Street Smart (1987)

R | 97 mins | Drama | 20 March 1987

Director:

Jerry Schatzberg

Writer:

David Freeman

Cinematographer:

Adam Holender

Editor:

Priscilla Nedd

Production Designer:

Dan Leigh
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HISTORY

Street Smart is based, in part, on real-life experiences of screenwriter David Freeman, who fabricated a story about a pimp for a prestigious news magazine and got away with it. The 30 Mar 1987 issue of New York magazine reported that Freeman was working as one of its writers in the late 1960s, and wrote a much heralded piece titled “The Lifestyle of a Pimp” for the 5 May 1969 issue. The magazine was relatively new at that point and did not have a fact-checking department, so Freeman’s deception was never discovered. During an interview to promote the movie in the 30 Mar 1987 issue, however, the magazine’s film critic, David Denby, quizzed the screenwriter about the truthfulness of the 1969 story, and Freeman confessed that he made the entire story up, saying, “I was trying to write fiction in the form of journalism.”
       In the late 1970s, Freeman wrote his screenplay, then titled Streets of New York, and Filmways Pictures was set to make it. The 18 Apr 1980 DV reported that Sydney Pollack was producing the film, with an $8 million budget and a fall 1980 start date. However, nothing happened with the project.
       In Nov 1985, actor Christopher Reeve was looking for his next film. Promotional materials in AMPAS library files indicate Reeve noticed the screenplay on his bookshelf. He had received it four years earlier, but had not read it at the time. He loved the script, and contacted his agent, who informed him that David Freeman had revised the screenplay in 1984 and changed the name to Street Smart.
       Meanwhile, in Jun ... More Less

Street Smart is based, in part, on real-life experiences of screenwriter David Freeman, who fabricated a story about a pimp for a prestigious news magazine and got away with it. The 30 Mar 1987 issue of New York magazine reported that Freeman was working as one of its writers in the late 1960s, and wrote a much heralded piece titled “The Lifestyle of a Pimp” for the 5 May 1969 issue. The magazine was relatively new at that point and did not have a fact-checking department, so Freeman’s deception was never discovered. During an interview to promote the movie in the 30 Mar 1987 issue, however, the magazine’s film critic, David Denby, quizzed the screenwriter about the truthfulness of the 1969 story, and Freeman confessed that he made the entire story up, saying, “I was trying to write fiction in the form of journalism.”
       In the late 1970s, Freeman wrote his screenplay, then titled Streets of New York, and Filmways Pictures was set to make it. The 18 Apr 1980 DV reported that Sydney Pollack was producing the film, with an $8 million budget and a fall 1980 start date. However, nothing happened with the project.
       In Nov 1985, actor Christopher Reeve was looking for his next film. Promotional materials in AMPAS library files indicate Reeve noticed the screenplay on his bookshelf. He had received it four years earlier, but had not read it at the time. He loved the script, and contacted his agent, who informed him that David Freeman had revised the screenplay in 1984 and changed the name to Street Smart.
       Meanwhile, in Jun 1985, Cannon Pictures purchased the rights to the Superman movie franchise from Alexander and Ilya Salkind, the father-and-son producing team who brought the “Man of Steel” from the comic book pages to the big screen with 1978’s Superman, 1981’s Superman II, and 1983’s Superman III (see entries). Reeve had become a star playing “Superman” in those three films, but as the 3 Jun 1986 HR explained, he swore off the part following his disappointment with the way Superman III turned out. Cannon was determined to cast Reeve in another “Superman” movie, but he declined their offers.
       Once Reeve found the Street Smart script, he contacted Cannon chairman Menahem Golan in Dec 1985 and worked out a deal. The 5 Feb 1986 DV announced a two-picture contract in which Cannon would finance Street Smart with a $7-million budget in exchange for Reeve’s commitment to wear the Superman cape once again. Reeve also pitched the story idea that was used for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987, see entry).
       Similarly, Reeve was involved in rewriting the Street Smart script. Promotional materials in AMPAS library files show that Reeve, David Freeman, and newly hired director Jerry Schatzberg revised the script twice in early 1986, while Reeve also did ride-alongs with New York City television reporters and policemen to research the role.
       Principal photography began on 21 Apr 1986 in Montreal, Canada, according to a 7 May 1986 DV production chart. Producers initially planned to film in Pittsburgh, PA, but decided it did not resemble New York enough, so they moved to Montreal, the 3 Jun 1986 HR reported. However, American-style props such a phone booths, mailboxes, advertisements, and New York lottery signs had to be shipped to Montreal, while signs written in French had to be covered up. The 30 Apr 1986 Var noted that Dianne Wiest was in Montreal to appear in the film, but she was not involved in the final project.
       After two months, production moved to New York City for two final weeks of location shooting, which were plagued with problems. On 16 Jun 1986, the first day of shooting in New York, union picketers staged a strike at the film’s Midtown Manhattan production offices, the 18 Jun 1986 Var reported. Fifteen picketers from eight unions including studio mechanics, makeup artists, wardrobe attendants, script supervisors, scenic artists, and Teamsters protested, claiming Cannon was using a non-union crew and consequently paying below-standard wages. Cannon officials agreed to hire a union crew for its next New York City shoot, the 27 Jun 1986 HR reported, and the strike was called off. In the meantime, Christopher Reeve, who was on the Council of Actors Equity and a union supporter, was forced to cross the picket line due to a “no-strike clause” in his contract, according to the 29 Jun 1986 LAT.
       Reeve missed several days of shooting when he was hospitalized with an attack of acute appendicitis on 24 Jun 1986, but was back on the set on 27 Jun 1986. The crew shot around him during his absence.
       While filming in Harlem on 26 Jun 1986, a neighborhood group protested the perceived racial stereotypes being used in the film, but producers met with the group to hear their issues and agreed to hire locals for day jobs on the set.
       Street Smart opened on 207 screens on 20 Mar 1987, earning $325,835 in its opening weekend, the 24 Mar 1987 DV reported. Reviews were mixed. The 2 Mar 1987 DV called it “a well-made, but unpersuasive concoction about an uptown journalist who gets caught in the downtown world of pimps and prostitutes.” The 4 Mar 1987 HR called it an “angry version of Meet John Doe, ” while the 26 Mar 1987 WSJ said the film’s “hard-nosed wit quickly gets overtaken by a flabby adventure story: white boy among the pimps.”
       After a month in release, the film had earned just under $1 million, the 21 Apr 1987 DV reported. In his 1998 memoir, Still Me (Random House), Reeve stated that Cannon allowed the film to die at the box office without advertising or promotion.
       Actor Morgan Freeman earned an Academy Award nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category for his role as “Fast Black.”
       End credits state: “Special Thanks to: Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal; Surete du Quebec; First Quebec Corporation; La Ville de Montreal; Phillips Electronics, Inc.; Les Pharmacies d’ Escompte Coutu; Aquanature Montreal, Inc.; Champs Elysse Fashions, Inc.; J.E. McComber Fourrures, Inc.; Bausch and Lomb, Canada, Inc.; and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
18 Apr 1980
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
5 Feb 1986.
---
Daily Variety
7 May 1986.
---
Daily Variety
27 Jun 1986.
---
Daily Variety
2 Mar 1987
p. 3, 45.
Daily Variety
24 Mar 1987
p. 6.
Daily Variety
21 Apr 1987
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 1986
p. 1, 9.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 1987
p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
29 Jun 1986.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Mar 1987
Calendar, p. 19.
New York
30 Mar 1987
p. 89-90.
New York Times
27 Mar 1987
p. 8.
Screen International
28 Jun 1986.
---
Still Me by Christopher Reeve
(Random House, 1998)
p. 228
Variety
30 Apr 1986.
---
Variety
18 Jun 1986.
---
Variety
4 Mar 1987
p. 18.
WSJ
26 Mar 1987.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
The Cannon Group, Inc. presents
In a Golan-Globus Production
of a Jerry Schatzberg Film
A Golan-Globus Production
A Cannon Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir, Canadian crew
2nd asst dir, Canadian crew
Unit mgr, Canadian crew
Unit prod mgr, New York crew
1st asst dir, New York crew
2d asst dir, New York crew
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op, Canadian crew
1st asst cam, Canadian crew
2d asst cam, Canadian crew
Key grip, Canadian crew
Grip, Canadian crew
Grip, Canadian crew
Grip, Canadian crew
Gaffer, Canadian crew
Best boy elec, Canadian crew
Elec, Canadian crew
Elec, Canadian crew
Still photog, Canadian crew
Cam op, New York crew
1st asst cam, New York crew
2d asst cam, New York crew
Key grip, New York crew
Grip, New York crew
Grip, New York crew
Grip, New York crew
Gaffer, New York crew
Best boy elec, New York crew
Elec, New York crew
Elec, New York crew
Elec, New York crew
Still photog, New York crew
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir, Canadian crew
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
2d asst ed
2d asst ed
Editing room trainee
Negative cutting
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Prop master, Canadian crew
Asst prop master, Canadian crew
Set des, Canadian crew
Set des, Canadian crew
Scenic artist, Canadian crew
Scenic artist, Canadian crew
Scenic artist, Canadian crew
Scenic artist, Canadian crew
Set dresser, Canadian crew
Set dresser, Canadian crew
Prop master, New York crew
Prop asst, New York crew
Prop asst, New York crew
Prop asst, New York crew
Set dec, New York crew
Set dresser, New York crew
Set dresser, New York Crew
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward coord, Canadian crew
Men's ward, Canadian crew
Women's ward, Canadian crew
Women's ward, Canadian crew
Women's ward, Canadian crew
Women's ward, Canadian crew
Asst to cost des, New York crew
MUSIC
Featuring
Mus supv
Mus ed
Assoc mus ed
Mus rec at
Addl mus & synthesizer programming
Dolby stereo consultant
SOUND
Sd mixer, Canadian crew
Boom op, Canadian crew
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
ADR ed
ADR asst
Re-rec supv
Rec eng
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles
MAKEUP
Makeup artist, Canadian crew
Asst makeup artist, Canadian crew
Asst makeup artist, Canadian crew
Asst makeup artist, Canadian crew
Asst makeup artist, Canadian crew
Hairstylist, Canadian crew
Asst hairstylist, Canadian crew
Hairstylist, New York crew
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Exec in charge of prod
Prod coord, Canadian crew
Loc mgr, Canadian crew
Prod auditor, Canadian crew
Scr supv, Canadian crew
Prod secy, Canadian crew
Unit pub, Canadian crew
Casting, Canadian crew
Casting, Canadian crew
Casting, Canadian crew
Prod asst, Canadian crew
Prod asst, Canadian crew
Prod asst, Canadian crew
Prod asst, Canadian crew
Prod coord, New York crew
Loc mgr, New York crew
Asst to Mr. Schatzberg, New York crew
Prod accountant, New York crew
Prod auditor, New York crew
Tech coord
Transportation coord
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col
SOURCES
SONGS
“Publico Oyente,” written by Ray Perez, performed by Larry Harlow & Orchestra, published by Passing Clouds Music, Inc. (BMI)
“Only In Your Arms,” written by Michael Bishop & Paul Chiten, published by Famous Music, Inc. (BMI) & Radius Music, Inc. (BMI)
“Peanut Butter,” written by S. Dunbar, published by Ixat Music, Inc. administered by Island Music (BMI), performed by Gwen Guthrie, courtesy of Island Records
+
SONGS
“Publico Oyente,” written by Ray Perez, performed by Larry Harlow & Orchestra, published by Passing Clouds Music, Inc. (BMI)
“Only In Your Arms,” written by Michael Bishop & Paul Chiten, published by Famous Music, Inc. (BMI) & Radius Music, Inc. (BMI)
“Peanut Butter,” written by S. Dunbar, published by Ixat Music, Inc. administered by Island Music (BMI), performed by Gwen Guthrie, courtesy of Island Records
“Life Is Something Special,” written by Michael de Benedictus, Larry Levan & R. Bernard Fowler, performed by the NYC Peech Boys, produced by Larry Levan de Michael de Benedictus, published by Citi Peech Music, administered by Island Music, Inc. (BMI)
“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” written by Gerry Goffin, Carole King & Jerry Wexler, published by Screen Gems/BMI Music, Inc. (BMI), performed by Aretha Franklin, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corporation, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“My Girl,” written by Ronald White & William Robinson, published by Jobete Music, Inc. (ASCAP), performed by Otis Redding, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corporation, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
“The Last Time (I Get Burned Like This),” written by Robert Cray performed by The Robert Cray Band, published by Calhoun St. Music (BMI), administered by Bug Music, courtesy of Hightone Records & Bug Music
“Romance Without Finance,” written by Robert Irving III, sung by Michael Irving & Cheryl Corpening, produced & arranged by Robert Irving III, published by Vitasia Music (BMI)
"Street Heat," written by Robert Irving III, produced & arranged by Robert Irving III, published by Vitasia Music (BMI)
“Mineh,” modern arrangement by Menaham Dworman, adaptation published by Miro Music (ASCAP), performed by The Feejon Group, courtesy of Monitor Records
“Payin For It Now,” written by D. Amy & Robert Cray, performed by The Robert Cray Band, published by Calhoun St. Music (BMI), administered by Bug Music, courtesy of Hightone Records & Bug Music
“Salsa Suite Part II,” written by Larry Harlow, performed by Larry Harlow & Orchestra, published by Passing Clouds Music, Inc. (BMI)
“Nadie Podra Querete Como Yo,” performed by Larry Harlow & Orchestra, written by Rosa Soy, published by Passing Clouds Music, Inc. (BMI).
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Streets of New York
Release Date:
20 March 1987
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 20 March 1987
New York opening: 27 March 1987
Production Date:
21 April--late June 1986
Copyright Claimant:
Cannon Films, Inc., and Cannon International
Copyright Date:
29 October 1987
Copyright Number:
PA357999
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Duration(in mins):
97
Length(in feet):
8,681
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28293
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In New York City, Jonathan Fisher is a reporter for the prestigious New York Journal magazine. Although Jonathan used to be the magazine’s star reporter, his writing has not been up to par lately and his editor, Ted Avery, has been giving him bad assignments. When another reporter’s story falls through at the last minute, Jonathan sees his chance to regain his status. He proposes a story about twenty-four hours in the life of a pimp. Ted lets him do the story, but gives him less than a week to complete it. Jonathan goes to Times Square to talk with prostitutes, but they refuse to help him. The next night, Jonathan convinces his girl friend, Alison Parker, to pose as a prostitute, hoping she can get information, but one of the pimps threatens her life and Jonathan is forced to rescue her. With time running out, Jonathan fabricates a 2,000-word story about a rich pimp named “Tyrone” who dresses well, owns a condominium in Hawaii, controls many prostitutes, and has killed a man to protect them. Ted Avery loves the piece and makes it the cover story. Tyrone becomes the talk of the town, and Jonathan is a media sensation. Several other news outlets offer work, and Jonathan starts doing television reports for Channel 3 about the grittier aspects of the city in a segment titled “Street Smart.” Meanwhile, a pimp named Leo Smalls, Jr., who goes by the name of “Fast Black,” stops by a low-rent hotel ... +


In New York City, Jonathan Fisher is a reporter for the prestigious New York Journal magazine. Although Jonathan used to be the magazine’s star reporter, his writing has not been up to par lately and his editor, Ted Avery, has been giving him bad assignments. When another reporter’s story falls through at the last minute, Jonathan sees his chance to regain his status. He proposes a story about twenty-four hours in the life of a pimp. Ted lets him do the story, but gives him less than a week to complete it. Jonathan goes to Times Square to talk with prostitutes, but they refuse to help him. The next night, Jonathan convinces his girl friend, Alison Parker, to pose as a prostitute, hoping she can get information, but one of the pimps threatens her life and Jonathan is forced to rescue her. With time running out, Jonathan fabricates a 2,000-word story about a rich pimp named “Tyrone” who dresses well, owns a condominium in Hawaii, controls many prostitutes, and has killed a man to protect them. Ted Avery loves the piece and makes it the cover story. Tyrone becomes the talk of the town, and Jonathan is a media sensation. Several other news outlets offer work, and Jonathan starts doing television reports for Channel 3 about the grittier aspects of the city in a segment titled “Street Smart.” Meanwhile, a pimp named Leo Smalls, Jr., who goes by the name of “Fast Black,” stops by a low-rent hotel to check on his women. Finding a john beating up one of his prostitutes, Fast Black kicks him several times in the chest, and the man dies from a heart attack. When police arrest Fast Black, the district attorney charges him with second-degree murder. Fast Black’s lawyer, Joel Davis, tries to get the charge lowered to involuntary manslaughter, but the DA refuses. Nonetheless, Fast Black makes bail. His lawyer comes up with the idea that Jonathan Fisher’s article was about Fast Black, due to the similarities between him and the “Tyrone” character, and that he can turn the trial into a constitutional confrontation about freedom of the press and a reporter protecting his sources. One of Fast Black’s prostitutes, “Punchy,” chats up Jonathan and takes him to a hotel, where they have sex. Later, Punchy introduces Jonathan to Fast Black. The two hit it off well, but Fast Black comments that “Tyrone” seems unreal and could not survive for twenty minutes on the streets. Jonathan takes Fast Black and Punchy to a party at Ted Avery’s Upper East Side apartment. The guests are fascinated by Fast Black, who claims he is “Tyrone.” However, Jonathan’s girl friend, Alison, who knows “Tyrone” is fictional, is uncomfortable with people making a fuss over the pimp. When they return home, Alison packs her bags and leaves, claiming she does not like what Jonathan has turned into. At Fast Black’s trial, the judge orders Jonathan to surrender his notes. When Jonathan refuses, the judge finds him in contempt of court and jails him. After several days, Jonathan is released on appeal, and Fast Black sends for him. The pimp instructs Jonathan to create the notes the court wants, but to indicate that the two of them were in Rockaway, on Long Island, on the day the man was killed. Jonathan balks at the idea, saying it would be conspiracy. Fast Black threatens Jonathan’s loved one if he does not comply. The next day, Punchy shows Jonathan that Fast Black beat her up and advises him that others will be hurt unless Jonathan writes the notes. Jonathan meets with the magazine’s lawyer, Art Sheffield, and announces the entire story was fiction. They go to the judge, who disbelieves Jonathan and jails him again. When Punchy does not follow Fast Black’s orders, he kills her. Later, Alison Parker is hospitalized after one of Fast Black’s henchmen, Reggie, stabs her in the stomach. When Jonathan is released from jail again, he meets with Fast Black. Under threat of immediate death, Jonathan promises to write the notes if the pimp will leave his friends alone. Soon, Fast Black is acquitted. A few days later, Jonathan exacts his revenge when he gives $200 to Darlene, one of Fast Black’s prostitutes, and instructs her to give the money to the henchman Reggie. Jonathan videotapes the scene, then shows it to Reggie, with the warning that it could look like Reggie is going into business for himself. Reggie runs away and does not show up for work the next day. When Fast Black finds him, Reggie panics, believing his boss intends to kill him. He shoots Fast Black in the chest, killing him. As police arrest Reggie, Jonathan covers the story for the television news. +

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

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