A Hole in the Head (1959)

120 mins | Comedy-drama | July 1959

Director:

Frank Capra

Writer:

Arnold Schulman

Producer:

Frank Capra

Cinematographer:

William H. Daniels

Production Designer:

Eddie Imazu

Production Company:

Sincap Productions
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HISTORY

The film's working title was All My Tomorrows . According to various contemporary news items, the play went through a number of transformations before opening on Broadway: Arthur Schulman first wrote it in a playwriting course as a one-act piece entitled "The Dragon's Head" in the late 1940s, and later expanded it to a full-length play entitled My Fiddle Has Three Strings , which was tried out in Westport, CT in 1949. He then wrote a new version, which was never produced, and rewrote it as a television play which ran on Playwright's '56 .
       When Garson Kanin expressed an interest in producing the play, Schulman revised it again, and it opened on Broadway as A Hole in the Head in Feb 1957, starring Paul Douglas. After a preview of the film, Schulman wrote a novelization of the story, which, he said, contained material not found in any previous version. According to news items and information in the press book on the film, Frank Sinatra saw the play on Broadway and in 1957 paid a reported $200,000 to the author for the screen rights. Sinatra hired Schulman to write the screenplay, then contacted Frank Capra, who agreed to direct.
       According to Capra's autobiography, with a handshake, Sinatra and Capra formed SinCap Productions in which he held one-third interest, while Sinatra retained two-thirds. Because of Sinatra's previous commitments, production was not scheduled until late 1958. According to his autobiography, Capra, in the meantime, planned to make a film for Columbia Pictures, but when Columbia president Harry Cohn died, the project was cancelled. As noted in several reviews, A Hole in the Head ... More Less

The film's working title was All My Tomorrows . According to various contemporary news items, the play went through a number of transformations before opening on Broadway: Arthur Schulman first wrote it in a playwriting course as a one-act piece entitled "The Dragon's Head" in the late 1940s, and later expanded it to a full-length play entitled My Fiddle Has Three Strings , which was tried out in Westport, CT in 1949. He then wrote a new version, which was never produced, and rewrote it as a television play which ran on Playwright's '56 .
       When Garson Kanin expressed an interest in producing the play, Schulman revised it again, and it opened on Broadway as A Hole in the Head in Feb 1957, starring Paul Douglas. After a preview of the film, Schulman wrote a novelization of the story, which, he said, contained material not found in any previous version. According to news items and information in the press book on the film, Frank Sinatra saw the play on Broadway and in 1957 paid a reported $200,000 to the author for the screen rights. Sinatra hired Schulman to write the screenplay, then contacted Frank Capra, who agreed to direct.
       According to Capra's autobiography, with a handshake, Sinatra and Capra formed SinCap Productions in which he held one-third interest, while Sinatra retained two-thirds. Because of Sinatra's previous commitments, production was not scheduled until late 1958. According to his autobiography, Capra, in the meantime, planned to make a film for Columbia Pictures, but when Columbia president Harry Cohn died, the project was cancelled. As noted in several reviews, A Hole in the Head was Capra's first feature film since his 1951 Paramount release Here Comes the Groom (see above).
       According to news items and the film's press book, after having seen Eddie Hodges on the television quiz show Name That Tune , Capra introduced the young actor, who was then appearing in The Music Man on Broadway, to Sinatra, and they agreed to hire him. A Hole in the Head marked Hodges' feature-film debut. Connie Sawyer, in her screen debut, reprised her role as "Miss Wexler" from the Broadway production. The character of "Jerry Marks" was newly created for the film. As noted in some reviews, the principal characters, who were Jewish in the play, had been changed to Italian Americans in the film. The LAT reviewer commented that the change seemed to be "more of a loss than a gain. As it is, Edward G. Robinson, called Mario Manetta... makes little effort to disguise the ethnically Jewish humor of the character originally known as Max."
       Much of the filming was done in locations at Miami Beach, including the Fontainebleau Hotel, West Flagler Dog Track, the Cardozo Hotel, which doubled for the fictional "Garden of Eden" hotel, and the South Beach oceanfront area. The company also had one day of shooting at Hollywood Beach near Oxnard, CA. Interiors were shot at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios, and after most of the crew returned to California from Florida, a second unit remained in Miami Beach to shoot the opening credit sequence, which has the cast names preceding the title, as well as the title, in letters connected to 300 feet of netting pulled by the Goodyear blimp.
       According to the film's press book, director of photography William Daniels used the new high-speed Panatar lens developed by Panavision for color photography, which allowed outdoor night scenes to be shot with one-tenth the lighting that was normally required. According to a news item in Var , shooting in Miami occasioned two lawsuits against the producing company, and filming, which was supposed to take three to four weeks in Miami Beach, was stopped after an aborted two weeks. HCN notes that the party scene at the Fontainebleau Hotel included water skiers from Cypress Gardens, two orchestras, wild birds and "some 85 beauties, most of them hired locally."
       The film contains a gag Capra used in The Strong Man , starring Harry Langdon, which he directed in 1927 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ). In both films, the protagonist carries a woman up a flight of stairs while walking backward and without realizing it continues climbing up the steps of a ladder before falling. The song "High Hopes" won the Academy Award for Best Song. On 10 Jun 1959, just prior to the release of A Hole in the Head , Capra appeared as the honoree on Ralph Edwards' popular television biography program This Is Your Life .
       According to Capra's autobiography, problems on the set occurred because he found that Sinatra's acting suffered from repeated rehearsals, while Robinson needed them. Although at first Robinson resented Capra's insistence that they film without rehearsals, Robinson soon accepted the situation and gave a performance which DV called "the comedy stand-out of the film."
       Although in the late 1950s the South Beach area of Miami, where the film was set, was overshadowed by the more glamorous areas surrounding large hotels like the Fontainebleau, beginning in the mid-1980s the South Beach was revitalized. The 1939, art deco Cardozo Hotel, which appeared as the Garden of Eden in the picture, was completely renovated and subsequently reopened as a small, luxury hotel, in keeping with the now trendy South Beach neighborhood in which it is located. The "Florida Disneyland" that "Tony Manetta" dreams of building in the film, eventually became Disney World, which opened near Orlando, FL in Oct 1971. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
25 May 1959.
---
Box Office
15 Jun 1959.
---
Daily Cinema
31 Jul 1959.
---
Daily Variety
9 Sep 1958.
---
Daily Variety
19 May 1959
p. 3.
Film Daily
19 May 1959
p. 6.
Filmfacts
1959
pp. 171-73.
Hollywood Citizen-News
9 Sep 1957.
---
Hollywood Citizen-News
2 Dec 1958.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 1958.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Nov 1958
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Nov 1958
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Nov 1958
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jan 1959
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jan 1959
pp. 8-9.
Hollywood Reporter
19 May 1959
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Apr 1960.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
10 Jul 1957.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
10 Aug 1957.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
2 Jul 1958.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
28 Dec 1958.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Nov 1958.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Jun 1959
Section V, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jun 1959.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
23 May 1959
p. 276.
New York Times
16 Jul 1959
p. 31.
Variety
26 Nov 1958.
---
Variety
6 May 1959.
---
Variety
20 May 1959
p. 6.
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
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
SOUND
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play A Hole in the Head by Arnold Schulman (New York, 28 Feb 1957).
SONGS
"All My Tomorrows" and "High Hopes," music by James Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
All My Tomorrows
Release Date:
July 1959
Premiere Information:
New York and Los Angeles openings: 14 July 1959
Production Date:
10 November 1958--early January 1959 at Samuel Goldwyn Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Sincap Productions
Copyright Date:
17 June 1959
Copyright Number:
LP13839
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
De Luxe
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
Photographic lenses by Panavision
Duration(in mins):
120
Length(in feet):
10,800
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19236
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Twenty years ealier, Tony Manetta, now a forty-year-old widower with an eleven-year-old son named Ally, came to Miami Beach from the Bronx with two buddies, Jerry Marks and Mendy, hoping to make a fortune. He now lives like a "big shot," but in truth is broke and in danger of losing the modest Garden of Eden Hotel, which he owns. After his banker, Abe Diamond, gives him forty-eight hours to come up with the money he owes in back payments, Tony calls his conservative older brother Mario in New York to ask for a $5,300 loan. Mario, a self-made small businessman who disdains his brother's lifestyle, refuses, but when Tony falsely tells him that his son Ally, whom the childless Mario and his wife Sophie adore, is sick, Sophie convinces her husband to fly to Miami. Tony's current girl friend, the free-spirited Shirl, would like him to let Ally live with Mario and Sophie, so that Tony would be able to enjoy a responsibility-free life with her. After Mario and Sophie arrive and find Ally well, Mario, who repeatedly calls his brother a "bum," offers to set him up in a five-and-dime store if he gets married and settles down. Seeing that Ally is afraid that he will be forced to live with Mario and Sophie, Tony agrees to meet a widow whom Sophie knows, Mrs. Eloise Rogers, who also lives in Miami. Tony then explains to Shirl that he is just trying to placate his brother and promises to take Shirl to dinner that night, then fly with her to Cuba for a romantic overnight stay. Shirl hopes that she can convince Tony to keep traveling with her ... +


Twenty years ealier, Tony Manetta, now a forty-year-old widower with an eleven-year-old son named Ally, came to Miami Beach from the Bronx with two buddies, Jerry Marks and Mendy, hoping to make a fortune. He now lives like a "big shot," but in truth is broke and in danger of losing the modest Garden of Eden Hotel, which he owns. After his banker, Abe Diamond, gives him forty-eight hours to come up with the money he owes in back payments, Tony calls his conservative older brother Mario in New York to ask for a $5,300 loan. Mario, a self-made small businessman who disdains his brother's lifestyle, refuses, but when Tony falsely tells him that his son Ally, whom the childless Mario and his wife Sophie adore, is sick, Sophie convinces her husband to fly to Miami. Tony's current girl friend, the free-spirited Shirl, would like him to let Ally live with Mario and Sophie, so that Tony would be able to enjoy a responsibility-free life with her. After Mario and Sophie arrive and find Ally well, Mario, who repeatedly calls his brother a "bum," offers to set him up in a five-and-dime store if he gets married and settles down. Seeing that Ally is afraid that he will be forced to live with Mario and Sophie, Tony agrees to meet a widow whom Sophie knows, Mrs. Eloise Rogers, who also lives in Miami. Tony then explains to Shirl that he is just trying to placate his brother and promises to take Shirl to dinner that night, then fly with her to Cuba for a romantic overnight stay. Shirl hopes that she can convince Tony to keep traveling with her after Cuba to places undetermined. When the kind and attractive Mrs. Rogers arrives at the hotel, Ally likes her immediately and prays that Tony will marry her, but when Mario boorishly explains his plan to set her and Tony up in a small business, then crudely asks if her deceased husband left her any money, Mrs. Rogers is so embarrassed, she walks out. Tony catches up with her and after a short spat, they buy groceries and drive to her apartment for dinner. Shirl sees them leave and cries in her room. As Mrs. Rogers prepares dinner, she talks about the accidental drowning deaths of her husband and son and admits that she is lonely. Tony, feeling she is too fine a person to "kid along," admits that he only agreed to meet her so that Mario would loan him money. To his surprise, Mrs. Rogers invites him to remain and says she is glad to be needed, even if it as only as a "stooge." When Tony returns to the hotel and says he had a wonderful time, Sophie and Ally are hopeful, but Mario, suspicious of his brother, refuses to give him any money until he opens the five-and-dime store. After Tony discovers that Shirl has left, he confronts Mario, telling him he refuses to become like him. Just as Mario is threatening to take Tony to court over custody of Ally, Tony is invited to a party at the Fontainebleau Hotel by his old pal Jerry, who is now a wealthy promoter. At the extravagant party, Tony tells Jerry about his dream of buying up decaying property and constructing a Florida Disneyland. Because Jerry acts as if he is interested in investing, Tony agrees to meet him in an hour at a dog track to discuss it further. To get enough money to act like a big shot, Tony quickly sells his Cadillac convertible for $500, and at the track, when Jerry and his vivacious secretary-girl friend Dorine each bet $500 on a dog, Tony matches their bets. His dog wins, and when he learns that it paid enough for him to make up his back payments on the hotel, he exuberantly calls Ally. Mario, upon hearing the news, is distraught that Tony would get the money from someone other than his own brother. Later, when Tony sees that a dog named "Lucky Ally" is entered in the next race and Jerry suggests they let their bets ride, Tony agrees and prays for the dog to win. The dog loses, and Jerry, unaffected by the loss, is about to leave when Tony grabs him and asks about their deal. Jerry reminds Tony "never try to promote a promoter" and gives him a wad of bills, which Tony throws in his face. After one of Jerry's thugs punches Tony in the stomach, doubling him over, a distraught Tony returns to the hotel where Ally has assembled his friends, including Mrs. Rogers, to celebrate. Admitting he is a bum, Tony asks Mario to take Ally because he does not want his son to become like him. Although Mario now feels sorry for Tony and offers him money to keep the hotel, Tony refuses it. Hoping to convince Ally to go with Mario, he lashes out at the boy, pretending to blame him for his loss of the hotel, his money and Shirl. When this does not work, Tony slaps Ally and walks off to the beach. The next day, Tony watches from the oceanfront as Ally, Mario and Sophie say goodbye to Mrs. Rogers and get into a cab. A still distraught Ally runs back to his father, however, and they fall into the surf, embracing and crying. Mrs. Rogers then invites them to a meal at her place, and Mario and Sophie, deciding to take their first vacation in years, follow them as they run playfully along the beach. +

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

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