The Killers (1964)

95 mins | Melodrama | 17 July 1964

Director:

Don Siegel

Writer:

Gene L. Coon

Producer:

Don Siegel

Cinematographer:

Richard L. Rawlings

Editor:

Richard Belding

Production Designers:

Frank Arrigo, George Chan

Production Company:

Revue Productions
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HISTORY

The picture was based on Ernest Hemingway’s 1927 short story, “The Killers,” which was first adapted for the screen in the 1946 Universal Pictures release of the same name, starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner (see entry). According to the 14 Aug 1963 DV, the film began as a made-for-television project under the title Johnny North, to be produced for NBC-TV by Revue Productions, owned by MCA, and released through Universal Pictures. The project was billed as the “first two-hour feature film” ever to be made for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). The 14 Aug 1963 Var reported it would be the first in a series of features produced by MCA/Revue for NBC. A 1 Sep 1963 start date was anticipated. By mid-Aug 1963, asting was still underway, but the script, written by Gene L. Coon, had been completed.
       On 7 Nov 1963, DV indicated that the picture was still not cast, although principal photography was expected to begin within ten days. Pending the success of the television film, twenty-nine additional “two-hour telefilms” would be produced as part of Revue’s deal with NBC.
       The 13 Nov 1963 Var announced that Donald Siegel would produce and direct, and filming would take place at Revue Studios in Universal City, CA (later renamed Universal Studios). The 15 Nov 1963 DV stated that Lee Marvin had been hired for a lead role, with production tentatively set to start on 21 Nov 1963. Four days later, a DV brief noted that Angie Dickinson and John Cassavetes had joined the cast. A four-week shooting schedule was expected, reportedly the longest schedule ... More Less

The picture was based on Ernest Hemingway’s 1927 short story, “The Killers,” which was first adapted for the screen in the 1946 Universal Pictures release of the same name, starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner (see entry). According to the 14 Aug 1963 DV, the film began as a made-for-television project under the title Johnny North, to be produced for NBC-TV by Revue Productions, owned by MCA, and released through Universal Pictures. The project was billed as the “first two-hour feature film” ever to be made for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). The 14 Aug 1963 Var reported it would be the first in a series of features produced by MCA/Revue for NBC. A 1 Sep 1963 start date was anticipated. By mid-Aug 1963, asting was still underway, but the script, written by Gene L. Coon, had been completed.
       On 7 Nov 1963, DV indicated that the picture was still not cast, although principal photography was expected to begin within ten days. Pending the success of the television film, twenty-nine additional “two-hour telefilms” would be produced as part of Revue’s deal with NBC.
       The 13 Nov 1963 Var announced that Donald Siegel would produce and direct, and filming would take place at Revue Studios in Universal City, CA (later renamed Universal Studios). The 15 Nov 1963 DV stated that Lee Marvin had been hired for a lead role, with production tentatively set to start on 21 Nov 1963. Four days later, a DV brief noted that Angie Dickinson and John Cassavetes had joined the cast. A four-week shooting schedule was expected, reportedly the longest schedule ever granted to a television production, and the picture was set to be filmed in color, marking another television first.
       According to the 21 Nov 1963 DV, the start of production was delayed due to rainy weather, as the first scenes scheduled to be shot were of an auto race held at the Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, CA. Principal photography was delayed until 25 Nov 1963, and the race location had to be moved to the Ascot Park racetrack in Gardena, CA, where a “jalopy race” would be filmed. Sometime afterward, the company was slated to return to the Riverside track for two days of filming. Some scenes were filmed on location at an apartment building in Beverly Hills, CA, on 10 Dec 1963, as stated in the following day’s DV.
       The 27 Dec 1963 DV announced that production on Johnny North was in its fifth week of shooting, and noted a $750,000 budget. On 31 Dec 1963, DV reported that twenty-four blind children from the Foundation for the Junior Blind were used as background actors in the film. The 4 Dec 1963 and 6 Dec 1963 issues of DV added Alvin Rogers and Tom Golden to the cast. Producer-director Siegel also appeared onscreen as a diner cook. The 3 Jan 1964 DV named Mary Never as a dancer, and indicated that filming had recently been completed.
       On 15 Jan 1964, DV noted that NBC-TV had invested $300,000 towards the total budget, with MCA-Revue funding the balance. During the early phases of production, NBC had reportedly objected to the film’s violence, but withdrew their objections after Siegel’s appeal. Siegel did make changes to a scene that had been written before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on 22 Nov 1963, as it had originally depicted a sniper shooting at a victim from atop a roof.
       In early 1964, NBC had yet to set an air-date at that time, but the picture was expected to be released theatrically in Europe following its television premiere. The 28 Jan 1964 NYT suggested that NBC might release the picture in the fall of 1964 on Wednesday nights as part of a series tentatively titled “Project 120.” On 12 Feb 1964, DV announced that NBC’s Wednesday night time slot was no longer being held for Johnny North. According to the 26 Feb 1964 Var, disagreements between MCA and NBC resulted in Johnny North and “Project 120” being “suddenly delayed a year, or…indefinitely postponed.” However, one week later, the 4 Mar 1964 Var reported that NBC would “definitely” be going ahead with the MCA project. NBC ordered MCA to produce four-to-six additional “telepics,” and had agreed to fund $300,000 toward each of the future productions, set to be televised weekly.
       The 20 Mar 1964 and 23 Mar 1964 issues of DV announced that following NBC’s complaints of the film’s excessive sex and violence, a “top-level” decision was made to pull the project from NBC and instead release it theatrically. Changing the title to Hemingway’s “The Killers,” Universal planned to debut the picture in U.S. theaters that summer. The decision would reportedly not affect negotiations for future televised films to be created for NBC by MCA/Revue.
       The film was reviewed in the 26 May 1964 DV under the simplified title, The Killers. The New York City opening occurred on 17 Jul 1964, as indicated in the 18 Jul 1964 NYT, and the 20 Aug 1964 LAT reported that the picture was currently in release in Los Angeles-area theaters.
       The Killers marked the last feature film appearance of Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), who made his debut in the 1937 Warner Bros. film Love Is on the Air (see entry). Following two terms as Governor of California (1967-1975), Reagan served two terms as President of the United States (1981-1990). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
14 Aug 1963
p. 6.
Daily Variety
7 Nov 1963
p. 1.
Daily Variety
15 Nov 1963
p. 18.
Daily Variety
19 Nov 1963
p. 7.
Daily Variety
21 Nov 1963
p. 13.
Daily Variety
22 Nov 1963
p. 10.
Daily Variety
4 Dec 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Dec 1963
p. 10.
Daily Variety
11 Dec 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
27 Dec 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
31 Dec 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Jan 1964
p. 13.
Daily Variety
15 Jan 1964
p. 8.
Daily Variety
12 Feb 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
20 Mar 1964
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
23 Mar 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
26 May 1964
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
20 Aug 1964
p. 27; Section B, p. 8.
New York Times
28 Jan 1964
p. 63.
New York Times
22 Jun 1964
p. 53.
New York Times
18 Jul 1964
p. 10.
Variety
14 Aug 1963
p. 31.
Variety
13 Nov 1963
p. 27.
Variety
26 Feb 1964
p. 1, 56.
Variety
4 Mar 1964
p. 28.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Prod
WRITERS
Ed dept head
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus score
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Dial coach
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Killers" by Ernest Hemingway in his Men Without Women (New York, 1927).
SONGS
"Too Little Time," words and music by Henry Mancini and Don Raye, sung by Nancy Wilson.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Johnny North
Ernest Hemingway's The Killers
Release Date:
17 July 1964
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 17 July 1964
Los angeles opening: mid-August 1964
Production Date:
25 November--late December 1963 or early January 1964
Copyright Claimant:
Revue Productions
Copyright Date:
12 September 1964
Copyright Number:
LP33836
Physical Properties:
Sound
Eastman Color by Pathé, print by Technicolor
Color
Eastman Color by Pathé, print by Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
95
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Charlie and Lee, two hired killers, go to an institution for the blind where they shoot Johnny North, a teacher there. Curious to know why they were paid so highly to kill a man who made no resistance and suspecting that North had been involved in a million-dollar robbery some years earlier, the killers piece together his past and begin following his former associates in hopes of finding the money. They learn that North had been an ace racing driver until he had become involved with Sheila Farr, a girl kept by a middle-aged gangster named Browning, who is now masquerading as a respectable businessman. (Disillusioned when he learned of Sheila's involvement, and injured in a crash, North worked as a mechanic until Sheila found him and persuaded him to drive the car in a robbery planned by Browning. She and North had supposedly doublecrossed Browning and absconded with the money.) Charlie and Lee find Sheila and learn that she had actually doublecrossed North by leading him direct to Browning, whom she had married, and that North was shattered by her betrayal. The killers confront Browning with Sheila. Browning kills Lee and wounds Charlie, but Charlie hunts Browning down and kills both him and Sheila before dying himself as he attempts to escape with the ... +


Charlie and Lee, two hired killers, go to an institution for the blind where they shoot Johnny North, a teacher there. Curious to know why they were paid so highly to kill a man who made no resistance and suspecting that North had been involved in a million-dollar robbery some years earlier, the killers piece together his past and begin following his former associates in hopes of finding the money. They learn that North had been an ace racing driver until he had become involved with Sheila Farr, a girl kept by a middle-aged gangster named Browning, who is now masquerading as a respectable businessman. (Disillusioned when he learned of Sheila's involvement, and injured in a crash, North worked as a mechanic until Sheila found him and persuaded him to drive the car in a robbery planned by Browning. She and North had supposedly doublecrossed Browning and absconded with the money.) Charlie and Lee find Sheila and learn that she had actually doublecrossed North by leading him direct to Browning, whom she had married, and that North was shattered by her betrayal. The killers confront Browning with Sheila. Browning kills Lee and wounds Charlie, but Charlie hunts Browning down and kills both him and Sheila before dying himself as he attempts to escape with the money. +

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

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