Missing (1982)

PG | 122 mins | Drama | 12 February 1982

Director:

Costa-Gavras

Cinematographer:

Ricardo Aronovich

Production Designer:

Peter Jamison

Production Companies:

Universal Pictures , PolyGram Pictures
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HISTORY

       On 26 Feb 1979, Publishers Weekly announced that producer Edward Lewis had optioned Hauser’s The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice for an undisclosed fee, and a 26 Jun 1979 DV news item reported that Lewis and his production partner-wife, Mildred Lewis, had contracted with Warner Bros. to film the picture in summer 1980, with the working title The Execution of Charles Horman. The proposed budget was estimated at $5 million, but a 15 Feb 1982 Film Journal article reported a final budget of $9.5 million. Although DV stated that British screenwriter Ivan Moffat was at work on the film adaptation, and that he was set to co-produce the picture with the Lewises, he did not remain with the project, and is not credited onscreen. Film Journal reported that Edward Lewis sent filmmaker Costa-Gavras a copy of Hauser’s book in early 1979, and a 3 Jun 1981 LAT article listed Costa-Gavras, Donald Stewart, and John Nichols as writers, but Nichols does not receive onscreen credit. Warner Bros. dropped out of the project sometime between 1979 and 1981, when it was picked up by Universal Pictures and Polygram Pictures.
       Production was shrouded in secrecy. Although principal photography began 13 Apr 1981, a formal title had not been announced, and DV production charts listed the picture as An Untitled Story. Neither Polygram nor Universal distributed publicity material or press releases, and “anonymous Hollywood sources” revealed that the studios were avoiding exposure of the film’s controversial content. The casting of actor Jack Lemmon was reportedly ...

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       On 26 Feb 1979, Publishers Weekly announced that producer Edward Lewis had optioned Hauser’s The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice for an undisclosed fee, and a 26 Jun 1979 DV news item reported that Lewis and his production partner-wife, Mildred Lewis, had contracted with Warner Bros. to film the picture in summer 1980, with the working title The Execution of Charles Horman. The proposed budget was estimated at $5 million, but a 15 Feb 1982 Film Journal article reported a final budget of $9.5 million. Although DV stated that British screenwriter Ivan Moffat was at work on the film adaptation, and that he was set to co-produce the picture with the Lewises, he did not remain with the project, and is not credited onscreen. Film Journal reported that Edward Lewis sent filmmaker Costa-Gavras a copy of Hauser’s book in early 1979, and a 3 Jun 1981 LAT article listed Costa-Gavras, Donald Stewart, and John Nichols as writers, but Nichols does not receive onscreen credit. Warner Bros. dropped out of the project sometime between 1979 and 1981, when it was picked up by Universal Pictures and Polygram Pictures.
       Production was shrouded in secrecy. Although principal photography began 13 Apr 1981, a formal title had not been announced, and DV production charts listed the picture as An Untitled Story. Neither Polygram nor Universal distributed publicity material or press releases, and “anonymous Hollywood sources” revealed that the studios were avoiding exposure of the film’s controversial content. The casting of actor Jack Lemmon was reportedly provisional when filming began, as he was delayed on the set of Buddy Buddy (1981, see entry) due to the back injury of his co-star, Walter Matthau. The first few days of production on Missing were therefore “shot around” Lemmon, as stated in Film Journal.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, filming occurred primarily in Mexico, which stood in for Chile. The production was centered in three main locations, Mexico City, Acapulco, and at Churubusco Studio sound stages. While Acapulco depicted a resort in Chile’s Viña del Mar municipality, Mexico City provided locations for the 1973 Chilean coup d'état in Santiago during the violent overthrow of Marxist president Salvador Allende. Filming was scheduled around the 19 Apr 1981 Easter holiday, when many Mexico City businesses were closed. Mexico City’s military personnel and vehicles were dressed to portray Allende’s overthrow by the Chilean national police. Other Mexico City locations included private mansions, which stood in for public buildings such as the U.S. Embassy, as well as Santo Domingo Plaza, and the Christopher Columbus monument in front of the Fiesta Palace Hotel. An open-air restaurant scene was filmed on the roof of the Del Prado Hotel, and the Gran Hotel’s art nouveau lobby provided the location for an earthquake scene. The Plaza del Toros stadium represented Chile’s National Stadium, where a mass assembly of citizens, including women and children, were detained after indiscriminate arrests and round-ups during the coup. The scene reportedly required thousands of background actors. The 3 Jun 1981 LAT article stated that filming was scheduled to end the week of 8 Jun 1981, and Costa-Gavras planned to edit the picture in France.
       According to Film Journal, Costa-Gavras intended the film’s location to remain generally ambiguous, even though it was based on a true story. The director stated he was primarily concerned with showing the audience that “this could happen anywhere and, in fact, is happening in many countries today.” He also noted that he refrained from portraying Americans “in a more severe light,” even though the U.S. government was implicated in covertly supporting the coup, and the appointment of Allende’s successor, Augusto Pinochet. However, Missing was disparaged by some critics and the U.S. government for its perceived one-sided portrayal of the event, and the implication that journalist “Charles Horman” was killed because he knew too much about America’s involvement in the coup. The 7 Feb 1982 NYT, which took issue with the picture’s prologue statement, noted that Missing was only concerned with “Ed Horman’s” point of view in the wake of his son’s disappearance and failed to present evidence from U.S. government records. According to NYT, investigations revealed that President Nixon, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and government officials, including U.S. Ambassador Nathaniel Davis, were indeed opposed to Allende, and provided “secret subsidies” to opposition parties. However, CIA director William Colby maintained that the U.S. issued a warning to “our people to stay away from the (Chilean) military and their activities,” and NYT investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who exposed other aspects of covert U.S. involvement in Chile and was an eminent critic of government secrecy, stated that he could find “no evidence” to connect Charles Horman’s disappearance with the U.S. government or the overthrow of Allende.
       The 10 Feb 1982 LAHExam announced that the U.S. State Department made “a highly unusual move” by issuing a three-page statement disputing the film, arguing that the U.S. government actively searched for Charles Horman, and claiming that it had no role in conspiring against the young man. The State Department also took issue with the Jack Lemmon voice-over epilogue, which stated that the Horman case remained classified and “the suit was dismissed.” According to government officials, the lawsuit was “withdrawn voluntarily by the plaintiffs on March 20, 1981.” In response, Universal expressed unilateral support for the film and endorsed “the fact that it is a true story,” as reported in a 17 Feb 1982 Var article.
       One week later, the 23 Feb 1982 DV noted that Jack Lemmon and his wife, actress Felicia Farr, had recently accepted an invitation to meet President Ronald Reagan at the White House in Washington, D.C. According to Lemmon, the President said that he saw an advance screening of the film, but “just smiled” and did not elaborate on his opinion. At the time, there was only one print of Missing circulating in Washington, and the President’s request to view it delayed an AFI screening. Lemmon was reportedly pleased by the film’s controversy and noted that pictures are most effective when they have a strong message. He also stated that audiences had been moved to “start fist fights – and talk back to the screen.”
       In a 28 Mar 1982 LAHExam interview, Charles Horman’s wife, Joyce Horman, reported that a “Chilean intelligence agent” told her that Charles was killed because he had learned of secret U.S. policies while visiting Viña del Mar, and that the Chilean government would have never performed the execution without secret approval from the American government. She explained that the Horman family dismissed the case because the deal permitted them to reinstate the lawsuit at a later date, when they had collected more evidence. At the time, much of the information about Charles’s disappearance was classified, and therefore inaccessible to the Hormans and their lawyers. Referring to an exposé in the London Times, an 18 Mar 1982 LA Weekly article stated that Chilean General Carlos Prats, who was exiled from Chile for protesting the coup, maintained that “officers in the conspiracy secretly met” with a representative of the U.S. military in Viña del Mar before the violence began; Charles Horman’s personal diary entries from that time proved his discovery of the covert meeting.
       LA Weekly added that actor David Clennon, who performed the role of American “Consul Phil Putnam,” was making personal appearances outside the Cinema Center in Westwood, CA, and the Hollywood Pacific Theater in Hollywood, CA. When audiences left the theaters, Clennon handed them leaflets contending that the CIA-sponsored coup in Chile was currently being repeated in El Salvador, with U.S. military and finances supporting a violent overthrow of the government. The flyers asked Missing viewers to write to their Congressional representatives, urging them to protest U.S. involvement in El Salvador, and to support the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES).
       On 12 Jan 1983, HR announced that the former Ambassador to Chile, Nathaniel Davis, along with two other U.S. diplomats, had issued a $150 million libel lawsuit against Costa-Gavras, Universal Pictures, author Thomas Hauser, and his publisher for their representation of the U.S. government in Missing. HR noted that the instigation of the suit was coincidentally well-timed for Universal, as Missing was currently being reissued for Academy Award consideration; the rerelease was planned for 14 Jan 1983 in Los Angeles, CA, and New York City. Two weeks after the opening, MCA/Universal published a public rebuttal against the libel suit in the 28 Jan 1983 HR, upholding the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech. It added that such rights implied the freedom “to review, investigate, report, and comment upon public issues which affect the welfare and security of the American people.” According to MCA/Universal, Missing represented such an inquiry, and therefore upheld the intent of America’s founding fathers. On 8 Feb 1984, the libel charges against Thomas Hauser and his publisher were dismissed by a federal judge, who ruled that the contents of the book were in no way responsible for its representation onscreen, as stated in the 9 Feb 1984 NYT. Three years later, the suit against Costa-Gavras and Universal was dismissed, as the film was deemed “devoid of any evidence of actual malice,” according to an 11 Mar 1987 DV news item.
       A 15 Jan 1982 DV brief noted that the picture was initially rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), but Universal successfully appealed, and the film was rerated PG after a public hearing in New York City on 14 Jan 1982.
       Missing was nominated for three Academy Awards in the following categories: Actor in a Leading Role (Jack Lemmon), Actress in a Leading Role (Sissy Spacek), and Best Picture. It won one Academy Award for Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium).

      Missing begins with the written prologue: “This film is based on a true story. The incidents and facts are documented. Some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent and also to protect the film.” At the conclusion of the picture, a voice-over narration by actor Jack Lemmon states: “Ed Horman filed suit, charging eleven government officials, including Henry A. Kissinger, with complicity and negligence in the death of his son. The body was not returned home until seven months later, making an accurate autopsy impossible. After years of litigation, the information necessary to prove or disprove complicity remained classified as secrets of state. The suit was dismissed.” Although end credits list the film’s literary source as “based on the book ‘Missing’ by Thomas Hauser,” the U.S. Library of Congress catalogs the book by its first edition 1978 title, The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice. Later reprints of the book included a lead reflecting the film’s title, Missing: The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
26 Jun 1979
---
Daily Variety
15 Jan 1982
---
Daily Variety
23 Feb 1982
---
Daily Variety
11 Mar 1987
---
Film Journal
15 Feb 1982
p. 16, 20
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 1982
p. 3, 23
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 1983
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 1983
---
LA Weekly
18 Mar 1982
---
LAHExam
10 Feb 1982
p. 3
LAHExam
28 Mar 1982
Section D, p. 6
Los Angeles Times
3 Jun 1981
p. 11
Los Angeles Times
11 Feb 1982
p. 1
New York Times
7 Feb 1982
Section A, p. 1
New York Times
12 Feb 1982
p. 14
New York Times
9 Feb 1984
---
Publishers Weekly
26 Feb 1979
---
Variety
27 Jan 1982
p. 15
Variety
17 Feb 1982
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Polygram Pictures presentation
An Edward Lewis production
A Costa-Gavras film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Matte photog by
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Key grip
Still photog
Magnetic tape
Paris-Studio-Cinema; L.T.C. Laboratory
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Michele Amsellem
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Prop master
Propman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Ward man
MUSIC
Mus comp and arr by
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd mixer
Dubbing mixer
Asst by, Dubbing mixer
Sd eff ed
Loop dial ed
Loop dial ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec vis eff by
Spec eff
Title and opt eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Jesus Marin
Loc asst dir
Loc unit mgr
Loc prod asst
Scr supv
Transportation capt
Loc auditor
Loc auditor
Extras casting
Prod secy
Asst to Costa-Gavras
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice by Thomas Hauser (New York, 1978).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
SONGS
"My Ding A Ling," performed by Chuck Berry, courtesy of All Platinum Records, Inc.; "All Or Nothing At All," performed by Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.; "My Whole World Is Falling Down," performed by Brenda Lee, courtesy of MCA records, Inc.
DETAILS
Release Date:
12 February 1982
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 12 Feb 1982
Production Date:
13 Apr--week of 8 Jun 1981 in Mexico
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Universal City Studios, Inc.
2 April 1982
PA133878
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Panaflex® camera and lenses by Panavision®
Prints
Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
122
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26503
SYNOPSIS

A Socialist Latin American country is taken over in a right-wing military coup. Several days later, on 16 September 1973, American journalist Charles “Charlie” Horman returns to the capitol from the nearby beach resort of Viña del Mar. He and his travelling companion, Terry Simon, have been delayed by the coup, but are finally permitted a ride with U.S. Army Captain Ray Tower. While in Viña del Mar, Charlie witnessed a curious influx of U.S. military officials, and is suspicious of covert American involvement in the coup. Therefore, he refrains from revealing his home address to Captain Tower and instead holes up in a hotel, as an early evening curfew has been imposed on the city. That night, Charlie jots down notes about his experience in Viña del Mar, but Terry warns the information could be dangerous. The following day, Charlie reunites with his wife, Beth, who is relieved by his return. As violence mounts in the city, Beth begs her husband to leave, but he insists on finishing his research. When the couple parts ways, Charlie escorts Terry to the airport; however, Terry is detained by military police and learns that the airport is now closed. There is no way out of the country. After failing to receive assistance from the U.S. consul, Charlie and Terry meet journalist Kate Newman, who warns them to forget everything they’ve seen and hide in a hotel until the next flight leaves for the U.S. Charlie leaves Terry at Hotel Cabrera to find his wife Beth, unaware that she is on the city streets, dodging mass killings and unable to find shelter before ...

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A Socialist Latin American country is taken over in a right-wing military coup. Several days later, on 16 September 1973, American journalist Charles “Charlie” Horman returns to the capitol from the nearby beach resort of Viña del Mar. He and his travelling companion, Terry Simon, have been delayed by the coup, but are finally permitted a ride with U.S. Army Captain Ray Tower. While in Viña del Mar, Charlie witnessed a curious influx of U.S. military officials, and is suspicious of covert American involvement in the coup. Therefore, he refrains from revealing his home address to Captain Tower and instead holes up in a hotel, as an early evening curfew has been imposed on the city. That night, Charlie jots down notes about his experience in Viña del Mar, but Terry warns the information could be dangerous. The following day, Charlie reunites with his wife, Beth, who is relieved by his return. As violence mounts in the city, Beth begs her husband to leave, but he insists on finishing his research. When the couple parts ways, Charlie escorts Terry to the airport; however, Terry is detained by military police and learns that the airport is now closed. There is no way out of the country. After failing to receive assistance from the U.S. consul, Charlie and Terry meet journalist Kate Newman, who warns them to forget everything they’ve seen and hide in a hotel until the next flight leaves for the U.S. Charlie leaves Terry at Hotel Cabrera to find his wife Beth, unaware that she is on the city streets, dodging mass killings and unable to find shelter before curfew. After hiding until daylight, Beth returns home to find her husband missing and the premises destroyed. Two weeks after Charlie’s disappearance, his Christian Scientist-businessman father, Ed Horman, meets with various U.S. government officials only to be brushed off. The State Department claims they have no evidence of Charlie’s detention and a New York Times report suggests Beth fabricated the story to espouse her liberal politics. Charlie is presumed to be in hiding, but Ed insists his son is not a radical. Dissatisfied with the investigation, Ed travels to Latin America. There, he is greeted by U.S. Consul Phil Putnam, who declares that his office is dedicated to finding Charlie. At the Hotel Cabrera, however, Beth complains that American diplomats have been unsupportive. Ed accuses her of being an anti-establishment conspiracy theorist like his son, and suggests that Charlie brought about his own disappearance as a publicity stunt. Despite Beth’s indignation, she and Ed meet Consul Putnam, the U.S. Ambassador, Captain Ray Tower, and several colonels, who insist that Charlie is in hiding. Tower asks Beth for a list of Charlie’s friends to aid in the investigation, but she refuses, suspecting a ploy to weed out other journalists. Afterward, Ed and Beth lunch with Terry, who has secured her return to America the following day. She tells them about Charlie’s experience in Viña del Mar, hearing an American naval officer named Andrew Babcock report that he was on special assignment, but the “job” was now complete. He also revealed he was a member of “Milgroup,” an association of U.S. military authorities. The coincidence of meeting Babcock and other American officials, including Captain Tower, in the wake of the coup, prompted Charlie to document his observations in writing. Back in the present, an old woman tells Beth and Ed that she witnessed soldiers taking Charlie away, with boxes of paperwork, but an elderly gentleman contradicts her claim. Another eyewitness shows Beth and Ed to the National Stadium, which is being used as a detention center. Back at the Hotel Cabrera, Ed loses confidence in the American diplomats and orders Tower and Putnam to use their secret police to find Charlie. The men later contend they have no such covert operations. Meanwhile, Charlie’s journalist friends, David Holloway and Frank Teruggi, are arrested and taken to the National Stadium, where they witness executions. Although David is released the following day, Frank disappears. The State Department’s official report claims Frank returned to America, but this account is discredited by David, and Ed’s mistrust of U.S. officials escalates. He takes matters into his own hands and searches hospitals to no avail. Sometime later, Ed is permitted to make an announcement to the thousands of detainees at National Stadium, but he is too emotional to speak, and Beth takes the microphone, delivering a message for Charlie. In his debilitated state, Ed momentarily mistakes an onlooker for his son. Later still, journalist Kate Newman introduces Ed and Beth to a former police officer named Paris, who remembers seeing Charlie “more or less” alive. While on duty, Paris overheard an intelligence agent report that the prisoner, Charlie, “must disappear” because “he knew too much.” Reflecting that the country’s new regime is supported by the U.S., Kate asks if an American can be executed without U.S. approval, and Paris replies that an endorsement would be mandatory. Back at the Hotel Cabrera, Ed, Beth, and Kate read Charlie’s journal and learn that American Colonel Sean Patrick revealed the new government was conducting “search and destroy operations, like in Vietnam.” Kate reflects that Charlie’s exposure to this information would not be threatening if the U.S. had nothing to hide. Sometime later, Ed and Beth visit a morgue and find the body of Charlie’s journalist friend, Teruggi, who had reportedly returned to America. That night, after an earthquake, Ed admits that Beth’s mistrust of the government was valid, and commends her courage for speaking out. The following day, at the Ford Foundation, Ed learns from an economic advisor named Peter Chernin that “an English-speaking embassy” colleague admitted that Charlie was executed at the National Stadium on 19 September 1973. Back at the U.S. embassy, Ed is introduced to journalist Samuel Cross, who reports that Charlie is alive and should be leaving the country the following week. However, Ed is now convinced of a cover-up. Vowing to expose the truth, Ed accuses the diplomats of condoning his son’s execution. In response, the ambassador argues that he is protecting American interests, and Captain Tower complains that Charlie was a “snoop,” who precipitated his own downfall. As Ed accompanies Beth to a police interrogation, he receives a telephone call from Consul Putnam, who reports that Charlie was indeed killed and buried in a wall, so they were not able to find him before now. Ed shares the news with Beth and they collect Charlie’s belongings. When Putnam escorts Ed and Beth to the airport, he promises to ship Charlie’s body home within several days for a fee of $931.14. Intent on revealing the U.S. government’s deception, Ed pledges to file a lawsuit against Putnam and his political associates, charging them with aiding and abetting Charlie’s execution.

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

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