The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming (1966)

126 mins | Comedy | 25 May 1966

Director:

Norman Jewison

Writer:

William Rose

Producer:

Norman Jewison

Cinematographer:

Joseph Biroc

Production Designer:

Robert Boyle

Production Company:

Mirisch Corp.
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HISTORY

THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING (1966)
The 5 Jun 1966 NYT reported that two studios rejected the film adaptation of Nathaniel Benchley’s 1961 novel, The Off-Islanders, before the Mirisch Corporation and United Artists (UA) offered financing to director Norman Jewison. Both companies also approved Jewison’s plans to film on location with a cast of highly skilled but lesser-known actors. The screenplay by William Rose was intended as a foundation for the improvisational talents of actors Jonathan Winters, Theodore Bikel, Carl Reiner, and Alan Arkin in his first featured screen role. A letter in the 8 Mar 1965 DV noted Jewison’s desire to cast Russian actors as a “cultural exchange” with the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and criticized the director for wanting to hire “communists.” According to the 14 Jun 1966 NYT, the screenplay was reviewed by Soviet officials, who made such recommendations as giving Russian characters more authentic names, and developing the romance between the characters “Alison” and “Kolchin.” However, Jewison received no response to his request for an international coproduction. The 4 Aug 1965 DV reported that the director embarked on an unsuccessful domestic search for Russian-speaking actors, followed by a visit to Czechoslovakia. Two weeks later, the 18 Aug 1965 DV noted that Jewison planned to interview Russian-speaking actors in San Francisco, CA, after “preliminary work” at Fort Bragg, CA. The U.S. Air Force loaned the production a pair of F-101 fighter jets, and Twentieth Century-Fox Studios provided a full-scale model submarine, used the previous year in Morituri (1965, see ... More Less

THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING (1966)
The 5 Jun 1966 NYT reported that two studios rejected the film adaptation of Nathaniel Benchley’s 1961 novel, The Off-Islanders, before the Mirisch Corporation and United Artists (UA) offered financing to director Norman Jewison. Both companies also approved Jewison’s plans to film on location with a cast of highly skilled but lesser-known actors. The screenplay by William Rose was intended as a foundation for the improvisational talents of actors Jonathan Winters, Theodore Bikel, Carl Reiner, and Alan Arkin in his first featured screen role. A letter in the 8 Mar 1965 DV noted Jewison’s desire to cast Russian actors as a “cultural exchange” with the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and criticized the director for wanting to hire “communists.” According to the 14 Jun 1966 NYT, the screenplay was reviewed by Soviet officials, who made such recommendations as giving Russian characters more authentic names, and developing the romance between the characters “Alison” and “Kolchin.” However, Jewison received no response to his request for an international coproduction. The 4 Aug 1965 DV reported that the director embarked on an unsuccessful domestic search for Russian-speaking actors, followed by a visit to Czechoslovakia. Two weeks later, the 18 Aug 1965 DV noted that Jewison planned to interview Russian-speaking actors in San Francisco, CA, after “preliminary work” at Fort Bragg, CA. The U.S. Air Force loaned the production a pair of F-101 fighter jets, and Twentieth Century-Fox Studios provided a full-scale model submarine, used the previous year in Morituri (1965, see entry). Although Jewison would have preferred a real submarine, the 16 Jun 1965 DV revealed that the U.S. Navy denied his request, explaining that it could not allow its vessels to fly a Soviet flag.
       The 18 Aug 1965 LAT announced that actress and expectant mother Felicia Farr would join the cast as “Elspeth Whittaker.” However, Farr withdrew shortly after, as reported in the 31 Aug 1965 DV, due to the “rigorous” Northern California filming location and the increased insurance risk. She was replaced by Eva Marie Saint. Principal photography began the 9 Sep 1965, according to DV production charts published the following day.
       The 26 Oct 1965 LAT revealed that location filming was planned for the island of Nantucket, off the Massachusetts coast. When it was determined that photography would continue into early autumn, topographically similar Fort Bragg, CA, was chosen, in hopes of avoiding inclement weather. However, the Fort Bragg area was plagued by intermittent rain and fog over the ensuing weeks, and crew members struggled to match shots from cloudy and sunny days. The article estimated location costs at $1.5 million. That same day, DV reported that the Soviet delegation to the San Francisco Film Festival was invited to observe the production.
       The 8 Nov 1965 LAT noted that talk show host and former burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee brought a camera crew to the location, where they videotaped castmembers entertaining Fort Bragg residents and each other on a rainy day. Among the highlights was actors Tessie O’Shea and Paul Ford dancing the “Watusi.” On 11 Dec 1965, LAT listed assorted developments among cast members during their extended stay in Fort Bragg. Several, including Eva Marie Saint and Alan Arkin, bought puppies; Paul Ford, Theodore Bikel, Brian Keith, and Carl Reiner bought cameras to photograph the puppies with their owners; and Jonathan Winters took up whittling. After six consecutive days of rain, Norman Jewison reportedly wept in the presence of his company and the rain miraculously stopped. The 5 Jun 1966 NYT noted that Fort Bragg residents served as background actors, and were invited to screenings of the rushes.
       The 25 May 1966 DV revealed that Jewison had taken the completed film on a two-week tour of the U.S. before its New York City opening, showing it to a variety of demographics, some of which saw little humor in the Cold War theme. The director also screened the picture for Soviet diplomats in Washington, D.C., who objected to the line, “Russians are taught to hate Americans,” repeated three times in the screenplay. Actor John Phillip Law traveled from Baton Rouge, LA, where he was filming Hurry Sundown, (1966, see entry) to replace the word “hate” with “mistrust” and “dislike.” The revised prints were expected 30 May 1966, five days after the film’s New York City opening on 25 May 1966. The Los Angeles, CA, debut followed on 17 Jun 1966. Reviews were positive, with the 26 May 1966 NYT describing it as “rousingly funny--and perceptive.” That same day, DV reported the appearance of the Washington Post review on the newspaper’s editorial page, with a prediction that the picture would be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. According to the 27 May 1966 DV, the review was reportedly sent to the USSR by Tass, the Soviet news agency, and cited during a session of the U.S. Senate by Ernest Gruening of Alaska, who believed the film offered insights into “the absurdity of international conflict.”
       The 1 Jun 1966 DV noted that, prior to the Boston, MA, opening, press agent Joe Longo stenciled “The Russians Are Coming” over the entrance to the Belmont, MA, chapter of the anti-communist John Birch Society. Longo was charged with “malicious damage to private property and inciting to riot,” but reportedly drew laughter from the judge after explaining that it was merely a publicity stunt. The idea was attributed to Alan Friedberg, general manager of the Sack Theatres chain.
       According to the 14 Jun 1966 NYT, the picture was first accepted, then rejected, as the official U. S. entry to the 1966 Karlovy-Vary Film Festival in the former Czechoslovakia, one of the Eastern European nations comprising the Russian hegemon. The 24 Jul 1966 LAT stated that the decision was influenced by fears that the film might offend the Soviet government. Although the picture garnered a warm reception at the 1966 Berlin Film Festival, organizers asked that the title, a reminder of the looming threat from the east, be changed. With the help of UA, Jewison took the film to Moscow, Russia, for two private screenings, one of which was for elite members of the national film workers union. Response from both audiences was reportedly enthusiastic. He also learned, through filmmmaker Gregori Chukrai, that a number of secret showings had occurred around the city. The 8 Jul 1967 LAT stated that the picture was entered in the 1967 Moscow Film Festival. It was later rejected, however, because members of the Soviet film industry feared government reprimand for ignoring Jewison’s request for a coproduction.
       A news item in the 10 Mar 1967 DV stated that the picture was banned in Taiwan, a U.S. ally. According to the island nation’s censorship board, “The theme of peaceful coexistence was extremely dangerous.” This sentiment was not shared by the people of Glassboro, NJ, the site of a 23 Jun 1967 summit between U.S. President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin. As noted in the 24 Jun 1967 NYT, a local movie theater ran The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming to celebrate the event.
       The film marked the motion picture debuts of Andrea Dromm and Harry Davis, and the acting debut of musician Alex Hassilev. The 3 Dec 1965 LAT included Maryesther Denver among the cast. According to a the 7 Jul 1965 DV, British actor Richard Attenborough was considered for a role.
       The 1 Feb 1966 LAT reported that Serbian actor Milos Milosevic, billed as Milos Milos, died in an apparent murder-suicide, shooting himself after killing his lover, Barbara Ann Thomason Rooney, the estranged wife of actor Mickey Rooney. The act was reportedly prompted by the Rooneys’ impending reconciliation.
       The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming received four Academy Award nominations: Actor (Alan Arkin), Writing--Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Film Editing, and Best Picture; it won Golden Globes for Best Actor--Comedy or Musical (Arkin) and Best Motion Picture--Comedy or Musical. John Phillip Law and William Rose were also nominated. In addition, Norman Jewison was nominated for a Directors Guild of America (DGA) award, and received a Silver Ticket Award from the National General theater chain. The film was listed in the 25 Dec 1966 NYT as one of the ten best of the year. It also won a gold medal from Photoplay magazine, and achieved second place in the 1966 Film Daily poll. The 4 Jan 1967 Var reported rentals totalling $7.75 million to date.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
8 Mar 1965
p. 8.
Daily Variety
16 Jun 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Jul 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Aug 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Aug 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
31 Aug 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Sep 1965
p. 1, 2.
Daily Variety
10 Sep 1965
p. 10.
Daily Variety
13 Sep 1965
p. 8.
Daily Variety
26 Oct 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
28 Oct 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
24 May 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
25 May 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
26 May 1966
p. 1, 43.
Daily Variety
27 May 1966
p. 22.
Daily Variety
1 Jun 1966
p. 4.
Daily Variety
3 Jun 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
17 Jun 1966
p. 11.
Daily Variety
19 Jan 1967
p. 3.
Daily Variety
3 Feb 1967
p. 1.
Daily Variety
10 Mar 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 May 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
10 Jul 1967
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
18 Aug 1965
Section D, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
27 Aug 1965
Section C, 12.
Los Angeles Times
14 Sep 1965
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
26 Oct 1965
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
8 Nov 1965
Section C, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
3 Dec 1965
Section D, p. 26.
Los Angeles Times
11 Dec 1965
p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
1 Feb 1966
p. 3, 22.
Los Angeles Times
11 May 1966
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
5 Jun 1966
Section N, p. 3, 6.
Los Angeles Times
11 Jun 1966
p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jun 1966
p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
24 Jul 1966
Section B, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
7 Nov 1966
Section C, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
6 Feb 1967
Section D, p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
13 Feb 1967
Section C, p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
8 Jul 1967
p. 16.
New York Times
25 May 1966
p. 38.
New York Times
26 May 1966
p. 55.
New York Times
5 Jun 1966
p. 133.
New York Times
14 Jun 1966
p. 53.
New York Times
4 Dec 1966
p. 153.
New York Times
25 Dec 1966
pp. 1-2D.
New York Times
24 Jun 1967
p. 1, 8, 25.
Variety
4 Jan 1967
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Norman Jewison Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
1st & 2nd asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Unit mgr
Asst to the prod
Scr supv
Dial dir
Casting
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Off-Islanders by Nathaniel Benchley (New York, 1961).
DETAILS
Release Date:
25 May 1966
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 25 May 1966
Los Angeles opening: 17 June 1966
Production Date:
9 September--December 1965
Copyright Claimant:
Mirisch Corp.
Copyright Date:
25 May 1966
Copyright Number:
LP32950
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
126
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Early one September morning, a Russian submarine draws too close to the New England coast when its captain wants to take a good look at America and runs aground on a sandbar near an island off Cape Cod. A 9-man landing party headed by timorous Lieutenant Rozanov is sent in search of a motor launch to help free the submarine. The men arrive at the house of Walt Whittaker, a New York City playwright anxious to get his wife and two children off the forever-damp island now that summer is over. Failing to convince the Whittakers that his group are Norwegians, Rozanov draws a gun and promises no harm to Walt if he will simply tell them how to get a boat so that they can quietly go away. Walt agrees and the Russians depart, leaving a young sailor, Kolchin, to guard the Whittakers and their attractive 18-year-old neighbor, Alison Palmer. The Russians steal an old sedan from Muriel Everett, the postmistress; she calls Alice Foss, the gossipy telephone switchboard operator, and before long, wild rumors throw the entire island into confusion. As levelheaded Sheriff Mattocks and his bumbling assistant Norman Jonas try to squelch the civil resistance movement of blustering Fendall Hawkins, the Russians run into Walt, who has escaped from Kolchin, and together they obtain a boat. As the remaining Russians race back to their submarine, Rozanov goes to find Kolchin, who by now is falling in love with Alison. The captain takes his submarine into the small harbor and threatens to blow up the town unless Rozanov and Kolchin are returned to him. As tension mounts, a small boy falls from his perch on the church ... +


Early one September morning, a Russian submarine draws too close to the New England coast when its captain wants to take a good look at America and runs aground on a sandbar near an island off Cape Cod. A 9-man landing party headed by timorous Lieutenant Rozanov is sent in search of a motor launch to help free the submarine. The men arrive at the house of Walt Whittaker, a New York City playwright anxious to get his wife and two children off the forever-damp island now that summer is over. Failing to convince the Whittakers that his group are Norwegians, Rozanov draws a gun and promises no harm to Walt if he will simply tell them how to get a boat so that they can quietly go away. Walt agrees and the Russians depart, leaving a young sailor, Kolchin, to guard the Whittakers and their attractive 18-year-old neighbor, Alison Palmer. The Russians steal an old sedan from Muriel Everett, the postmistress; she calls Alice Foss, the gossipy telephone switchboard operator, and before long, wild rumors throw the entire island into confusion. As levelheaded Sheriff Mattocks and his bumbling assistant Norman Jonas try to squelch the civil resistance movement of blustering Fendall Hawkins, the Russians run into Walt, who has escaped from Kolchin, and together they obtain a boat. As the remaining Russians race back to their submarine, Rozanov goes to find Kolchin, who by now is falling in love with Alison. The captain takes his submarine into the small harbor and threatens to blow up the town unless Rozanov and Kolchin are returned to him. As tension mounts, a small boy falls from his perch on the church steeple and hangs perilously from a gutter. Forgetting their differences, islanders and Russians unite to form a human pyramid and rescue the child. With peace and harmony enveloping everyone, the Russians leave the island--with a convoy of villagers in small boats protecting the submarine from overhead Navy planes until it reaches safe waters. +

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

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