The Twelve Chairs (1970)

GP | 94 mins | Comedy | 28 October 1970

Director:

Mel Brooks

Writer:

Mel Brooks

Producer:

Michael Hertzberg

Cinematographer:

Djordje Nikolic

Editor:

Alan Heim

Production Designer:

Mile Nikolic

Production Company:

Twelve Chairs Co.
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HISTORY

The Twelve Chairs was announced in a 14 May 1968 LAT news item, which listed Sydney Glazier as producer and noted that writer-director Mel Brooks was at work on the screenplay, an adaptation of the 1928 novel Dvenadtsat stulyev by Ilya Arnoldovich Ilf and Yevgeniy Petrov. In an interview published in the 1 Nov 1970 LAT, Brooks claimed that he had first read the Soviet novel when he was fifteen, and had instantly envisioned it as a movie.
       On 13 Aug 1969, Var reported that Ron Moody had been cast, and that twelve weeks of shooting would begin later that month, on 25 Aug 1969. Brooks discovered Moody’s co-star, Frank Langella, when the stage actor starred in a play opposite Brooks’s wife, Anne Bancroft. The 1 Nov 1970 LAT stated that Brooks had similarly discovered Gene Wilder, who had appeared in his previous film, The Producers (1967, see entry), when Wilder co-starred with Bancroft onstage. The Twelve Chairs marked the first theatrical motion picture Langella ever filmed, but Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970, see entry) was the first to be released.
       An item in the 27 Aug 1969 Var and a 12 Sep 1969 DV production chart confirmed that principal photography began on 25 Aug 1969 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The production budget, cited as between $1.5 and $1.75 million, was financed entirely by U-M Productions. Brooks claimed in the 1 Nov 1970 LAT that filming in the U.S. would have cost $8-$10 million. In Yugoslavia, the film was “serviced” by Filmske Novosti, ... More Less

The Twelve Chairs was announced in a 14 May 1968 LAT news item, which listed Sydney Glazier as producer and noted that writer-director Mel Brooks was at work on the screenplay, an adaptation of the 1928 novel Dvenadtsat stulyev by Ilya Arnoldovich Ilf and Yevgeniy Petrov. In an interview published in the 1 Nov 1970 LAT, Brooks claimed that he had first read the Soviet novel when he was fifteen, and had instantly envisioned it as a movie.
       On 13 Aug 1969, Var reported that Ron Moody had been cast, and that twelve weeks of shooting would begin later that month, on 25 Aug 1969. Brooks discovered Moody’s co-star, Frank Langella, when the stage actor starred in a play opposite Brooks’s wife, Anne Bancroft. The 1 Nov 1970 LAT stated that Brooks had similarly discovered Gene Wilder, who had appeared in his previous film, The Producers (1967, see entry), when Wilder co-starred with Bancroft onstage. The Twelve Chairs marked the first theatrical motion picture Langella ever filmed, but Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970, see entry) was the first to be released.
       An item in the 27 Aug 1969 Var and a 12 Sep 1969 DV production chart confirmed that principal photography began on 25 Aug 1969 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The production budget, cited as between $1.5 and $1.75 million, was financed entirely by U-M Productions. Brooks claimed in the 1 Nov 1970 LAT that filming in the U.S. would have cost $8-$10 million. In Yugoslavia, the film was “serviced” by Filmske Novosti, according to the 13 Aug 1969 Var. The picture “came in on time and below budget,” as indicated in the 24 Dec 1969 Var. Post-production was scheduled to take place in New York City and London, England.
       A five-city world premiere was initially planned for the Christmas season, a 10 Sep 1970 DV brief noted. However, a later item in the 21 Oct 1970 Var reported that a dual premiere would occur on 28 Oct 1970 at New York City’s Loew’s Tower East and Los Angeles, CA’s Beverly Theatre. Prior to release, the picture was rated “GP” (parental guidance suggested) by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). However, filmmakers appealed and received a “G” (for general audiences) rating, according to a 17 Dec 1970 DV brief.
       Although critical reception was mixed, Frank Langella won the National Board of Review’s Best Supporting Actor Award, and Brooks’s script was nominated for a Writers Guild of America (WGA) Award for Best American Comedies Adapted for Another Medium, as stated in items in the 4 Jan 1971 NYT and 15 Feb 1971 LAT.
       A box-office chart in the 24 Feb 1971 Var listed The Twelve Chairs’ cumulative gross in select U.S. markets as $1,848,172, to date. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
7 Aug 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
12 Sep 1969
p. 10.
Daily Variety
10 Sep 1970
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Dec 1970
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
14 May 1968
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
29 Oct 1970
Section D, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
1 Nov 1970
Section O, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
15 Feb 1971
Section F, p. 14.
New York Times
29 Oct 1970.
---
New York Times
4 Jan 1971.
---
Variety
28 Aug 1968
p. 22.
Variety
13 Aug 1969
p. 6.
Variety
13 Aug 1969
p. 24.
Variety
27 Aug 1969
p. 5.
Variety
24 Dec 1969
p. 18.
Variety
7 Oct 1970
p. 20.
Variety
21 Oct 1970
p. 4.
Variety
24 Feb 1971
p. 9.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec in charge of prod
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Dvenadtsat stulyev by Ilya Arnoldovich Ilf and Yevgeniy Petrov (Moscow, 1928
trans. by Elizabeth Hill and Doris Mudie as Diamonds To Sit On
London, 1930).
DETAILS
Release Date:
28 October 1970
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 28 October 1970
Production Date:
25 August--mid November 1969
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
print by Movielab
Duration(in mins):
94
MPAA Rating:
GP
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Russia in 1927, Vorobyaninov, an elderly license clerk who was once a nobleman, is informed by his dying mother that she hid a fortune in jewels in one of 12 matching chairs during the 1917 Revolution. He returns to his ancestral home to retrieve the inheritance, but he mistakenly reveals his secret to beggar Ostap Bender and is forced to accept the young man as a partner. Together they set out in search of the chairs and soon discover that Father Fyodor, a Russian Orthodox priest who heard Vorobyaninov's mother's last confession, is also in search of the jewels. Ostap, posing as a clerk in the Bureau of Housing, tricks Father Fyodor into traveling to Siberia to the home of engineer Bruns, who he is told is in possession of the chairs. Meanwhile, Vorobyaninov and Ostap locate several of the chairs in the Moscow Museum of Furniture, and after closing time, they sneak out of hiding, search through the chairs, but find no jewels. Ostap and Vorobyaninov then learn that several more of the chairs are being used as props by the Columbus Repertory Theatre Group; they join the troupe, search the chairs, but again find no gems. Another chair, used by a tightrope walker in a circus, is searched, also to no avail. Desperate for money, the two men perform a begging act in which Vorobyaninov feigns an epileptic seizure as Ostap passes his hat to sympathetic onlookers. Finally, they come upon the last chair in a railroad workers' clubhouse only to discover that the jewels were found by the workers and used to buy chess sets and other items for their recreation room. His dream of ... +


In Russia in 1927, Vorobyaninov, an elderly license clerk who was once a nobleman, is informed by his dying mother that she hid a fortune in jewels in one of 12 matching chairs during the 1917 Revolution. He returns to his ancestral home to retrieve the inheritance, but he mistakenly reveals his secret to beggar Ostap Bender and is forced to accept the young man as a partner. Together they set out in search of the chairs and soon discover that Father Fyodor, a Russian Orthodox priest who heard Vorobyaninov's mother's last confession, is also in search of the jewels. Ostap, posing as a clerk in the Bureau of Housing, tricks Father Fyodor into traveling to Siberia to the home of engineer Bruns, who he is told is in possession of the chairs. Meanwhile, Vorobyaninov and Ostap locate several of the chairs in the Moscow Museum of Furniture, and after closing time, they sneak out of hiding, search through the chairs, but find no jewels. Ostap and Vorobyaninov then learn that several more of the chairs are being used as props by the Columbus Repertory Theatre Group; they join the troupe, search the chairs, but again find no gems. Another chair, used by a tightrope walker in a circus, is searched, also to no avail. Desperate for money, the two men perform a begging act in which Vorobyaninov feigns an epileptic seizure as Ostap passes his hat to sympathetic onlookers. Finally, they come upon the last chair in a railroad workers' clubhouse only to discover that the jewels were found by the workers and used to buy chess sets and other items for their recreation room. His dream of wealth destroyed, Ostap decides to break up his partnership with the old man, but he relents when Vorobyaninov goes into his routine of feigning epilepsy as a crowd gathers. +

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

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