Brubaker (1980)

R | 130 mins | Drama | 20 June 1980

Director:

Stuart Rosenberg

Writer:

W. D. Richter

Producer:

Ron Silverman

Cinematographer:

Bruno Nuytten

Editor:

Robert Brown

Production Designer:

J. Michael Riva

Production Company:

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
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HISTORY

       The following note appears in the beginning credits after Lalo Schrifrin: “Original Music Copyright © 1980 Fox Fanfare Music Inc.”
       A title card with the following statement appears at the end of the film: “Two years after Henry Brubaker was fired – 24 inmates, led by Richard ‘Dickie’ Coombes, brought suit against Wakefield Prison. The Court ruled that the treatment of prisoners at Wakefield was unconstitutional and ordered the prison be reformed or closed. The governor was not re-elected.”
       The following acknowledgments appear at the end of the film: “The Producers wish to thank the Ohio Film Bureau for its cooperation in the making of this film”; and “We wish to pay tribute to Richard Ward, who played ‘Abraham,’ for a lifetime of very special work.” Brubaker marked Ward’s last performance in a feature film before his death on 1 Jul 1979.
       While a 8 Jun 1979 HR article reported that producers Ted Mann and Ron Silverman spent nine years trying to get the film made, a 16 Jun 1980 NYT article put the development timeframe at more than ten years. The first script, written by Arthur Ross in 1970, was the true story of professor and penologist Tom Murton’s experiences as “superintendent of the Arkansas Tucker Prison Farm.” However, Arthur Penn passed on an offer to direct the project and directors George Roy Hill, Robert Wise, Mark Robson and Robert Mulligan rejected another script by W. D. Richter that fictionalized Murton’s story. Silverman’s interest kept the project afloat and in 1975, Richard Brooks expressed interest but went on to direct other films. In 1977, John Badham wanted to direct ... More Less

       The following note appears in the beginning credits after Lalo Schrifrin: “Original Music Copyright © 1980 Fox Fanfare Music Inc.”
       A title card with the following statement appears at the end of the film: “Two years after Henry Brubaker was fired – 24 inmates, led by Richard ‘Dickie’ Coombes, brought suit against Wakefield Prison. The Court ruled that the treatment of prisoners at Wakefield was unconstitutional and ordered the prison be reformed or closed. The governor was not re-elected.”
       The following acknowledgments appear at the end of the film: “The Producers wish to thank the Ohio Film Bureau for its cooperation in the making of this film”; and “We wish to pay tribute to Richard Ward, who played ‘Abraham,’ for a lifetime of very special work.” Brubaker marked Ward’s last performance in a feature film before his death on 1 Jul 1979.
       While a 8 Jun 1979 HR article reported that producers Ted Mann and Ron Silverman spent nine years trying to get the film made, a 16 Jun 1980 NYT article put the development timeframe at more than ten years. The first script, written by Arthur Ross in 1970, was the true story of professor and penologist Tom Murton’s experiences as “superintendent of the Arkansas Tucker Prison Farm.” However, Arthur Penn passed on an offer to direct the project and directors George Roy Hill, Robert Wise, Mark Robson and Robert Mulligan rejected another script by W. D. Richter that fictionalized Murton’s story. Silverman’s interest kept the project afloat and in 1975, Richard Brooks expressed interest but went on to direct other films. In 1977, John Badham wanted to direct the film but was also distracted by other projects. Meanwhile, Richter achieved success with his screenplays for Slither (1973, see entry) and a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, see entry), and was commissioned to write a new Brubaker script. Paramount Pictures passed on the project, but then, Alan J. Pakula expressed interest in directing the film. However, Pakula had to finish other films first and Silverman did not want to wait so Stan Kamen, Pakula’s agent, gave the script to another client, Bob Rafelson.
       A 4 Sep 1978 Box article stated that the starring role had been offered to Paul Newman, who was unavailable, and twice to Jack Nicholson, who passed. The 8 Jun 1979 HR article stated when Stan Kamen became Redford’s agent in 1978, it was discovered that the actor had not yet seen the script. When offered $3 million for the role of "Brubaker," Redford signed on. Redford’s involvement secured the deal with Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, casting agents contacted a branch of the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services, the state’s parole officials, and directors of rehabilitation centers for access to former inmates. The production received interest from 6,500 people for bit and extra parts. To achieve authenticity, miners, farm hands, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and housewives were cast. In addition, retired prison guards were cast, many who had worked at the Junction City Farm Prison in Ohio, where the movie was filmed, as well as former convicts who had been incarcerated at the prison before it closed. The 8 Jun 1979 HR article reported that many of the ex-cons had served time for crimes such as armed robbery and murder. For a scene filmed at a lunch counter, actual customers, who were regulars, played themselves. It was noted in the Sep/Oct 1979 On Location article that although the use of a real prison was weighed during location scouting, the filmmakers considered that inmates without speaking parts might resent fellow inmates with lines, and that the prison population could grow to resent cast and crew members who could leave the grounds at the end of their work day.
       The Sep/Oct 1979 On Location article stated that Silverman wrote letters to film offices in thirty-seven states to search for a prison. On 9 Aug 1978, Var announced that principal photography would begin 13 Sep 1978 at a closed prison farm in central OH to ensure that a cornfield, an essential element of the story set during the summer, would be in bloom. Bob Rafelson had been hired to direct the $5 million-budgeted film.
       The 4 Sep 1978 Box article stated that the ongoing search for “a big name star” delayed the start of principal photography until 1 Nov. However, a 24 Apr 1979 Var brief reported that Rafelson had been fired by Twentieth Century-Fox executive Richard Berger after nine days of shooting because the production was five days behind schedule. According to a 20 Feb 1997 LAT article, Rafelson later admitted to grabbing Berger but denied Berger's claims that the physical altercation went any further. A 25 Apr 1979 LAT news item announced that Stuart Rosenberg would replace Rafelson as director on 30 Apr 1979 after a short hiatus in production. A 30 May 1980 DV article announced that principal photography was completed 21 Jul 1979 at an estimated cost of $7 million.
       Production notes stated that the film was shot at the closed Junction City Prison Farm, located fifty miles outside of Columbus, OH. The facility opened in 1904 and had originally used inmates to run its brick factory. During the height of its operation, it housed “upwards of 300 prisoners.” The On Location article stated the brick business became “a self-supporting agricultural prison farm.” By 1972, the facilities were converted to “a mental rehabilitation center for the criminally insane.” Rafelson had considered filming at a working prison, which would have defrayed some of the considerable cost of extras in the film. However, with a ten- to twelve-week schedule, the production would have had to adjust to the prison’s schedule and the logistics were determined too difficult.
       Production notes stated that the prison fields, bathrooms, offices, barracks and death row were all used in filming. Parts of the facility served as offices and dressing rooms, and a wardrobe department was established to outfit six hundred extras. Several areas were set up as departments for construction, sound, electrical, camera, set dressing and make up. During principal photography, mobile kitchens prepared meals for the cast and crew, who ate in the “old prison dining hall.”
       According to On Location , the crew “worked six days a week from February to March,” painting, tearing down walls and building “turrets, buttresses, battlements” on the prison’s exterior at a cost of $1 million to achieve “an almost Gothic look.” Special props provided by the Ohio Film Bureau to dress the sets included the “free use of period Coke bottles from a local vendor, 500 rusted prison beds, and a number of skeletons.” Art director J. Michael Riva instructed the make up artists to add “shades of gray” to “the pancake make-up for the winter part of the film.” Additionally, Riva had the costume department outfit the prisoners in winter grays and switched to a red and yellow palette for the spring and summer months. Director of photography Bruno Nuytten made faces look more pallid by using a blue filter.
       Reviews for the film were mixed. Critics from DV, LAT, and New West enjoyed the film and praised Redford’s scenes with Yaphet Kotto and a strong supporting cast, while conceding that the film’s theme of social justice would not have been made without Redford’s involvement. Charles Champlin of the LAT thought Redford’s performance was the best work he had done to that time. Others felt that Redford’s character was one-dimensional and unexceptional.
       W. D. Richter and Arthur Ross both received an Academy Award nomination for Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen).
       According to an article in the 23 May 1979 Var, Rafelson filed a “breach of contract and slander [law]suit against 20th Century-Fox over his firing,” and asked for damages of $10 million. Rafelson claimed that the studio had issued statements alluding to his professional incompetence and mental instability. Court papers also stated Rafelson wanted to collect the $500,000 salary he was owed for his services as director and $100,000 “in deferrals and a percentage of the profits.” According to the 20 Feb 1997 LAT article, Rafelson won the lawsuit. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
4 Sep 1978.
---
Daily Variety
30 May 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jun 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 1980
p. 3.
LAHExam
20 Jun 1980
Section D, p. 9, 21.
Los Angeles Times
25 Apr 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Jun 1980
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
20 Feb 1997
Calendar, p. 1.
Motion Picture Product Digest
25 Jun 1980
p. 5-6.
New West
30 Jun 1980.
---
New West
14 Jul 1980
p. 50.
New York Times
16 Jun 1980
Section C, p. 13.
New York Times
20 Jun 1980
p. 8.
On Location
Sep/Oct 1979
p. 66-70.
Variety
9 Aug 1978.
---
Variety
24 Apr 1979.
---
Variety
23 May 1979.
---
Variety
18 Jun 1980
p. 22.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Ted Mann - Ron Silverman Production
A Stuart Rosenberg Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Gaffer
Key grip
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Supv asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Const coord
COSTUMES
Ladies cost
MUSIC
Orch
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Dial ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opticals by
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Addl makeup
Addl makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Tech adv
Ohio loc supv
Prod coord
Prod timekeeper
Head wrangler
Transportation coord
Prod accountant
Asst to the prod
Asst to the prod
Extra casting
Extra casting
Extra casting
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Suggested by the book Accomplices to the Crime by Thomas O. Murton and Joe Hyams (New York, 1970).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Accomplice to the Crime
Shadow Walk
Release Date:
20 June 1980
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 20 June 1980
Production Date:
30 April--21 July 1979 in Ohio
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
28 July 1980
Copyright Number:
PA78155
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by DeLuxe®
Lenses/Prints
Photographic equipment by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
130
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25372
SYNOPSIS

Newly appointed Wakefield Prison warden Henry Brubaker poses as a prisoner and arrives at the penitentiary with other incoming convicts by bus. Brubaker is processed along with the rest of the new inmates. The convicts find there are not enough beds to go around, the food is barely edible, the showers do not work, rapes in the barracks are an everyday occurrence, and inmates are whipped for no reason. At the infirmary, inmates give blood in exchange for money and they pay the cooks for better sandwiches. Brubaker finds a maggot crawling in his food. Later, inmate Larry Lee Bullen is told he has a “phone call,” but he is taken away and beaten. On sanitation detail, the hurt Bullen and Brubaker clean a foul-smelling stable outside Death Row until another inmate, Walter, takes Bullen hostage and threatens to kill him unless he speaks to the warden. Brubaker calms the agitated Walter, and reveals that he is the new warden. At first, Walter doesn’t believe him, but then he lists his demands, including yellow-painted walls, a picture window, a shag rug, some liquor and a television like the one for the “trusties,” the corrupt convict-guards that rule the prison. When Walter shows Brubaker where to put the window, Brubaker locks him in his cell. Trusty Dickie Coombes escorts Brubaker to Warden Renfro’s office, where Brubaker informs the startled Renfro that he is out of a job. As Brubaker addresses the prison, conveying the new rules, governor’s assistant, Lillian Gray, the Prison Board Chairman John Deach, and a police officer arrive to swear him in. Deach tells Brubaker that he wants to be kept informed ... +


Newly appointed Wakefield Prison warden Henry Brubaker poses as a prisoner and arrives at the penitentiary with other incoming convicts by bus. Brubaker is processed along with the rest of the new inmates. The convicts find there are not enough beds to go around, the food is barely edible, the showers do not work, rapes in the barracks are an everyday occurrence, and inmates are whipped for no reason. At the infirmary, inmates give blood in exchange for money and they pay the cooks for better sandwiches. Brubaker finds a maggot crawling in his food. Later, inmate Larry Lee Bullen is told he has a “phone call,” but he is taken away and beaten. On sanitation detail, the hurt Bullen and Brubaker clean a foul-smelling stable outside Death Row until another inmate, Walter, takes Bullen hostage and threatens to kill him unless he speaks to the warden. Brubaker calms the agitated Walter, and reveals that he is the new warden. At first, Walter doesn’t believe him, but then he lists his demands, including yellow-painted walls, a picture window, a shag rug, some liquor and a television like the one for the “trusties,” the corrupt convict-guards that rule the prison. When Walter shows Brubaker where to put the window, Brubaker locks him in his cell. Trusty Dickie Coombes escorts Brubaker to Warden Renfro’s office, where Brubaker informs the startled Renfro that he is out of a job. As Brubaker addresses the prison, conveying the new rules, governor’s assistant, Lillian Gray, the Prison Board Chairman John Deach, and a police officer arrive to swear him in. Deach tells Brubaker that he wants to be kept informed about the prison at all times, while Lillian warns the new warden to proceed with caution. Sometime later, Brubaker watches Death Row prisoners adjust to the sunlight when they are let out of their cells, and gives an order for the men to receive fresh air once a day. Not long after, Brubaker learns that a barracks roof has caved in from the rain and rescues the wounded men, but he has trouble getting ambulances to come to the prison. At the infirmary, he discovers that the doctor charges inmates for medical services; although the doctor insists that it has been done for years, Brubaker immediately fires him. In the kitchens, Brubaker tells a trusty in charge that three hundred cases of chili were delivered to the prison to feed fifty trusties. He calculates that the shipment averages about twenty cans a day for each trusty, although other inmates don’t have enough to eat. Meanwhile, when lumberyard owner C. P. “Woody” Woodward visits Brubaker, the warden asks him to rebuild the barracks roof his company once built at no cost, but Woody refuses. Brubaker replies that the prison will no longer supply free labor to Woody’s company. As Woody leaves, he warns Brubaker that he will pay a price for his unwillingness to cooperate with the surrounding community. Later, Brubaker reports to Lillian that prison labor is responsible for construction projects in town, and food meant for the inmates has been given to the police department. Soon, the meals improve. Brubaker discovers a cabin inhabited by Huey Rauch, a trusty, and his waitress girlfriend on the prison grounds, surrounded by storage sheds stocked with food stolen from the prison kitchens. After firing bureaucrat Willets for allowing the theft, Brubaker sets up an inmate council to handle the purchase orders. When Brubaker meets Lillian for drinks and reminds her that the prison needs a real doctor, she asks him to attend a Prison Board meeting to hear a guest warden speak about prison reform. Meanwhile, the trusties become angrier as Brubaker removes their perks. During an inmate council meeting, an inmate named Abraham interrupts the meeting to tell Brubaker that he knows where murdered inmates are buried, but later, the trusties torture Abraham. At the board meeting, it becomes clear to Brubaker that everyone is making money from the prison and the board members are not interested in bettering the lives of murderers and rapists. As Brubaker walks out of the meeting, Lillian threatens that he will be out of a job if he does not play politics with the board. In the morning, Brubaker sees Abraham’s dead body hanging from a flagpole and Dickie warns him that his reforms are resulting in more killings. Although Abraham never had a chance to reveal where to find the graves, Brubaker orders inmates to dig for bodies while the trusties watch. Later, Brubaker meets with Lillian and Prison Board member Sen. Hite, who offers to fix the prison boiler and build new barracks if Brubaker stops looking for bodies. When Brubaker reflects that he is being asked to cover up multiple murders, Hite warns that Brubaker could end up in prison for grave robbing. Lillian advises Brubaker to concentrate on the inmates that are alive, but the warden insists that justice will not be served unless the bodies are found. After much digging, coffins are unearthed. Soon, Rauch loses his influence over the other trusties and leaves. When Brubaker learns that Rauch killed Abraham, he forms a posse and searches for him in town. Rauch shoots Bullen dead and Brubaker returns fire, wounding Rauch. At a Prison Board hearing, outside doctors claim that the remains found on the Wakefield Prison grounds make it hard to determine the exact causes of the deaths. When Brubaker is asked his opinion, he tells the board that the state would save money if it shot convicts after their trials instead of incarcerating them at Wakefield. Lillian follows Brubaker out the door and asks him to compromise, but he argues that the Prison Board’s position condones murder, and he cannot go along with it. Lillian claims that she is on Brubaker’s side but he disagrees. When the new warden, Rory Poke, arrives to replace Brubaker and addresses the prison, Dickie tells the former warden that he was right about prison reform. As Brubaker leaves Wakefield Prison, Dickie begins clapping which signals to the other inmates to drop formation and clap for Brubaker in a show of respect. +

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

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