American Pop (1981)

R | 93 mins | Musical, Fantasy | 13 February 1981

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HISTORY

End credits include the following written statements: “The following songs were depicted as being written by fictional characters. The producer would like to thank the true composers: Songs 'A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,' and 'Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right,' written by Bob Dylan; Song 'Night Moves,' written by Bob Seger; Song 'Somebody to Love,' written by Darby Slick”; “And thanks to the following artist for allowing his voice to be used by a fictional character: 'Night Moves' as sung by Bob Seger”; “Special thanks to the late, great Jimi Hendrix”; “ HOWL by permission of City Lights Books, Copyright © 1956, 1959 by Allen Ginsberg”; “Photographs by Jacob A. Riis, Jacob A. Riis Collection Museum of the City of New York; International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Lewis Hine Collection; United Press International Photo”; “Archive film clips from The War At Home, Catalyst Films.”
       The music credits for the song “Hell Is For Children” incorrectly list N. Giraldo as “N. Geraldo.”
       A 20 Dec 1978 HR news item announced that Ralph Bakshi signed an agreement with Martin Ransohoff Prods. and Columbia Pictures to produce and direct American Pop, an animated film that would include at least seventeen songs. The 9 May 1979 Var reported that American Pop was budgeted at approximately $5 million. An article in the 17 Jun 1979 LAT reported that Bakshi’s first concept for the film was to animate the history of the U.S., but Columbia executives convinced him to focus on music instead. According to an article in the Jul-Aug 1980 American Film, ... More Less

End credits include the following written statements: “The following songs were depicted as being written by fictional characters. The producer would like to thank the true composers: Songs 'A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,' and 'Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right,' written by Bob Dylan; Song 'Night Moves,' written by Bob Seger; Song 'Somebody to Love,' written by Darby Slick”; “And thanks to the following artist for allowing his voice to be used by a fictional character: 'Night Moves' as sung by Bob Seger”; “Special thanks to the late, great Jimi Hendrix”; “ HOWL by permission of City Lights Books, Copyright © 1956, 1959 by Allen Ginsberg”; “Photographs by Jacob A. Riis, Jacob A. Riis Collection Museum of the City of New York; International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Lewis Hine Collection; United Press International Photo”; “Archive film clips from The War At Home, Catalyst Films.”
       The music credits for the song “Hell Is For Children” incorrectly list N. Giraldo as “N. Geraldo.”
       A 20 Dec 1978 HR news item announced that Ralph Bakshi signed an agreement with Martin Ransohoff Prods. and Columbia Pictures to produce and direct American Pop, an animated film that would include at least seventeen songs. The 9 May 1979 Var reported that American Pop was budgeted at approximately $5 million. An article in the 17 Jun 1979 LAT reported that Bakshi’s first concept for the film was to animate the history of the U.S., but Columbia executives convinced him to focus on music instead. According to an article in the Jul-Aug 1980 American Film, writer Ronni Kern met with Bakshi twice prior to writing the script. In those meetings, Bakshi discussed all of the elements he thought should be included in the film, then Kern wrote the screenplay, utilizing approximately half of Bakshi’s ideas.
       An article in the Jan 1981 Los Angeles Magazine reported that there were more than fifty songs in the film. The 6 May 1980 DV noted that the film was 100 minutes in length, and included eighty minutes of music. Lee Holdridge, the film’s composer and arranger, coordinated the music. Original recordings were used when possible. Holdridge, however, had to re-record some songs that “predated commercial recordings” and other songs where authorization to use the original recordings could not be obtained. According to Holdridge, there were approximately fifty-five minutes of re-recorded songs. The Los Angeles Magazine article reported that Bakshi felt the music of Bob Dylan, Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen were crucial to the film. Bakshi got the rights from Dylan and Seger, but, although Bakshi tried many approaches, he could not obtain permission to use Springsteen’s music.
       In the Jul-Aug 1980 American Film article, Bakshi noted that he was aiming for realism and therefore it was necessary to begin with a “live-action base.” Bakshi filmed a black and white version of the action with actors performing in front of a bare wall. He then used that film as a model for the animation process, tweaking the movements as necessary to suit the story. The 26 Apr 1979 HR reported that animation on American Pop began in Nov 1978. According to the 17 Jun 1979 LAT, the animation process was long and painstaking, and Bakshi’s crew of 100 had been working for six months with an expected release at Easter 1980, but American Film projected a release date in early fall 1980. However, according to the 17 Nov 1980 HR, the film had a successful sneak preview in San Diego, CA in fall 1980, and the 2 Feb 1981 HR reported that a screening of American Pop would be held 10 Feb 1981 at the Department of Film of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The film opened 13 Feb 1981 at six theaters in New York City and six theaters in Los Angeles, CA. The film opened nationally on 6 Mar 1981.
       While the 17 Feb 1981 DV reported a three day weekend gross of $210,084, the 26 Feb 1981 HR reported the film’s first ten days grossed $460,930 at the twelve theaters, and the 4 Mar 1981 HR added that the film grossed $639,093 in its first seventeen days.
       According to the 4 Mar 1981 LAT, the film was criticized for not covering the entire history of American pop music, as the title suggested. Bakshi acknowledged that the title was misleading, but he did not realize it prior to the movie’s release. Although many movie-goers assumed the title referred to the history of American Pop music, Bakshi thought the title represented pop culture, “Pop” as a word for father, and pop music. In an interview in the Jan 1981 Los Angeles Magazine, Bakshi stressed that the film was not meant to be a complete history of American pop music; it was a dramatic story and the focus was on its characters.
       The 6 May 1980 DV noted that Bakshi planned to wait until the film was released before negotiating a deal for the soundtrack because he felt that music label executives needed to see how the music was incorporated into the film. The 18 Feb 1981 Var reported that there was no soundtrack album available because Columbia was still trying to obtain the necessary rights.
       Actor Ron Thompson played the characters “Tony” and “Pete” in the live-action film that was the basis for the animation. According to an article in the 12 Mar 1981 HR, Thompson’s managers took out a trade advertisement on 13 Feb 1981 to promote the actor’s part in the film, but lawyers representing Columbia and Bakshi ordered Thompson to stop using American Pop artwork and to return all materials, insisting that Thompson was violating their licensing and copyrights. Thompson argued that Columbia and Bakshi were trying to deny proper credit and recognition to the actors who participated in the film.
       An item in the 10 Feb 1998 DV reported that it took seventeen years to obtain the clearances necessary to release American Pop on video. Columbia TriStar Home Video planned to release the video on 31 Mar 1998.
More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Film
Jul-Aug 1980
p. 26-31, 65.
Daily Variety
6 May 1980
p. 6.
Daily Variety
17 Feb 1981.
---
Daily Variety
10 Feb 1998.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 1978
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Apr 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Nov 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Feb 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 1981.
---
Los Angeles Magazine
Jan 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Jun 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Feb 1981
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
4 Mar 1981
Section VI, p. 1, 6.
New York Times
13 Feb 1981
p. 5.
Variety
9 May 1979.
---
Variety
11 Feb 1981
p. 20.
Variety
18 Feb 1981.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures Presents
A Martin Ransohoff Production
A Ralph Bakshi Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Anim cam
Asst cam
Key grip
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Apprenctice ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus adpt and orig mus
Mus supv
Mus coord
Mus ed
SOUND
Re-rec
Sd mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles
Laser spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod assoc
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Researcher
Researcher
Prod coord
Scr supv
Casting
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
ANIMATION
Layout and des
Layout and des
Layout and des
Layout and des
Background asst
Background asst
Background asst
Background asst
Color models
Anim
Anim
Anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Anim checker
Anim checker
Cel reproduction
Cel reproduction
Xerox checker
Xerox checker
Xerox checker
Xerox checker
Xerox checker
Final checker
Final checker
Final checker
Final checker
Final checker
Painter
Painter
Cel polisher
SOURCES
SONGS
“American Pop Overture,” arranged by Lee Holdridge
“Free Bird,” composed by Allen Collins and Ron Vanzandt
“As Time Goes By,” composed by Herman Hupfeld
+
SONGS
“American Pop Overture,” arranged by Lee Holdridge
“Free Bird,” composed by Allen Collins and Ron Vanzandt
“As Time Goes By,” composed by Herman Hupfeld
“You Send Me,” composed by Sam Cooke
“Slaughter On Tenth Avenue,” composed by Richard Rodgers
“A String Of Pearls,” music by Jerry Gray, lyrics by Eddie De Lange
“I Got Rhythm,” music George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin
“Maple Leaf Rag,” composed by Scott Joplin
“Aneynu,” traditional Ukrainian Chant
“Onward Christian Soldiers,” music by Sir Arthur S. Sullivan, lyrics by Rev. Habine Haring Gould
“I Don’t Care,” music by Harry O. Sutton, lyrics by Jean Lenox
“Palm Leaf Rag,” composed by Scott Joplin
“Maple Leaf Rag,” composed by Scott Joplin
“Give My Regards To Broadway,” composed by George M. Cohan
“Smiles,” music by Lee S. Roberts, lyrics by J. Will Callahan
“Over There,” composed by George M. Cohan, performed by Bob Grant and His Orchestra, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
“Swanee,” music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Irving Caesar
“Say Si Si,” music and Spanish lyrics by Ernesto Lecuona, English lyrics by Al Stillman and Francis Luban, courtesy of Hadiola Company
“Look For The Silver Lining,” music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by B. G. De Sylva
“Anything Goes,” composed by Cole Porter
“Somebody Loves Me,” music by George Gershwin, lyrics by B. G. De Sylva and Ballard MacDonald
“When The Saints Go Marching In,” Traditional, arranged by Lee Holridge
“Charleston,” composed by Cecil Mack and Jimmy Johnson
“Bill,” music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by P. G. Wodehouse and Oscar Hammerstein II, performed by Helen Morgan, courtesy of RCA Records
“I Got Rhythm,” music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin
“Body And Soul,” composed by John W. Green, Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton
“Sweet Georgia Brown,” composed by Ben Bernie, Kenneth Casey and Maceo Pinkard
“Our Love Is Here To Stay,” music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin
“Sing, Sing, Sing,” composed by Louis Prima, performed by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, courtesy of RCA Records
“Nancy (With The Laughing Face),” composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and Phil Silvers
“As Time Goes By,” composed by Herman Hupfeld
“Lilli Marlene,” music by Norbet Schultze, German lyrics by Hans Leip, English lyrics by Tommie Connor
“Mona Lisa,” composed by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
“Cantaloupe Island,” composed by Herbie Hancock, performed by Herbie Hancock, courtesy of Blue Note Records, a subsidiary of Liberty Records, Inc.
“Take Five,” composed by Paul Desmond, performed by The Dave Brubeck Quartet, courtesy of Kadan, Ltd. and CBS Records
“Turn Me Loose,” composed by Jerome “Doc” Pomus and Mort Shuman, performed by Fabian, courtesy of Chancellor Records, Inc.
“Moanin’,” composed by Bobby Timmons, performed by Art Blakey, courtesy of Liberty Records, Inc.
“You Send Me,” composed by Sam Cooke, performed by Sam Cooke, courtesy of RCA Records
“This Train,” composed by Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, performed by Peter, Paul and Mary, courtesy of Warner Brothers Records
“California Dreamin’,” composed by John Phillips and Michelle Gillian, performed by The Mamas & The Papas, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
“Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right,” composed by Bob Dylan
"A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” composed by Bob Dylan
“Somebody To Love,” composed by Darby Slick
“People Are Strange,” composed by John Densmore, Robert Krieger, Raymond Manzarek and Jim Morrison, performed by The Doors, courtesy of Elektra/Asylum Records
“Up, Up And Away,” composed by Jim Webb
“Purple Haze,” composed by Jimi Hendrix, performed by Jimi Hendrix, courtesy of Interlit Ltd. and Warner Brothers Records
“Summertime,” music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Du Bose Heyward, performed by Big Brother & The Holding Company with Janis Joplin, courtesy of CBS Records
“I’m Waiting For The Man,” composed by Lou Reed, performed by Lou Reed, courtesy of RCA Records
“Hell Is For Children,” composed by Neil Giraldo, Pat Benatar and Roger Capps, performed by Pat Benatar, courtesy of Chrysalis Records
“Pretty Vacant,” composed by Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Johnny Rotten and Glen Matlock
“Night Moves,” composed by Bob Seger, performed by Bob Seger, courtesy of Capitol Records
“Blue Suede Shoes,” composed by Carl Perkins, arranged by Lee Holdridge
“Devil With The Blue Dress On,” composed by William Stevenson and Fred Long, arranged by Lee Holdridge
"Crazy On You," composed by Ann Wilson, Nancy Wilson & Roger Fisher, arranged by Lee Holdridge
“Free Bird,” composed by Allen Collins and Ron Vanzandt, performed by Lynyrd Skynyrd, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 February 1981
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 13 February 1981
Copyright Claimant:
Barclay's Mercantile Industrial Finance, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
7 April 1981
Copyright Number:
PA106688
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Dolby Stereo
Color
Color by Metrocolor®
Animation
Duration(in mins):
93
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In the early 1900’s, Zalmie and his mother flee Czarist Russia as Royal Cossacks torch their village. Zalmie’s father, Jaacov, stays behind to finish his prayer and is slaughtered in the pogrom. Zalmie and his mother arrive in America and live in New York City where she gets a factory job. One night Zalmie lingers outside a vaudeville club, attracting the attention of Louie who offers him a penny to hand out chorus slips, and Zalmie follows him to clubs all over the city. With his penny, Zalmie buys two bananas and brings them to his mother, informing her that he will make his living as a singer. When Zalmie’s mother dies in a factory fire, Louie raises the boy while they work the vaudeville circuit. At seventeen, Zalmie is still singing boy’s songs and waiting for his voice to change. During World War I, when the vaudeville troop performs for soldiers in France, Zalmie is shot in the throat during a German attack. His injury damages his voice, so Zalmie becomes a comedian. At twenty, Zalmie falls in love with Bella, a stripper, and promises to make her a musical star. When Bella gets pregnant, they marry and have a son, Benny, who loves to play piano. As he promotes Bella’s career, Zalmie works for crime boss and nightclub owner, Mr. Palumbo. When Benny is a young boy, the various organized crime families go to war with each other, and Bella is killed in the ensuing violence. Benny grows into a talented pianist who cares about music, but not stardom. Zalmie wants to make ... +


In the early 1900’s, Zalmie and his mother flee Czarist Russia as Royal Cossacks torch their village. Zalmie’s father, Jaacov, stays behind to finish his prayer and is slaughtered in the pogrom. Zalmie and his mother arrive in America and live in New York City where she gets a factory job. One night Zalmie lingers outside a vaudeville club, attracting the attention of Louie who offers him a penny to hand out chorus slips, and Zalmie follows him to clubs all over the city. With his penny, Zalmie buys two bananas and brings them to his mother, informing her that he will make his living as a singer. When Zalmie’s mother dies in a factory fire, Louie raises the boy while they work the vaudeville circuit. At seventeen, Zalmie is still singing boy’s songs and waiting for his voice to change. During World War I, when the vaudeville troop performs for soldiers in France, Zalmie is shot in the throat during a German attack. His injury damages his voice, so Zalmie becomes a comedian. At twenty, Zalmie falls in love with Bella, a stripper, and promises to make her a musical star. When Bella gets pregnant, they marry and have a son, Benny, who loves to play piano. As he promotes Bella’s career, Zalmie works for crime boss and nightclub owner, Mr. Palumbo. When Benny is a young boy, the various organized crime families go to war with each other, and Bella is killed in the ensuing violence. Benny grows into a talented pianist who cares about music, but not stardom. Zalmie wants to make him a star, and also asks him to marry Palumbo’s daughter. Benny marries her and she is pregnant when he enlists in the Army during World War II. Benny misses playing piano and takes up the harmonica. While on patrol, he finds a piano in a seemingly deserted building and starts to play. A Nazi soldier comes out of hiding, thanks Benny for the music and shoots him. Years later, Benny’s son, Tony, watches on television as Zalmie, who has been in prison for eight years, agrees to testify against Palumbo. Tony’s mother remarries and has three more children, but spends her time listening to Benny’s record in her bedroom. Tony is an angry teenager when he runs away from home, taking Benny’s harmonica with him. When he stops in Kansas, Benny is attracted to a blonde waitress who offers him a job as a dishwasher. Benny is leaving for California the next day and, although she will not go with him, they spend the night together. Benny rides on freight trains to California, playing harmonica with other drifters. In San Francisco, California, Frankie, a female band singer, hears Tony play harmonica, and he shares his song lyrics with the band. Tony writes songs and procures illegal drugs for them. The band rises to fame, and, during one of their concerts, Tony’s drink is spiked with an hallucinogenic drug and he is seriously injured from a fall. The band’s album hits number one while Tony is in the hospital and they leave him behind as they tour. When Tony gets out of the hospital, he is desperate for illegal drugs, even more so when he reads that Frankie married Johnny, the band’s drummer. Two months later, Tony reconnects with the band and learns that Frankie’s marriage was short-lived because she is in love with Tony. As the band tours, Tony and Frankie get heavily involved in drug abuse. When they arrive in Kansas, a young boy named Pete lingers backstage and Tony notices the boy’s resemblance to the waitress he met in Kansas years ago. Pete, who never met his father, asks Tony to teach him about music. Tony refuses and walks the cornfields, tormented by the realization that Pete is his son. When Tony returns, Frankie is dead from a drug overdose. Pete runs away from home and follows Tony to New York. When Tony refuses to work on his music, Pete starts to write songs and learn guitar. Pete also accompanies Tony as he sells drugs. It is difficult for Pete at first, but, when they end up living on the streets as Tony’s drug abuse escalates, Pete is forced to become strong. Pete plays guitar for change, but does not think he is good enough and wants Tony’s advice. Instead, Tony wants to pawn Pete’s guitar, but Pete refuses and admits he knows that Tony is his father. Tony gives Pete the harmonica that belonged to Benny. Pete gives Tony the guitar to pawn, but Tony never returns from the pawn shop. Instead, Tony sends a friend to give Pete the pawn ticket and a bag of drugs to sell. Pete grows up alone on the streets of New York. He sells drugs, but still plays and writes music. Years later, Pete supplies drugs to a successful band and, when he refuses to sell them drugs unless they record his music, the band agrees to listen to one song. They are impressed, and soon Pete is famous, playing his grandfather Benny’s harmonica during performances. +

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

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