Bullitt (1968)

114 mins | Drama | 17 October 1968

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HISTORY

Bullitt, based on Robert L. Pike’s 1963 novel, Mute Witness, was originally developed by producer Philip D’Antoni and Ernest Pintoff, according to a 21 Jun 1967 Var news item. At the time, Pintoff was set to direct, with Elliott Kastner and Jerry Gershwin also on board to produce. However, in a 26 Sep 1967 LAT brief announcing Solar Productions, Inc.’s acquisition of Bullitt, Pintoff, Kastner, and Gershwin received no mention. D’Antoni, who sold the rights to Solar, remained with the project, and Solar chief Robert E. Relyea was brought on as executive producer. Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, Inc. was set to distribute, according to a newly formed six-picture deal with Solar, but it was unclear whether or not Solar president, actor Steve McQueen, intended to star in the picture at that time. Although a 4 Oct 1967 Var item erroneously referred to the script as an “original” by Alan R. Trustman, the 8 Nov 1967 Var clarified that the screenplay was based on Pike’s novel.
       Steve McQueen became interested in collaborating with British director Peter Yates upon seeing his 1967 film, Robbery (see entry). As stated in the 9 Feb 1968 LAT, McQueen sent Alan Trustman’s script to Yates in Oct 1967. Soon after, an 8 Nov 1967 DV item announced that Yates would direct, and the 1 Dec 1967 DV reported that McQueen would play “Frank Bullitt.” Despite his heavy involvement as a producer, McQueen intended only to take an acting credit, according to the 23 Apr 1968 DV.
       Joan Hackett was named as ... More Less

Bullitt, based on Robert L. Pike’s 1963 novel, Mute Witness, was originally developed by producer Philip D’Antoni and Ernest Pintoff, according to a 21 Jun 1967 Var news item. At the time, Pintoff was set to direct, with Elliott Kastner and Jerry Gershwin also on board to produce. However, in a 26 Sep 1967 LAT brief announcing Solar Productions, Inc.’s acquisition of Bullitt, Pintoff, Kastner, and Gershwin received no mention. D’Antoni, who sold the rights to Solar, remained with the project, and Solar chief Robert E. Relyea was brought on as executive producer. Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, Inc. was set to distribute, according to a newly formed six-picture deal with Solar, but it was unclear whether or not Solar president, actor Steve McQueen, intended to star in the picture at that time. Although a 4 Oct 1967 Var item erroneously referred to the script as an “original” by Alan R. Trustman, the 8 Nov 1967 Var clarified that the screenplay was based on Pike’s novel.
       Steve McQueen became interested in collaborating with British director Peter Yates upon seeing his 1967 film, Robbery (see entry). As stated in the 9 Feb 1968 LAT, McQueen sent Alan Trustman’s script to Yates in Oct 1967. Soon after, an 8 Nov 1967 DV item announced that Yates would direct, and the 1 Dec 1967 DV reported that McQueen would play “Frank Bullitt.” Despite his heavy involvement as a producer, McQueen intended only to take an acting credit, according to the 23 Apr 1968 DV.
       Joan Hackett was named as a top contender for a lead female role in the 13 Dec 1967 DV.
       Principal photography was initially scheduled to begin on 29 Jan 1958, as noted in a 29 Dec 1967 DV production chart, but was delayed until 12 Feb 1968, according to items in the 17 Jan and 16 Feb 1968 DV. The shoot was set to take place entirely on location, as in Yates’s previous picture, Robbery. San Francisco, CA, was chosen as the primary location over New York City (where the novel is set), and Boston, MA, as stated in the 9 Jun 1969 DV. Outside San Francisco, ten days of filming was scheduled to take place in May 1968 in Chicago, IL, where the opening sequence was set, according to the 9 Feb 1968 LAT. No part of the picture was to be shot in a studio. An 18 Mar 1968 DV article noted Philip D’Antoni’s claims that the production would cost no more to shoot in San Francisco than in Los Angeles, CA, despite transportation and housing expenses, because so much money was saved on construction by using real locations, instead. Filmmakers utilized, among other locations, an existing residence in the neighborhood of Pacific Heights, a San Francisco police station, and the San Francisco County Hospital, where three weeks of filming transpired.
       On 29 Feb 1968, DV reported that all wardrobe had been stolen, causing production delays. The project remained behind schedule and ultimately went over its estimated $4 million budget, as noted in the 16 Oct 1968 DV review. After principal photography was completed, D’Antoni admitted his initial calculations were off, and the picture ended up costing $500,000 more than if it had been shot at the Warner Bros.-Seven Arts studio facilities in Los Angeles.
       Mayor Joseph L. Alioto helped the company obtain permission to film at the San Francisco International Airport. Two weeks of night shooting were set to begin there on 10 Apr 1968, as stated in a DV brief published one day earlier. The 23 Apr 1968 issue of DV noted that one scene shot on the tarmac entailed McQueen running under a departing Pan-Am 707 jet, which gave off 240-degree-Fahrenheit exhaust. Eager to perform his own stunts, McQueen said of the experience, “The vibration tweaked my neck a little. You’ve got to open your mouth and hold your ears.” Two other planes, a second Pan-Am 707 and a Pacific Southwest Airlines 727 jet, were also used. Part of an automobile chase was set to be filmed on the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, according to a 13 Mar 1968 DV item, where one lane would be shut down on an early Sunday morning. McQueen was on board to do his own driving across the bridge, at speeds up to 100 miles per hour. A racing enthusiast in real life, the actor had reportedly received an insurance form from the studio, asking him to refrain from racing cars or riding motorcycles off the set for the duration of the shoot, as stated in the 23 Feb 1968 DV. McQueen refused to sign, stating, “There are some things that aren’t for sale – and one of ‘em is my soul.”
       According to the 18 Mar 1968 DV, Bullitt was the first picture to be shot exclusively on Arriflex cameras, which were smaller and more mobile than standard film cameras but could only be loaded with limited, 400-foot magazines. Processing was done in Los Angeles, and dailies were sent back to San Francisco within twenty-four hours. During production, editor Frank P. Keller and Peter Yates viewed dailies alone in Keller’s temporary editing facilities in an office on Hyde Street, according to a 26 Jul 1968 LAT article. Yates continued to sit at Keller’s side throughout post-production in Los Angeles, and turned down another directing job in the meantime, stating, “A director has a moral obligation to stay with his film until it is completely finished.”
       Ned Moss, a press agent for the picture, according to a 21 Feb 1968 DV brief, was recruited by McQueen to play a U.S. senator, although he does not appear to have been credited for the role. Likewise, the 11 Mar 1968 DV stated that jazz dancer John Brascia would be paid $10,000 to play the role of a “heavy,” a 7 May 1968 DV item noted that instrumental group, The Meridians West, would appear in a coffee-house scene, and a 13 May 1968 DV brief listed Brandy Carroll as a cast member.
       While filming was still underway, a 9 May 1968 DV brief announced the dissolution of Solar’s six-picture deal with Warner Bros.-Seven Arts. The following week, McQueen was quoted in the 16 May 1968 DV as saying he would see Bullitt through to its end, despite the parting of ways. The 16 Oct 1968 DV review noted the split was likely prompted by Bullitt going over schedule and over budget. Production concluded on Saturday, 25 May 1968, as stated in the 27 May 1968 DV.
       According to a 23 Apr 1968 DV brief, McQueen donated a swimming pool to a recreation park in Hunters Point, a San Francisco neighborhood where 300 children had been recruited as background actors. On 13 Sep 1968, a DV item clarified that the pool wasn’t fully paid for yet, and that proceeds from the benefit premiere scheduled to take place on 14 Oct 1968 in San Francisco should raise enough money to finish it. A later item in the 18 Oct 1968 DV indicated that the premiere had been delayed. McQueen requested that it take place 15 Nov 1968, instead, and was hopeful for an after-party at Alcatraz. The 15 Nov 1968 DV confirmed the premiere was being held that night. McQueen was expected to fly in from Los Angeles, where he was shooting The Reivers (1969, see entry), for a three-hour appearance.
       The picture was a critical and commercial success. On 17 Oct 1968, it debuted at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, where, on opening weekend, ticket sales amounting to $49,073 set a record for the “biggest Saturday ever” at the venue. In its first four days there, the film took in a cumulative $150,352. On 20 Dec 1968, two months after the New York opening, Bullitt debuted in Los Angeles at the Pix Theatre. Many reviews, including the 20 Dec 1968 LAT, commended the picture’s eleven-minute automobile chase sequence through the streets of San Francisco, which the 16 Oct 1968 DV called “breathtaking” and “reminiscent of Cinerama’s famed roller-coaster ride.” Bullitt was also notably well received in Paris, France, according to a 9 Apr 1969 Var brief. A 1 Jul 1969 DV article listed it in the top ten highest-grossing films of the first half of 1969 in Los Angeles, where it had taken in $1,136,900 in the last six months, and the 23 Jul 1969 Var stated that Bullitt was the only Christmas 1968 release believed to have approached $15 million in film rentals throughout the U.S. and Canada.
       Based on his portrayal of Frank Bullitt, Steve McQueen was named male “Star of the Year” by the National Association of Theatre Owners, according to a 19 Sep 1969 NYT item. Frank P. Keller won an Academy Award for Film Editing, and the Warner Bros.-Seven Arts Studio Sound Department was nominated for an Academy Award for Sound. Director of photography William A. Fraker was honored by the National Society of Film Critics for Best Photography of the year, as stated in the 7 Jan 1969 DV, and the 9 Jun 1969 DV reported that D’Antoni received a Cable Car Award from Mayor Alioto for producing the film in San Francisco.
       Bullitt marked Philip D’Antoni’s feature film producing debut, and the first American film for director Peter Yates, as noted in the 16 Oct 1968 DV. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
8 Nov 1967
p. 6.
Daily Variety
1 Dec 1967
p. 1.
Daily Variety
7 Dec 1967
Section D, p. 21.
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Dec 1967
p. 6.
Daily Variety
17 Jan 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
24 Jan 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 Feb 1968
p. 12.
Daily Variety
21 Feb 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Feb 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Feb 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Mar 1968
p. 10.
Daily Variety
13 Mar 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Mar 1968
p. 12.
Daily Variety
9 Apr 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 Apr 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 May 1968
p. 10.
Daily Variety
9 May 1968
p. 1.
Daily Variety
13 May 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
16 May 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
24 May 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
27 May 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Sep 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
10 Oct 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
16 Oct 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
18 Oct 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Oct 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
15 Nov 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Jan 1969
p. 3.
Daily Variety
8 Apr 1969
p. 3.
Daily Variety
9 Jun 1969
p. 15.
Daily Variety
1 Jul 1969
p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
26 Sep 1967
Section D, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
9 Feb 1968
Section C, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
26 Jul 1968
Section F, p. 1, 8.
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 1968
Section F, p. 16.
New York Times
18 Oct 1968
p. 41.
New York Times
19 Sep 1969
p. 53.
Variety
21 Jun 1967
p. 26.
Variety
4 Oct 1967
p. 23.
Variety
13 Mar 1968
p. 64.
Variety
9 Apr 1969
p. 34.
Variety
23 Jul 1969
p. 3.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
Scr supv
Main titles
STAND INS
Chase seq stunts
Chase seq stunts
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Mute Witness by Robert L. Pike (Garden City, New York, 1963).
DETAILS
Release Date:
17 October 1968
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 17 October 1968
Los Angeles opening: 20 December 1968 at the Pix Theatre
Production Date:
12 February--25 May 1968
Copyright Claimant:
Solar Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 December 1968
Copyright Number:
LP38106
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
114
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Chicago, Illinois, hoodlum Johnny Ross defrauds his Mafia associates and escapes to San Francisco, California, where he agrees to testify before a Senate subcommittee on crime headed by ambitious politician Walter Chalmers. At the request of Chalmers, Detective Lieutenant Frank Bullitt is assigned to protect Ross, who is hiding out in a dilapidated hotel; two gunmen manage to enter Ross's room, however, and seriously wound him. Chalmers then warns Bullitt that he will destroy his career if Ross dies. When Ross is stabbed to death in the hospital, Bullitt persuades a member of the hospital staff, Dr. Willard, to help conceal the death, and he sets out to investigate the case. The Mafia gangsters follow him, but Bullitt escapes in an automobile chase through San Francisco that ends when the Mafia car crashes into a gasoline pump and explodes. Despite the objections of his girl friend Cathy, Bullitt retraces Ross's movements and eventually learns that the dead man was a decoy, and that the real Ross plans to leave the country under the name of Albert Renick. Tracing a phone call Ross made to a San Mateo motel, Bullitt drives there with Cathy and finds a murdered woman with $30,000 in traveler's checks made out to Albert and Dorothy Renick. Bullitt then learns that Ross has booked a seat on an overnight flight to London, England. He races to stop him at the airport, but runs into Chalmers, who admits that he sent him to guard the wrong man and demands that the real Ross be taken alive. After an angry exchange with Chalmers, Bullitt goes after Ross, chases him from a departing plane onto the runway, and finally ... +


Chicago, Illinois, hoodlum Johnny Ross defrauds his Mafia associates and escapes to San Francisco, California, where he agrees to testify before a Senate subcommittee on crime headed by ambitious politician Walter Chalmers. At the request of Chalmers, Detective Lieutenant Frank Bullitt is assigned to protect Ross, who is hiding out in a dilapidated hotel; two gunmen manage to enter Ross's room, however, and seriously wound him. Chalmers then warns Bullitt that he will destroy his career if Ross dies. When Ross is stabbed to death in the hospital, Bullitt persuades a member of the hospital staff, Dr. Willard, to help conceal the death, and he sets out to investigate the case. The Mafia gangsters follow him, but Bullitt escapes in an automobile chase through San Francisco that ends when the Mafia car crashes into a gasoline pump and explodes. Despite the objections of his girl friend Cathy, Bullitt retraces Ross's movements and eventually learns that the dead man was a decoy, and that the real Ross plans to leave the country under the name of Albert Renick. Tracing a phone call Ross made to a San Mateo motel, Bullitt drives there with Cathy and finds a murdered woman with $30,000 in traveler's checks made out to Albert and Dorothy Renick. Bullitt then learns that Ross has booked a seat on an overnight flight to London, England. He races to stop him at the airport, but runs into Chalmers, who admits that he sent him to guard the wrong man and demands that the real Ross be taken alive. After an angry exchange with Chalmers, Bullitt goes after Ross, chases him from a departing plane onto the runway, and finally kills him as he tries to escape. +

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

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