Good Morning Babylon (1987)

PG-13 | 118 mins | Drama, Romance | 15 July 1987

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HISTORY

Good Morning Babylon was the first English-language film by Italian filmmaking brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. The brothers, who co-directed all of their movies, were known for their acclaimed films Padre Padrone (1977), Kaos (1984), and The Night of the Shooting Stars (1982). They had a unique directing style in that one brother would direct a scene while the second one watched silently, then the second brother would direct the next scene while the other one watched, the 2 Aug 1987 NYT reported.
       The story of Good Morning Babylon is based on director D.W. Griffith’s real-life trip to the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, CA, in 1915, where he saw the Italian film Cabiria by Giovanni Pastrone. The 26 Dec 1986 LAT reported that Griffith was so moved by Cabiria that it inspired him to expand the film he was making, The Mother and the Law, into his masterpiece, Intolerance (1916, see entry). Griffith was also impressed by the exposition’s Tower of Jewels building and wanted the Italian artisan craftsmen who worked on it to build the Babylon sets for his movie. While most of the Italian craftsmen had already returned to Italy, three went to Hollywood and worked on the film sets.
       Writer Lloyd Fonvielle had the initial idea for Good Morning Babylon and pitched it to executive producer Edward R. Pressman in 1983, the 29 Aug 1986 LA Weekly reported. Pressman showed Fonvielle’s story outline to the Taviani brothers and also raised forty percent of ... More Less

Good Morning Babylon was the first English-language film by Italian filmmaking brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. The brothers, who co-directed all of their movies, were known for their acclaimed films Padre Padrone (1977), Kaos (1984), and The Night of the Shooting Stars (1982). They had a unique directing style in that one brother would direct a scene while the second one watched silently, then the second brother would direct the next scene while the other one watched, the 2 Aug 1987 NYT reported.
       The story of Good Morning Babylon is based on director D.W. Griffith’s real-life trip to the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, CA, in 1915, where he saw the Italian film Cabiria by Giovanni Pastrone. The 26 Dec 1986 LAT reported that Griffith was so moved by Cabiria that it inspired him to expand the film he was making, The Mother and the Law, into his masterpiece, Intolerance (1916, see entry). Griffith was also impressed by the exposition’s Tower of Jewels building and wanted the Italian artisan craftsmen who worked on it to build the Babylon sets for his movie. While most of the Italian craftsmen had already returned to Italy, three went to Hollywood and worked on the film sets.
       Writer Lloyd Fonvielle had the initial idea for Good Morning Babylon and pitched it to executive producer Edward R. Pressman in 1983, the 29 Aug 1986 LA Weekly reported. Pressman showed Fonvielle’s story outline to the Taviani brothers and also raised forty percent of the financing for the $6 million picture. The other sixty percent came from producer Giuliani G. De Negri, the 15 Jul 1987 HR reported. The 6 May 1987 HR reported De Negri brought in a number of European investors, including the Italian state television and radio station, RAI.
       The Taviani brothers wrote the screenplay in Italian, collaborating with noted Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra. Afterward, they worked closely with a translator who converted the scenes set in America into English. The brothers visited Los Angeles, CA, for the first time in their careers while scouting locations, but ultimately decided to shoot the film in Italy, the 22 Aug 1986 DV reported.
       Actor Sam Shepard was originally cast in the “D.W. Griffith” role, but withdrew due to his fear of flying when the Tavianis decided to film in Italy. Actor James Woods was cast in the part, but he withdrew over fears regarding terrorist attacks in Europe in 1986, the 30 Aug 1986 Screen International reported. Finally, British actor Charles Dance was cast as the legendary director.
       Italian-American actor Vincent Spano and Portuguese-American actor Joaquim De Almeida were cast as the Bonnano brothers. While both were fluent in Italian, Spano’s Italian dialogue was likely going to be dubbed, the 22 Oct 1986 Var reported.
       Principal photography began on 24 May 1986, according to the 13 Jun 1986 DV production chart. Hollywood circa 1916 was recreated in the town of Tirrenia outside of Pisa, Italy, while locations in Spain served as the old American West. Interiors were shot at Cinecitta in Rome, Italy. Although more than half of the dialogue is in English, Italian was spoken on the set.
       Filming in Europe ended in late Jul 1986, the 30 Jul 1986 Var reported. Afterward, the production came to America for two weeks of shooting, first in New York City for rooftop and old neighborhood footage, and then on and around the San Francisco, CA, docks.
       Edward Pressman wanted to name the film Hollywood/Sunset, but feared it would be confused with the movie Sunset Boulevard (1950, see entry), the 15 Aug 1986 DV reported.
       Good Morning Babylon opened on 15 Jul 1987 at Cinema 1 in New York City and the Beverly Center Cinemas in Los Angeles. Its first week gross was only $24,569.
       End credits include the following acknowledgments: "We thank the City of Pisa, the Teatro Verdi of Pisa and the Odeon Cinema in Florence.” Also, “We thank: Italtoons Corporation, New York; Killiam Shows, New York; Bay Area Archive, Oakland, CA, for their collaboration”; and “Nous remercions Monsieur R. Rohauer pour les extraits du film Intolerance, " (which translates to English as “We thank Mr. R. Rohauer for the excerpts of the film Intolerance "). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
13 Jun 1986.
---
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1986.
---
Daily Variety
22 Aug 1986
p. 6, 30.
Daily Variety
12 May 1987
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Apr 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 May 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 May 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 May 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 1987
p. 38.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 1987
p. 14.
LA Weekly
29 Aug 1986.
---
Los Angeles Times
26 Dec 1986
Calendar, p. 24-26.
Los Angeles Times
15 Jul 1987
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
15 Jul 1987
p. 18.
New York Times
2 Aug 1987
p. 18, 21.
Screen International
6 Apr 1985,
---
Screen International
30 Aug 1986
p. 28.
Variety
30 Jul 1986.
---
Variety
22 Oct 1986
p. 98.
Variety
6 May 1987
p. 339.
Variety
13 May 1987
p. 137.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
M.K.2 Productions -- Films A2 Filmtre et
Edward Pressman Film Corporation and RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana present
A film by Paolo and VittorioTaviani
An Italo-French coproduction with American co-participation realized by Filmtre-Rai, MK2-Films A.2
A Vestron Pictures Release
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Gen organizer
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
French co-prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story and scr
Story and scr
Based on an idea by
Screenplay in collaboration with
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Focus puller
Head elec
Still photos
Unit photog U.S.A.
Cam equip
Film stock
Lighting facilities
Lights
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
2d asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Asst set dresser
Prop man
Prop man
Prop man
Scene builders
Sculptures and models, Viareggio
Sculptures and models, Viareggio
Furnishings
Furnishings
Furnishings
Furnishings
Furnishings
Upholstery
Firearms and scenic eff
COSTUMES
Cost house
Ward
Seamstress
Footwear
Military uniforms
MUSIC
Mus comp and dir
Mus publishers
Mixing eng
Mus sd mixer
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Prod sd supv
Prod sd ed
Boom man
Asst sd ed
ADR rec
ADR sd eng
Spec sd eff
Spec sd eff
Spec sd eff
Mixing eng
Teatri di posa [soundstage]
Suono [sound]
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titoli e truke [credits & special eff)
DANCE
Choreog
Asst choreog
MAKEUP
Head make-up
Hair styles
Asst make-up
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
U.S. casting
Dial coach
Dial consultant and subtitles
Prod supv U.S.A.
Prod supv France
Unit mgr
Unit mgr
Post-prod
Asst organizer
Asst to the dir
Bus admin
Bus admin
Prod secy
Prod secy
Glass shot
Glass shot
Glass shot
Insurance consultants
Transportation
Tech facilities
Period vehicles
COLOR PERSONNEL
Colore [col by]
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Hollywood/Sunset
Good Morning, Babylonia
Buongiorno Babilonia
Release Date:
15 July 1987
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 15 July 1987
Production Date:
24 May--mid August 1986
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
118
Length(in feet):
10,266
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Countries:
France, Italy, United States
Languages:
Italian, English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Tuscany, Italy, in the early 1910s, the Bonnano family works as artisan stone craftsmen, constructing new buildings and restoring existing ones, especially cathedrals. After they finish restoration of the Church of the Miracle, Babbo Bonnano tells his seven sons there is too much debt and he must close the business. Each son must find a new profession. Brothers Nicola and Andrea decide to go to America. Before their departure, their father insists they must always be equals in their business and their lives, or else they will become enemies. In America, Nicola and Andrea work menial jobs, and are humiliated by the jobs they find. While working on a pig farm in the Arizona desert, they meet a group of Italian carpenters, sculptors, painters, stonecutters, and stonemasons headed by train to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition being held in San Francisco, California. The brothers abandon the farm and join their Italian compatriots. In San Francisco, the crowds love the Italian Pavilion the craftsmen build. During a screening of the film Cabiria by Italian director Giovanni Pastrone, acclaimed American director D. W. Griffith is so excited that he realizes he is off course with his current film. Halting production, Griffith goes back to the film idea he has been mulling over for years, Intolerance. As he leaves the expo, Griffith admires the Italian Pavilion and decides he wants something as stunning for Intolerance, including a black elephant like he saw in Cabiria. The other Italian craftsmen have already returned home, but Nicola and Andrea go to Hollywood when they hear Griffith has work for them. At Griffith’s production office, the ... +


In Tuscany, Italy, in the early 1910s, the Bonnano family works as artisan stone craftsmen, constructing new buildings and restoring existing ones, especially cathedrals. After they finish restoration of the Church of the Miracle, Babbo Bonnano tells his seven sons there is too much debt and he must close the business. Each son must find a new profession. Brothers Nicola and Andrea decide to go to America. Before their departure, their father insists they must always be equals in their business and their lives, or else they will become enemies. In America, Nicola and Andrea work menial jobs, and are humiliated by the jobs they find. While working on a pig farm in the Arizona desert, they meet a group of Italian carpenters, sculptors, painters, stonecutters, and stonemasons headed by train to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition being held in San Francisco, California. The brothers abandon the farm and join their Italian compatriots. In San Francisco, the crowds love the Italian Pavilion the craftsmen build. During a screening of the film Cabiria by Italian director Giovanni Pastrone, acclaimed American director D. W. Griffith is so excited that he realizes he is off course with his current film. Halting production, Griffith goes back to the film idea he has been mulling over for years, Intolerance. As he leaves the expo, Griffith admires the Italian Pavilion and decides he wants something as stunning for Intolerance, including a black elephant like he saw in Cabiria. The other Italian craftsmen have already returned home, but Nicola and Andrea go to Hollywood when they hear Griffith has work for them. At Griffith’s production office, the manager does not believe they are craftsmen because they look too young to have done the work on the Italian Pavilion. However, another manager offers them work tending hundreds of birds being kept for a movie scene in a few weeks. They are allowed to sleep in the birdhouse, and the manager also finds them odd jobs around the set during the day. Working as stagehands, they admire two dancers, Edna and Mabel, and send the girls notes in tiny birdcages, complimenting them on their beauty. Although Edna and Mable are flattered, they have a policy to date only directors or producers, and do not show up for a luncheon date with the brothers. In the meantime, D.W. Griffith is unhappy with the giant elephant the studio’s construction men have built, so Andrea and Nicola construct a life-size elephant out of wood and plaster, hoping to impress him. Edna and Mable come to watch, and are amazed by the elephant they create. Edna sexually succumbs to Nicola, Mable surrenders to Andrea, and the couples begin dating regularly. Later, when the women bring friends to see the elephant, they paint the elephant white and shoot test footage to show Griffith. Griffith’s men call it a “masterpiece,” but the film’s production manager, Mr. Grass, orders it to be burned. When the brothers find out what Grass has done, they assault him on the set and are jailed. However, D.W. Griffith sees the test footage of the elephant, and orders eight more just like it for Intolerance. Bailed out of jail, the brothers set to work. Soon, they are engaged to marry Edna and Mabel and have enough money to bring their father to America for the wedding. At a dinner held on the set of Intolerance, Griffith greets Babbo warmly, declaring that both he and the old Italian stonemason are craftsmen creating something they love. Babbo blesses his sons’ wedding, but points out that they have not honored their promise to return to Italy to work as craftsmen. Several months later, Edna and Mabel are both pregnant. At the premier of Intolerance, moviegoers praise the elephants. However, a protest urging America to join the Great War going on in Europe mars the celebration afterward. Mabel goes into labor and delivers a healthy baby boy. The next day Edna also delivers a healthy baby boy, but complications arise and she dies in childbirth. Andrea says that Mabel can nurse both babies, but the devastated Nicola laments that he and his brother are no longer equals. Nicola gives his son to an old friend rather than Andrea, and returns to Europe to join the Italian Army. Other soldiers call him “Hollywood,” and make him a battlefield cameraman. When America joins the war, Andrea joins the U.S. Army. Several months later, the brothers come face to face on the battlefield, fighting on opposite sides. Nicola and Andrea are both mortally wounded. Worrying that their sons will never know what they looked like, they use Nicola’s movie camera to capture images of themselves before they die. +

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

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