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HISTORY

The final card at the tail of the end credit crawl reads: "in loving memory of Mary E. Hackford and Jerry Benjamin."
       According to the 17 Nov 1980 HR, Sandy Frank Productions acquired film rights to the 1977 English translation of White Nights: The Story of a Prisoner in Russia, written by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and originally published in Hebrew in 1957.
       Three years later, the 28 Dec 1983 HR reported that Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov would play the lead. As noted in the 22 Nov 1985 NYT, Baryshnikov, like the character he plays, was a Soviet defector living in the West, and is considered a criminal in his home country.
       Director Taylor Hackford told the 11 Nov 1985 DV that he approached lead actors, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines, in 1982 before the story was developed, and obtained a commitment from them to work on the project. The project reportedly changed hands from Orion Pictures to Paramount Pictures, before ending up at Columbia Pictures. James Goldman wrote the first draft, and was replaced by Eric Hughes, who wrote the second screenplay. Screenwriter Nancy Dowd completed a third draft, however, her contributions were not acknowledged by the Writers Guild of America (WGA), despite Hackford’s efforts to credit Dowd.
       The 28 Feb 1984 DV announced the Columbia project would be filmed in Scandinavia. The 28 Mar 1984 Var estimated a budget between $10 million and $20 million and noted the picture would mark Isabella Rossellini’s American film debut. Principal photography was slated to begin in Scandinavia on ... More Less

The final card at the tail of the end credit crawl reads: "in loving memory of Mary E. Hackford and Jerry Benjamin."
       According to the 17 Nov 1980 HR, Sandy Frank Productions acquired film rights to the 1977 English translation of White Nights: The Story of a Prisoner in Russia, written by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and originally published in Hebrew in 1957.
       Three years later, the 28 Dec 1983 HR reported that Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov would play the lead. As noted in the 22 Nov 1985 NYT, Baryshnikov, like the character he plays, was a Soviet defector living in the West, and is considered a criminal in his home country.
       Director Taylor Hackford told the 11 Nov 1985 DV that he approached lead actors, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines, in 1982 before the story was developed, and obtained a commitment from them to work on the project. The project reportedly changed hands from Orion Pictures to Paramount Pictures, before ending up at Columbia Pictures. James Goldman wrote the first draft, and was replaced by Eric Hughes, who wrote the second screenplay. Screenwriter Nancy Dowd completed a third draft, however, her contributions were not acknowledged by the Writers Guild of America (WGA), despite Hackford’s efforts to credit Dowd.
       The 28 Feb 1984 DV announced the Columbia project would be filmed in Scandinavia. The 28 Mar 1984 Var estimated a budget between $10 million and $20 million and noted the picture would mark Isabella Rossellini’s American film debut. Principal photography was slated to begin in Scandinavia on 23 Jul 1984, with interior shots to be filmed in England. A Christmas 1985 release date was anticipated.
       A press release in AMPAS library files from 30 Jul 1984 stated that production had begun in Bristol, England, at the Hippodrome Theatre, where 1,200 locals were cast as audience members for a ballet performance sequence.
       According to the 27 Jul 1984 DV, filming in London, England was underway, with locations moving to Finland afterward. The 8 Dec 1984 Screen International reported that the four-month production was nearly finished at Thorn EMI Elstree Studios in England. After beginning principal photography at the Hippodrome, production moved to the Albery Theater in London, England, then to the RAF (Royal Air Force) base in Machrihanish, Scotland, which stood in as the film’s Siberian military base. Cast and crew next moved to Finland and spent two-days filming at a quarry, followed by two-weeks of street shooting in Helsinki. Before returning to Thorn EMI Elstree Studios, seven-days were spent in Lisbon, Portugal, filming scenes at the San Carlos Opera House.
       The 11 Nov 1985 DV stated that director Taylor Hackford wanted to film in Russia for authenticity, and before principal photography began, he “arranged for secret lensing” in Leningrad. Hackford refused to say how he obtained the footage, not wanting to “jeopardize” the people who assisted him, according to the 22 Nov 1985 NYT.
       The 25 Sep 1985 DV announced that White Nights had secured a PG-13 rating after filmmakers appealed its R rating to the Motion Picture Association of America’s Classification & Rating Appeals Board (MPAA, CARA).
       The 2 Oct 1985 Var reported the picture had been selected to open the Chicago International Film Festival on 8 Nov 1985. A West Coast premiere was announced in the 4 Oct 1985 HR as a benefit for the Dance Gallery Guild to be held at AMPAS on 7 Nov 1985. Proceeds would go to the opening of the Dance Gallery, a combined theatre, institute and library space planned to be built in downtown Los Angeles, CA. The 27 Nov 1985 Var noted a benefit preview for the Film Society of Miami would take place on 2 Dec 1985, to be held at the Riviera Cinema in Coral Gables, FL.
       The 11 Nov 1985 DV announced White Nights would open in Los Angeles and New York City 22 Nov 1985, with a wide release to follow on 6 Dec 1985 on 500 screens, expanding to 800 theaters on 20 Dec 1985.
       The following acknowledgments appear in end credits: "The Producers would like to express their sincere appreciation for the invaluable assistance given by the following organizations: United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, with special thanks to the Royal Air Force Personnel at RAF Machrihanish Airfield-Scotland; Aer Lingus, with special thanks to Jerry Curran, Captain J. J. Sullivan and his 747 crew; Teatro de San Carlos in Lisbon, Portugal; Hippodrome Theatreatre in Bristol, England; Danmarks Radio for the use of their recording of Vladimir Vysotsky's 'The Horses'; The people of Reposaari, Finland." Also acknowledged: "Made at Thorn EMI Elstree Studios, Borehamwood Herts, England and on location in Finland, Portugal and Scotland." More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
28 Feb 1984.
---
Daily Variety
27 Jul 1984.
---
Daily Variety
25 Sep 1985.
---
Daily Variety
11 Nov 1985
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Nov 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Dec 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 1985
p. 3, 60.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Nov 1985.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Nov 1985
Section H, p. 1, 15.
New York Times
22 Nov 1985.
---
New York Times
22 Nov 1985
p. 10.
Screen International
8 Dec 1984.
---
Variety
28 Mar 1984.
---
Variety
2 Oct 1985.
---
Variety
6 Nov 1985
p. 26, 28.
Variety
27 Nov 1985.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures Presents
A New Visions production
A Taylor Hackford film
From Columbia-Delphi V Productions
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Aerial unit dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
Finnish prod mgr
Finnish unit mgr
Finnish asst dir
Portuguese prod mgr
Portugese asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Focus op
Clapper loader
Cam grip
Stills photog
Front projection
Video op
Chief lighting tech
Best boy
Aerial photog, Aerial unit
Cam plane pilot, Aerial unit
Aerial cam asst, Aerial unit
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir
Asst art dir
Visual cont
FILM EDITORS
Assoc film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Construction mgr
Set dec
Prod buyer
Prop master
Stand-by props
Stand-by props
Chargehand dressing prop
Stand-by carpenter
Stand-by stagehand
Stand-by rigger
Stand-by painter
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Ward mistress
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus score
Mus supv
Title song "Say You Say Me" wrt and performed by
Love theme "Separate Lives" performed by
Love theme "Separate Lives" introducing
Supv mus ed
Mus rec by
Mus contractor
Mus guidance by
Mus guidance by
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Supv ADR ed
ADR ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des
Spec eff, Aerial unit
Spec eff, Aerial unit
Spec eff, Aerial unit
Titles by
Opticals by
DANCE
"Le Jeune Homme Et La Mort" choreog by
Choreog
Tap improvography
Additional choreog
The ballet "Le Jeune Homme Et La Mort" based on a
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
New Visions exec supv
In charge of prod
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Consultant
Prod coord
Asst to Mr. Hackford
Asst to prods
Chief accountant
Prod assoc (U.S.A.)
Prod asst (U.S.A.)
Time lapse photog
Aerial coord
Marketing consultant
Loc casting
Authentics by
Finnish prod coord
European casting
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Crash seq assisted by, Aerial unit
Stunt personnel
Stunt personnel
Stunt personnel
Stunt personnel
Stunt personnel
Stunt personnel
COLOR PERSONNEL
Supv lab timer
Prints by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Separate Lives" (Love Theme), written by Stephen Bishop, produced by Arif Mardin, Phil Collins and Hugh Padgham, performed by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin, courtesy of Atlantic Records and Virgin Records
"The Other Side Of The World," written by Michael Rutherford and B. A. Robertson, produced by Arif Mardin and Robbie Buchanan, performed by Chaka Khan, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
"People On A String," written by Michel Colombier and Kathy Wakefield, produced by Eumir Deodato and Roberta Flack, co-produced by Michel Colombier, performed by Roberta Flack
+
SONGS
"Separate Lives" (Love Theme), written by Stephen Bishop, produced by Arif Mardin, Phil Collins and Hugh Padgham, performed by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin, courtesy of Atlantic Records and Virgin Records
"The Other Side Of The World," written by Michael Rutherford and B. A. Robertson, produced by Arif Mardin and Robbie Buchanan, performed by Chaka Khan, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
"People On A String," written by Michel Colombier and Kathy Wakefield, produced by Eumir Deodato and Roberta Flack, co-produced by Michel Colombier, performed by Roberta Flack
"My Love Is Chemical," written by Walt Aldridge, produced by Phil Ramone, performed by Lou Reed, courtesy of RCA Records
"Snake Charmer," written by John Hiatt, produced by Phil Ramone, performed by John Hiatt, courtesy of Geffen Records
"Far Post," written by Robert Plant, Robbie Blunt and Jezz Woodroffe, produced by Robert Plant and Benji Lefevre, performed by Robert Plant
"Prove Me Wrong," written and produced by David Pack and James Newton Howard, performed by David Pack, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
"People Have Got To Move," written and produced by Nile Rodgers, performed by Jenny Burton
"This Is Your Day," written and produced by Nile Rodgers, performed by Sandy Stewart and Nile Rodgers, courtesy of Modern Records and Warner Bros. Records
"tapDANCE," written by David Foster, Tom Keane and Jerry Hey, produced and performed by David Foster
"There's A Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon For New York" (From "Porgy And Bess"), by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. © 1935 Ira Gershwin, Arthur Gershwin and Frances Gershwin Godowsky assigned to Gershwin Publishing Corporation. © renewed 1962. Used by permission of Chappell & Co., Inc. and the Gershwin Family.
"Passacagila In C Minor" BMV 582, composed by J. S. Bach, transcription by Michel Colombier
"The Horses," written and performed by Vladimir Vysotsky
"Say You Say Me" (Title Song), written and performed by Lionel Richie, produced by Lionel Richie and James Anthony Carmichael, single available on Motown Records.
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DETAILS
Release Date:
22 November 1985
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 7 November 1985
Chicago International Film Festival screening: 8 November 1985
Los Angeles and New York openings: 22 November 1985
Production Date:
23 July--December 1984
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 January 1986
Copyright Number:
PA273543
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Duration(in mins):
136
Length(in feet):
12,240
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27682
SYNOPSIS

Russian ballet dancer Nikolai “Kolya” Rodchenko performs on stage and receives a standing ovation. Afterward, he flies to Tokyo, Japan, with his American manager, Anne Wyatt, for another performance. As the commercial airplane flies over the U.S.S.R., an electrical failure occurs, and the pilot announces they must make an emergency landing. Kolya panics, as he defected to the U.S. eight years earlier, and is threatened with arrest if he returns. He tears his passport and flushes his identification. Before Kolya can return to his seat, the airplane crashes, and he is thrown to the front of the aircraft and smashed by a beverage cart. The plane crash lands at the top-secret Norilsk Air Defense Base in Siberia, and becomes the focus of the Soviet military. Kolya is hospitalized with head injuries, and the Russians are suspicious when he is the only passenger without a passport. Soviet Colonel Chaiko finds his torn identification among the debris, and recognizes Kolya from his days in the Russian ballet. When Chaiko meets with him, Kolya pretends to be French. Chaiko declares him a defector and presents his shredded passport, and Kolya demands to speak with the American Embassy, but is ignored. When Anne Wyatt asks about Kolya’s condition, Chaiko refuses to let her see him, lying to Anne and insisting Kolya’s injuries are life threatening. Anne refuses to return to the U.S. without Kolya. Later, Chaiko visits Raymond Greenwood, an American defector who moved to the Soviet Union after becoming disenchanted with the American government following the Vietnam War. Raymond, a tap-dancer, was sent to Siberia and placed through a ... +


Russian ballet dancer Nikolai “Kolya” Rodchenko performs on stage and receives a standing ovation. Afterward, he flies to Tokyo, Japan, with his American manager, Anne Wyatt, for another performance. As the commercial airplane flies over the U.S.S.R., an electrical failure occurs, and the pilot announces they must make an emergency landing. Kolya panics, as he defected to the U.S. eight years earlier, and is threatened with arrest if he returns. He tears his passport and flushes his identification. Before Kolya can return to his seat, the airplane crashes, and he is thrown to the front of the aircraft and smashed by a beverage cart. The plane crash lands at the top-secret Norilsk Air Defense Base in Siberia, and becomes the focus of the Soviet military. Kolya is hospitalized with head injuries, and the Russians are suspicious when he is the only passenger without a passport. Soviet Colonel Chaiko finds his torn identification among the debris, and recognizes Kolya from his days in the Russian ballet. When Chaiko meets with him, Kolya pretends to be French. Chaiko declares him a defector and presents his shredded passport, and Kolya demands to speak with the American Embassy, but is ignored. When Anne Wyatt asks about Kolya’s condition, Chaiko refuses to let her see him, lying to Anne and insisting Kolya’s injuries are life threatening. Anne refuses to return to the U.S. without Kolya. Later, Chaiko visits Raymond Greenwood, an American defector who moved to the Soviet Union after becoming disenchanted with the American government following the Vietnam War. Raymond, a tap-dancer, was sent to Siberia and placed through a work assignment at a small theater group, where he performs with his Russian wife, Darya. Chaiko tasks Raymond and Darya to persuade Kolya to return to the Russian ballet. Meanwhile, Anne Wyatt goes to the American Embassy in Moscow, Russia, to fight for Kolya’s release. However, she is told there is little they can do as Kolya was sentenced to a fifteen-year prison term for defecting from the U.S.S.R. Anne insists on involving the United Nations, but she is ordered to let the state department handle the matter. Elsewhere, Kolya wakes in the home of Raymond and Darya, believing that American Raymond was sent by the embassy to help him. However, he soon realizes they are informants assigned to monitor his every move. Kolya is told he can wander freely around the desolate town, but he is followed by Raymond and stopped from making a telephone call to the embassy. Kolya and Raymond argue, and Kolya insults Raymond for defecting to the Soviet Union. Later, Raymond gets drunk and lambastes Kolya. He shares his frustration over being a black man in America, lamenting his limited opportunities as a tap dancer, and his disenchantment after serving in Vietnam. When he breaks down in tears, Darya comforts him. Col. Chaiko takes Raymond to a rock quarry and threatens to reassign him to work in the quarry if he fails his mission to convert Kolya. Sometime later, Raymond apologizes to Kolya for his outburst, and tries to convince him to stay in the U.S.S.R. and return to the Russian ballet. Chaiko takes Kolya, Raymond, and Darya to Leningrad, and tells Kolya that he wants him to dance the opening night of the Kirov Ballet. Chaiko promises to overlook Kolya’s prison sentence, despite the embarrassment that defection caused. Kolya is taken to his former apartment, and is surprised to see it has remained untouched. Chaiko leaves the trio behind under the watchful eye of video cameras and hidden microphones. He orders Raymond to ensure that Kolya resumes his ballet workout. At a dance studio, Kolya is defiant, and argues with Raymond. They wager a bet to see how many pirouettes Kolya can perform. Kolya wins after successfully spinning eleven times. As he mock-dances to American rock music, his former lover, Galina Ivanova enters. She curses Kolya for leaving her without a word, and tells him she was harassed for years by the KGB (Komitet gosudarstvennoy bezopasnosti). Since then, she has rebuilt her life and heads the Kirov Ballet, and offers a spot to Kolya. However, he has no intention of staying, and begs Galina to send word to the U.S. that he is alive and being held captive in Russia. He professes his love for her, but she believes he is only trying to win her help, and leaves in anger. Kolya tells Raymond he is taking a shower, but uses the opportunity to sneak out the bathroom skylight and tries to send a message for help to some young dance students he encounters. However, they ignore his plea. Meanwhile, Galina meets with Chaiko who tells her that after Kolya dances at the premiere, he will be subjected to a lengthy interrogation. Sometime later, Kolya asks Raymond if he misses America, and Raymond tells him that his family has disowned him and he would be arrested if he returned. While Kolya treats Raymond and Darya to a feast in his apartment, Chaiko enters and takes Darya as Raymond’s punishment for Kolya’s escape attempt from the dance studio. Raymond takes his anger out on Kolya who asserts that Raymond caused his own problems. After turning the radio up loudly, Kolya confides his secret escape plan to Raymond. Sometime later, Galina continues trying to convince Kolya to dance at the Kirov. When he dances for her she weeps at the beauty of his movement and admits she was forced to work for Chaiko. Galina promises to keep Kolya from being “destroyed.” When Galina attends a party on Chaiko’s arm, she is introduced to Winn Scott from the American Embassy. She whispers to him that Kolya is alive and in Leningrad, and arranges to meet him days later at a street market. Winn Scott reports the news to his superiors and Anne Wyatt at the embassy, who insist on getting proof that Kolya is alive. Winn Scott sends a contact to the market to meet Galina, and she reports where Kolya is being kept. Meanwhile, Kolya manipulates Chaiko into releasing Darya, and she tearfully embraces Raymond, who laments getting her into trouble. She shares her happiness with being his wife and reveals that she is pregnant. Kolya discusses his escape plan telling Raymond it is very risky, discouraging him and Darya from coming along. Later, they rehearse a dance routine under Chaiko’s watchful camera. Raymond tells Darya they need to flee Russia, fearing he will end up in a labor camp otherwise, but Darya wants to stay in her country. Raymond convinces her that if they make it to the American consulate, they will be safe. Meanwhile, Kolya and Galina continue their ruse while under surveillance, and Kolya agrees to dance. Galina whispers instructions for Kolya to meet Winn Scott that evening, and he will be taken to the American consulate. Kolya asks Galina to come with him, but she tearfully refuses. Before he leaves, he professes his love for her. Back at his apartment, Kolya, Raymond, and Darya prepare for their escape. Kolya ties a rope around his waist and lowers himself out the window to a ladder. Darya makes her way across the rope, but as Raymond follows, he sees Chaiko arrive on the street below, and returns to the apartment and insists they go without him. Raymond creates a distraction to allow them a chance to escape, and Kolya and Darya make it to the Lion Bridge to meet Winn Scott. When Chaiko discovers their escape, he races to beat them to the consulate. Just outside the consulate gates, Winn’s driver gets into an accident, and Chaiko catches them. However, Anne Wyatt waits with a group of journalists inside the gates, and their cameras point at Chaiko to record his actions. Kolya and Darya slowly walk toward the embassy as Chaiko threatens to stop them. When Darya is surrounded by Russian police, Kolya warns Chaiko he will receive bad press for the incident and promises to remain silent about his treatment if he and Darya are allowed to leave. Chaiko walks them to the consulate gates, and Anne embraces Kolya and Darya. Sometime later, Chaiko takes Raymond to the woods at the Russian border and forces him to walk through a fence as he is held at gunpoint. Fearing he will be shot in the back, Raymond is tentative, but through the darkness he sees Darya and Kolya. A man walks past him, crossing into Russia, and Raymond learns he has been traded for the man’s release. Raymond embraces Darya and thanks Kolya for his freedom. +

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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.