 May 1987
Production Date:
7 October 1985--25 March 1986
Copyright Claimant:
Nippon Film Enterprises
Copyright Date:
11 June 1987
Copyright Number:
PA333110
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Prints
Filmed in Technovision
Duration(in mins):
107
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28618
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

As New York City songwriters, Chuck Clarke and Lyle Rogers, stare at the window of a Sam Goody record store, Chuck insists the only difference between them and hit makers like Simon and Garfunkel or Bruce Springsteen is that they do not have an essential ingredient: an agent. Soon, Chuck invites talent agent, Marty Freed, to watch them perform their material at the Song Mart. Afterward, Marty informs the duo that they have no stage presence. They need patter, “shtick,” and gimmicks. For their next tryout, they cover a familiar song with awkward choreography. Despite audience booing, Marty offers them two bookings, one in Honduras at a hotel frequented by American journalists, and another longer engagement in Morocco. Chuck and Lyle mull Marty’s offer at a nearby bar. Five months earlier, Lyle was driving an ice cream truck, writing lyrics as he worked. He played new songs for his speechless wife, Willa. At a restaurant, Chuck played piano for customers. Afterward, as Chuck and his girl friend, Carol, chatted, a waiter delivered a note from Lyle saying how much he enjoyed Chuck’s performance. The songwriters met and had instant rapport, furiously collaborating on songs. They spent so much time composing that Willa left Lyle. He sank into a depression, then Chuck helped him recover. Soon, Carol also felt neglected and ended her relationship with Chuck. He called Lyle and threatened suicide. Lyle promised to come to Chuck’s aid, but his friend asked him not to alert the police because it would ruin his show business career. However, Lyle called the police, and Chuck climbed onto the ledge of his building when an officer appeared at his ... +


As New York City songwriters, Chuck Clarke and Lyle Rogers, stare at the window of a Sam Goody record store, Chuck insists the only difference between them and hit makers like Simon and Garfunkel or Bruce Springsteen is that they do not have an essential ingredient: an agent. Soon, Chuck invites talent agent, Marty Freed, to watch them perform their material at the Song Mart. Afterward, Marty informs the duo that they have no stage presence. They need patter, “shtick,” and gimmicks. For their next tryout, they cover a familiar song with awkward choreography. Despite audience booing, Marty offers them two bookings, one in Honduras at a hotel frequented by American journalists, and another longer engagement in Morocco. Chuck and Lyle mull Marty’s offer at a nearby bar. Five months earlier, Lyle was driving an ice cream truck, writing lyrics as he worked. He played new songs for his speechless wife, Willa. At a restaurant, Chuck played piano for customers. Afterward, as Chuck and his girl friend, Carol, chatted, a waiter delivered a note from Lyle saying how much he enjoyed Chuck’s performance. The songwriters met and had instant rapport, furiously collaborating on songs. They spent so much time composing that Willa left Lyle. He sank into a depression, then Chuck helped him recover. Soon, Carol also felt neglected and ended her relationship with Chuck. He called Lyle and threatened suicide. Lyle promised to come to Chuck’s aid, but his friend asked him not to alert the police because it would ruin his show business career. However, Lyle called the police, and Chuck climbed onto the ledge of his building when an officer appeared at his apartment. As Lyle joined Chuck on the ledge, Rabbi Pierce appeared to calm Chuck. Lyle grabbed Chuck’s hand, and guided him back into his apartment. At the bar, Chuck remembers all that he and Lyle went through and decides they should take their act to Morocco. In Ishtar, Morocco, as a desert archeological camp is attacked, Professor Barnes orders his associate, Omar, to escape with an important, newly discovered ancient map that could provoke war in the Middle East. Omar barely has time to give his sister, a left-wing agent named Shirra Assel, the map before he is killed. His last words promise that no one will find the map except “two messengers of God.” At the Ishtar airport, Shirra Assel, disguised as a man, persuades Chuck to exchange passports and suitcases so she might travel to Marrakesh. It is a matter of life and death. She convinces him that he can visit the American Embassy and have his passport easily replaced. When the duo learns that a new passport will take days to process, Chuck convinces Lyle to travel to Marrakesh and do the show alone, while he checks into a hotel in Ishtar. There, another American, Jim Harrison, invites him to dinner. After Chuck chats about show business, Jim reveals he works for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He is in Morocco to prevent the Communists from staging a coup to overthrow the Moroccan government. Jim hints that his agency likes to recruit people like Chuck as operatives. At his solo show, Lyle launches into a rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and is soon drowned out by an apathetic crowd. Suddenly, Chuck appears and belts out “That’s Amore,” and show tunes that revive the audience. Rogers and Clarke are a hit and are applauded. Later, Chuck says he is going for a drive to get some air. Still later, Shirra wakes Lyle as she tries to reclaim her suitcase. As Lyle tackles her, she claims Chuck is a CIA agent, and the contents of the suitcase are necessary to overthrow the tyrant running her country. Lyle is skeptical about her story, but she convinces him to help her find a camel seller named Mohammed, and buy a blind camel. She leaves carrying the heavy suitcase. Chuck secretly meets Jim Harrison, and learns his movements have been tracked through a pen with a hidden microphone that Jim gave him as a gift. The CIA has reason to believe that dictator Muammar Gaddafi in Libya is interested in Shirra’s map, and the CIA wants to take possession of the document before Gaddafi does. Chuck claims not to know where Shirra is. However, Jim Harrison believes Lyle knows where to find her after appearing to have a sexual encounter with her at the hotel, and being recruited by her as a left-wing terrorist. Chuck does not believe any of Harrison’s assertions but Harrison gives Chuck a beeper to stay in contact. In the morning, Lyle sneaks out of the hotel room, and Chuck follows him. The friends meet and CIA agents follow them to an outdoor market. Chuck and Lyle are kidnapped, but Harrison’s associates shoot the captors and panic breaks out. The friends run, and ask an enterprising local to help them hide. The youth takes them into his uncle’s rug shop. The kidnappers confiscate two rolled up rugs, thinking the songwriters are hidden inside. Dressed in Moroccan garments, Chuck and Lyle escape over the rooftops. Meanwhile, Harrison visits Emir Yousef at his palace in Ishtar to explain that the Americans, Chuck and Lyle, are merely pawns. The Emir insists the songwriters will be mistaken for “messengers of God.” If radical Shiites gain possession of the map they will use it as a sign to overthrow the Emir. The Americans must be killed to demonstrate that God does not favor those who oppose the Emir. As Lyle negotiates for a blind camel at the Ben Sheli Camel Market, Chuck confronts Shirra in a nearby hotel room. He accuses her of recruiting Lyle as a Communist but she denies it. She thinks he stole her map and gave it to Jim Harrison. He denies it but promises to keep her secret. When Chuck finds Lyle, he has bought a blind camel with poor teeth. As Lyle leaves to change his disguise, Harrison appears and warns Chuck that the Emir’s men want to kill them. Harrison hands Chuck two canteens with water, and a compass with escape instructions. When they reach a safe hotel at a desert oasis, CIA agents are supposed to rescue them, but it is a ruse. Harrison hopes that the desert trek will result in their deaths. Meanwhile, Shirra’s associates convince her the songwriters must be executed. Shirra gives Lyle a beaded necklace with instructions to drop a trail of beads, heading into the desert. At night, the beads will glow and the friends can find their way back to town. In the desert, Chuck collapses from heat exhaustion. As Lyle helps his friend, vultures appear. Elsewhere, an associate of Shirra’s tells Prof. Barnes they plan to announce over radio that they are in possession of the ancient map. The songwriters survive a sandstorm and think they see Moroccans with a truck. Chuck instructs Lyle, dressed in flowing robes, to get water. The Moroccans are actually Australian gunrunners who mistake Chuck for an auctioneer. As Chuck pretends to auction guns to the locals, CIA agents see that the songwriters have stopped moving through the desert and send a helicopter to retrieve their bodies. When the helicopter pilot realizes they are alive he retreats, and the auction is cut short. At his palace, the Emir tells Harrison he wants the “the messengers of God” killed and the helicopter returns to the desert. Parched and exhausted, Chuck and Lyle think of song lyrics to keep alert, and soon discover Shirra’s map sewn into the lining of Chuck’s jacket. When the pilot shoots at the songwriters, they return fire with guns they collected from the auction. The helicopter leaves but returns with a second helicopter. However, Shirra appears in a truck. She arms Chuck and Lyle with powerful guns, and the two helicopters are forced to abort their mission. The songwriters smuggle the map to the United States. There, Marty, the talent agent, negotiates with Harrison to implement social reforms in Morocco, get rid of the Emir, and back and promote an album and worldwide tour for Chuck and Lyle. If the CIA succeeds, the songwriters promise not to sell the map to the KGB or anyone else. As a show of support, Harrison arranges for American forces and CIA agents to attend Chuck and Lyle’s show at Chez Casablanca. Shirra thinks their songs are wonderful. Back in America, Chuck and Lyle’s “Live in Concert” album can be seen in the window of Sam Goody records. +

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

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Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.