The Pawnbroker (1965)

114 mins | Drama | 20 April 1965

Director:

Sidney Lumet

Cinematographer:

Boris Kaufman

Editor:

Ralph Rosenblum

Production Designer:

Richard Sylbert

Production Companies:

Landau/Unger Co., Pawnbroker Co.
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HISTORY

Items in the 16 Jan 1962 DV and 17 Jan 1962 NYT announced that former United Artists promotions executive Roger Lewis had begun development of his first independent picture, The Pawnbroker, in association with Philip Langner. For the adaptation, the original Harlem, New York City setting of Edward Lewis Wallant’s 1961 novel was changed to the Soho neighborhood of London, England, which Lewis felt would provide “a greater variety of characters.” However, a 4 Jul 1962 DV brief suggested that the project was moved abroad to take advantage of the U.K.’s Eady Levy after the filmmakers experienced difficulty securing upfront finances in the U.S. In a 16 Oct 1963 Var article, Langner detailed the objections of several major companies, including one that requested they eliminate critical character elements, such as references to the leading character’s experience in a concentration camp. According to the 4 Apr 1962 and 13 Jun 1962 Var, Lewis eventually made a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) to sponsor a first treatment of the script and find a possible star and director, in addition to use of their MGM British Studios. Despite the early interest of director Daniel Petrie, he did not commit to the project.
       By early the next year, a 23 Jan 1963 Var noted the involvement of producer Ely Landau, and the 20 Feb 1963 DV named Ted Allan as screenwriter. Two months later, however, a 22 Apr 1963 DV brief stated Mort Fine and David Friedkin had assumed scripting duties as part of a three-picture deal with Landau. At this stage of development, the setting ... More Less

Items in the 16 Jan 1962 DV and 17 Jan 1962 NYT announced that former United Artists promotions executive Roger Lewis had begun development of his first independent picture, The Pawnbroker, in association with Philip Langner. For the adaptation, the original Harlem, New York City setting of Edward Lewis Wallant’s 1961 novel was changed to the Soho neighborhood of London, England, which Lewis felt would provide “a greater variety of characters.” However, a 4 Jul 1962 DV brief suggested that the project was moved abroad to take advantage of the U.K.’s Eady Levy after the filmmakers experienced difficulty securing upfront finances in the U.S. In a 16 Oct 1963 Var article, Langner detailed the objections of several major companies, including one that requested they eliminate critical character elements, such as references to the leading character’s experience in a concentration camp. According to the 4 Apr 1962 and 13 Jun 1962 Var, Lewis eventually made a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) to sponsor a first treatment of the script and find a possible star and director, in addition to use of their MGM British Studios. Despite the early interest of director Daniel Petrie, he did not commit to the project.
       By early the next year, a 23 Jan 1963 Var noted the involvement of producer Ely Landau, and the 20 Feb 1963 DV named Ted Allan as screenwriter. Two months later, however, a 22 Apr 1963 DV brief stated Mort Fine and David Friedkin had assumed scripting duties as part of a three-picture deal with Landau. At this stage of development, the setting had been restored to New York City, while the 24 Apr 1963 NYT claimed that Franklin Schaffner would direct James Mason in the title role.
       Later that summer, items in the 14 Aug 1963 and 11 Sep 1963 Var indicated Arthur Hiller was briefly attached to direct, but decided to move to another project within the company. Sidney Lumet stepped in as his replacement, marking his reunion with Landau after their collaboration on Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962, see entry). On 28 Aug 1963, NYT confirmed that Rod Steiger, the filmmakers’ original choice to play “Sol Nazerman,” had officially signed on. The 16 Oct 1963 Var reported that both he and Lumet had agreed to low salaries in exchange for a percentage of the profits. Around this time, Irving Asher, Joseph Manduke, and Alfred Markim also joined the Landau Co. in executive roles.
       According to a 4 Sep 1963 DV brief, Landau hoped to cast Sal Mineo, but was unable to overcome scheduling conflicts with the actor’s commitment to Cheyenne Autumn (1964, see entry). Additional Var casting announcements throughout production named Fritz and Annette Olsen, Eusebia Cosme, Hilda Haynes, and Tyree Glenn, Jr. (appearing as a jazz band leader) as players in the film.
       After a period of rehearsal in New York City, principal photography began 7 Oct 1963, as stated in an 18 Oct 1963 DV production chart. Despite earlier plans to shoot at the Biltmore Studios, interiors were completed at the Fox Movietone Studios in Hell’s Kitchen. An article in the 3 Nov 1963 NYT indicated that the eight-week schedule also consisted of scenes filmed in the East Harlem neighborhood known as “Spanish Harlem”; Jericho, Long Island, NY; Lincoln Center; and Connecticut.
       Although the 4 Sep 1963 Var reported that Boris Leven was attached as art director, the job was ultimately filled by Richard Sylbert. A 25 Sep 1963 Var brief named Mel Ash as a “unit man,” and the 13 Nov 1963 edition reported the involvement of second assistant cameraman Robert Puello, one of just five African-American cameramen working for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) in the U.S. and Canada at that time.
       According to the 17 Jun 1964 Var, The Pawnbroker had been selected as the official U.S. entry to screen at the Berlin Film Festival, which ran 26 Jun—7 Jul 1964. Steiger received the festival’s Silver Bear award for best actor.
       Prior to its domestic release, The Pawnbroker sparked controversy with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for failing to receive a Code Seal from Code Authority Geoffrey Shurlock. As the scenes in question included footage of a bare breast and a woman being stripped naked upon entering a concentration camp, Landau requested a meeting of the Appeals Board to reverse the decision. On 31 Mar 1965 Var announced that the seal was awarded with no edits required. Although several sources speculated that this ruling would significantly alter future regulations about nudity on film, members of the Appeals Board made clear that this was an exception and should not influence the PCA or encourage filmmakers.
       A 2 Apr 1965 NYT news item announced the “world premiere” on 20 Apr 1965 at three New York City theatres, which according to a 28 Apr 1965 DV item, yielded an impressive opening week gross of $63,200. Los Angeles, CA, playdates began the same day at the Pantages Theatre. A 2 Jun 1965 DV stated that the exclusive run was expected to end 21 Jun 1965, when the Pantages was scheduled to close for renovations related to a change in management.
       Steiger’s performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
       While the official copyright length is 119 minutes, DV’s 6 Jul 1964 Berlin Film Festival review and the 21 Apr 1965 NYT review listed running times of 112 and 114 minutes. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
16 Jan 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Jul 1962
p. 60.
Daily Variety
20 Feb 1963
p. 1.
Daily Variety
22 Apr 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
23 Aug 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
4 Sep 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Oct 1963
p. 8.
Daily Variety
6 Jul 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
10 Mar 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
28 Apr 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
2 Jun 1965
p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
18 Apr 1965
Section M, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
21 Apr 1965
Section C, p. 8.
New York Times
17 Jan 1962
p. 25.
New York Times
24 Apr 1963
p. 33.
New York Times
28 Aug 1963
p. 31.
New York Times
3 Nov 1963
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
2 Apr 1965
p. 26.
New York Times
21 Apr 1965
p. 51.
Variety
4 Apr 1962
p. 4.
Variety
13 Jun 1962
p. 4, 19.
Variety
23 Jan 1963
p. 26.
Variety
14 Aug 1963
p. 3.
Variety
28 Aug 1963
p. 7.
Variety
4 Sep 1963
p. 7.
Variety
11 Sep 1963
p. 3.
Variety
11 Sep 1963
p. 7.
Variety
18 Sep 1963
p. 13.
Variety
25 Sep 1963
p. 5.
Variety
16 Oct 1963
p. 11.
Variety
16 Oct 1963
p. 19.
Variety
30 Oct 1963
p. 16.
Variety
6 Nov 1963
p. 14.
Variety
13 Nov 1963
p. 4.
Variety
4 Dec 1963
p. 4.
Variety
17 Jun 1964
p. 22.
Variety
15 Jul 1964
p. 15.
Variety
31 Mar 1965
p. 5.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Ely Landau Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Pres
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod coordinator
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Pawnbroker by Edward Lewis Wallant (New York, 1961).
DETAILS
Release Date:
20 April 1965
Premiere Information:
Berlin Film Festival screening: late June or early July 1964
Los Angeles and New York openings: 20 April 1965
Production Date:
began 7 October 1963
Copyright Claimant:
Landau/Unger Co.
Copyright Date:
20 April 1965
Copyright Number:
LP34701
Duration(in mins):
114
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

With the rise of Hitler, Prof. Sol Nazerman, a Jew, and his family were dragged to a concentration camp, where he saw his two children die and his wife raped by Nazi officers. Now he operates a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem. Numbed by the horrors of his past, he considers himself conditioned against any emotion. His assistant at the shop is a brash but sensitive young Puerto Rican, Jesus Ortiz, who senses that there is another being under the cold exterior Nazerman presents. But the boy's attempts to break through this exterior are rebuffed, as are those of Marilyn Birchfield, a neighborhood social worker. When Nazerman learns that Rodriguez, the pawnshop's flamboyant black backer, makes his money through prostitution, the old man recalls his wife's death and swears that he wants no part of the business; but Rodriguez forces him to admit that he knew all along where the money came from. One day Ortiz tries to get assurance from Nazerman that there is more to life than the ugliness he sees around him. When Nazerman responds by being thoughtlessly cruel, the boy spitefully arranges for the pawnshop to be robbed. Facing armed thugs, Nazerman refuses to hand over his money and readily--almost eagerly--awaits death. But Ortiz takes the bullet intended for Nazerman and dies in the old man's arms. In frustration, Nazerman impales his hand on the receipt spindle and wanders into the ... +


With the rise of Hitler, Prof. Sol Nazerman, a Jew, and his family were dragged to a concentration camp, where he saw his two children die and his wife raped by Nazi officers. Now he operates a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem. Numbed by the horrors of his past, he considers himself conditioned against any emotion. His assistant at the shop is a brash but sensitive young Puerto Rican, Jesus Ortiz, who senses that there is another being under the cold exterior Nazerman presents. But the boy's attempts to break through this exterior are rebuffed, as are those of Marilyn Birchfield, a neighborhood social worker. When Nazerman learns that Rodriguez, the pawnshop's flamboyant black backer, makes his money through prostitution, the old man recalls his wife's death and swears that he wants no part of the business; but Rodriguez forces him to admit that he knew all along where the money came from. One day Ortiz tries to get assurance from Nazerman that there is more to life than the ugliness he sees around him. When Nazerman responds by being thoughtlessly cruel, the boy spitefully arranges for the pawnshop to be robbed. Facing armed thugs, Nazerman refuses to hand over his money and readily--almost eagerly--awaits death. But Ortiz takes the bullet intended for Nazerman and dies in the old man's arms. In frustration, Nazerman impales his hand on the receipt spindle and wanders into the street. +

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

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