L. A. Story (1991)

PG-13 | 95 mins | Romantic comedy | 8 February 1991

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HISTORY

End credits include the statement, “Filmed entirely on location in Los Angeles, California.”
       The opening sequence of the film, in which a helicopter carrying a giant, plastic hot dog flies over Los Angeles, CA, to the delight of female sunbathers, references the opening scene of Federico Fellini’s 1960 film, La Dolce Vita, in which a helicopter transports a statue of Jesus Christ over Rome, Italy.
       A news item in the 23 Dec 1989 Screen International announced that Daniel Melnick’s IndieProd Co. would produce L.A. Story, based on a story by Steve Martin, who was set to star opposite his wife, Victoria Tennant. The item stated that the story concerned “a man whose uncanny business sense comes from his unique interpretation of street signs.” However, referring to the project as The Touch, a 29 Jan 1990 DV brief stated the story was about “a TV weatherman who falls in love with an English girl who’s a journalist” in town to write about Los Angeles. Melnick was in the process of arranging financing and distribution for the film, which was expected to shoot mid-Apr 1990.
       A 27 Nov 1990 LAT article stated that Martin’s first draft of the script “trashed” Los Angeles, and he was advised to soften it. One of the more offensive lines (“You think I’m dumb because I’m L.A.”) reportedly belonged to the electronic freeway sign that speaks to Martin’s character, “Harris K. Telemacher.”
       A 15 Apr 1990 LAT brief and 24 Apr 1990 HR production chart listed the start of principal photography as 16 Apr 1990. The shoot lasted ... More Less

End credits include the statement, “Filmed entirely on location in Los Angeles, California.”
       The opening sequence of the film, in which a helicopter carrying a giant, plastic hot dog flies over Los Angeles, CA, to the delight of female sunbathers, references the opening scene of Federico Fellini’s 1960 film, La Dolce Vita, in which a helicopter transports a statue of Jesus Christ over Rome, Italy.
       A news item in the 23 Dec 1989 Screen International announced that Daniel Melnick’s IndieProd Co. would produce L.A. Story, based on a story by Steve Martin, who was set to star opposite his wife, Victoria Tennant. The item stated that the story concerned “a man whose uncanny business sense comes from his unique interpretation of street signs.” However, referring to the project as The Touch, a 29 Jan 1990 DV brief stated the story was about “a TV weatherman who falls in love with an English girl who’s a journalist” in town to write about Los Angeles. Melnick was in the process of arranging financing and distribution for the film, which was expected to shoot mid-Apr 1990.
       A 27 Nov 1990 LAT article stated that Martin’s first draft of the script “trashed” Los Angeles, and he was advised to soften it. One of the more offensive lines (“You think I’m dumb because I’m L.A.”) reportedly belonged to the electronic freeway sign that speaks to Martin’s character, “Harris K. Telemacher.”
       A 15 Apr 1990 LAT brief and 24 Apr 1990 HR production chart listed the start of principal photography as 16 Apr 1990. The shoot lasted fifty-seven days, according to a 5 Aug 1990 LAT article, and spanned eighty-seven locations across Los Angeles, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), where Martin was filmed roller-skating through the galleries. A 7 Feb 1991 LAT brief noted that some of the paintings at the museum were replaced with facsimiles during filming.
       Instead of shutting down a portion of the freeway for scenes involving the talking electronic freeway sign, filmmakers shot a section of Burbank Boulevard between Woodley and Hayvenhurst Avenues, as well as a section of Shoreline Drive in Long Beach. To erect the sign, crewmembers had to remove a tree on Burbank Boulevard, and bring in twenty-eight temporary phone lines and power to run the sign. In Palos Verdes, the Bird of Paradise House, designed by Lloyd Wright in 1967, served as the location for the fundraising dinner attended by Harris and “Sara McDowel.”
       After principal photography ended, IndieProd and Carolco purchased the freeway sign used for filming and moved it to the roof of Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard, as noted in a 19 Feb 1991 DV brief. The sign was used to display positive reviews for the film as well as advertisements for records available at Tower.
       A benefit premiere took place 5 Feb 1991 at the AMC Century 14 Theatres in Century City, raising funds for both LACMA and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). According to the 7 Feb 1991 LAT, the event marked the first collaboration between the two museums, which took in $50,000 each. Attendees included Ed Ruscha, Neil Simon, Carl Reiner, and Oliver Stone.
       Critical reception was mixed. The 7 Feb 1991 HR likened the film’s structure to Woody Allen’s Bananas (1971, see entry), and stated that the narrative was slight but praised its “neon array of oddball cultural colors.” The 11 Feb 1991 New York review called it “a junky, casual notebook movie” with little structural stability, but allowed that the film captured “a certain mood.”
       The Apr 1991 Box review stated that L.A. Story grossed $20.6 million in four weeks of release.
       The film was set to make its television premiere 6 Mar 1992 on the Showtime cable network, as reported in a 28 Jan 1992 DV item. Showtime hoped to air a five-minute deleted scene with actor John Lithgow playing Hollywood agent “Harry Zell,” which was included in the “Deleted Scenes” featured on the home video version viewed by AFI. The deleted scenes feature also included scenes with actor Scott Bakula, who played Harris’s neighbor, an actor preparing for a role as a boxer. Neither Lithgow nor Bakula appeared in the final cut of the film.
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BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Apr 1991.
---
Daily Variety
29 Jan 1990
p. 1, 8.
Daily Variety
21 Jun 1990
p. 17, 21.
Daily Variety
19 Feb 1991.
---
Daily Variety
28 Jan 1992
p. 3, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Feb 1991
p. 6, 74.
Los Angeles Times
15 Apr 1990
Calendar, p. 31.
Los Angeles Times
29 Apr 1990
Calendar, p. 40.
Los Angeles Times
5 Aug 1990
Calendar, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
27 Nov 1990
Section B, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
7 Feb 1991.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Feb 1991
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
12 Apr 1992
Section K, p. 1.
New York
11 Feb 1991
p. 54.
New York Times
8 Feb 1991
Section C, p. 8.
Screen International
23 Dec 1989.
---
Variety
11 Feb 1991
pp. 109-110.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Mario Kassar presents
A Daniel Melnick/IndieProd/L.A. Films® Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st cam asst
2d cam asst
Loader
Best boy elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Prod des asst
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
On set dresser
Property master
Const coord
Const foreman
Paint foreman
Const auditor
Leadman
2d leadman
Swing gang
Swing gang
Stand-by painter
Greensman
Stand-by greensman
Asst set des
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
Costumer
Mr. Martin's costumer
Cost des asst
MUSIC
Orchestrator
Orchestrator
Mus copyist
Scoring mixer
Mus contractor
Mus clearance
Supervising mus ed
Mus editing
SOUND
Supervising sd ed
Supervising sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Supervising ADR ed
ADR ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Prod sd mixer
Cable puller
Boom op
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Dolby Stereo consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff
Opt eff coord
Matte shots
Opticals and titles by
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Make-up artist to Mr. Martin
Hairstylist
Hairstylist to Mr. Martin
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Post prod supv
Post prod coord
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Prod accountant
Prod auditor
Asst auditor
Asst loc mgr
Scr supv
Unit pub
International pub
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Asst to Mr. Martin
Asst to Mr. Melnick
Asst to Mr. Rachmill
Asst to Mr. Jackson
Mr. Martin's roller skating instructor
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Loc asst
Casting asst
Animal trainer
Sign programmer
Sign tech
Craft service
Craft service
First aid
Financial services
Completion bond services provided by
Prod insurance provided by
Prod financing provided by
Air transportation provided by
[Air transportation] Coord by
Caterer
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver/Mechanic
Driver for Steve Martin
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“Epona,” written by Enya, performed by Enya, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp./BBC Enterprises Ltd., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Exile,” written by Enya, Roma Ryan and Nicky Ryan, performed by Enya, courtesy of WEA Records Limited/Geffen Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“On Your Shore,” written by Enya, Roma Ryan and Nicky Ryan, performed by Enya, courtesy of WEA Records Limited/Geffen Records by arrangement with Warner Special Products
+
SONGS
“Epona,” written by Enya, performed by Enya, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp./BBC Enterprises Ltd., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“Exile,” written by Enya, Roma Ryan and Nicky Ryan, performed by Enya, courtesy of WEA Records Limited/Geffen Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“On Your Shore,” written by Enya, Roma Ryan and Nicky Ryan, performed by Enya, courtesy of WEA Records Limited/Geffen Records by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“I’ve Had My Moments,” written by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson, performed by Stephanie Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, courtesy of Vogue Records, by arrangement with GNP Cresendo Records
“La Mer,” written by Charles Trenet, performed by Django Reinhardt and The Quintette of the Hot Club of France with Stephane Grappelli, courtesy of RCA Records, a division of BMG Music
“Do Wah Diddy, Diddy,” written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, performed by Manfred Mann, courtesy of EMI, a division of Capitol Records, Inc., by arrangment with CEMA Special Markets
“You Drive Me To Distraction,” written by Chas Sanford and Charles Judge, performed by Big World
“Wild Thing,” written by Chip Taylor, performed by Seeds of Love, featuring Jimmie Wood, produced by Carl Sealove
“Ain’t That A Shame,” written by Antoine “Fats” Domino and Dave Bartholomew, performed by Fats Domino, courtesy of Heritage Entertainment, Inc., by arrangment with Celebrity Licensing Inc
“Smoke Rings,” written by Ned Washington and H. Eugene Gifford, performed by Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, courtesy of Vogue Records, by arrangment with GNP Cresendo Records
“Amazing Grace,” arranged by Fairbairn, performed by The Pipes and Drums and Military Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, courtesy of RCA Records, a division of BMG Music
“Clouds,” written by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson.
+
PERFORMERS
+
COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Touch
Release Date:
8 February 1991
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 5 February 1991
Los Angeles and New York openings: 8 February 1991
Production Date:
16 April--late July or early August 1990
Copyright Claimant:
Carolco Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
22 February 1991
Copyright Number:
PA504201
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Duration(in mins):
95
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30630
SYNOPSIS

A helicopter carries a giant, plastic hot dog over sunny Los Angeles, California, and sunbathers wave to it from a pool overlooking the city. Television weatherman Harris K. Telemacher avoids traffic on the way to work by cutting through backyards, parking lots, and alleyways. He arrives at the KYOY-14 television station, dons a safari hat and performs his “wacky” weather report. Afterward, Harris’s boss tells him to be “more wacky, less egghead.” Harris goes to pick up his girl friend, Trudi, on the way to a lunch date with eight other people, and they argue about punctuality. He complains that Trudi takes too long to get ready, but Trudi urges him to relax. They finally get into Harris’s car, and Trudi says that she invited Harris’s agent, Frank Swan, whom Harris wants to fire. A radio deejay announces that it is the first day of spring and Harris panics, because the first day of spring is “open season” on Los Angeles freeways. He tells Trudi to grab his gun out of the glove compartment. She loads the weapon and hands it to him, and he shoots at other armed drivers. The couple shows up late at the restaurant, but are still the first to arrive. They are eventually joined by agent Frank Swan and Roland Mackey, a British art dealer. Roland’s ex-wife, Sara McDowel, shows up even later. She introduces herself as a journalist writing an article about Los Angeles for the London Times. An earthquake interrupts, and everyone but Sara ignores it. Harris stares at her from across the table, and Trudi becomes jealous. ... +


A helicopter carries a giant, plastic hot dog over sunny Los Angeles, California, and sunbathers wave to it from a pool overlooking the city. Television weatherman Harris K. Telemacher avoids traffic on the way to work by cutting through backyards, parking lots, and alleyways. He arrives at the KYOY-14 television station, dons a safari hat and performs his “wacky” weather report. Afterward, Harris’s boss tells him to be “more wacky, less egghead.” Harris goes to pick up his girl friend, Trudi, on the way to a lunch date with eight other people, and they argue about punctuality. He complains that Trudi takes too long to get ready, but Trudi urges him to relax. They finally get into Harris’s car, and Trudi says that she invited Harris’s agent, Frank Swan, whom Harris wants to fire. A radio deejay announces that it is the first day of spring and Harris panics, because the first day of spring is “open season” on Los Angeles freeways. He tells Trudi to grab his gun out of the glove compartment. She loads the weapon and hands it to him, and he shoots at other armed drivers. The couple shows up late at the restaurant, but are still the first to arrive. They are eventually joined by agent Frank Swan and Roland Mackey, a British art dealer. Roland’s ex-wife, Sara McDowel, shows up even later. She introduces herself as a journalist writing an article about Los Angeles for the London Times. An earthquake interrupts, and everyone but Sara ignores it. Harris stares at her from across the table, and Trudi becomes jealous. Leaving the restaurant, Roland tries to rekindle his romance with Sara, but she says she likes their relationship as it is. At a clothing store, Harris tries on a pair of white slacks while a bouncy, dimwitted shop girl named Sandee marks them for tailoring. That evening, as he and Trudi drive home, Harris’s car slows to a stop on the highway. He pulls over to look under the hood, and a passing breeze prompts him to turn around. He sees “Hiya” written on an electronic freeway sign. The sign communicates with Harris in writing, asking if he is okay and requesting a hug. The sign says it stops people who are in trouble. Harris hears his engine restart as the sign reads: “You will know what to do when you unscramble how daddy is doing.” Harris promises to work on the riddle and waves goodbye. Soon after, Sara sees Harris’s wacky weather report on television and telephones, asking to interview him for her article. Harris and his best friend, Ariel, go to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where Ariel records Harris with a video camera as he roller-skates through the galleries. Later, Sara and Harris meet for the interview. He takes her on a driving tour of the city, including a stop at a cemetery. When a gravedigger digs up the skull of The Great Blunderman, a magician, Harris says he knew the man. Sara impresses Harris with a fitting quote from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He asks if she is seeing anyone, and she says yes. Later, at the KYOY-14 station, a producer asks Harry to do the weather report during the weekend, but Harris insists on pre-taping, promising that the weather will not change. A surprise rainstorm ensues. When Harris goes to pick up his altered slacks, the cute shop girl, Sandee, apologizes that the pants are not ready and takes his phone number. On the drive home, Harris sees the talking freeway sign. It tells him he should have gotten Sandee’s number. At home, as Harris laments the missed opportunity, Sandee calls to ask him out. They go to a restaurant, where Sandee points out her boyfriend at the bar, and explains that they have an open relationship. She says her name is spelled “SanDeE” and draws it on Harris’s hand. Elsewhere, Roland and Sara eat hot dogs and watch skateboarders. Roland kisses Sara, but she is unmoved. The next day, Harris goes to Trudi’s apartment, who reveals that she has been having an affair with Frank Swan for three years. Relieved, Harris does a celebratory dance outside. He tells the freeway sign that he is now free from his relationship and his agent. The sign responds that the weather will change Harris’s life twice. Soon after, Harris is fired because his pre-taped weather report failed to predict rain. Sandee urges Harris to get a colonic irrigation and they go to the clinic together. They make plans for dinner, but Harris cannot get a reservation at L’Idiot, the hip, new restaurant Sandee suggested, so he makes plans for a weekend getaway instead. Meanwhile, Sara records her observations about Los Angeles on a Dictaphone, observing that it is a place where people have taken a desert and turned it into their dreams. She also notes that it is a place of secrets, and disagrees with Roland, who believes Los Angeles is a place for the “brain dead.” At a museum, Roland and Sara peruse art while Ariel records more video of Harris on his roller-skates. Harris accidentally runs into Sara, who invites him to join her and Roland for dinner. They go to L’Idiot, and afterward, Sara gives him a ride home. Arriving at his apartment, they step out of Sara’s car, and it begins to move on its own. Sara panics, but Harris says he knows what is happening. They jump back into the car, and it leads them to the freeway sign. The sign tells Harris to kiss Sara, and he does. The sign then urges him to let his mind go, promising that his body will follow. In a daze, Sara agrees to go to a fundraiser with Harris the following evening. Later, she telephones her mother and plays “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” on the tuba, while her mom accompanies her on piano. The next night, as he arrives to pick her up, Harris overhears Sara playing the tuba. He detects Sara’s nervousness and encourages her to relax and give in to the passion she feels. She says he should do the same, and suggests he uses silly antics to avoid getting hurt. At the fundraising dinner, Harris pretends to be ill and lures Sara outside. They kiss, and he tells her to let her mind and body go. They return to the table disheveled, just as the longwinded host finishes his speech. The next day, Harris tells Sandee he cannot go away with her that weekend because he is seeing someone else. When he admits that Sara is going on a trip with her ex-husband, Sandee convinces him it is only fair that they have a vacation, too. Harris and Sandee unwittingly end up at the same Santa Barbara resort as Sara and Roland. Unaware that Harris is next door, Roland and Sara overhear him and Sandee having sex and are inspired to do the same. Afterward, Harris and Sara are dismayed when they bump into each other in the hallway. Blissfully ignorant, Roland suggests they have dinner together. The couples walk on the beach, and Sara and Harris steal time alone. Harris begs her to stay in Los Angeles, saying he wants to get married, have children, and grow old together. For Sara, however, their fling is everything she didn’t want: pain, lying, and complications. Checking out of the hotel, Roland runs into Harris and gives him the sad news that Sara has decided to go back to London as soon as possible. Back in Los Angeles, Harris finds Sara packing at her apartment. He begs her to reconsider, but she refuses. At his new job as a news anchorman, Harris mopes, while Sara heads for the airport. Another rainstorm hits, and she changes her mind. She goes to Harris’s apartment, and when he sees her, he notes the rain, and says, “That’s twice,” in reference to the freeway sign’s suggestion that the weather would change his life twice. Harris takes Sara back to the freeway sign, which tells him to unscramble “How Daddy is Doing.” Sara figures out the riddle, and says the sign is telling Harris to sing “Doo Wah Diddy.” Harris asks the sign why it chose him, and it says, “There are more things ‘n heaven and earth, Harris, than are dreamt of ‘n your philosophy,” then returns to reporting the traffic. Sometime later, Harris says there is someone for everyone, and he will never forget the night when he learned that romance does exist deep in the heart of Los Angeles. +

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

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