Oh, God! (1977)

PG | 104 mins | Comedy | 7 October 1977

Director:

Carl Reiner

Writer:

Larry Gelbart

Producer:

Jerry Weintraub

Cinematographer:

Victor J. Kemper

Editor:

Bud Molin

Production Designer:

Jack Senter

Production Company:

Warner Bros., Inc.
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HISTORY

End credits include the following written statement: “Filmed at the Burbank Studios, Burbank, California.”
       A 30 Jul 1975 Var news item announced that screenwriter Larry Gelbart would make his feature film directorial debut, with principal photography scheduled to begin Jan 1976. However, Carl Reiner ultimately directed the motion picture. An 11 Jun 1976 DV news brief reported that Alan Arkin had been cast opposite George Burns, but the role was eventually played by John Denver. On 31 Dec 1976, a DV article stated that the Tabernacle of Holiness Choir, with director Shirley Jones and organist Bobby Hester, would perform in a sequence at the Shrine Auditorium. However, none appear in onscreen credits. A 12 Jan 1977 DV story reported that Martin Mull was cast as a “John Denver look-alike,” and a 7 Feb 1977 Box news brief announced the casting of Carl Gottlieb, Otis Greene, Joyce Goldman, John Ashton, and Stuart Nesbit, but none appear in onscreen credits. An 11 Aug 1977 DV news item noted that Hilary Beane appears in the film as a production assistant to Dinah Shore. However, Beane’s name does not appear in onscreen credits.
       A 13 Dec 1976 DV article reported principal photography had begun, and a 20 Dec 1976 Box news brief noted filming would continue in Los Angeles until 1 Feb 1977. A 29 Nov 1976 Box news item added locations in Burbank and Tarzana, CA, and a 1 Feb 1978 LAT article stated the budget at $2.1 million.
       A 29 Sep 1977 HR article reported Warner Bros. ... More Less

End credits include the following written statement: “Filmed at the Burbank Studios, Burbank, California.”
       A 30 Jul 1975 Var news item announced that screenwriter Larry Gelbart would make his feature film directorial debut, with principal photography scheduled to begin Jan 1976. However, Carl Reiner ultimately directed the motion picture. An 11 Jun 1976 DV news brief reported that Alan Arkin had been cast opposite George Burns, but the role was eventually played by John Denver. On 31 Dec 1976, a DV article stated that the Tabernacle of Holiness Choir, with director Shirley Jones and organist Bobby Hester, would perform in a sequence at the Shrine Auditorium. However, none appear in onscreen credits. A 12 Jan 1977 DV story reported that Martin Mull was cast as a “John Denver look-alike,” and a 7 Feb 1977 Box news brief announced the casting of Carl Gottlieb, Otis Greene, Joyce Goldman, John Ashton, and Stuart Nesbit, but none appear in onscreen credits. An 11 Aug 1977 DV news item noted that Hilary Beane appears in the film as a production assistant to Dinah Shore. However, Beane’s name does not appear in onscreen credits.
       A 13 Dec 1976 DV article reported principal photography had begun, and a 20 Dec 1976 Box news brief noted filming would continue in Los Angeles until 1 Feb 1977. A 29 Nov 1976 Box news item added locations in Burbank and Tarzana, CA, and a 1 Feb 1978 LAT article stated the budget at $2.1 million.
       A 29 Sep 1977 HR article reported Warner Bros. could not advertise the title of the movie in newspapers in UT after the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News both rejected the ads. The print ads would instead read, “Go see the picture that you’ve been hearing so much about on radio and TV.” However, a 30 Sep 1977 DV column stated the ads would read: “A divine comedy which you’ve read and heard about starring George Burns and John Denver.” According to an 8 Oct 1977 LAT brief, the two newspapers were owned separately, but together owned Newspaper Agency Corp. (NAC), which oversaw advertising and printing. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, owner of the Deseret News, issued “statements against the misuse of the word ‘God’.” On 14 Jul 1978, HR carried a Reuters news item that stated the film was banned in South Africa for being “objectionable to the religious feelings or convictions of a group,” according to a government spokesman. The Publications Appeals Board found that the film “showed God as not being all powerful, as Christians believe, and negated him.”
       A 19 Jul 1977 DV column noted that director Reiner attended a successful sneak preview in Phoenix, AZ.
       The 3 Oct 1977 DV review called the film “hilarious,” citing the “brilliant teaming” of George Burns with John Denver. Most reviews noted that it was Denver’s feature film acting debut. Gelbart received an Academy Award nomination for Writing (Screenplay –– based on material from another medium) and won a Writer's Guild of America (WGA) award for Comedy Adapted from Another Medium.
       A 23 Aug 2004 DV article reported producer Jerry Weintraub was planning a remake with Ellen DeGeneres in the role of “God.” As of 2013, the film had not been made.
       Oh, God! inspired two sequels starring Burns: Oh, God! Book II (1980, see entry) and Oh, God! You Devil (1984, see entry). More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
29 Nov 1976.
---
Box Office
20 Dec 1976.
---
Box Office
7 Feb 1977.
---
Box Office
17 Oct 1977.
---
Cue
15 Oct 1977.
---
Daily Variety
11 Jun 1976
p. 3.
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1976.
---
Daily Variety
31 Dec 1976
p. 8.
Daily Variety
12 Jan 1977.
---
Daily Variety
19 Jul 1977
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Aug 1977
p. 6.
Daily Variety
30 Sep 1977
p. 3.
Daily Variety
3 Oct 1977
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 Aug 2004
p. 1, 34.
Films and Filming
19 Dec 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Sep 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Oct 1977
p. 3, 9.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 1978.
---
Independent Film Journal
25 Nov 1977.
---
LAHExam
7 Oct 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Oct 1977
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
8 Oct 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
1 Feb 1978.
---
Motion Picture Production Digest
19 Oct 1977.
---
New West
7 Nov 1977.
---
New York Times
8 Oct 1977
p. 13.
Newsweek
24 Oct 1977.
---
Time
31 Oct 1977.
---
Variety
30 Jul 1975
p. 48.
Variety
5 Oct 1977
p. 28.
Variety
14 Dec 1977
---
Village Voice
17 Oct 1977
p. 53.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Jerry Weintraub Production of a Carl Reiner Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Asst cam
Asst cam
Key grip
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Music scoring mixer
SOUND
Prod mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Oh, God! by Avery Corman (New York, 1971).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
7 October 1977
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 7 October 1977
Production Date:
13 December 1976--1 February 1977 in Los Angeles, Burbank, and Tarzana, CA
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc.
Copyright Date:
7 October 1977
Copyright Number:
PA1188
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
104
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Jerry Landers, an assistant manager at a Food World grocery store in Burbank, California, receives a letter summoning him to a meeting with God the following day. Jerry and his wife, Bobbie, dismiss it as a practical joke and he tears the note up and throws it away. However, the next day, the note turns up in a head of lettuce at the store and Jerry feels compelled to honor the request. He goes to the appointment in downtown Los Angeles, California, and finds an office with nothing but a chair and an intercom and he is greeted by a voice on the speaker. The voice attempts to convince the dubious Jerry that he really is God by demonstrating that Jerry is on the twenty-seventh floor of a building that actually has only seventeen floors and talking to him through Jerry’s supposedly broken car radio. God informs Jerry that he wants him to spread the word that God exists. His wife does not believe Jerry and suggests that they go on vacation and visit his brother-in-law, who is a therapist, but Jerry insists he is not crazy. The following day, God speaks to Jerry in the shower and then appears to him in the guise of an elderly man. When Jerry asks him how He can permit so much suffering in the world, God explains that the world is based on luck and free will. God tells Jerry that it is up to him to inform the world to heed his message, treat one another better, and look after the earth’s natural resources. God urges him to go to the press. Jerry tells Briggs, a Los Angeles Times reporter, ... +


Jerry Landers, an assistant manager at a Food World grocery store in Burbank, California, receives a letter summoning him to a meeting with God the following day. Jerry and his wife, Bobbie, dismiss it as a practical joke and he tears the note up and throws it away. However, the next day, the note turns up in a head of lettuce at the store and Jerry feels compelled to honor the request. He goes to the appointment in downtown Los Angeles, California, and finds an office with nothing but a chair and an intercom and he is greeted by a voice on the speaker. The voice attempts to convince the dubious Jerry that he really is God by demonstrating that Jerry is on the twenty-seventh floor of a building that actually has only seventeen floors and talking to him through Jerry’s supposedly broken car radio. God informs Jerry that he wants him to spread the word that God exists. His wife does not believe Jerry and suggests that they go on vacation and visit his brother-in-law, who is a therapist, but Jerry insists he is not crazy. The following day, God speaks to Jerry in the shower and then appears to him in the guise of an elderly man. When Jerry asks him how He can permit so much suffering in the world, God explains that the world is based on luck and free will. God tells Jerry that it is up to him to inform the world to heed his message, treat one another better, and look after the earth’s natural resources. God urges him to go to the press. Jerry tells Briggs, a Los Angeles Times reporter, that God asked him to be His messenger, but the journalist is skeptical. Later, God appears to Jerry at the grocery store and asks him to go for a drive. Jerry asks for a sign and God makes it rain inside the car. Jerry returns to the newspaper and again tries to convince Briggs. The next day, the newspaper runs a story that includes Jerry among tales of various religious fanatics and Bobbie is mortified. Jerry explains that he has now seen God and needs her to believe him. She allows that Jerry believes he spoke to God, and they attempt to explain the situation to their children, Adam and Becky, but the boy and girl hope their father is just going through a phase. Later, a television news program picks up the story and the media surrounds the Landers’ Tarzana, California, home. A Food World executive warns Jerry not to make any more claims that he has spoken to God if he wants to keep his job. God tells Jerry that there are no guarantees in life, and his job is a small price to pay for saving the world. When Jerry picks up Adam at school, his son is embarrassed to be seen with him. Bobbie pleads with Jerry not to jeopardize his career. Later, Jerry appears as a guest on the Dinah Shore television show, on which a Los Angeles Police Department sketch artist produces a drawing of God based on Jerry’s description. After the show airs, people begin to recognize Jerry. Bobbie is extremely upset when a crowd of religious zealots gathers outside the Landers’ house. A committee of religious leaders of various faiths calls Jerry before them to verify his story. The committee sequesters Jerry in a hotel with fifty questions written in Aramaic, which he is to answer with God’s help. God dictates the answers to Jerry and instructs him to take them directly to Reverend Willie Williams, an evangelical preacher, whom God calls a fraud. Jerry attends Reverend Williams’s revival meeting at the Shrine Auditorium and tells Williams’s followers what God said. When Reverend Williams sues Jerry for slander, Jerry acts as his own attorney and calls God to the witness stand. The judge threatens Jerry with contempt of court, but God enters the courtroom and testifies. Everyone in court can see and hear Him and He performs a card trick and makes himself disappear to prove his legitimacy; however, when the audio recording made by the court clerk is played back, God’s voice cannot be heard and His testimony disappears from the stenographer’s transcription. The judge dismisses the slander charge against Jerry, but rules there is no evidence that God appeared despite their mutual experience of the phenomena. Jerry loses his job at Food World, collects his final check, and says goodbye to his co-workers. As he drives away, Jerry hears a payphone ringing in a park and stops to answer it. God waits in the adjacent phone booth. Jerry asks if they failed and God assures him that they succeeded in getting His word out and now they just have to see what happens. +

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

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