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HISTORY

In the Mood is based on the true story of fourteen-year-old Ellsworth “Sonny” Wisecarver of Willowbrook, CA, a small town about ten miles south of Los Angeles, CA. According to the 28 Sep 1987 LAT , in May 1944, Wisecarver married twenty-one-year-old Elaine Monfredi, and after his parents had the marriage annulled, eighteen months later ran off with a twenty-five year-old Eleanor Deveny, who was married to a soldier fighting overseas.
       Sonny Wisecarver’s exploits made national news for several years in the 1940s and comedians routinely made jokes about him for many years afterward. During this time, Hollywood producers approached the family about doing a movie in which actor Eddie Albert would play Sonny, but they rejected the idea.
       In 1977, after the LAT ran a “Whatever happened to Sonny Wisecarver” story, screenwriting duo Bob Kosberg and David Simon, just graduated from the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), decided to write a screenplay about the “Woo Woo Boy,” as the press had dubbed him. Wisecarver sold them the rights to his story for $500, plus seven percent of whatever money they made selling the screenplay. However, the pair was not able to purchase the screen rights from the two women, so their names were changed in the script. Kosberg and Simon convinced Peter Bart, then head of Lorimar Productions, to buy the script, but nothing ever happened with it.
       In 1984, Los Angeles Magazine also ran a “Whatever happened to Sonny Wisecarver” story and producers Karen Mack and Gary Adelson decided it would make a good movie. Gary Adelson went to his father, Merv Adelson, who had ... More Less

In the Mood is based on the true story of fourteen-year-old Ellsworth “Sonny” Wisecarver of Willowbrook, CA, a small town about ten miles south of Los Angeles, CA. According to the 28 Sep 1987 LAT , in May 1944, Wisecarver married twenty-one-year-old Elaine Monfredi, and after his parents had the marriage annulled, eighteen months later ran off with a twenty-five year-old Eleanor Deveny, who was married to a soldier fighting overseas.
       Sonny Wisecarver’s exploits made national news for several years in the 1940s and comedians routinely made jokes about him for many years afterward. During this time, Hollywood producers approached the family about doing a movie in which actor Eddie Albert would play Sonny, but they rejected the idea.
       In 1977, after the LAT ran a “Whatever happened to Sonny Wisecarver” story, screenwriting duo Bob Kosberg and David Simon, just graduated from the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), decided to write a screenplay about the “Woo Woo Boy,” as the press had dubbed him. Wisecarver sold them the rights to his story for $500, plus seven percent of whatever money they made selling the screenplay. However, the pair was not able to purchase the screen rights from the two women, so their names were changed in the script. Kosberg and Simon convinced Peter Bart, then head of Lorimar Productions, to buy the script, but nothing ever happened with it.
       In 1984, Los Angeles Magazine also ran a “Whatever happened to Sonny Wisecarver” story and producers Karen Mack and Gary Adelson decided it would make a good movie. Gary Adelson went to his father, Merv Adelson, who had co-founded Lorimar in 1969, only to learn Lorimar already owned the rights to the Wisecarver story. The 31 Oct 1986 DV reported Lorimar entered into a development deal with Kings Road Entertainment to produce the film, but later changed its mind. Kings Road bought the project back from Lorimar, but Mack and Adelson stayed on as producers.
       Adelson and Mack approached Phil Alden Robinson about writing the screenplay, but he was not interested in doing what he assumed was a teen comedy. The 17 Sep 1987 LAHExam reported Robinson’s agent convinced him to read the Los Angeles Magazine article as a courtesy and Robinson was quickly sold on the story. As he researched and wrote the screenplay, Robinson also campaigned to direct the movie as a first-time director. At that point, the film’s working title was The Woo Woo Boy, according to the 17 Sep 1984 DV.
       Robinson reported that every event depicted in the movie happened in Sonny’s real life; nothing was made up for the movie. Dialogue from court proceedings was taken verbatim from court transcripts and newspaper/magazine quotes were lifted directly from news articles that ran at the time. The only aspect of the movie that was fictionalized was the time frame, which was condensed from two years to six months. Also Wisecarver’s age was changed to fifteen due to the shorter span of time being depicted.
       Principal photography began on 25 Aug 1986 under the working title The Woo Woo Kid, according to the 5 Nov 1986 DV production chart. The film wrapped in late Oct and had a $7 million budget, as reported in the 31 Oct. 1986 DV. Promotional materials in AMPAS library files indicate the film had ninety-five sets, none of which were on a soundstage, and each had to be transformed to look like the mid 1940s. Many suitable locations were found in the San Pedro and Long Beach, CA areas. Additional scenes were shot in Eagle Rock, Mt. Baldy, Echo Park, San Bernardino, Perris and Fillmore, CA.
       The 16 Nov 1987 People magazine reported the real Sonny Wisecarver ultimately made about $14,000 selling the rights to his story. He also had a cameo role in the film as a mailman who denounced the “Sonny” character as a “pervert.”
       Although the film was originally scheduled for release in spring 1987, the release date was pushed to fall 1987 and the title changed to In the Mood. The film opened on 16 Sep 1987 in New York City and on 18 Sep 1987 in Los Angeles, CA, and Toronto, Canada. The film expanded to 361 screens on 16 Oct 1987, taking in $315,000 in its first three days of wider release, according to the Box Office Mojo website.
       Opening credits state: “This is the story of how one young man finally met a nice girl his own age. The story is true. Weird, but true.”
       End credits state: “The real Sonny Wisecarver is alive and well in California. He is 57 years old, owns his own business and sends you his best. The End.”
       End credits state: “With thanks to the City of Los Angeles Motion Picture Coordination Office and the California Film Office. Also, thanks to Newsweek; Boss Film Corp.; Norm Marshall & Associates; Ron Howard; Carl Reiner; Dave Thomas.”

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
17 Sep 1984.
---
Daily Variety
31 Oct 1986.
---
Daily Variety
5 Nov 1986.
---
Daily Variety
11 May 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 1987
p. 81.
LAHExam
17 Sep 1987
Section C, p. 1, 8.
Los Angeles Times
18 Sep 1987
p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
28 Sep 1987
Section G, p. 1, 6.
New York Times
16 Sep 1987
p. 27.
People
16 Nov 1987.
---
Variety
20 May 1987
p. 107.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
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PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Kings Road Entertainment and Lorimar Motion Pictures present
a Gary Adelson Karen Mack production
a Phil Alden Robinson film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Best boy elec
Elec
Elec
Elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Company grip
Company grip
Company grip
Company grip
Company grip
Company grip
Company grip
Still photog
Lenses and Panaflex ® cam by Panavision ® supplied
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Asst set dec
Asst to set dec
Lead person
Asst lead person
Swing master
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst to prop master
Const coord
Const foreman
Set builder
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Cost supv
Costumer
MUSIC
Orig mus
Assoc mus ed
Clarinet, Soloist
Alto sax, Soloist
Tenor sax, Soloist
Trombone, Soloist
Fluegelhorn, Soloist
Piano, Soloist
Drums, Soloist
Guitar, Soloist
Bass, Soloist
Percussion, Soloist
Harmonica, Solist
Mus rec mixer
Orch mgr/Copyist
Mus arranged and cond by
SOUND
Boom op
Sd supv
Supv sd ed
ADR ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Main title seq created by
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup artist
Makeup asst
Hairstylist
Asst hairstylist
Asst hairstylist
Asst hairstylist
Asst hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Casting assoc
Casting asst
Extras casting supv
Loc extras casting
Animal trainers
Trainer
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Driver
Driver
Driver
Car carrier driver
Transportation runner
Transportation runner
Transportation runner
First aid
Craft service
Police liaison
Cook/Driver
Cook's helper
Prod coord
Prod secy
Unit pub
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst to Mr. Adelson
Asst to Mr. Adelson
Asst to Ms. Mack
Asst to Ms. Mack
Asst to Mr. Robinson
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
STAND INS
Stand-in
Stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“In The Mood,” written by Andy Razaf and Joseph Garland, additional lyrics by Bette Midler and Barry Manilow, performed by Jennifer Holliday, courtesy of Geffen Records, produced by Ralph Burns, © 1939 Shapiro Bernstein & Co., Inc. (ASCAP), copyright renewed/all rights reserved
“Caldonia,” written by Fleecie Moore, performed by Woody Herman and His First Herd, courtesy of CBS Records, © 1945, 1946 Cherio Corp. (BMI), copyright renewed/all rights reserved
“Solitude,” written by Eddie DeLange, Duke Ellington and Irving Mills, performed by Billie Holiday, courtesy of CBS Records, © 1934 by Mills Music, Inc. and Scarsdale Music Corp. (U.S. only) (ASCAP), © 1934 by Mills Music, Inc. (worldwide, excluding the U.S.) (ASCAP), copyright renewed/all rights reserved
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SONGS
“In The Mood,” written by Andy Razaf and Joseph Garland, additional lyrics by Bette Midler and Barry Manilow, performed by Jennifer Holliday, courtesy of Geffen Records, produced by Ralph Burns, © 1939 Shapiro Bernstein & Co., Inc. (ASCAP), copyright renewed/all rights reserved
“Caldonia,” written by Fleecie Moore, performed by Woody Herman and His First Herd, courtesy of CBS Records, © 1945, 1946 Cherio Corp. (BMI), copyright renewed/all rights reserved
“Solitude,” written by Eddie DeLange, Duke Ellington and Irving Mills, performed by Billie Holiday, courtesy of CBS Records, © 1934 by Mills Music, Inc. and Scarsdale Music Corp. (U.S. only) (ASCAP), © 1934 by Mills Music, Inc. (worldwide, excluding the U.S.) (ASCAP), copyright renewed/all rights reserved
“Stompin’ At The Savoy,” written by Edgar Sampson, Benny Goodman, Chick Webb and Andy Razaf, © 1934, 1936 Robbins Music Corp. (ASCAP), renewal 1962, 1964 Robbins Music Corp. and Rytvoc Corp., all rights reserved
“I’ll Never Smile Again,” written by Ruth Lowe, © 1939 by MCA Music Publishing, a division of MCA, Inc. (ASCAP), copyright renewed/all rights reserved
“Dream,” written by Johnny Mercer, © 1944 by WB Music Corp./ Michael Goldsen, Inc. (ASCAP), copyright renewed/all rights reserved
“Don’t Be That Way,” written by Benny Goodman, Edgar Sampson and Mitchell Parish, © 1935, 1938/ renewed 1963, 1966 Robbins Music Corp. (ASCAP), all rights reserved
“Memories Of You,” written by Eubie Blake and Andy Razaf, © 1930 Shapiro Bernstein & Co., Inc. (ASCAP), copyright renewed/all rights reserved
“Take The ‘A’ Train,” written by Billy Strayhorn, © 1941 Tempo Music, Inc. (ASCAP), copyright renewed/all rights reserved
“Baby Blues,” (Sonny’s Theme), music by Ralph Burns, lyrics by Phil Alden Robinson, vocal by Sally Stevens, © 1987 Marilor Music (ASCAP), all rights reserved.
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DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Woo Woo Kid
The Woo Woo Boy
Release Date:
16 September 1987
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 16 September 1987
Los Angeles opening: 18 September 1987
Production Date:
25 August--late October 1986
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in selected theatres.
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex ® cameras by Panavision ®
Prints
Prints by by Metrocolor ®
Duration(in mins):
100
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28490
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1944 in Willowbrook, California, a small town near Los Angeles, fifteen-year-old Ellsworth “Sonny” Wisecarver cannot get a date with a girl his age because they consider him a dweeb, or a nerd. Bored with ninth grade, Sonny routinely pretends to be sick to get out of school. He hangs out with guys in their twenties, promising to get them cheap gasoline, despite nationwide gas rationing, if they will take him along to parties. One afternoon, they take him to a party hosted by Judy Cusimano, a twenty-one-year-old mother of two infants. About a dozen people dance and laugh the afternoon away at Judy’s house. Sonny has fun and tells Judy he hopes to meet her husband, so the three of them can hang out more. Judy explains that she and her common-law husband, Carlo, a man in his mid-thirties, do not get along well, but that she relates to Sonny since he is closer to her age. That night Judy comes to Sonny’s house, giving him a forged excuse for missing school while at her party. The next day, Sonny goes to another party at her house and while the others are dancing and making out, he and Judy take a walk. They pull a prank at the streetcar line and have so much fun, they almost kiss. The next day, Sonny brings Judy a box of candy, but when the others arrive for the afternoon party, the two hide from them and start kissing. Before long, Sonny confesses his love for her and indicates he wants to marry her. One of Sonny’s older friends, George, comes to his house asking for help getting gasoline because he and ... +


In 1944 in Willowbrook, California, a small town near Los Angeles, fifteen-year-old Ellsworth “Sonny” Wisecarver cannot get a date with a girl his age because they consider him a dweeb, or a nerd. Bored with ninth grade, Sonny routinely pretends to be sick to get out of school. He hangs out with guys in their twenties, promising to get them cheap gasoline, despite nationwide gas rationing, if they will take him along to parties. One afternoon, they take him to a party hosted by Judy Cusimano, a twenty-one-year-old mother of two infants. About a dozen people dance and laugh the afternoon away at Judy’s house. Sonny has fun and tells Judy he hopes to meet her husband, so the three of them can hang out more. Judy explains that she and her common-law husband, Carlo, a man in his mid-thirties, do not get along well, but that she relates to Sonny since he is closer to her age. That night Judy comes to Sonny’s house, giving him a forged excuse for missing school while at her party. The next day, Sonny goes to another party at her house and while the others are dancing and making out, he and Judy take a walk. They pull a prank at the streetcar line and have so much fun, they almost kiss. The next day, Sonny brings Judy a box of candy, but when the others arrive for the afternoon party, the two hide from them and start kissing. Before long, Sonny confesses his love for her and indicates he wants to marry her. One of Sonny’s older friends, George, comes to his house asking for help getting gasoline because he and his girl, Alberta, plan to drive to Yuma, Arizona, to get married. When Sonny goes to Judy’s house, she has a bloody nose because Carlo hit her. Sonny offers to defend her honor, but gets scared after seeing how big and burly Carlo is. They pull a prank by having Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officers arrest Carlo for not being registered for the draft. Despite his protestation that he is not an American citizen, FBI agents take Carlo to jail, while Judy gets his car keys and wallet. Sonny asks her to elope with him, promising to romance her and be a good father to her children. Judy agrees. The two couples drive to Yuma in Carlo’s car, where Sonny and Judy are married by a justice of the peace. Sonny declares that marriage is “so much better than the ninth grade.” They have their honeymoon in a cheap motel room. Judy sends a telegram to her mother asking her to urgently send money. However, Carlo intercepts the telegram and is angry to see it is signed, “Mrs. Judy Wisecarver.” Judy and Sonny take a bus to Denver, Colorado, but when they go to the Western Union telegraph office to pick up the money, they are arrested. As police book them, a news photographer takes of photo of them kissing, and newspapers across the country carry the story of the underage boy who wooed the older woman into marriage and call Sonny a “Don Juan,” dubbing him the “Woo Woo Boy,” the “Woo Woo Kid” and “Woo Woo Wisecarver.” The two give interviews from their jail cells, and women nationwide swoon over their proclamations of love, while others call it disgusting. Sonny and Judy are extradited to Los Angeles, California, where Judy is charged with “felony child stealing.” Although Sonny is not charged with anything, he is still jailed. He feigns illness and is sent to a hospital, where the nurses treat him like a celebrity and attend his every need. During Judy’s trial, when an attorney says disparaging things about her, Sonny stands up and cries, “Watch what you say about my wife.” Spectators cheer, but the judge is angry over the outburst. He annuls their marriage and orders the two never to see each other again. He puts Judy on three years’ probation and orders her to go to church at least once a month for “moral training.” The judge calls Sonny “an oversexed punk,” but says there is nothing illegal in what he did. However, he orders Sonny to leave town to allow the hoopla over his marriage to die down. Declaring his love for Judy, Sonny asks the judge what he did wrong. The judge replies he did things he is not supposed to do until he is an adult. Outside the courthouse, Sonny begs Judy to make it work. She says she hates him and that the court will take her children away if she violates her probation. She leaves with Carlos, thanks Sonny for giving her the courage to do the right thing, and says she hopes he will find a girl his own age. Sonny’s parents send him to live for the summer with his Uncle Clete in Long Beach, California. But when Clete tells Sonny he must work on his rabbit farm, killing and skinning rabbits for their pelts, Sonny runs away and gets a job at a tuna cannery, where the female employees recognize him from the newspapers and swoon over him. Sonny rents a room in a boarding house, where he meets fellow boarder, Francine Glatt, a twenty-five year-old married woman whose husband, Howard, is fighting overseas in World War II. The two have adjoining rooms and talk through the window late into the night. Francine waits outside the tuna cannery for Sonny’s shift to end and he gives her a pet rabbit which he stole from his Uncle Clete’s farm. One night, rather than eating dinner at the boarding house, Sonny announces he is going out for a hamburger and Francine decides to accompany him. However, the two never return to the boarding house. Instead they take a bus to Paradise, California, and rent a cabin together. They have several blissful days until the newspapers run a front-page story announcing Sonny has run off with another older woman. To head off any problems, Sonny goes to the Paradise Police Department and turns himself in. The police chief arrests him and locks him in an outhouse-sized cabin, which he calls their “juvenile hall.” Meanwhile, Francine gives interviews to the press. She calls Sonny the best lover she has ever had, saying, “He’s the kind of guy every girl dreams of, but very seldom finds.” She announces that if Sonny still wants her, she will get a divorce. Their story gets international coverage and soon Francine’s husband hears about it while fighting in the South Seas. Meanwhile, Judy hears the news and feels remorse that she is no longer with Sonny. Sonny’s father takes him back to Los Angeles where he is sent to jail. However, Sonny gets over a hundred marriage proposals in the mail. When Francine’s husband, Howard, returns, she announces she is going to stay with him, but in the courtroom, she wears the special dress Sonny bought for her and mouths the words, “I love you,” to him. In court, Sonny’s mother declines to file a complaint against Francine for kidnapping her son, saying she cannot control the women who fall in love with him. Francine is given a suspended sentence. Sonny apologizes to the court, saying he made a mistake and will not do it again. Nonetheless, the judge sentences him to the California Youth Authority Prison for Boys until he is twenty-one years old. However, once there, other prisoners threaten his life and Sonny escapes under the fence during the night. He takes a train to Utah, but when someone recognizes him, he hops off in a small Nevada town. He buys a movie ticket, hoping to sleep through the night in the theater. However when the theater is closing, Wendy, the theater usherette, wakes him up, telling him to leave. Wendy recognizes Sonny and invites him out for coffee. He agrees, but tells Wendy he is not interested in sex or marriage. The two get along well and Wendy points out they are the same age. She says she does not have a husband, which Sonny says is the most important quality a wife can have. Three weeks later, they are married.
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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.