Presumed Innocent (1990)

R | 126 mins | Drama | 27 July 1990

Director:

Alan J. Pakula

Cinematographer:

Gordon Willis

Editor:

Evan Lottman

Production Designer:

George Jenkins

Production Companies:

Warner Bros. Pictures , Mirage
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HISTORY

The film opens with an empty jury box and the following voice-over narration by “Rusty Sabich”: “I am a prosecutor. I am a part of the business of accusing, judging, and punishing. I explore the evidence of a crime and determine who is charged, who is brought to this room to be tried before his peers. I present my evidence to the jury, and they deliberate upon it. They must determine what really happened. If they cannot, we will not know if the accused deserves to be freed or should be punished. If they cannot find the truth, what is our hope of justice?” The film concludes with the same image of an empty jury box and voice-over narration in which Rusty Sabich states: “The murder of Carolyn Polhemus remains unsolved. It is a practical impossibility to try two people for the same crime. Even if it wasn’t, I couldn’t take his mother from my son. I am a prosecutor. I have spent my life in the assignment of blame. With all deliberation and intent, I reached for Carolyn. I cannot pretend it was an accident. I reached for Carolyn and set off that insane mix of rage and lunacy that led one human being to kill another. There was a crime. There was a victim. And there is punishment.”
       End credits include the following statements: “Westlaw © and West Books by West Publishing Company”; “Filmed in New York at Kaufman Astoria Studios”; and, “Special Thanks To: The New York City Mayor’s Office for Film, Television, Theatre and Broadcasting; New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and TV Development; City of Newark, New Jersey, Sharpe James, Mayor, ... More Less

The film opens with an empty jury box and the following voice-over narration by “Rusty Sabich”: “I am a prosecutor. I am a part of the business of accusing, judging, and punishing. I explore the evidence of a crime and determine who is charged, who is brought to this room to be tried before his peers. I present my evidence to the jury, and they deliberate upon it. They must determine what really happened. If they cannot, we will not know if the accused deserves to be freed or should be punished. If they cannot find the truth, what is our hope of justice?” The film concludes with the same image of an empty jury box and voice-over narration in which Rusty Sabich states: “The murder of Carolyn Polhemus remains unsolved. It is a practical impossibility to try two people for the same crime. Even if it wasn’t, I couldn’t take his mother from my son. I am a prosecutor. I have spent my life in the assignment of blame. With all deliberation and intent, I reached for Carolyn. I cannot pretend it was an accident. I reached for Carolyn and set off that insane mix of rage and lunacy that led one human being to kill another. There was a crime. There was a victim. And there is punishment.”
       End credits include the following statements: “Westlaw © and West Books by West Publishing Company”; “Filmed in New York at Kaufman Astoria Studios”; and, “Special Thanks To: The New York City Mayor’s Office for Film, Television, Theatre and Broadcasting; New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and TV Development; City of Newark, New Jersey, Sharpe James, Mayor, Pamela E. Goldstein, Communications Manager; New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission; City of Detroit, Michigan, Coleman A. Young, Mayor, Nadyne G. Edison, Ph.D., Executive Assistant to the Mayor; City of Windsor, Ontario, John Millson, Mayor; New York County District Attorney’s Office, Robert M. Morgenthau, District Attorney, Robert H. Silbering, Chief Assistant District Attorney, Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office, Linda A. Fairstein, Chief, Sex Crimes Unit; Wayne County (Michigan) Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, John D. O’Hair, Chief Prosecuting Attorney, George E. Ward, Chief Assistant Prosecutor.”
       As announced in a 19 Dec 1986 Publishers Weekly brief, Farrar, Straus & Giroux paid $200,000, its highest advance to date, for Scott Turow’s debut novel, Presumed Innocent. The novel was released 15 Jul 1987 and spent forty-four weeks on the NYT bestseller list, according to a 22 Jul 1990 NYT article. In Aug 1987, paperback rights were sold at auction to Warner Books for $3 million, the highest sum “ever paid for reprint rights to a first novel,” as stated in a 6 Aug 1987 NYT article. The paperback went on to spend five months at the top of paperback sales charts.
       According to an 8 Feb 1987 NYT article, a bidding war for film rights arose between the following producers: David Brown and Richard Zanuck, who made the first bid of $75,000 against a total of $300,000; Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, who initially offered $300,000, backed by Paramount Pictures, but dropped out when bids exceeded $750,000; Peter Guber and Jon Peters, who made a $1 million offer with their own money; director Sydney Pollack, who also bid $1 million of his own money; producer Irwin Winkler at United Artists (UA); and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Scott Turow chose Sydney Pollack’s offer, stating, “Nobody had [Pollack’s] credentials, so it was kind of a no-brainer.” UA negotiated to back the film after Pollack acquired the rights, but Pollack, who was announced as director in an 18 Feb 1987 Var brief, warned the studio that he might hire another director to replace him. A 20 May 1987 HR brief announced that Frank Pierson had been brought on to adapt the screenplay. Although the LAT erroneously attributed the screenplay to Kurt Luedtke in a 3 Jun 1990 item, the newspaper acknowledged its error in a correction on 17 Jun 1990, and no further mention of Luedtke’s name was found in AMPAS library files.
       Pollack eventually backed out as director, and writer-director Alan J. Pakula was hired in his place. Warner Bros. also replaced UA as the studio, as noted in a 27 Jul 1988 HR item. According to Roger Birnbaum, UA’s president of worldwide feature production, the project was “just too expensive” for UA. Pakula claimed the script needed a lot of work when he came on board and spent roughly one year rewriting it with Frank Pierson before production began, as stated in a 2 Aug 1990 HR “Hollywood Report” column. To address the main difficulties in adapting the book, including its first-person perspective and flashback time sequence, Pakula and Pierson added dialogue not in the book, eliminated some of Rusty’s “broodings,” and changed the way the ending was revealed, as noted in the 22 Jul 1990 LAT. Although previously estimated at $25 million, the film’s budget was cited as $20 million in the 22 Jul 1990 NYT.
       Pakula’s first choice for Rusty Sabich was Harrison Ford, whose casting was announced in a 12 Mar 1989 LAT brief. Ford prepared for the role by observing murder trials at the Recorder’s Court in Detroit, MI. Starting in Apr 1989, the actor also viewed training films from the Michigan Prosecutors’ Association, according to a 4 Jun 1989 LAHExam brief. Greta Scacchi, who was cast as “Carolyn Pohlemus,” spent time observing Linda Fairstein, the head of Manhattan District Attorney’s sex-crimes unit, while Raul Julia, who plays “Sandy Stern,” researched his role by speaking with high-powered lawyer Michael Kennedy, whose clients included Ivanka Trump. Novelist Scott Turow, also an attorney, was available for consultation during filming, as was legal technical consultant William N. Fordes.
       Three weeks of rehearsal preceded principal photography, which began 31 Jul 1989, as noted in a 15 Aug 1989 HR production chart. Production notes in AMPAS library files state that filming began in Detroit, which was picked for the story’s unnamed Midwestern locale because it would go unrecognized by most viewers. One day of shooting took place in Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River, where a ferry landing with views of the Detroit skyline were shot. The 1 Sep 1989 HR announced filming in Detroit ended 9 Aug 1989, at which point the company moved to Kaufman-Astoria Studios in Queens, NY, where sets included a courtroom modeled after a Cleveland, OH, courtroom that was not available for filming. A photocopy of a 1910 mural in the Cleveland courtroom was placed behind “Judge Larren Lyttle’s” bench, according to a 12 Oct 1989 LAT article. Location shooting followed in Newark, NJ, at a housing project, City Hall, and Essex County Courthouse; and Allendale, NJ, where Rusty Sabich’s residence was filmed. For the final three weeks of shooting, cast and crew returned to Kaufman-Astoria Studios for Sabich’s trial scenes.
       A Los Angeles, CA, premiere took place 25 Jul 1990 at the Bruin Theater in Westwood, with an after-party at Chasen’s Restaurant, as noted in a 27 Jul 1990 LAT item.
       Warner Bros. made a special request to critics not to discuss the ending of the film. However, Time’s Richard Schickel disregarded the request and acknowledged Rusty Sabich’s innocence in his review, the week of 26 Jul 1990, as stated in a 26 Jul 1990 LAT brief.
       The film was a critical and box-office success, taking in $59.6 million in five weeks of release, as noted in the Oct 1990 Box review. It went on to become the tenth highest-grossing film of 1990, with box-office earnings of $86.3 million.
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BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Austin American Statesman
4 Jan 1991
Weekend, p. 4.
Box Office
Oct 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 May 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 1990
p. 5, 19.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Aug 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Aug 1990.
---
LAHExam
4 Jun 1989.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 Mar 1989
Calendar, p. 36.
Los Angeles Times
12 Oct 1989
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
3 Jun 1990
Calendar, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jun 1990.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Jul 1990
Calendar, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
26 Jul 1990.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 Jul 1990
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
27 Jul 1990
Section E, p. 3.
New York Times
8 Feb 1987
Section A, p. 1.
New York Times
6 Aug 1987
Section C, p. 17.
New York Times
22 Jul 1990
Section A, p. 9.
New York Times
27 Jul 1990
p. 14.
Publishers Weekly
19 Dec 1986.
---
Variety
18 Feb 1987.
---
Variety
25 Jul 1990
p. 22.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
With:
John Seitz
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Warner Bros. Presents
A Mirage Production
An Alan J. Pakula Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Asst unit prod mgr
2d 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam (Detroit)
Still photog
Video tech
Video tech
Video tech
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech (Detroit)
Key grip
2d grip
2d grip (Detroit)
Dolly grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
Art dept asst
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
1st asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Asst set dec
Master scenic artist
Chief set dresser
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master (Detroit)
Const coord
Const foreman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Ward
Ward
MUSIC
Mus ed
New York mus ed
Mus rec eng
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Rec (Detroit)
Supv sd ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
ADR mixer
Foley ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Rerec mixer
SFX and Foley des
Multidimensional sd
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opticals and titles
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Asst makeup
Hairstylist
Asst hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod comptroller
Legal tech consultant
Legal research assoc
Coord for Mr. Pakula
Prod assoc
Asst to Mr. Pakula
Asst to Ms. Solt
Prod office coord
Asst prod office coord
Asst prod office coord
Asst P. O. C. (Detroit)
Prod accountant
Prod accountant
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod office asst
Prod office asst
Loc coord
Loc coord (Detroit)
Loc asst
Casting asst
Extras casting
Unit pub
Teamster capt
Craft service
Craft service
Craft service (Detroit)
Post prod facilities
COLOR PERSONNEL
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow (New York, 1987).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Macnamara's Band," written by Shamus O'Connor, John J. Stamford, Red Latham, Wamp Carlson and Guy Bonham
"Let The Drummer Loose," written by Richard Wolf, Bret Mazur and Y.C. Smith, produced by Richard Wolf and Bret Mazur, performed by Y.C. Smith.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
27 July 1990
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 25 July 1990 at the Bruin Theater
Los Angeles opening: 27 July 1990
New York opening: week of 27 July 1990
Production Date:
began 31 July 1989
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 August 1990
Copyright Number:
PA477416
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo® in selected theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Prints
Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
126
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30380
SYNOPSIS

Prosecutor Rozat “Rusty” K. Sabich arrives at work to find a note from his colleague, Carolyn Polhemus, which reads, “Stop it! I know it’s you.” Rusty is called to the office of Prosecuting Attorney Raymond Horgan, who informs him that Carolyn Polhemus was found dead that morning. Evidence shows Carolyn was raped, tied up, and murdered. Horgan assigns the case to Rusty and urges him to find a killer in time for the upcoming election, as his seat is being challenged by prosecutor Nico Della Guardia. Although Detective Harold Greer has also been assigned Carolyn’s case, Rusty requests that his friend, Detective Lipranzer, replace Greer. Rusty searches Carolyn’s office and puzzles when he finds a listing for a “B file,” or bribery, case on her computer, that would typically be assigned to a more senior prosecutor. He examines pictures of Carolyn’s murder scene, showing her hands and feet tied behind her back and her hair matted in blood, and learns that no murder weapon was found, but a beer glass with a fingerprint on it was sent to the crime lab. Alone in his office, Rusty burns the note he received from Carolyn. He returns home to his wife Barbara, who is surprised to learn that he was assigned Carolyn’s case. Barbara knows Rusty had an affair with Carolyn, and she suggests there is a conflict of interest because of his ongoing obsession with her. With only ten days left until the election, Rusty discovers Carolyn’s B-file case involved a prosecuting attorney accused of taking bribes. Meanwhile, Detective Lipranzer is told by medical examiner “Painless” Kumagai that sterile semen, with blood type A, was found inside Carolyn’s body. The ... +


Prosecutor Rozat “Rusty” K. Sabich arrives at work to find a note from his colleague, Carolyn Polhemus, which reads, “Stop it! I know it’s you.” Rusty is called to the office of Prosecuting Attorney Raymond Horgan, who informs him that Carolyn Polhemus was found dead that morning. Evidence shows Carolyn was raped, tied up, and murdered. Horgan assigns the case to Rusty and urges him to find a killer in time for the upcoming election, as his seat is being challenged by prosecutor Nico Della Guardia. Although Detective Harold Greer has also been assigned Carolyn’s case, Rusty requests that his friend, Detective Lipranzer, replace Greer. Rusty searches Carolyn’s office and puzzles when he finds a listing for a “B file,” or bribery, case on her computer, that would typically be assigned to a more senior prosecutor. He examines pictures of Carolyn’s murder scene, showing her hands and feet tied behind her back and her hair matted in blood, and learns that no murder weapon was found, but a beer glass with a fingerprint on it was sent to the crime lab. Alone in his office, Rusty burns the note he received from Carolyn. He returns home to his wife Barbara, who is surprised to learn that he was assigned Carolyn’s case. Barbara knows Rusty had an affair with Carolyn, and she suggests there is a conflict of interest because of his ongoing obsession with her. With only ten days left until the election, Rusty discovers Carolyn’s B-file case involved a prosecuting attorney accused of taking bribes. Meanwhile, Detective Lipranzer is told by medical examiner “Painless” Kumagai that sterile semen, with blood type A, was found inside Carolyn’s body. The blood type matches Rusty’s, but Lipranzer, who knows about Rusty and Carolyn’s affair, points out that Rusty, who has fathered a son, is not sterile. Lipranzer warns Rusty that his home phone number shows up several times on Carolyn’s call log, and Rusty asks the detective to ignore it as he does not want to cause his wife any more pain. Rusty visits Carolyn’s ex-husband, an older college professor who describes Carolyn as manipulative and admits he was reduced to begging when she left him. Rusty then speaks with Painless Kumagai, who states that spermicidal jelly was found inside Carolyn’s body, and a diaphragm had been removed by her attacker. Kumagai suspects there was no rape. Instead, he believes Carolyn had sex with someone she knew, who later became enraged and killed her, then tried to cover it up by staging a rape scene. Rusty finds out that his former colleague, Tommy Molto, who left to work on Della Guardia’s campaign, has also been investigating Carolyn’s murder. Della Guardia pulls ahead of Raymond Horgan in the polls, and Horgan asks for a progress report on Carolyn’s case. Rusty suggests the murderer could be a boyfriend, a random man she picked up, or a law enforcement type who knows how to stage a crime scene. Horgan surprises Rusty by admitting that he slept with Carolyn, who was angling for a better position. When Rusty asks about the B-file case, Horgan admits he assigned it to Carolyn because she asked for it. Alone, Rusty reminisces about his affair with Carolyn, which began when they worked together on a child abuse case. Barbara finds him lost in thought and accuses her husband of still being in love with Carolyn. Rusty tells his wife it was never love with Carolyn, but he breaks down in tears. Della Guardia wins the election, and Horgan and Rusty are ousted from their jobs. Tommy Molto takes over the investigation of Carolyn’s murder, but Rusty continues to pursue the B-file case, which involved a suspect named Leon Wells. Carolyn was Wells’s probation officer, and Tommy Molto was the deputy prosecutor. Soon, Rusty is told that Della Guardia and Molto have evidence that he was in Carolyn’s apartment on the night of the murder, as his fingerprints were found on the beer glass. They have also located Carolyn’s phone records, showing that Rusty had called her repeatedly all month. Rusty warns Barbara that he is going to be charged with murder, but she remains supportive. In bed, Rusty recalls when Carolyn broke off their affair, after realizing Rusty was not as ambitious as she hoped he would be. Unable to accept her rejection, Rusty hounded Carolyn at her office, and spied on her outside her apartment. When police arrive at Rusty’s house with a search warrant, he hires an expensive defense attorney named Sandy Stern. Sandy instructs him to “plead the fifth,” and Rusty remains silent as he is arrested. Out on bail, Rusty is shocked to hear that Raymond Horgan has been named a witness for the prosecution. Judge Larren Lyttle is assigned to Rusty’s trial. As the trial begins, Judge Lyttle learns the beer glass with Rusty’s fingerprint has gone missing, but the prosecution insists they will find it. Horgan provides false testimony indicating that Rusty asked to be assigned to the investigation of Carolyn’s murder, and never admitted having an affair with her. Sandy Stern questions Horgan about the bribery case Carolyn was investigating, and Horgan is forced to admit he gave it to her instead of Rusty, under whose jurisdiction it fell. Pointing to the B-file as evidence that Horgan helped Carolyn cover up a scandal, Sandy presents his theory that Rusty was framed for Carolyn’s murder. Physical evidence is presented, including carpet fabrics found at the crime scene which match those in Rusty’s home, as well as semen with Rusty’s blood type. At night, Lipranzer calls Rusty with news that he located Leon Wells, the suspect named in the B-file. They go to Wells’s apartment and force a confession that Wells paid a government official $1,500 to have his charges dropped. Wells names Carolyn as the facilitator for the bribe, and reveals that the money went to Judge Larren Lyttle. The next day, Painless Kumagai is called to the stand. Sandy Stern reads from Kumagai’s original notes on Carolyn’s autopsy, which Sandy’s aide procured that morning, indicating that Carolyn had undergone a tubal ligation and therefore did not need birth control. Sandy argues that the semen sample Kumagai submitted to the lab, including traces of spermicidal jelly, must have come from another body. Sandy plans to submit a motion for dismissal, and explains to Rusty that if it is not granted, they will have to decide whether or not Rusty will take the stand. Barbara discourages her husband from testifying, saying that if she were a member of the jury, she would believe he was guilty after learning how much he cared for Carolyn. The following day, citing a lack of evidence and motive, Judge Lyttle dismisses the case and apologizes to Rusty. Sandy Stern and Rusty celebrate with a glass of champagne. Rusty questions Lyttle’s decision, and guesses Sandy blackmailed him by bringing up the bribery case when Horgan took the stand. Sandy swears Rusty to secrecy before explaining that Lyttle also had an affair with Carolyn and suffered from a depression after his divorce. Lyttle admitted to Horgan that he took bribes and offered to resign, but Horgan gave him a second chance. Sandy tells Rusty he believes Lyttle dismissed the case because he thought it was just. Later, Lipranzer finds Rusty on his way home and delivers the misplaced beer glass, which he never returned to the evidence room after the case was turned over to Della Guardia. Rusty throws the glass into the river and simply says, “Oh, pal,” when Lipranzer asks if he is guilty. Taking time off before he finds another job, Rusty drops off his son, Nat, at school and wishes Barbara good luck on a job interview. He returns home to work on the house. While mending a fence, he discovers a small hatchet in his toolbox, with blood and a blonde hair stuck to it. In a daze, Rusty goes to his basement and washes off the hatchet. Barbara arrives with news that she got the job, but is startled when she sees the hatchet. She confesses to Carolyn’s murder, and to placing the beer glass with Rusty’s fingerprints at the crime scene. She apologizes, saying she was prepared to confess before they were saved by Judge Lyttle’s dismissal. Sometime later, Rusty states that he could never turn Barbara in for Carolyn’s murder, because he could not deprive his son of a mother, and he felt responsible for his wife’s jealous rage. Regardless, he believes punishment was doled out for the crime. +

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

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