Ernest Goes to Jail (1990)

PG | 88 mins | Comedy | 6 April 1990

Director:

John Cherry

Writer:

Charlie Cohen

Producer:

Stacy Williams

Cinematographer:

Peter Stein

Production Designer:

Chris August

Production Companies:

Emshell Producers Group , Touchstone Pictures, Silver Screen Partners IV
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HISTORY

       Although the character “Mr. Nash” is introduced early, his face is not revealed until roughly twenty-five minutes into the film.
       Ernest Goes to Jail was the third of eight theatrical films starring Jim Varney as “Ernest P. Worrell,” a character he and director John Cherry developed in Nashville, TN, in 1980 for an advertising campaign. The Walt Disney Company registered the Ernest Goes to Jail title with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) as early as Mar 1988, according to the 3 Apr 1988 LAT. Other registered titles included Ernest and the Voodoo King and Ernest Goes Bad, but neither project was filmed under those titles. The 1 Sep 1988 LAT reported that other upcoming projects included Ernest Goes to the Army (1998, see entry), which would eventually be the final Ernest film released ten years later.
       Actor Jim Varney told the 7 Jul 1989 Austin American Statesman that John Cherry shot “some advance footage” on him as the villain, until he perfected the character he called “Public Enemy #1,” who later became “Mr. Nash.” Varney explained, “We can’t really give them any physical differences, so it’s got to be how I play it.”
       Principal photography began 25 Sep 1989, the 15 Nov 1989 Var noted.
       According to studio documents in AMPAS library files, production designer Chris August created a studio inside a 100,000-square-foot former manufacturing plant in Nashville, in which he built the Howard County Bank & Trust, two three-story jail cell tiers, an electrocution room, Ernest’s house, and various hallways. Three days of filming also ... More Less

       Although the character “Mr. Nash” is introduced early, his face is not revealed until roughly twenty-five minutes into the film.
       Ernest Goes to Jail was the third of eight theatrical films starring Jim Varney as “Ernest P. Worrell,” a character he and director John Cherry developed in Nashville, TN, in 1980 for an advertising campaign. The Walt Disney Company registered the Ernest Goes to Jail title with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) as early as Mar 1988, according to the 3 Apr 1988 LAT. Other registered titles included Ernest and the Voodoo King and Ernest Goes Bad, but neither project was filmed under those titles. The 1 Sep 1988 LAT reported that other upcoming projects included Ernest Goes to the Army (1998, see entry), which would eventually be the final Ernest film released ten years later.
       Actor Jim Varney told the 7 Jul 1989 Austin American Statesman that John Cherry shot “some advance footage” on him as the villain, until he perfected the character he called “Public Enemy #1,” who later became “Mr. Nash.” Varney explained, “We can’t really give them any physical differences, so it’s got to be how I play it.”
       Principal photography began 25 Sep 1989, the 15 Nov 1989 Var noted.
       According to studio documents in AMPAS library files, production designer Chris August created a studio inside a 100,000-square-foot former manufacturing plant in Nashville, in which he built the Howard County Bank & Trust, two three-story jail cell tiers, an electrocution room, Ernest’s house, and various hallways. Three days of filming also took place at Tennessee State Penitentiary.
       The Jun 1990 Box reported that Ernest Goes to Jail grossed $17 million in its first seventeen days of release.


      A title card early in the film identifies “Dracup Maximum Security Prison.” End credits give the following information: “Special Thanks to: Chester Butler; Steinmart; Tennessee State Penitentiary; Tennessee State Film Commission. Filmed entirely on location in Nashville, Tennessee.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Austin American Statesman
7 Jul 1989
Section H, p. 8.
Box Office
Jun 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 1990.
p. 18, 67.
Los Angeles Times
3 Apr 1988
Section J, pp. 28-30.
Los Angeles Times
9 Apr 1990
p. 12.
New York Times
7 Apr 1990
p. 14.
Variety
15 Nov 1989
p. 19.
Variety
4 Apr 1990
p. 25.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
In association with Silver Screen Partners IV
Emshell Producers Group Production
A Film by John Cherry
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st ass cam
2d asst cam
2d unit cam/Steadicam
2d unit asst cam
Loader
Best boy elec
Elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly girp
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept coord
FILM EDITORS
Film ed by
Film ed
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadman
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Const coord
Const crew
Const crew
Const crew
Const crew
Const crew
Const crew
Const crew
Const crew
Const crew
Const crew
Const crew
Const crew
Lead painter
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic painter
Scenic painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Costumer
Tailor
SOUND
Boom op
Cableperson
Sd supv
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Dial ed
Asst dial ed
Supv re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Temp mix supv
Post prod sd facilities provided by
VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual eff supv
Spec eff coord
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff equip furnished by
Visual eff coord
Visual eff ed
Motion control op
Opt supv
Opt cam op
Opt cam op
Opt line-up
Opt line-up
Opt line-up
Opt line-up
Opt line-up
Opt line-up
Eff anim
Blue scr compositing
Main title des
Opticals by
Titles by
MAKEUP
Key makeup artist
Hairstylist
Makeup/Hair asst
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Casting assoc
Extras casting coord
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Prod secy
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
2d asst accountant
Loc mgr
Prod asst
Prod asst
Craft service
Craft service asst
First aid
Transportation coord
Transportation co-capt
Transportation co-capt
Driver
Driver
Honey wagon
Catering
Catering
Barkley provided by
Dog trainer
Dog trainer
Asst to Mr. Cherry
Asst to Ms. Williams
Asst to Mr. Varney
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Doin' Time," music and lyrics by Bruce Arntson, performed by Bruce Arntson
"Coconut Tree," music and lyrics by Bruce Arntson, performed by Bruce Arntson
"Nash Sleaze," music and lyrics by Bruce Arntson, performed by Bruce Arntson.
PERFORMER
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Series:
Alternate Title:
Ernest Goes Bad
Release Date:
6 April 1990
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 6 April 1990
New York opening: week of 7 April 1990
Production Date:
began 25 September 1989
Copyright Claimant:
Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc.
Copyright Date:
10 April 1990
Copyright Number:
PA457306
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Prints
Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
88
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

While polishing the marble floor of the Howard County Bank & Trust, janitor Ernest P. Worrell flicks a switch on his buffer that turns it into a runaway machine, dragging him all over the bank and destroying desks. Soaked by cleaning fluid, Ernest is electrocuted by a falling lamp. His body becomes an electro-magnet, attracting everything from paper clips to a metal waste paper basket. Two file cabinets chase him into the vault, where two safety deposit boxes pop out of their slots and demagnetize him. Despite the mayhem, the bank’s two security guards, brothers Chuck and Bobby, fail to notice anything going on. Meanwhile, at Dracup Maximum Security Prison, African-American inmate Rubin Bartlett tries to escape after murdering another convict. He rushes for help to fellow inmate Mr. Felix Nash, a dead ringer for Ernest P. Worrell, but Nash lets the pursuing guards take Rubin back to his cell. At the bank the next morning, employee Charlotte Sparrow arrives, finds Ernest lying in the vault, and tells him to clean up the mess before bank president Oscar Pendlesmythe shows up. She gives Ernest a pep talk about diligently studying the books she gives him and having faith that he can work his way up to bank clerk. At the prison, Mr. Nash and his menacing henchman, Lyle, threaten another convict who owes them money. In tears, the inmate claims he will have the cash by nightfall. As Mr. Pendlesmythe arrives at the Howard County Bank & Trust, Ernest accidentally splashes soapy water on his shoes. Charlotte pulls the hapless janitor aside and asks him to have dinner that evening, so they can talk about putting together his job ... +


While polishing the marble floor of the Howard County Bank & Trust, janitor Ernest P. Worrell flicks a switch on his buffer that turns it into a runaway machine, dragging him all over the bank and destroying desks. Soaked by cleaning fluid, Ernest is electrocuted by a falling lamp. His body becomes an electro-magnet, attracting everything from paper clips to a metal waste paper basket. Two file cabinets chase him into the vault, where two safety deposit boxes pop out of their slots and demagnetize him. Despite the mayhem, the bank’s two security guards, brothers Chuck and Bobby, fail to notice anything going on. Meanwhile, at Dracup Maximum Security Prison, African-American inmate Rubin Bartlett tries to escape after murdering another convict. He rushes for help to fellow inmate Mr. Felix Nash, a dead ringer for Ernest P. Worrell, but Nash lets the pursuing guards take Rubin back to his cell. At the bank the next morning, employee Charlotte Sparrow arrives, finds Ernest lying in the vault, and tells him to clean up the mess before bank president Oscar Pendlesmythe shows up. She gives Ernest a pep talk about diligently studying the books she gives him and having faith that he can work his way up to bank clerk. At the prison, Mr. Nash and his menacing henchman, Lyle, threaten another convict who owes them money. In tears, the inmate claims he will have the cash by nightfall. As Mr. Pendlesmythe arrives at the Howard County Bank & Trust, Ernest accidentally splashes soapy water on his shoes. Charlotte pulls the hapless janitor aside and asks him to have dinner that evening, so they can talk about putting together his job application. Later, Ernest goes home to his small house, filled with Rube Goldberg-like contraptions he built himself. To prepare for his dinner date, he brushes his teeth with a special gadget holding several brushes, then takes a bath in a converted washing machine, which accidentally puts him into a spin-dry cycle and electrocutes him. When he meets Charlotte at an expensive restaurant, he is so magnetized that silverware attacks him. As a waiter passes by, a metal plate with a lobster flies out of his hand and sticks to Ernest’s face. At the prison, the warden visits Mr. Nash and threatens him about shaking down other convicts. Afterward, Nash tells Rubin and Lyle that he has to “get out of here.” The next day, Ernest in overjoyed to receive his notice to report for jury duty, because it proves the system has faith in him. In court, the prosecutor introduces murder defendant Rubin Bartlett, “henchman of crime czar” Felix Nash. Looking at the jury, Rubin sees Ernest, who has accidentally bitten into his pen and smeared his face with ink. Agreeing that Ernest looks very much like Nash, Rubin’s defense attorney asks the judge to let the jury visit the prison in order to better visualize the crime. That night, Rubin explains to Nash how they can switch him with Ernest, and then Nash can either intimidate the jury into finding Rubin innocent or hold out for a hung jury. When the jury visits Dracup, Lyle and Nash lure Ernest behind a trash bin and knock him out. Clothes are switched, and Nash joins the jurors. Ernest awakens in prison garb and thinks he is being sequestered with other jurors. During the evening meal, Ernest is confused when people call him Mr. Nash. Only when he is taken to his cell and meets Lyle, the man who knocked him out, does he realize what has happened. He calls the guards to protest, but Lyle informs him that Mr. Nash has taken his place on the outside and will hurt his friends if anything happens. Fearing for Charlotte’s safety, Ernest agrees to go along with the plan. In town, Chuck and Bobby pick up “Ernest” at the courthouse and drive him home. They notice the difference in his demeanor, but attribute it to Ernest’s newfound love for Charlotte. Arriving at the house, Nash throws Ernest’s dog, Rimshot, outside and vows to get rid of all the gadgets. The next day, Nash sways the jury to find the defendant innocent, and Rubin is returned to Dracup to complete his current sentence. At Dracup, Rubin teaches Ernest how to act tough like Mr. Nash and keep his mouth shut. When an inmate named Spider challenges Ernest to an arm-wrestling contest, Lyle flashes a large blade, along with a murderous sneer, to intimidate Spider into letting Ernest win. Meanwhile, Charlotte is impressed with the way “Ernest” stands up to Mr. Pendlesmythe. That night, Chuck and Bobby show “Ernest” their new gadget, an electrified cage that drops from the ceiling in case of a robbery. At the prison, the warden informs “Mr. Nash” that the court has turned down his appeal and he will be returned to death row. When Charlotte drops by Ernest’s house, she is surprised to see that it has been turned into a bachelor pad. Nash forces himself on her, but Rimshot the dog bites his leg. After Charlotte slaps Nash’s face and storms out, he tosses Rimshot into a trashcan and puts the lid on. At the prison, guards, the warden, and a chaplain accompany Ernest to the electric chair and strap him in. When the electricity is turned on, Ernest becomes electromagnetic. As electric bolts shoot from his body and break his straps, everybody runs. Ernest knocks down the main gate with electric fireballs. Rubin tries to keep him from escaping, but Lyle, who has grown to like Ernest, intercedes. Arriving home, Ernest is shocked to find Rimshot in the trashcan and discover that his living room now looks like “Elvis lives here.” At the bank, Nash prepares to blow up the vault. Charlotte arrives to confront him, but Nash ties her up next to Chuck, then places his bomb in front of the vault and sets the timer. Outside, police surround the bank. When Ernest arrives, Nash points his gun at him, but Bobby shoots it out of his hand. As Ernest fights Nash with the special “powers” conferred upon him by electricity, Bobby tries to drop the cage on them, but misses. However, Ernest falls against it, receiving even more electricity, allowing him to fly. He grabs the bomb, soars through the skylight, and tosses it away moments before it detonates above the town. Running out of electricity, Ernest falls back to earth, landing on Nash. As police take the escaped prisoner away, a blackened and disheveled Ernest announces, “I came, I saw, I got blowed up.” +

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

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