Continental Divide (1981)

PG | 103 mins | Romantic comedy | 18 September 1981

Director:

Michael Apted

Writer:

Lawrence Kasdan

Producer:

Bobby Larson

Cinematographer:

John Bailey

Editor:

Dennis Virkler

Production Designer:

Peter Jamison

Production Companies:

Amblin Productions, Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

       Carole Bayer Sager’s name is misspelled in onscreen credits as “Carol” Bayer Sager.
       A brief in the 9 Jun 1978 DV reported that Steven Spielberg would executive produce Continental Divide with producer Hal Barwood and director Matthew Robbins. The three filmmakers previously worked together writing the screenplay for Spielberg’s first theatrically-released feature film Sugarland Express (1974, see entry). However, the 19 Dec 1980 HR film production charts, which stated that principal photography began 20 Oct 1980 in CO, Chicago, IL, and Los Angeles, CA, listed Bob Larson as the producer and Michael Apted as the director. HR and an article in the 7 Nov 1980 HR reported that Jack Rosenthal and Lawrence Kasdan wrote the screenplay, but Kasdan received sole onscreen writing credit.
       According to an 8 May 1979 HR brief, Jill Clayburgh agreed to play the female lead if Universal Pictures consented to cast James Caan, Christopher Walken or John Belushi as the male lead. A 7 Nov 1980 Var article, written when the production was filming in the CO Rocky Mountains near Canon City, noted that Belushi was an unexpected choice for the “slim, romantic hero.” Apted was credited for casting Belushi, believing that the heavy-set comedian could make the change to light comedy. Belushi reportedly lost forty pounds and worked daily with uncredited trainer Bill Wallace. However, Clayburgh did not star in the film as promised, and casting of the female lead was delayed by the 1980 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike. Although Apted and Larson wanted ... More Less

       Carole Bayer Sager’s name is misspelled in onscreen credits as “Carol” Bayer Sager.
       A brief in the 9 Jun 1978 DV reported that Steven Spielberg would executive produce Continental Divide with producer Hal Barwood and director Matthew Robbins. The three filmmakers previously worked together writing the screenplay for Spielberg’s first theatrically-released feature film Sugarland Express (1974, see entry). However, the 19 Dec 1980 HR film production charts, which stated that principal photography began 20 Oct 1980 in CO, Chicago, IL, and Los Angeles, CA, listed Bob Larson as the producer and Michael Apted as the director. HR and an article in the 7 Nov 1980 HR reported that Jack Rosenthal and Lawrence Kasdan wrote the screenplay, but Kasdan received sole onscreen writing credit.
       According to an 8 May 1979 HR brief, Jill Clayburgh agreed to play the female lead if Universal Pictures consented to cast James Caan, Christopher Walken or John Belushi as the male lead. A 7 Nov 1980 Var article, written when the production was filming in the CO Rocky Mountains near Canon City, noted that Belushi was an unexpected choice for the “slim, romantic hero.” Apted was credited for casting Belushi, believing that the heavy-set comedian could make the change to light comedy. Belushi reportedly lost forty pounds and worked daily with uncredited trainer Bill Wallace. However, Clayburgh did not star in the film as promised, and casting of the female lead was delayed by the 1980 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike. Although Apted and Larson wanted to cast Blair Brown, they could not guarantee a date for the start of production due to the strike, and weather conditions necessitated that filming on the continental divide start in the fall. As the strike neared its end, an item in the 31 Oct 1980 HR announced that Brown was cast as “Nell.” Production notes in AMPAS library files stated that Belushi and Brown arrived in CO before the start of principal photography to study mountain climbing with uncredited technical advisors Bob Culp and Duncan Ferguson, allowing the actors to participate in many of their climbing scenes.
       According to an item in the 13 Dec 1980 LAHExam, the film’s budget was $9 million. Production notes reported the cast and crew stayed in Canon City, CO, while the company filmed in that Rocky Mountain region, with sites at altitudes higher than 13,000 feet that required daily shuttles by helicopters. Locations included Royal Gorge and Hermit Lake, where Nell’s cabin was built. In case of bad weather, an interior of the cabin was also built in the livestock pavilion at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo City, CO. That set was later moved to Universal Studios in Hollywood, CA, for additional filming. The company next moved to Chicago, IL, for three weeks. Locations included Michigan Avenue, City Hall, Daley Plaza, Union Station, Grant Park, and the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as the offices of the Chicago Sun-Times, which allowed the production access to their newsrooms on weekends. Advance production notes mentioned that a train sequence would be filmed in Victor, ID, and the 13 Dec 1980 LAHEXam reported that a train stop scene, supposedly set in Cedar Rapids, IA, was filmed in Kalamazoo, MI, but neither ID nor MI receive an onscreen acknowledgement as a film location. According to the 7 Nov 1980 HR, the filmmakers were scheduled to return to Universal Studios in Hollywood, CA, in Dec 1980 and principal photography would finish near 5 Jan 1981.
       The 17 Sep 1981 HR announced the film would open nationally on 18 Sep 1981. An article in the 9-15 Dec 1981 Village Voice titled "Fall 1981 Releases" listed Continental Divide as one of the fall season’s “flops,” with an estimated box office gross of $7 million.
       Blair Brown received a 1982 Golden Globe award nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.

      End credits include the following written statements: “For Andy Goodman;” “The producer wishes to thank the editors and staff of The Chicago Sun-Times and Virginia Butts for their generous cooperation in the filming of this motion picture;” “Special thanks to Colorado Film Commission, Chicago Film Office, Illinois Film Commission, Amtrak, Danny Loafman, Bob Culp, Duncan Ferguson, Dan Kolsrud;” and “Filmed on location in Colorado, Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
9 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 May 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Oct 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Nov 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 1981
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 1981.
---
LAHExam
13 Dec 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Sep 1981
p. 1.
New York Times
18 Sep 1981
p. 14.
Variety
9 Sep 1981
p. 19.
Village Voice
9-15 Dec 1981.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Amblin Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Gaffer
Key grip
Eagle photog
2d unit photog
2d unit photog
2d unit photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
Stills
Best boy
Generator op
2d grip
Dolly grip
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Set des
Const supv
Asst prop man
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Painter
Greensman
Const coord
Const foreman
Const foreman
Const foreman
Const foreman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus ed
Mus rec
Orch
SOUND
Sd ed
Loop dial ed
Boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opt eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Asst to prod
Prod secy
Scr supv
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Transportation supv
Loc auditor
Prod assoc
Prod assoc
Casting asst
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Eagle trainer
Eagle trainer
Craft service
Paramedic
Catering
Catering
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
Theme from Continental Divide ("Never Say Goodbye"), music by Michael Small, lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager, performed by Helen Reddy, available on MCA Records, record produced by Joel Diamond.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 September 1981
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 18 September 1981
Production Date:
20 October 1980--early January 1981
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 October 1981
Copyright Number:
PA117706
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Panaflex® camera and lenses by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
103
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26276
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Chicago Sun-Times newspaper reporter Ernie Souchak investigates a crooked alderman named Yablonowitz in Chicago, Illinois. Souchak’s informant, Hellinger, brings his son to their meeting in an alley and the boy wants to climb a fire escape, but Hellinger is afraid of heights. Later, when Souchak’s column exposes Yablonowitz’s dubious metro contract, Yablonowitz orders his men to find the informant. That night, Souchak is hospitalized after a beating by two of Yablonowitz’s men. His editor, Howard, wants Souchak to leave town for a few weeks and Howard’s wife, Sylvia, convinces a reluctant Souchak to write a piece on Nell Porter, an ornithologist studying eagles in the Rocky Mountains. In Wyoming, a mountain guide, Deke, leads Souchak on the long trek into the mountains. It is an arduous climb for Souchak and he is even more upset when bears steal his cigarettes. From afar, Deke and Souchak watch a wild mountain man, Possum, hunt elk and fish. Deke learns that Souchak’s visit is unexpected and warns that Nell hates reporters. Nell’s cabin is locked and empty when they arrive and Deke leaves Souchak on her doorstop, promising to return in two weeks. When evening descends, Souchak breaks into the cabin, builds a fire and sleeps. Later, Nell returns and, assuming Souchak is a lost hiker, lets him stay. The next morning, she learns he is a reporter and orders him to leave, but Souchak claims he will die in the wilderness and must stay until Deke returns. Nell agrees, but insists he cannot write about her. The next day, ... +


Chicago Sun-Times newspaper reporter Ernie Souchak investigates a crooked alderman named Yablonowitz in Chicago, Illinois. Souchak’s informant, Hellinger, brings his son to their meeting in an alley and the boy wants to climb a fire escape, but Hellinger is afraid of heights. Later, when Souchak’s column exposes Yablonowitz’s dubious metro contract, Yablonowitz orders his men to find the informant. That night, Souchak is hospitalized after a beating by two of Yablonowitz’s men. His editor, Howard, wants Souchak to leave town for a few weeks and Howard’s wife, Sylvia, convinces a reluctant Souchak to write a piece on Nell Porter, an ornithologist studying eagles in the Rocky Mountains. In Wyoming, a mountain guide, Deke, leads Souchak on the long trek into the mountains. It is an arduous climb for Souchak and he is even more upset when bears steal his cigarettes. From afar, Deke and Souchak watch a wild mountain man, Possum, hunt elk and fish. Deke learns that Souchak’s visit is unexpected and warns that Nell hates reporters. Nell’s cabin is locked and empty when they arrive and Deke leaves Souchak on her doorstop, promising to return in two weeks. When evening descends, Souchak breaks into the cabin, builds a fire and sleeps. Later, Nell returns and, assuming Souchak is a lost hiker, lets him stay. The next morning, she learns he is a reporter and orders him to leave, but Souchak claims he will die in the wilderness and must stay until Deke returns. Nell agrees, but insists he cannot write about her. The next day, Souchak struggles to keep up with Nell as she observes and photographs eagles. The following morning, Souchak shivers outside while inside, Nell bathes in the open shower stall. He decides to stay at the cabin to build a makeshift shower door. The following day, on a trek, Souchak and Nell hear gunshots, and Nell descends upon two hunters. Destroying their rifles, Nell declares that she is a federal agent and it is a felony to shoot bald eagles. She orders the hunters to surrender at the sheriff’s office within three days, warning that the FBI will go after them. That night, Souchak tries to kiss Nell and is rebuffed, but she decides he can write an article about her. The next day, when Souchak asks about her background, Nell admits she does not like to talk about herself and asks about his life instead. After dinner, Souchak tries to kiss Nell again and is rejected a second time. Nell informs Souchak that she must work alone the following day. In the morning, however, Souchak follows her and is surprised to see Nell and Possum making love. The next morning, Nell is surprised that Souchak does not want to go to the eagle’s nest. Instead, he attempts to chop wood and, when Nell leaves, a jealous Possum attacks Souchak. Nell returns for her forgotten walking stick, sees the men fighting, and orders Possum to stop. She introduces the men to each other and Souchak is awestruck to learn that Possum is actually Max Birnbaum, a former football player who walked away from a successful career. Max is equally impressed to meet the famed reporter. Later, Nell amicably ends her relationship with Max, who realizes that she is attracted to Souchak. The next day, Nell and Souchak journey to observe eagles higher in the mountains. While camping in a tent that night, Souchak kisses Nell, but she will not make love to him. They reach the eagles’ nest the next morning and are excited to see that baby eagles born in the spring are thriving. Later, in their tent, Nell gives Souchak an eagle feather, claiming it is a sign of strength and courage. As they descend over icy terrain, Souchak falls down the rocky mountainside, injuring his back. Nell fashions a sled out of rope and ice, straps Souchak onto it, and journeys back to her cabin. Days later, Souchak has recuperated enough to move around with a walking stick and Nell returns to her work. While she is gone, Souchak leaves the cabin door open and a mountain lion attacks. Later, Nell returns home, sees Souchak’s shredded hat outside and runs inside to find her companion bloody but alive. Nell bandages Souchak’s wounds, kisses him, and they make love. Souchak returns to Chicago but he misses Nell and cannot write. Howard orders him to resume investigating Yablonowitz, but Souchack is not interested. He writes a sappy travel piece about the mountains that Howard considers unprintable. Howard leaves the article on his desk and takes Souchak out for a drink. While they are at the bar, a clerk notices Souchak’s article on Howard’s desk and prints it in the newspaper. At a newsstand, bystanders scoff at his article, but Souchak ignores them as he reads that Hellinger fell to his death from a fire escape. Remembering that Hellinger had a fear of heights, Souchak realizes that his informant was murdered and is inspired to write multiple articles revealing Yablonowitz’s misdeeds. Souchak’s apartment is blown up, but he is undeterred. When he links Yablonowitz to Hellinger’s death, the alderman flees the country. As Souchak celebrates with Howard, he learns that Nell is lecturing at a conference in Chicago. Souchak attends the lecture and the lovers reconnect, but still face the problem that her life is in the mountains and his life is in Chicago. Feeling it is too difficult to say goodbye, Nell does not wait for Souchak to escort her to the train station and goes alone. However, he rushes to the train and finds her as the final boarding call is announced. Souchak decides to ride to the next stop and they make love in her train compartment. He does not get off at the next station and they continue to make love all the way to the final stop in Victor, Wyoming. The return train to Chicago leaves in half an hour and, while saying their bittersweet farewells, the couple decides they can make their unconventional relationship work. They get married just before Souchak jumps on the return train, promising to see his new wife in the summer. +

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

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