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HISTORY

The film includes frequent voice-over narration from Jeff Bridges’ character, “Harry Flowers.” Although not listed in onscreen credits, the film also uses an English version of Friedrich Hollaender’s 1930 song, “Falling In Love Again,” performed by Marlene Dietrich.
       On 4 Dec 1974, HR announced that screenwriter-producer Larry Cohen completed a $2 million screenplay titled The Ringer, which was scheduled to begin filming Feb 1975 in London, England, under his production company, Larry Cohen Productions. A 23 Jul 1975 DV article indicated the involvement of producer Elliott Kastner, and labeled the film as a “suspense comedy.” Principal photography was delayed due to financial problems, and Cohen hoped to postpone until actor George Segal became available after a previous commitment. However, in doing so, Cohen reportedly sacrificed the commitment of actress Vanessa Redgrave, who dropped out of the project. Segal was also not involved in the final film. Principal photography was originally scheduled for ten weeks at London’s Pinewood Studios, with additional exteriors to be filmed in Paris, France. According to a 16 Oct 1975 DV brief, Cohen met with British producer Lew Grade and Edgar J. Scherick in New York City, both of whom agreed to produce the project, now reportedly starring actress Catherine Deneuve. However, neither Grade nor Deneuve were involved in the production.
       Nearly three years later, the 10 Feb 1978 DV reported the hiring of producer Daniel H. Blatt and director William Richert, who also rewrote the screenplay. Production notes in AMPAS library files indicated that Richert edited the script with Jeff Bridges and Belinda Bauer in mind for the leads after working with them in ... More Less

The film includes frequent voice-over narration from Jeff Bridges’ character, “Harry Flowers.” Although not listed in onscreen credits, the film also uses an English version of Friedrich Hollaender’s 1930 song, “Falling In Love Again,” performed by Marlene Dietrich.
       On 4 Dec 1974, HR announced that screenwriter-producer Larry Cohen completed a $2 million screenplay titled The Ringer, which was scheduled to begin filming Feb 1975 in London, England, under his production company, Larry Cohen Productions. A 23 Jul 1975 DV article indicated the involvement of producer Elliott Kastner, and labeled the film as a “suspense comedy.” Principal photography was delayed due to financial problems, and Cohen hoped to postpone until actor George Segal became available after a previous commitment. However, in doing so, Cohen reportedly sacrificed the commitment of actress Vanessa Redgrave, who dropped out of the project. Segal was also not involved in the final film. Principal photography was originally scheduled for ten weeks at London’s Pinewood Studios, with additional exteriors to be filmed in Paris, France. According to a 16 Oct 1975 DV brief, Cohen met with British producer Lew Grade and Edgar J. Scherick in New York City, both of whom agreed to produce the project, now reportedly starring actress Catherine Deneuve. However, neither Grade nor Deneuve were involved in the production.
       Nearly three years later, the 10 Feb 1978 DV reported the hiring of producer Daniel H. Blatt and director William Richert, who also rewrote the screenplay. Production notes in AMPAS library files indicated that Richert edited the script with Jeff Bridges and Belinda Bauer in mind for the leads after working with them in Winter Kills (1979, see entry). Although production notes claimed that Richert was initially hesitant about casting Bianca Jagger due to her celebrity status as Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger’s wife, the 11 Feb 1978 LAT claimed that the actress was selected for the role of “Corinne” after doing “extensive dialogue readings” in Los Angeles, CA, and suggested that the part had been re-written to match the actress’ personality. The story also noted that Bridges’ character becomes involved in embezzling—a discrepancy from the final film that indicates possible changes to the story during pre production. A 24 Jul 1978 LAT story claimed that KS farmers Conrad and Eunice Dechert met Richert at a party while on vacation in Los Angeles; after being invited by the director to read as “Mr. Polk” and “Mrs. Polk,” the couple was selected for the roles over numerous professional actors.
       The 10 Feb 1978 DV reported that the $5 million production was funded by Boston, MA-based theater circuit General Cinema and German tax shelters. The 28 Nov 1979 Var review also listed Munich, Germany’s Geria Films as a principal backer, and production notes stated that the story ultimately took place in Munich only because the financial deal required production to film there.
       According to the 27 Mar 1978 Box, principal photography began 21 Feb 1978; locations included the BMW Tower and a house in the city’s red-light district. The 28 Apr 1978 HR announced the production’s completion at Bavaria Studios.
       Although the 19 Jul 1978 Var stated that Blatt decided to leave Edgar J. Scherick Associates to form his own production company, the two producers continued to oversee the post production and release of The Ringer. On 17 Jul 1978, DV stated that while the project was being edited, Columbia Pictures acquired distribution rights for all territories except Germany, and scheduled U.S. release for early 1979. A 13 Nov 1978 HR article and a 5 Dec 1978 DV story reported that the film’s opening had been pushed back to summer 1979 and again to late Sep or early Oct 1979. That fall, the 23 Aug 1979 HR referred to the picture by its new title, American Success Company, and a 15 Oct 1979 HR item announced Columbia’s revised plans for a 9 Nov 1979 wide release. The 28 Mar 1983 HR review alleged that while Richert was preoccupied with the release of Winter Kills, Columbia held a poorly-received test screening of the first film, re-titled Success, and developed a new marketing campaign as The American Success Co., which featured a credit card tie-in.
       However, the 20 Aug 1982 HR review claimed that prior to distribution, General Cinema dissolved their production company and the film’s supporters at Columbia left the studio to seek new positions elsewhere. An early cut of the picture was subsequently played on cable television before Richert sought to independently obtain U.S. rights to the film. The 28 Mar 1983 HR reported that the filmmaker released the picture under the Invisible Studio, a distribution company the filmmaker created with Twentieth Century-Fox production vice president, Claire Townsend.
       Success opened in Los Angeles on 20 Aug 1982, grossing $67,432 in over eleven weeks of release. Richert then decided to re-issue the film after Columbia’s non-theatrical department rented a print for a screening hosted by Joseph Papp’s Public Theater in New York City during the week of 5 Feb 1982 under the title American Success. Upon negotiating a deal to split all re-release box-office earnings with Columbia, Richert added voice-over narration from Bridges’ character and developed new one-sheet advertisements. An unnamed woman from TX who loved the film reportedly gave Richert the $16,000 required to open in New York City, where it played at the Lincoln Plaza Theater beginning 25 Mar 1983. LAHExam critic David Chute indicated in his 23 Aug 1982 review that he had previously viewed an earlier cut of the film in 1980, while a 24 Mar 1982 DV advertisement indicated that a 25 Mar 1982 screening was held at Los Angeles’ Avco III Theatre.
       The film was reviewed in the 28 Nov 1979 Var under the title The American Success Company. Various contemporary reviews listed the runtime at eighty-six, eighty-eight, and ninety-four minutes. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
27 Mar 1978.
---
Daily Variety
23 Jul 1975.
---
Daily Variety
16 Oct 1975.
---
Daily Variety
10 Feb 1978.
---
Daily Variety
17 Jul 1978.
---
Daily Variety
5 Dec 1978
p. 1, 16.
Daily Variety
24 Mar 1982
p. 33.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Apr 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Nov 1978
p. 1, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 1979
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Aug 1982
p. 3, 30.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Aug 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Mar 1983
p. 3, 16.
LAHExam
23 Aug 1982.
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Feb 1978
Section II, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
24 Jul 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Aug 1982
p. 6.
New York Times
5 Jan 1982
p. 11.
Variety
19 Jul 1978.
---
Variety
28 Nov 1979
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures Presents
An Edgar J. Scherick/Daniel H. Blatt Production
A Richert/Cohen Film
A Geria Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Focus puller
Cam asst
2d unit cam
Spec photog
Gaffer
Head grip
Cam grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Scenic artist
Props
Asst to des
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd boom op
Supv sd ed
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des
DANCE
MAKEUP
Makeup/Hair artist
Makeup/Hair artiste
Makeup for Bianca Jagger
Hair stylist for Bianca Jagger
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod asst
Scr supv
Casting - Germany
Casting - U.S.A.
Casting - London
Dial coach
Interpreter
Spec asst to Mr. Richert
Prod accountant
Ziederman, Oberman & Assoc., Inc.
Sculpture
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The American Success Company
The Ringer
American Success
Release Date:
20 August 1982
Premiere Information:
New York Public Theater screening: week of 5 January 1982
Los Angeles opening: 20 August 1982
New York opening: 25 March 1983
Production Date:
21 February--late April 1978 in Munich, Germany
Copyright Claimant:
N. F. Geria 3rd, Filmgesellschaft m.b.H.
Copyright Date:
11 February 1980
Copyright Number:
PA59259
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Arriflex
Duration(in mins):
86, 88 or 94
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
Germany (West), United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Munich, Germany, international credit card tycoon Mr. Elliot calls his privileged American son-in-law, Harry Flowers, a “loser.” Harry descends to the office lobby, muttering to himself about how his beautiful and self-obsessed wife, Sarah, has always been a spoiled “princess.” After Sarah picks him up from work, they attend a friend’s formal party. While Sarah admires herself in the mirror, a female party guest passionately kisses Harry, mistaking him for her lover, Gunter. On the ride home, Harry wonders why Sarah is not married to a more confident man like Gunter. The next morning, Harry consults with Mr. and Mrs. Polk, two elderly tourists-turned-felons who have accumulated credit card debt they cannot repay. Acting out of kindness, Harry confiscates their expensive purchases, but arranges for them to return to the U.S. without punishment. Two brown-nosing security workers, Ernst and Herman, report Harry to their supervisor. That afternoon, Harry has a lunch meeting with Mr. Elliot, who informs him that he ordered the elderly couple be arrested at the airport. He then promotes Harry in order to keep closer watch over him. On his walk home, Harry remembers meeting and marrying Sarah while studying abroad, but is shaken from his reverie when his neighbor’s small dog frightens him. He returns to find Sarah taking photographs of herself dancing in a ballet costume, and becomes annoyed by her vanity. That evening, Harry follows Gunter around town with the intention of observing and mimicking the philanderer’s personality. The next day, Harry confidently struts around the office to deposit a pair of the elderly Mr. Polk’s unpaid-for alligator shoes in the company vault, provoking the curiosity of his co-workers. One night, Harry ... +


In Munich, Germany, international credit card tycoon Mr. Elliot calls his privileged American son-in-law, Harry Flowers, a “loser.” Harry descends to the office lobby, muttering to himself about how his beautiful and self-obsessed wife, Sarah, has always been a spoiled “princess.” After Sarah picks him up from work, they attend a friend’s formal party. While Sarah admires herself in the mirror, a female party guest passionately kisses Harry, mistaking him for her lover, Gunter. On the ride home, Harry wonders why Sarah is not married to a more confident man like Gunter. The next morning, Harry consults with Mr. and Mrs. Polk, two elderly tourists-turned-felons who have accumulated credit card debt they cannot repay. Acting out of kindness, Harry confiscates their expensive purchases, but arranges for them to return to the U.S. without punishment. Two brown-nosing security workers, Ernst and Herman, report Harry to their supervisor. That afternoon, Harry has a lunch meeting with Mr. Elliot, who informs him that he ordered the elderly couple be arrested at the airport. He then promotes Harry in order to keep closer watch over him. On his walk home, Harry remembers meeting and marrying Sarah while studying abroad, but is shaken from his reverie when his neighbor’s small dog frightens him. He returns to find Sarah taking photographs of herself dancing in a ballet costume, and becomes annoyed by her vanity. That evening, Harry follows Gunter around town with the intention of observing and mimicking the philanderer’s personality. The next day, Harry confidently struts around the office to deposit a pair of the elderly Mr. Polk’s unpaid-for alligator shoes in the company vault, provoking the curiosity of his co-workers. One night, Harry visits a costume shop and purchases a vintage suit and overcoat, cane, red wig, and mask. He then rents a one-room apartment as a hideout for his new alter ego, but decides to remove the wig and prosthetics, and instead wears a false scar over his right eye. Imitating the attitude and accent of a Chicago, Illinois, gangster called “Mack,” Harry visits a nightclub he knows to be frequented by Ernst. Inside, Harry kisses a prostitute named Corinne until Enrst recognizes him and interrupts. Speaking as “Mack,” Harry pulls out a knife and insists that Ernst has mistaken him for someone else. Corinne brings Harry to her apartment and agrees to teach him sexual techniques that will make him a more experienced lover. Over the next few days, he continues to secretly meet with Corinne while rigorously exercising and driving around the city in a rented sports car. Once his athletic and sexual prowess have improved, Harry returns home, transformed as his alter ego. He breaks Sarah’s record player, tears her ballerina costume to shreds, and drags her to the kitchen to make him dinner. When he criticizes her cooking, she cries about how upset her father will be with his behavior. Later, Harry attempts to seduce his wife, but she flees from their bedroom, claiming they cannot have sex because it is not their “usual” day for lovemaking. She sleeps on the living room floor until he carries her back upstairs, where they lie cradled in each other’s arms. In the morning, Harry smashes Sarah’s dance studio mirrors, and she finally notices his changed attitude. However, she believes the man standing in front of her is not Harry, but an entirely different person. They make love, and afterward, she becomes infatuated with him, begging him to stay with her. Harry leaves for work, where he drinks and flirts with a female co-worker. Later, he finds Sarah in Mr. Elliot’s office, and the three have lunch together. Harry leaves before the food arrives, but Sarah chases him outside, declaring that she wants to run away with him. Harry brushes her off and drives away, and Sarah hires an amateur detective named Rick Duprez to follow him. Upon returning to his office, Harry kisses and gropes one of the secretaries before stealing Mr. Polk’s alligator shoes and $5 million from the vault. Inside the vault, Harry briefly becomes nervous, but recovers “Mack’s” confidence and calmly leaves the building. Although Rick follows, Harry disguises himself with the red wig and prosthetics, tricking the simple-minded detective into believing that he and the robber are two separate men. Harry descends to the sewers through a manhole, handcuffs himself to a pipe, and reverts to his usual soft-spoken shyness. Rick finds him and returns him to Sarah and Mr. Elliot, who recognize him as the timid, spineless Harry—not the brash, self-assured man they are looking for. Harry returns to his normal life, but Sarah stubbornly starves herself, hoping her lover will return. One night, she emerges from her room wielding a gun and vows to kill Harry so that her “other Harry” will come back to her. Refusing to believe Harry’s confession that he is both men, Sarah shoots her husband in the leg. After dressing his wound, he realizes that “Harry” was the impostor all along, and decides to permanently adopt his gangster persona. He returns to his overjoyed wife and instructs her to call him “Mack.” Together, they go dancing in a grand ballroom before leaving to travel the world and live “happily ever after.” +

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

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