Teachers (1984)

R | 106 mins | Comedy-drama | 5 October 1984

Director:

Arthur Hiller

Writer:

W. R. McKinney

Producer:

Aaron Russo

Cinematographer:

David M. Walsh

Editor:

Don Zimmerman

Production Designer:

Richard MacDonald

Production Company:

United Artists Corp.
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HISTORY

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, executive producer Irwin Russo conceived the idea for a comedy-drama about the education system and presented it to his brother, producer Aaron Russo, whose recent hits included Trading Places (1983, see entry) and The Rose (1979). The Russos hired first-time screenwriter W. R. McKinney to develop the concept into a script, and McKinney researched the story for ten months, interviewing high school students and teachers, visiting schools, and studying news coverage of education issues. As noted in reviews from the 3 Oct 1984 Var and the 5 Oct 1984 LAT, McKinney also relied on Irwin Russo’s ten-year experience as a high school English teacher in New York. Teachers remains McKinney’s only screenwriting credit, to date (2016).
       During location scouting for the fictional “John F. Kennedy High School,” the production focused on “blue-collar” urban areas with populations of less than a million, and asked various film commissions about any closed school buildings. The filmmakers planned to shoot exteriors on location and build the school interior at soundstages in Culver City, CA. On 8 Jun 1983, a DV news item reported that the production intended to film in Gary, IN. However, that plan was abandoned when the filmmakers discovered Central High in Columbus, OH, which had been empty for the last two years. Among the selling points of Central High was a large parking lot for several key scenes, the urban setting, and rooms large enough to accommodate lighting and camera equipment without removing walls. Additionally, the building had space to provide ... More Less

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, executive producer Irwin Russo conceived the idea for a comedy-drama about the education system and presented it to his brother, producer Aaron Russo, whose recent hits included Trading Places (1983, see entry) and The Rose (1979). The Russos hired first-time screenwriter W. R. McKinney to develop the concept into a script, and McKinney researched the story for ten months, interviewing high school students and teachers, visiting schools, and studying news coverage of education issues. As noted in reviews from the 3 Oct 1984 Var and the 5 Oct 1984 LAT, McKinney also relied on Irwin Russo’s ten-year experience as a high school English teacher in New York. Teachers remains McKinney’s only screenwriting credit, to date (2016).
       During location scouting for the fictional “John F. Kennedy High School,” the production focused on “blue-collar” urban areas with populations of less than a million, and asked various film commissions about any closed school buildings. The filmmakers planned to shoot exteriors on location and build the school interior at soundstages in Culver City, CA. On 8 Jun 1983, a DV news item reported that the production intended to film in Gary, IN. However, that plan was abandoned when the filmmakers discovered Central High in Columbus, OH, which had been empty for the last two years. Among the selling points of Central High was a large parking lot for several key scenes, the urban setting, and rooms large enough to accommodate lighting and camera equipment without removing walls. Additionally, the building had space to provide dressing rooms, holding areas, catering, and offices for the various production departments.
       According to a studio press release, principal photography was set to begin 19 Jan 1984 in Columbus. After nine weeks on location, the production moved to Culver City soundstages for one week to shoot apartment interiors. The interior set for “Lisa Hammond’s” law firm was filmed at an office building in downtown Los Angeles, CA.
       Production notes mentioned that the opening scene of students arriving at the school during a snowfall was quickly improvised when a sudden blizzard hit the Columbus area.
       The 8 Jun 1983 DV noted that the budget was $9 to $10 million, and the Ohio state film commission estimated that Teachers added $4 million to the local economy. The production employed approximately 1,000 teenage extras, who were primarily selected through the Ohio Job Services Department.
       As reported in a 14 Jun 1984 DV article, the original release date of 7 Dec 1984 was rescheduled to 5 Oct 1984 after producer Aaron Russo convinced distributor MGM/UA Entertainment Co. to have the opening coincide with the beginning of the school season.
       End credits include the following acknowledgements: “The producers wish to thank the Ohio Film Commission and the Mayor’s Office of Columbus, Ohio for their cooperation in the making of this film.” More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
8 Jun 1983.
---
Daily Variety
14 Jun 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Oct 1984
p. 5, 73.
Los Angeles Times
5 Oct 1984
Section J, p. 10.
New York Times
5 Oct 1984
p. 10.
Variety
3 Oct 1984
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
United Artists presents
An Aaron Russo production
in An Arthur Hiller Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
Chief lighting tech
Key grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
Costumer
MUSIC
Sdtrack album prod by
Mus supv
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Prod sd mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec asst to Mr. Hiller
Scr supv
Loc auditor
Asst to prod
Asst to prod
Asst to prod
Asst to prod
Asst to Mr. Hiller
Casting asst
Prod secy
COLOR PERSONNEL
Filmed in
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
“Teacher Teacher,” performed by 38 Special, produced by Rodney Mills and 38 Special, courtesy of A&M Records
“Foolin’ Around,” performed by Freddie Mercury, produced by F. Mercury & Mack
“Cheap Sunglasses,” performed by ZZ Top, produced by Bill Ham, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc.
+
SONGS
“Teacher Teacher,” performed by 38 Special, produced by Rodney Mills and 38 Special, courtesy of A&M Records
“Foolin’ Around,” performed by Freddie Mercury, produced by F. Mercury & Mack
“Cheap Sunglasses,” performed by ZZ Top, produced by Bill Ham, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc.
“Can’t Stop The Fire,” performed by Eric Martin, produced by Kevin Elson
“Edge Of A Dream,” performed by Joe Cocker, produced by Keith Forsey
“(I’m The) Teacher,” performed by Ian Hunter, produced by Mick Ronson, mixed by Bob Clearmountain
“One Foot Back In Your Door,” performed by Roman Holliday, produced by Nigel Green, executive producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, courtesy of Jive Records
“In The Jungle (Concrete Jungle),” performed by The Motels, produced by Richie Zito
“Interstate Love Affair,” performed by Night Ranger, produced by Pat Glasser and John Van Nest, courtesy of Camel/MCA Records
“Understanding,” performed by Bob Seger, produced by Bob Seger and Punch.
+
PERFORMERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
5 October 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 5 October 1984
Production Date:
19 January--late March/early April 1984
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Panaflex® camera and lenses by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
106
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

At John F. Kennedy High School, vice principal Roger Rubell juggles several problems on a Monday morning, including a student with a stab wound, lack of substitute teachers, and a school psychologist who goes berserk. Moreover, attorney and Kennedy High alumna, Lisa Hammond, arrives to give Rubell notice about depositions scheduled for tomorrow. Lisa represents a former student named John Calvin, who is suing the school for graduating him without being able to read or write. Infuriated about the psychologist incident and the Calvin case, school superintendent Dr. Burke stops by to remind Rubell and Principal Horn that the school cannot afford bad publicity, emphasizing that Kennedy High’s financial security is dependent on public trust. As Dr. Burke reviews the files of teachers who will be participating in the depositions, Rubell assures her that Alex Jurel, a popular social studies teacher and a fifteen-year veteran of Kennedy High, will support the school, despite his past association with student rights issues. While the school psychologist is on temporary leave, Alex Jurel assumes some counseling duties and meets with rebellious student, Eddie Pilikian, who is only reading at a sixth-grade level. Furthermore, Eddie’s divorced parents appear more concerned with custody issues than their son’s education. Although against school policy, Alex asks Eddie to attend his advanced social studies class, so he can encourage him. After work, Rubell and Alex go drinking, and Alex mentions that he is weary of trying to teach in a dysfunctional system and is ready to quit. In the hallway the next morning, Alex avoids an encounter with attorney Lisa Hammond, who is also one of his former students, ... +


At John F. Kennedy High School, vice principal Roger Rubell juggles several problems on a Monday morning, including a student with a stab wound, lack of substitute teachers, and a school psychologist who goes berserk. Moreover, attorney and Kennedy High alumna, Lisa Hammond, arrives to give Rubell notice about depositions scheduled for tomorrow. Lisa represents a former student named John Calvin, who is suing the school for graduating him without being able to read or write. Infuriated about the psychologist incident and the Calvin case, school superintendent Dr. Burke stops by to remind Rubell and Principal Horn that the school cannot afford bad publicity, emphasizing that Kennedy High’s financial security is dependent on public trust. As Dr. Burke reviews the files of teachers who will be participating in the depositions, Rubell assures her that Alex Jurel, a popular social studies teacher and a fifteen-year veteran of Kennedy High, will support the school, despite his past association with student rights issues. While the school psychologist is on temporary leave, Alex Jurel assumes some counseling duties and meets with rebellious student, Eddie Pilikian, who is only reading at a sixth-grade level. Furthermore, Eddie’s divorced parents appear more concerned with custody issues than their son’s education. Although against school policy, Alex asks Eddie to attend his advanced social studies class, so he can encourage him. After work, Rubell and Alex go drinking, and Alex mentions that he is weary of trying to teach in a dysfunctional system and is ready to quit. In the hallway the next morning, Alex avoids an encounter with attorney Lisa Hammond, who is also one of his former students, but she follows him into the men’s restroom and serves him a subpoena for the deposition. She adds that she had a crush on him in high school and invites him to dinner. During the first deposition with Principal Horn, Lisa realizes the process is going to be difficult as Principal Horn dodges her questions. Eddie intervenes in a fight to protect his friend Danny, and afterward the fearful Danny wonders whether he should get a gun to protect himself. During dinner, Lisa is curious about Alex’s opinion on the Calvin case, but he is careful not to voice his position and only states that the lawsuit is about money, not education. After talking with another teacher, Alex realizes that no one was interested in taking the time to improve Eddie’s reading skills and simply advanced him through the system. Meanwhile, Herbert Gower, who was recently released from a mental institution, impersonates a substitute teacher named Stuart Van Ark and arrives at Kennedy High to teach a history class. The students are amused as he throws a book out the window, puts on an Abraham Lincoln costume, and recites the Gettysburg Address. In his social studies class, Alex is impressed with how Eddie uses photography to complete an assignment and hopes it is the beginning of a breakthrough with the street-smart teenager. At their next dinner, Alex and Lisa kiss, but she appears more interested in discussing the Calvin case, which she hopes will change the school for the better. Alex is frustrated, and believes the lawsuit will only cause more damage. He indicates he will support the school in the deposition. Later, Ditto Stiles, a teacher who often falls asleep in class, quietly passes away at his desk, but none of his students notice. Eventually, Grace, a secretary, is alerted and she calls an ambulance to take his body away. Meanwhile, Herbert continues to portray famous Americans and the students appear engaged as they help him act out historical events. When student Diane Warren reveals to her friend Eddie that she had sex with the gym teacher and is pregnant, he takes her to consult with Alex. Afraid of her parents knowing, she pleads with Alex Jurel to take her to an abortion clinic, and he reluctantly agrees. At his deposition, an exasperated teacher named Rosenberg is unwilling to lie for the school and claims that John Calvin rarely attended class, but received a passing grade “because it is policy.” Meanwhile, Alex has finally convinced Eddie to take another reading class, but Rubell determines that the boy’s reading skills are good enough. When Rubell reminds Alex they need to help hundreds of students through the system and cannot devote all their time to assisting one troubled teenager, Alex is concerned that they are repeating the mistake they made with John Calvin. After Rosenberg’s deposition, school attorney Alan Lewis warns Rubell that if Alex Jurel confirms Rosenberg’s statement, the school will lose the case. Rubell no longer trusts Alex and advises Dr. Burke to oust the teacher from the school. During a police search for drugs, Danny panics and removes a gun from his locker. However, an officer mistakenly believes Danny is about to aim the weapon, and fatally shoots the boy. When Eddie finds out his friend is dead, he tells Alex he is quitting school and walks out the classroom. Meanwhile, Herbert Gower’s actual identity is finally revealed when authorities from the mental health institution arrive at the school to escort him away. His students are disappointed, and Alex salutes Herbert for being a passionate teacher. At her law office, Lisa learns that her firm has reached a settlement in the Calvin case and is disappointed that an opportunity has been lost to improve Kennedy High. Even though the case is settled, Dr. Burke tells Rubell that she is worried Alex could cause trouble in the future and proceeds to force him out. Alex, meanwhile, is unaware of the settlement and arrives for his deposition. Instead, he is summoned before a school board and asked by Dr. Burke to sign resignation papers or face being fired. Although Alex is tenured, Dr. Burke has made a confidential deal with the teachers union to ensure they will not interfere in his dismissal. Dr. Burke questions Alex about taking Diane Warren for an abortion, which was performed without parental consent. As a member of the board, Rubell advises Alex to take the deal or risk accusations of sexual misconduct. Alex does not sign the papers, but walks to his classroom and begins packing, resigned to the fact that he can no longer make a difference. Lisa arrives and urges him to fight the school board, certain that they would never risk firing him over Diane’s abortion because of the bad publicity it would generate. Alex becomes tearful as his students enter the classroom to support him. After Lisa makes one more desperate attempt to remind Alex about his ideals as a teacher, he declares to Rubell and Dr. Burke that he will not resign. +

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

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