Used People (1992)

PG-13 | 109 mins | Romance, Comedy | 16 December 1992

Director:

Beeban Kidron

Writer:

Todd Graff

Producer:

Peggy Rajski

Cinematographer:

David Watkin

Editor:

John Tintori

Production Designer:

Stuart Wurtzel

Production Companies:

U. P. Productions, Largo Entertainment
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HISTORY

End credits include the following statements: “Clip from The Graduate © 1967 Embassy/Lawrence Turman Inc., Provided through the courtesy of The Paravision International Group”; “Stills from Grand Hotel and Deception provided by Turner Entertainment Co.”; “Stills from Bonnie and Clyde provided by Warner Bros Inc.”; Used People is based on material from Todd Graff's The Grandma Plays, which received its world premiere at The Vineyard Theatre, New York City"; “The producers would like to thank the following: Toronto Film Liaison Office; Ontario Film Development Corporation; City of New York, David N. Dinkins, Mayor; Mayor’s Office for Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, Jaynne Keyes.”
       The 1 May 1991 HR announced that actress Shirley MacLaine would star in Used People, the first American film by British director Beeban Kidron. Principal photography was expected to begin during summer 1991. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. had worldwide distribution rights, except in Italy and Japan, where distribution was handled by Penta Films and JVC Victor Company of Japan, Ltd., respectively.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the film also marked the first produced screenplay by actor Todd Graff. The script was based on his stage production, The Grandma Plays, inspired by his late grandmother, Frieda, whom Graff reimagined as a fictional character with a spirit of adventure. Following discussions with several prospective producers, Graff signed an agreement with executive producer Lloyd Levin, who in turn recommended Kidron as director. Graff met with Kidron in London, where she made recommendations on how to improve the screenplay. Graff was ... More Less

End credits include the following statements: “Clip from The Graduate © 1967 Embassy/Lawrence Turman Inc., Provided through the courtesy of The Paravision International Group”; “Stills from Grand Hotel and Deception provided by Turner Entertainment Co.”; “Stills from Bonnie and Clyde provided by Warner Bros Inc.”; Used People is based on material from Todd Graff's The Grandma Plays, which received its world premiere at The Vineyard Theatre, New York City"; “The producers would like to thank the following: Toronto Film Liaison Office; Ontario Film Development Corporation; City of New York, David N. Dinkins, Mayor; Mayor’s Office for Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, Jaynne Keyes.”
       The 1 May 1991 HR announced that actress Shirley MacLaine would star in Used People, the first American film by British director Beeban Kidron. Principal photography was expected to begin during summer 1991. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. had worldwide distribution rights, except in Italy and Japan, where distribution was handled by Penta Films and JVC Victor Company of Japan, Ltd., respectively.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the film also marked the first produced screenplay by actor Todd Graff. The script was based on his stage production, The Grandma Plays, inspired by his late grandmother, Frieda, whom Graff reimagined as a fictional character with a spirit of adventure. Following discussions with several prospective producers, Graff signed an agreement with executive producer Lloyd Levin, who in turn recommended Kidron as director. Graff met with Kidron in London, where she made recommendations on how to improve the screenplay. Graff was initially apprehensive, but eventually “relaxed” after realizing her ideas were compatible with his. Kidron rehearsed the cast for two weeks prior to production, working with the actors individually, in pairs, and in groups.
       Principal photography began 9 Sep 1991 in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York. Following several weeks on locations in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, the production moved to Toronto, Canada, where filming was completed in mid-Nov 1991.
       To recreate the “look” of 1969 New York City, production designer Stuart Wurtzel had to remove graffiti from exteriors, and replaced anodized aluminum windows with wood-framed windows. In Toronto, he designed the apartment set according to Beeban Kidron’s specifications, making it possible for the director to look through one room to the next. Décor was chosen based on the idea that the characters were “not necessarily people with good taste,” and had not redecorated since the 1950s. Period automobiles and a miniature Ferris wheel were supplied by property master James Mazzola, who acquired them from car shows and similar events in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
       Unable to find original clothing from the late 1960s, costume designer Marilyn Vance-Straker created over 100 outfits, using period fabrics from a store in Toronto that was going out of business. Vance-Straker chose color palates to distinguish the two extended families portrayed in the film, the “Bermans” and the “Meledandris,” which she expanded to complement the arc of the characters as the story progressed. In the Feb 1993 Theatre Crafts International, Vance-Straker explained that she derived many of her designs from Sears, Roebuck & Company catalogs, friends’ photograph albums, and memories of her mother from the 1960s. For the insecure “Bibby,” played by actress Kathy Bates, Vance-Straker designed ill-conceived versions of contemporary fashion. “Norma,” played by Marcia Gay Harden, required a series of costumes based on various film stars in iconic roles, such as Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967, see entry), Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch (1955, see entry), Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961, see entry), and Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967, see entry). According to Vance-Straker, the character was creating “‘the best version she could’ of the originals,” explaining why none of “Norma’s” costumes is an exact reproduction. Due to budget limitations, the designer was given no time with the actors, so she created character boards to “share her thoughts” with the director and cast.
       The 8 Nov 1992 LAT reported that Shirley MacLaine’s “favorite channeler,” speaking for the spiritual entity, “Lazaras,” assured Todd Graff that the film was destined for “boffo boxoffice”, despite heavy competition from other Christmas releases, and had the approval of the writer’s late grandmother. Graff was highly skeptical. Nicholas Eliopoulos, president of “Earthlight, A Motion Picture Company,” responded to the article in a letter to the 22 Nov 1992 LAT. He explained that the entity’s name was spelled “Lazaris,” and warned that Graff’s skepticism could override the prediction.
       The 4 Dec 1992 HR noted that Used People was the first picture to star three Academy Award-winning actresses, all of whom received their awards before joining the cast.
       As reported in the 25 Dec 1992 LAT, lobbying by transit authorities in Chicago and New York City resulted in the removal of a scene in which the character, “Swee' Pea,” touches the third rail of a New York City railway and survives, purportedly because “the electricity is turned off between trains.” Transit officials were concerned that the misinformation might encourage others to do the same.
       Used People was released to mixed reviews, although a Cinemascore Movie Report in the 20 Jan 1993 HR demonstrated high grades among survey audiences. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
20 Jun 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 1991
p. 1, 5.
Hollywood Reporter
7 May 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Aug 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Dec 1992
p. 8, 24.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jan 1993.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1993
Section I, p. 1, 6.
Los Angeles Times
8 Nov 1992
p. 20, 38.
Los Angeles Times
22 Nov 1992.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Dec 1992
p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
25 Dec 1992.
---
New York Times
16 Dec 1992
Section C, p. 23.
People
30 Sep 1991.
---
Theatre Crafts International
Feb 1993.
---
Variety
14 Dec 1992
p. 43.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Lawrence Gordon presents
In association with JVC Entertainment
A Beeban Kidron film
Released by Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
3d asst dir
Prod mgr, New York crew
2d asst dir, New York crew
2d asst dir, New York crew
2d 2d asst dir, New York crew
DGA trainee, New York crew
DGA trainee, New York crew
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Cam trainee
Cam trainee
Gaffer
Best boy gaffer
Generator op
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Company grip
Company grip
Video playback & interlock
1st asst cam, New York crew
1st asst cam, New York crew
2d asst cam, New York crew
2d asst cam, New York crew
2d cam op, New York crew
Still photog, New York crew
Gaffer, New York crew
Best boy elec, New York crew
Key grip, New York crew
Best boy grip, New York crew
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Art dir, New York crew
Art dept coord, New York crew
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed (Los Angeles)
1st asst ed (Toronto)
1st asst ed (London)
2d asst ed (Los Angeles)
2d asst ed (Toronto)
2d asst ed (London)
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Leadman
Leadman
Set dresser
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Head carpenter
Key scenic artist
Asst scenic artist
Head painter
Standby painter
Standby carpenter
Set dec, New York crew
Leadman, New York crew
Prop master, New York crew
Prop master, New York crew
2d prop, New York crew
3d prop, New York crew
Const, New York crew
Const grip, New York crew
Scenic charge, New York crew
COSTUMES
Assoc cost des
Ward supv
Ward master
Ward asst
Cutter/Fitter
Seamstress
Ward supv, New York crew
Ward supv, New York crew
2d ward supv, New York crew
Asst to cost des, New York crew
MUSIC
Mus comp and orchestrated by
Mus supv
Orch contractor
Copyist
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
ADR supv
ADR ed
ADR mixer
ADR rec
ADR group
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec
Sd mixer, New York crew
Sd mixer, New York crew
Boom op, New York crew
Boom op, New York crew
Rec, New York crew
Rec, New York crew
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Main and end titles des and prod by
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Key hair and wig des
Hairstylist
Key makeup artist
Makeup artist
Ms. MacLaine's makeup
Makeup, New York crew
Hair, New York crew
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod supv
Dial coach
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Loc prod asst
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Projectionist
Unit pub
Casting (Toronto)
Casting asst (Toronto)
Extras casting (Toronto)
Asst to Ms. Rajski (Los Angeles)
Asst to Ms. Rajski (Toronto)
Asst to Ms. Kidron (Los Angeles)
Asst to Ms. Kidron (Toronto)
Asst to Ms. Kidron (New York)
Prod asst
Prod asst
Post prod asst
Tutoring liaison
Tutor
Piano instruction
Accordion instruction
Animal handler
Transportation coord
Driver capt
Head driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Caterers
Craftservices
Loc mgr, New York crew
Loc mgr, New York crew
Scr supv, New York crew
Scr supv, New York crew
Prod coord, New York crew
Prod coord, New York crew
DGA trainee, New York crew
DGA trainee, New York crew
Office prod asst, New York crew
Office prod asst, New York crew
Office prod asst, New York crew
Loc asst, New York crew
Loc asst, New York crew
Loc asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod auditor, New York crew
Asst prod auditor, New York crew
Casting asst, New York crew
Extras casting, New York crew
Transportation coord, New York crew
Transportation coord, New York crew
Teamster capt, New York crew
Driver, New York crew
Driver, New York crew
Driver, New York crew
Driver, New York crew
Driver, New York crew
Driver, New York crew
Parking coord, New York crew
Craft service, New York crew
Craft service, New York crew
STAND INS
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
ADR voice
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Negative film
Negative film
Print film
Processed at
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Grandma Plays by Todd Graff (New York, week of 4 Oct 1988).
AUTHOR
SONGS
“Tell It Like It Is,” written by G. Davis and L. Diamond, performed by Aaron Neville, courtesy of Par-Lo Enterprises, Inc., by arrangement with Celebrity Licensing Inc.
“I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield, performed by Marvin Gaye, courtesy of Motown Records
“Monday Monday,” written by John Phillips, performed by The Mamas and the Papas, courtesy of MCA Records
+
SONGS
“Tell It Like It Is,” written by G. Davis and L. Diamond, performed by Aaron Neville, courtesy of Par-Lo Enterprises, Inc., by arrangement with Celebrity Licensing Inc.
“I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield, performed by Marvin Gaye, courtesy of Motown Records
“Monday Monday,” written by John Phillips, performed by The Mamas and the Papas, courtesy of MCA Records
“Can’t Seem To Make You Mine,” written by Sky Saxon, performed by The Seeds, courtesy of GNP-Crescendo Records
“Ah Fuggi Il Traditor,” courtesy of Associated Production Music
“Where Are The Words?” written by Jack Feldman and Rachel Portman
“Di Quella Pira,” courtesy of Intersound, Inc.
“It’s Not Unusual,” written by Gordon Mills and Les Reed, performed by Tom Jones, courtesy of Polygram Special Markets, a division of PGD, Inc.
“Mrs. Robinson,” written by Paul Simon, performed by Simon & Garfunkel, courtesy of Columbia Records by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Questa O Quella,” courtesy of Associated Production Music
“Grandma Boogie,” written by Bill Kowalchuk
“Moon Over Miami,” written by Joe Burke and Edgar Leslie
“Since I Fell For You,” written by Buddy Johnson, performed by Lenny Welch, courtesy of Barnaby Records, Inc., by arrangement with Celebrity Licensing Inc.
“The Sky Fell Down,” written by Louis Alter and Edward Heyman, performed by Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra, courtesy of RCA Records label of BMG Music.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
16 December 1992
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 16 December 1992
Los Angeles opening: 18 December 1992
Production Date:
9 September--mid November 1991
Copyright Claimant:
Largo Entertainment
Copyright Date:
23 December 1992
Copyright Number:
PA583923
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Duration(in mins):
109
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Countries:
Japan, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31899
SYNOPSIS

In 1946 Queens, New York, Jack Berman returns home after a long workday. His wife, Pearl, complains about their young daughters, Norma, a beautiful eccentric, and Barbara, nicknamed “Bibby,” who is overweight and smelly. Jack ignores his wife’s comments and dances with her as a romantic song plays on the radio. Twenty-three years later, the Berman family gathers for Jack’s funeral. Norma, dressed as widowed First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, refuses to enter the cemetery. Afterward, Pearl reminds Norma’s son, “Swee' Pea,” how special he was to his late grandfather. While Pearl naps in her bedroom, and her mother, Frieda considers moving to Florida, Swee' Pea becomes convinced that his dead grandfather Jack is protecting him from harm with an invisible force field. Joe Meledandri, an Italian immigrant, appears at the door and attempts to console Pearl with poetry. As a recent widower, Joe suggests that he and the newly widowed Pearl can fill the void in their lives. Pearl consents, and two weeks later, she joins Joe at the Lucky Horseshoe, a tavern owned by his brother, Paolo. He tells her of the night in 1946 when Jack entered the bar and discussed plans to leave his family, prompted by his feelings of inadequacy. Upon hearing Jack’s glowing description of Pearl, Joe gave him a brief dance lesson and convinced him to return to her. Joe followed Jack home, and as he watched from the street as the couple danced, he fell in love with Pearl. The story makes Pearl uncomfortable and she leaves the tavern. When Joe apologizes the next day, Pearl explains that ... +


In 1946 Queens, New York, Jack Berman returns home after a long workday. His wife, Pearl, complains about their young daughters, Norma, a beautiful eccentric, and Barbara, nicknamed “Bibby,” who is overweight and smelly. Jack ignores his wife’s comments and dances with her as a romantic song plays on the radio. Twenty-three years later, the Berman family gathers for Jack’s funeral. Norma, dressed as widowed First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, refuses to enter the cemetery. Afterward, Pearl reminds Norma’s son, “Swee' Pea,” how special he was to his late grandfather. While Pearl naps in her bedroom, and her mother, Frieda considers moving to Florida, Swee' Pea becomes convinced that his dead grandfather Jack is protecting him from harm with an invisible force field. Joe Meledandri, an Italian immigrant, appears at the door and attempts to console Pearl with poetry. As a recent widower, Joe suggests that he and the newly widowed Pearl can fill the void in their lives. Pearl consents, and two weeks later, she joins Joe at the Lucky Horseshoe, a tavern owned by his brother, Paolo. He tells her of the night in 1946 when Jack entered the bar and discussed plans to leave his family, prompted by his feelings of inadequacy. Upon hearing Jack’s glowing description of Pearl, Joe gave him a brief dance lesson and convinced him to return to her. Joe followed Jack home, and as he watched from the street as the couple danced, he fell in love with Pearl. The story makes Pearl uncomfortable and she leaves the tavern. When Joe apologizes the next day, Pearl explains that she is not offended, but believes dating is improper for a woman in mourning. Undaunted, he invites the Bermans to an Italian feast at the tavern, where they interact with the Meledandris. Norma, dressed as Barbra Streisand, flirts with Frank, Joe’s philandering psychiatrist son-in-law, while Bibby learns of Joe’s travels as a merchant seaman. After dinner, an argument erupts between the sisters, triggering hostilities among the other guests. Meanwhile, Frank accompanies Swee' Pea to nearby railroad tracks and watches in horror as the boy places his hands on what he mistakenly believes is the third rail. Although Swee' Pea is unharmed, he begs Frank to treat his mental illness without Norma’s consent. Later, Joe witnesses more of Swee' Pea’s risky behavior, and after a long talk with the boy, offers him accordion lessons, believing they are more therapeutic than psychoanalysis. Joe tries to discuss Swee' Pea’s issues with Pearl, but she tells him to mind his own business. The next day, however, Pearl informs Norma that Swee' Pea is under Frank’s care, and blames the boy’s problems on his mother’s eccentric behavior. Pearl and Joe meet in the park, and after a brief exchange, they kiss, although Pearl pretends to not enjoy it. Later, Bibby tells her mother that she and her children are moving to California. A heated exchange ensues, in which Bibby accuses her mother of cruelty, and Pearl accuses her daughter of abandoning her. Meanwhile, Norma attends a screening of The Graduate and memorizes a seduction scene involving the character, “Mrs. Robinson.” That evening, dressed as “Mrs. Robinson,” Norma goes to a hotel and plays the scene with Frank. However, the seduction turns to torture as she burns Frank’s naked body with hot wax, demanding that he never see Swee' Pea again. The following day, Frieda and her best friend, Becky, consider moving to a retirement home, but find the place depressing. Before embarking on her trip to California, Bibby thanks Joe for giving her the courage to start a new life. She asks him to explain her reasons to Pearl, as he is the only person who can break through her defenses. Frieda returns home to find Pearl grieving over Jack’s death, and advises her to marry Joe while she has the chance. However, Pearl is stubborn and continues to resist Joe’s advances. Norma embarrasses herself and Swee' Pea as she publicly berates the boy for seeking treatment. Joe thwarts Swee' Pea’s attempt to jump off a roof and brings him home to Norma. Alone with his mother, Swee' Pea admits to being fearful of her erratic behavior, which she attributes to depression over the death of her infant son, Michael, and the departure of her husband. Swee' Pea argues that he endured the same losses, yet managed to keep his sanity, until recently. Norma apologizes and allows Swee' Pea to continue psychotherapy, but begs him to stop risking his life. The following day, Joe proposes to Pearl, but she refuses to answer until they sleep together in the same bed. Joe reluctantly agrees to Pearl’s terms, and after she realizes how comfortable they are together, she accepts his proposal. On the day of the wedding Frieda invites Becky to move with her to Florida, Norma gathers the courage to visit her infant son’s grave, and Joe arranges for Bibby and her children to attend. When Joe learns that the musicians are delayed because of a flat tire, he volunteers Swee' Pea to play “The Stars Fell Down” on the accordion. The wedding is officiated by a Jewish rabbi and a Catholic priest, both of whom are hippies, because no other clergymen would agree to the interfaith ceremony. As the service concludes, Swee' Pea trips and falls, but is helped to his feet by a pretty young girl. He prays to God that they are not related. +

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

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