Prizzi's Honor (1985)

R | 129 mins | Black comedy | 14 June 1985

Director:

John Huston

Producer:

John Foreman

Cinematographer:

Andrzej Bartkowiak

Editors:

Rudi Fehr, Kaja Fehr

Production Designer:

Dennis Washington

Production Company:

ABC Motion Pictures
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HISTORY

Director John Huston was directing the 1984 film, Under the Volcano (see entry), when he sent a copy of Richard Condon’s 1982 novel, Prizzi’s Honor , to Foreman, with whom he had made three previous films. According to a 19 Sep 1984 DV article, Huston was not interested in the property for himself, but believed Foreman might wish to work on it. Foreman attached Huston’s daughter, actress Anjelica Huston, and actor Jack Nicholson, and had Condon write a first draft screenplay. John Huston’s friend, Janet Roach, was brought in as a collaborator on later drafts of the script. Foreman returned to Huston, who “was pulled into the project because he knew everyone involved.”
       In a 31 May 1985 HR article, columnist Arthur Knight noted that Prizzi’s Honor was “a family film in more ways than one,” because of its depiction of a Mafia family and because members of Huston’s real-life family and former collaborators were involved in the production. His daughter, Anjelica Huston, and Jack Nicholson, who had been romantically involved for many years, were cast in lead roles. Huston’s assistant for Prizzi’s Honor was twenty-six-year-old Monique Blanke, the daughter of Henry Blanke, a Warner Bros. producer who had been important to Huston’s early career. Huston also hired Meta Carpenter Wilde, the script supervisor who worked with him on the 1941 film, The Maltese Falcon , and Rudi Fehr, the film editor for his 1948 picture, Key Largo .
       In a 2010 interview with Tony Tracy, Anjelica Huston stated that her father cast his former secretary, Annie Selepegno, as “Aunt Amalia,” although an experienced actress, Julie ... More Less

Director John Huston was directing the 1984 film, Under the Volcano (see entry), when he sent a copy of Richard Condon’s 1982 novel, Prizzi’s Honor , to Foreman, with whom he had made three previous films. According to a 19 Sep 1984 DV article, Huston was not interested in the property for himself, but believed Foreman might wish to work on it. Foreman attached Huston’s daughter, actress Anjelica Huston, and actor Jack Nicholson, and had Condon write a first draft screenplay. John Huston’s friend, Janet Roach, was brought in as a collaborator on later drafts of the script. Foreman returned to Huston, who “was pulled into the project because he knew everyone involved.”
       In a 31 May 1985 HR article, columnist Arthur Knight noted that Prizzi’s Honor was “a family film in more ways than one,” because of its depiction of a Mafia family and because members of Huston’s real-life family and former collaborators were involved in the production. His daughter, Anjelica Huston, and Jack Nicholson, who had been romantically involved for many years, were cast in lead roles. Huston’s assistant for Prizzi’s Honor was twenty-six-year-old Monique Blanke, the daughter of Henry Blanke, a Warner Bros. producer who had been important to Huston’s early career. Huston also hired Meta Carpenter Wilde, the script supervisor who worked with him on the 1941 film, The Maltese Falcon , and Rudi Fehr, the film editor for his 1948 picture, Key Largo .
       In a 2010 interview with Tony Tracy, Anjelica Huston stated that her father cast his former secretary, Annie Selepegno, as “Aunt Amalia,” although an experienced actress, Julie Bovasso, was interested in the role. Bovasso did not appear in a credited role in the film, but was listed onscreen in the crew as “Dialect coach/Technical advisor” and was later described by Huston as “the voice of the movie.” According to a 15 Oct 1984 New Yorker article, at the first production meeting, Huston told his assembled cast and crew that he was “looking for a sound” and that Bovasso would “give it” to them. In the Tracy interview, Anjelica Huston reported that the entire cast spoke with Bovasso’s Brooklyn-Italian accent and that many of them, including Nicholson, remained in character throughout the production.
       In a May-Jun 1985 Film Comment article, Nicholson stated that he created a "little device,” that helped him “talk funny.” According to Nicholson’s observation, Sicilians and Italians hold their upper lips still when they speak. He stated that, “One small thing like that can give you the spine of a character." Although Nicholson did not divulge to the Film Comment reporter his technique for achieving that effect, Anjelica Huston reported in the Tracy interview that Nicholson put tissue paper under his lip.
       In a 15 Oct 1984 New Yorker article, titled “Forty” in direct reference to Huston’s fortieth directorial effort with Prizzi’s Honor , the article’s author, Lillian Ross, followed John Huston during several days of filming. Huston, then seventy-eight years old, led a first production meeting and a read-through of the script, in which he emphasized that all of the characters in the film would be introduced in the very first scene, a wedding sequence. Huston requested that William Hickey, a character actor in his fifties who would later be cast as the eighty-four-year-old “Don Corrado Prizzi,” be fitted in an over-large suit to emphasize the Don’s shrunken appearance. According to the same article, portions of the film were shot in Brooklyn and at Le Bel Age Hotel near Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA.
       A 7 Jul 1987 Long Beach Press-Telegram article reported that Rocco Musacchia, who was suspected of belonging to an organized crime family in New York according to FBI affidavits, served as technical advisor for Prizzi’s Honor . When asked about Musacchia, Foreman stated that he “works on most of the pictures that go to New York as sort of a local contact. He knows his way around Brooklyn.”
       Reviews for the film were generally favorable. The 3 Jun 1985 Var review anticipated possible audience confusion rising from the “bizarre nature of the film’s tone,” which began with “slyly funny moments” and developed into a “Godfatheresque drama.” The reviewer reported that the ad campaign accented the comedy and praised Nicholson for “catching the amoral rhythms of the syndicate underworld.” The 14 Jun 1985 NYT reviewer, Vincent Canby, saw energy and adventure in Prizzi’s Honor and correctly predicted an Oscar nomination for Anjelica Huston. He praised the film for including “great chunks of the original Condon dialogue,” such as, “Do I ice her? Do I marry her?”, a line spoken by Nicholson’s character, “Charley,” when he is unsure about trusting the woman he loves.
       The 14 Jun 1985 LAT review described Prizzi’s Honor as “ The Maltese Falcon set in Brooklyn and done like Italian opera.” Benson compared the richly drawn characters populating the film to the colorful casts in Huston’s earlier films. The reviewer mentioned that the film was “helped by a dangerously witty musical score by Alex North, who underlines Sicilian dirty tricks with quotations from Rossini overtures and Verdi marches.”
       A 10 Apr 1988 LAT article stated that North’s score for Prizzi’s Honor was deemed ineligible for an Academy Award in the Best Original Score category because of the composer’s musical references. The article quoted a letter from the music branch executive chairman, John Addison, to North’s agent stating that North’s score was “primarily an adaptation of other composers’ music.” The article reported that the “music adaptation” category, for which North’s score would have been eligible, had been discontinued in 1984. North and his musical colleagues protested, and, according to the article, North believed that the Honorary Academy Award he was given in 1986 was a result of the “outcry within the [musical] branch” after the Prizzi’s Honor score was rejected.
       Prizzi’s Honor was named Best Picture of the Year by the New York Film Critics Association, and also won awards for Best Director (John Huston), Best Actor (Jack Nicholson) and Best Supporting Actress (Anjelica Huston). The film was nominated for Golden Globes for Best Screenplay-Motion Picture and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, and won Golden Globes for Best Director, Best Motion Picture-Comedy/Musical, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical (Nicholson) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical (Kathleen Turner).
       The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Nicholson), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (William Hickey), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anjelica Huston), Best Costume Design (Donfeld), Best Director (Huston), Best Film Editing (Rudi Fehr, Kaja Fehr), Best Picture (Foreman) and Best Writing Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Condon and Roach). Anjelica Huston was the sole winner from the group.
       Anjelica Huston’s award for Best Supporting Actress made Academy Awards history for the Huston family by creating three generations of Oscar winners. John Huston won two Academy Awards (Best Director and Best Writing, Screenplay) for his work on The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948, see entry), and his father, Walter Huston, won Best Supporting Actor for his role as the gold prospector in the same film. For his work on Prizzi’s Honor , John Huston was nominated by the DGA for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, and he won the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Ciak award.


The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant John Theofanis, a student at University of Texas at Austin, with Janet Staiger as academic advisor.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 Sep 1984
p. 1, 21.
Film Comment
May-Jun 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 May 1985.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 1985
p. 3, 12.
Long Beach Press-Telegram
7 Jul 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Jun 1985
p. 1, 10.
Los Angeles Times
10 Apr 1988.
---
New York Times
14 Jun 1985
p. 8.
New Yorker
15 Oct 1984.
---
Variety
3 Jun 1985.
---
Variety
5 Jun 1985
p. 14.
Variety
14 Jun 1985.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A John Huston Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr, Los Angeles
Prod mgr, New York
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir, New York crew
2d asst dir, Los Angeles crew
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op, New York crew
Cam op, Los Angeles crew
Steadicam op, Los Angeles crew
1st asst cam, New York crew
1st asst cam, New York crew
1st asst cam, Los Angeles crew
2d asst cam, New York crew
2d asst cam, Los Angeles crew
Gaffer, New York crew
Gaffer, Los Angeles crew
Best boy, New York crew
Best boy, Los Angeles crew
Elec, New York crew
Key grip, New York crew
Key grip, Los Angeles crew
Best boy grip, New York crew
Best boy grip, Los Angeles crew
Dolly grip, New York crew
Dolly grip, Los Angeles crew
Grip, Los Angeles crew
Grip, Los Angeles crew
Still photog, New York crew
Still photog, Los Angeles crew
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir, New York crew
Art dir, Los Angeles crew
Asst art dir, New York crew
Storyboard artist, New York crew
Prod asst, Art dept
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed, Los Angeles crew
Asst ed, New York crew
Apprentice ed, New York crew
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec, New York crew
Set des, Los Angeles crew
Prop master
Prop master, New York crew
Asst propman, New York crew
Asst propman, Los Angeles crew
Swing man, Los Angeles crew
Swing man, Los Angeles crew
Swing man, Los Angeles crew
Scenic chargeman, New York crew
Painter foreman, Los Angeles crew
Const coord, Los Angeles crew
Labor foreman, Los Angeles crew
Lead man, New York crew
Lead man, Los Angeles crew
Carpenter chief, New York crew
Const grip, New York crew
Prod asst, Const crew
Prod asst, Const crew
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost dept head, Los Angeles crew
Men's cost supv, Los Angeles crew
Ladies' cost supv, Los Angeles crew
Men's cost, New York crew
Men's cost, New York crew
MUSIC
Mus rec, Los Angeles crew
Mus ed, Los Angeles crew
SOUND
Prod sd mixer, New York crew
Prod sd mixer, Los Angeles crew
Boom op, New York crew
Boom man, Los Angeles crew
Sd rec, New York crew
Cable man, Los Angeles crew
Re-rec mixer, Los Angeles crew
Re-rec mixer, Los Angeles crew
Re-rec mixer, Los Angeles crew
Sd by, Los Angeles crew
Sd des, Los Angeles crew
Sd ed, Los Angeles crew
Sd ed, Los Angeles crew
ADR casting, Los Angeles crew
ADR ed, Los Angeles crew
ADR ed, Los Angeles crew
Footsteps, Los Angeles crew
Footsteps, Los Angeles crew
Foley rec, Los Angeles crew
Dolby stereo consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff, New York crew
Opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup for Mr. Nicholson
Makeup for Miss Turner
Makeup, New York crew
Spec makeup, New York crew
Hair stylist
Hair styles for Kathleen Turner and Anjelica Husto
Hair stylist, Los Angeles crew
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Extra casting, New York crew
Casting asst, New York crew
Casting asst, Los Angeles crew
Extra casting asst, New York crew
Dialect coach/Tech adv, New York crew
Tech adv, New York crew
Tech adv, New York crew
Exec in charge of prod
Prod supv, New York crew
Post prod supv, Los Angeles crew
Prod coord, Los Angeles crew
Prod coord, New York crew
Preprod coord, New York crew
Asst prod coord, New York crew
Prod exec
Prod auditor, New York crew
Asst prod auditor, New York crew
Loc mgr
Loc mgr, New York crew
Loc scout, New York crew
Scr supv
Pub coord
Pub, Los Angeles crew
Prod assoc
Asst to the prod
Asst to Mr. Huston
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst, Office
Prod asst, Set
Prod asst, Set
Prod asst, Set
Therapist/Nurse, New York crew
Therapist/Nurse, New York crew
Loc nurse, Los Angeles crew
D.G.A. trainee, New York crew
A.F.I. intern, New York crew
Transportation coord, Los Angeles crew
Transportation capt, New York crew
Transportation capt, Los Angeles crew
Dispatcher, Los Angeles crew
Prod van driver, Los Angeles crew
Prop truck, Los Angeles crew
Ward trailer, Los Angeles crew
Craft service, Los Angeles crew
Some still photos provided by
STAND INS
Stunt coord, New York crew
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Prizzi's Honor by Richard Condon (New York, 1982).
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 June 1985
Production Date:
began 3 October 1984
Copyright Claimant:
ABC Motion Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
5 August 1985
Copyright Number:
PA257365
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo in selected theatres
Color
Deluxe
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision
Duration(in mins):
129
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27675
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Don Corrado Prizzi admires Angelo “Pops” Partanna’s new baby boy, Charley. Years later, and now in the Cub Scouts, Charley receives a set of brass knuckles as a Christmas present. Then, as an adult Charley takes part in a mob family blood ritual conducted by Don Corrado. The Prizzis will protect Charley, and he, in turn, must protect Prizzi's honor. Still later, The Prizzi family and friends, including a large contingent of uniformed police in the rear pews, congregate for a lavish wedding in a Brooklyn church. A wizened Don Corrado snoozes in a front pew. His eyes pop open for a brief second as he scans the scene. Charley admires a blonde woman in a lavender dress, watching from the church balcony; but his ex-girlfriend, Maerose Prizzi, back in Brooklyn after a four-year exile, swoops in and greets him. At the wedding reception, Charley asks the blonde woman in lavender to dance, but she is summoned to the phone and disappears. Maerose, teary-eyed, tells Charley that her father, Dominic, just called her a whore. She then snaps at Charley when he advises her to forget about Dominic and leave the Prizzi environment. Charley is arrested as a suspect in a mob hit. His father, who is the Prizzi family’s consiglieri, bails him out and explains that outside talent was hired to do the killing. Irene Walker, the woman in lavender, calls Charley and apologizes for her abrupt departure. They make plans for lunch for the following day, but on the west coast. At a California hotel, Charley and Irene share stories, and Charley explains that he and Maerose had a big fight. As a ... +


Don Corrado Prizzi admires Angelo “Pops” Partanna’s new baby boy, Charley. Years later, and now in the Cub Scouts, Charley receives a set of brass knuckles as a Christmas present. Then, as an adult Charley takes part in a mob family blood ritual conducted by Don Corrado. The Prizzis will protect Charley, and he, in turn, must protect Prizzi's honor. Still later, The Prizzi family and friends, including a large contingent of uniformed police in the rear pews, congregate for a lavish wedding in a Brooklyn church. A wizened Don Corrado snoozes in a front pew. His eyes pop open for a brief second as he scans the scene. Charley admires a blonde woman in a lavender dress, watching from the church balcony; but his ex-girlfriend, Maerose Prizzi, back in Brooklyn after a four-year exile, swoops in and greets him. At the wedding reception, Charley asks the blonde woman in lavender to dance, but she is summoned to the phone and disappears. Maerose, teary-eyed, tells Charley that her father, Dominic, just called her a whore. She then snaps at Charley when he advises her to forget about Dominic and leave the Prizzi environment. Charley is arrested as a suspect in a mob hit. His father, who is the Prizzi family’s consiglieri, bails him out and explains that outside talent was hired to do the killing. Irene Walker, the woman in lavender, calls Charley and apologizes for her abrupt departure. They make plans for lunch for the following day, but on the west coast. At a California hotel, Charley and Irene share stories, and Charley explains that he and Maerose had a big fight. As a result, she ran off to Mexico and caused the family scandal which lead to her exile from Brooklyn. Charley and Irene, who is Polish and claims to be a tax consultant, tour L.A. in her luxury car, and later have sex. However, Prizzi family business forces Charley to return for a meeting back east, where he learns that the family’s Las Vegas casino was robbed of $720,000 by Louis Palo, a Prizzi employee, and another man named Marxie Heller. Palo has been found murdered, but Charley gets assigned to kill Heller and recover the money. Charley returns to Los Angeles, goes to Heller’s house, and kills him in the garage. A female voice calls from inside the house; Irene, who turns out to be Heller’s wife, has returned home. Shocked at the revelation, Charley wants the $720,000 and an explanation. Irene finds $360,000 in a bag and claims she has not seen Heller in five years. Still in love with Irene, Charley lets her go. Back in New York, the Prizzis are not happy with only half the money, and things become worse when Pops tells Charley that Irene is a hired assassin who has been employed by the Prizzis in the past. Charley calls Maerose in middle of night. After they have sex, he explains his dilemma regarding Irene: "Do I ice her, or do I marry her? Which of these?" Maerose sees a chance to get back in the Prizzi family if Charley marries Irene, so she counsels marriage. Charley and Irene marry in Mexico, but the honeymoon is interrupted. Charley must attend another business meeting in Brooklyn. Eduardo Prizzi, a lawyer, announces a plan to kidnap a bank executive named Finlay, for stealing from a Prizzi bank. Finlay’s real name is Rosario Filargi, and Eduardo says the Prizzis will benefit from a big insurance settlement. Charley, Pops and Irene plan the kidnapping, but Charley has misgivings, telling Pops, "I didn't get married so my wife could go on working." Maerose returns home and tells her father that Charley violated her multiple times before going to California to be married. Charley and Irene kidnap Filargi and kill his bodyguard but things go haywire when an innocent woman happens upon the scene. Irene is forced to kill the woman, who turns out to be the wife of a police captain. Meanwhile, Maerose goes to Las Vegas and discovers Irene aided Heller with the theft and the Louis Palo killing. Unaware of recent developments, Dominic hires Irene to kill Charley in retribution for the supposed violation of Maerose. Don Corrado is visited by Maerose, who shows him incriminating pictures of Irene in Las Vegas. The police, enraged by the killing of the captain’s wife, shut down all mob activities. Irene visits Don Corrado and he warns she has five days to return the remaining 360,000 plus a 50% penalty. Later, when Charley has dinner with Corrado, he learns that the Don wants to ship Dominic out to Vegas for retirement and make Charley the family boss as soon as the Filargi thing is settled. Charley and Irene have a post-coital discussion and he thinks the Don may be a setting him up for a fall. She tells Charley that Dominic put out a contract on his life. He decides to consult with Pops, and they come up with a plan—kidnap Filargi from the Prizzis. Eduardo reads a letter from Charley setting financial terms for the return of Filargi to the family. Dominic is killed in the street after a meeting, and Pops and Eduardo break the news to Don Corrado. The Don is now convinced Charley’s return is required, for only Charley can hold the Prizzi family together. Charley realizes Corrado was sincere, figures that he can get off the hook for kidnapping Filargi by turning him over to the authorities. However, he learns that the Prizzis have decided to give Irene, the second killer of the police captain’s wife, to the cops, and Charley gets the job to kill his own wife. Pops reminds Charley this is only a matter of business. Irene packs her bags for a trip but Charley shows up at her L.A. doorstep. As Irene readies for bed by putting a silencer on a pistol, Charley places a stiletto close by. She fires at Charlie but hits the pillow. He throws the knife and pierces her throat. Charley puts Irene’s body in the trunk of her car and parks it at L.A. airport. He calls Maerose and says Irene has gone away and won't be back. Charley invites Maerose to dinner and a return to their life together. Maerose’s joyful "Holy cow Charley!” means both are headed back to Brooklyn and a future upholding Prizzi’s honor. +

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

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