Bugsy (1991)

R | 135 mins | Drama | 13 December 1991

Director:

Barry Levinson

Writer:

James Toback

Cinematographer:

Allen Daviau

Editor:

Stewart Linder

Production Designer:

Dennis Gassner

Production Company:

TriStar Pictures
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HISTORY

In a 9-15 Jan 1992 Hollywood Drama-Logue article, actor-producer Warren Beatty stressed that the script was based on fact, although chronology was somewhat altered and various events were compressed “for dramatic unity.” A 20 Dec 1991 Las Vegas Review article noted the following inaccuracies: in the film, Beatty’s “Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel” promises investors that Las Vegas, NV, depicted as a small, old-fashioned frontier town, will experience a boom when the Hoover Dam is finally completed, while in real life, Las Vegas was already a bustling city when Bugsy Siegel arrived, and the Hoover Dam had been finished nearly a decade earlier in 1936; HR founder William “Billy” Wilkerson broke ground on the Flamingo Hotel before Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky became involved, therefore neither the name of the Flamingo, which the film implies is based on actress Virginia Hill’s nickname, nor the hotel was the result of Bugsy Siegel’s singular vision; the Flamingo opened one day later than depicted, on 26 Dec 1946 instead of Christmas Day, and had a successful opening night as opposed to the failure shown in the film; and finally, the Flamingo did not close the day after its grand opening but a month later in late Jan 1946, with a re-opening in Mar 1947, during which time Bugsy Siegel remained alive and in charge of the hotel until his murder on 20 Jun 1947.
       Bugsy was said to be in development for eight years, with Warren Beatty funding script development and providing pre-production financing before a studio came on board, as noted in a 5 Oct 1990 DV brief. Columbia ... More Less

In a 9-15 Jan 1992 Hollywood Drama-Logue article, actor-producer Warren Beatty stressed that the script was based on fact, although chronology was somewhat altered and various events were compressed “for dramatic unity.” A 20 Dec 1991 Las Vegas Review article noted the following inaccuracies: in the film, Beatty’s “Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel” promises investors that Las Vegas, NV, depicted as a small, old-fashioned frontier town, will experience a boom when the Hoover Dam is finally completed, while in real life, Las Vegas was already a bustling city when Bugsy Siegel arrived, and the Hoover Dam had been finished nearly a decade earlier in 1936; HR founder William “Billy” Wilkerson broke ground on the Flamingo Hotel before Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky became involved, therefore neither the name of the Flamingo, which the film implies is based on actress Virginia Hill’s nickname, nor the hotel was the result of Bugsy Siegel’s singular vision; the Flamingo opened one day later than depicted, on 26 Dec 1946 instead of Christmas Day, and had a successful opening night as opposed to the failure shown in the film; and finally, the Flamingo did not close the day after its grand opening but a month later in late Jan 1946, with a re-opening in Mar 1947, during which time Bugsy Siegel remained alive and in charge of the hotel until his murder on 20 Jun 1947.
       Bugsy was said to be in development for eight years, with Warren Beatty funding script development and providing pre-production financing before a studio came on board, as noted in a 5 Oct 1990 DV brief. Columbia Pictures reportedly expressed interest before TriStar Pictures took on the project. Around the time Bugsy was announced as his next film in the 9 Aug 1990 HR, Beatty was rumored to have abandoned two other projects, according to a 10 Nov 1990 Screen International item, including: The Doctor at Walt Disney Studios; and Flamingo, a rival Bugsy Siegel project set up at Twentieth Century Fox.
       Director Barry Levinson initially pursued Michelle Pfeiffer for the role of “Virginia Hill,” but Pfeiffer opted to star in Paramount Pictures’ Frankie & Johnny (1991, see entry). Ellen Barkin and Geena Davis were also considered for roles but did not appear in the film. A 22 Mar 1992 LAT brief quoted Levinson as saying he was baffled by the number of actors who turned down roles in the film, and noted that Ben Kingsley joined the cast only a week before shooting began.
       In addition to Fox’s rival Flamingo project, several films featuring Bugsy Siegel as a character were in development or production around the same time as Bugsy, including Mobsters and The Marrying Man (1991, see entries). Beatty, who was fifty-three-years-old at the start of filming, was the oldest actor portraying Siegel, who died at the age of forty-one. Another project listed as a potential rival in the 9 Aug 1990 HR was Playland, with a script by Joan Didion and, her husband, John Gregory Dunne. The project went unproduced, but Random House eventually published a book of the same name by Dunne in 1994, featuring a character based on Bugsy Siegel named “Jacob King,” according to the 28 Aug 1994 NYT review.
       A 29 Jan 1991 HR production chart listed the start of principal photography as 21 Jan 1991. The film had a seventy-two-week shooting schedule. A double for the Flamingo Hotel & Casino was built in the Mojave Desert between Ocotillo Wells and the Salton Sea, as noted in the 14 Jul 1991 LAT. While shooting in the desert, cast and crew stayed at the La Quinta Inn in Las Vegas. Production moved to Los Angeles, CA, where locations included Union Station, the Biltmore Hotel, and Chasen’s restaurant, as noted in a 24 Apr 1991 DV item. A Hancock Park mansion stood in for Bugsy’s Scarsdale, NY, home, according to a 31 Jan 1991 DV brief. Another mansion, built in the Craftsman style in 1893, was filmed in Pasadena, according to a 9 May 1993 LAT brief.
       Although Beatty spoke in a “slight Yiddish accent” at the start of production, the accent was later scrapped. Presumably as a result, the film depicts Bugsy practicing unaccented American speech by repeating the sentence, “Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.”
       Costume designer Albert Wolsky’s clothing budget was $1.5 million, as stated in the 27 Dec 1991 LAT. Beatty’s clothes and shoes were all custom-made and sewn by tailors at Western Costume, while Annette Bening’s costumes were sewn by Bill Hargate Costumes.
       Composer Ennio Morricone’s score for 1990’s State of Grace (see entry) was used as a “temporary soundtrack” during editing. Filmmakers subsequently “fell in love” with the State of Grace score, and Morricone agreed to create a “reasonable facsimile” for the Bugsy score, according to a 2 Mar 1992 Newsweek item.
       The 14 Jul 1991 LAT reported the film came in a million dollars over budget and one week over schedule. Although a 25 Nov 1991 Var article listed the budget as $32 million, prints and advertising costs were reportedly rising due to competition from Steven Spielberg’s Hook (see entry), another TriStar release, set to open on a wider scale two days before Bugsy. Various sources cited higher budgets, including the 9 Jan 1991 DV, which stated the film would cost roughly $50 million.
       A special screening took place 10 Dec 1991 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, with an after-party at the 21 Club. A 12 Dec 1991 Los Angeles premiere followed, at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), as noted in a 16 Dec 1991 LAT.
       Critical reception was largely positive, with consistent praise for Beatty’s performance and Levinson’s direction. A 1 Apr 1992 LAT brief stated the film had grossed $48 million, to that time, and quoted TriStar chairman Mike Medavoy as saying the film was doing “very well” overseas.
       Bugsy won Academy Awards for Art Direction and Costume Design, and received the following Academy Award nominations: Actor in a Leading Role (Beatty); Actor in a Supporting Role (Harvey Keitel); Actor in a Supporting Role (Ben Kingsley); Cinematography; Directing; Music (Original Score); Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen); and Best Picture. The film also won the Los Angeles Film Critics’ Association award for Best Picture and a National Board of Review award for Best Actor (Beatty).
       Columbia Tri-Star International launched its first-ever national promotion supporting a pay-per-view release for Bugsy, which was set for a 12 Aug 1992 pay-per-view debut, according to the 29 May 1992 DV. The promotion included thirty and sixty-second television commercials, print advertisements, and a “Desert Dream Sweepstakes” with a four-day Las Vegas vacation as the grand prize, and a Sony color television and camcorder as second and third prizes.
       According to many sources, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening fell in love during production. By the time the film opened, Bening was pregnant with Beatty’s child, and the couple was married soon after in Mar 1992.
End credits include the following statements: “Special Thanks to: Dr. Leroy Perry, Jr., The International Sports Medicine Institute”; “Research drawn from the book We Only Kill Each Other: The Life and Bad Times of Bugsy Siegel written by Dean Jennings”; "Scarface footage courtesy of MCA/Universal”; and, “Filmed in part at Culver Studiosdios, Culver City, California.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
5 Oct 1990.
---
Daily Variety
9 Jan 1991
p. 2.
Daily Variety
31 Jan 1991.
---
Daily Variety
23 Apr 1991.
---
Daily Variety
24 Apr 1991.
---
Daily Variety
5 Dec 1991
p. 2, 7.
Daily Variety
29 May 1992.
---
Hollywood Drama-Logue
9--15 Jan 1992
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Aug 1990
p. 1, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 1991
p. 5, 16.
Las Vegas Review
20 Dec 1991.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Jul 1991
Calendar, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1991
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
16 Dec 1991
Section E, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
27 Dec 1991
Section E, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
22 Mar 1992
Calendar, p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
29 Mar 1992
Calendar, p. 34.
Los Angeles Times
1 Apr 1992
Calendar, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
9 May 1993
Section K, p. 1.
New York Times
13 Dec 1991
Section C, p. 12.
New York Times
28 Aug 1994.
---
Newsweek
2 Mar 1992.
---
Screen International
10 Nov 1990.
---
Variety
25 Nov 1991
p. 1, 61.
Variety
9 Dec 1991
pp. 72-73
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
TriStar Pictures Presents
A Mulholland Productions/Baltimore Pictures Production
A Barry Levinson Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Film loader
Still photog
Video playback
Chief lighting tech
Elec best boy
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Prod illustrator
Art dept coord
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
Asst film ed
Addl ed by
Ed asst
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Prop master
Asst prop master
Prop asst
Matte paintings
Const coord
Const coord
Gen foreman
Gen foreman
Gen foreman
Gen foreman
Paint supv
Paint foreman
Paint foreman
Paint foreman
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men's cost supv
Women's cost supv
Asst cost des
Spec costumer
Men's costumer
Men's costumer
Men's costumer
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
Women's costumer
Women's costumer
MUSIC
Mus comp, orch, and cond by
Exec mus prod
Mus supv
Flugelhorn, Unione Musicisti Di Roma
Flute, Unione Musicisti Di Roma
Alto sax, Unione Musicisti Di Roma
Sd eng, Forum Studio-Rome
Asst, Forum Studio-Rome
Gen mus coord
SOUND
Sd des
Post prod sd services provided by
A division of LucasArts Entertainment Company
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv sd ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
ADR ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Supv Foley ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Sd des asst
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley rec
ADR mixer
ADR rec
Sd mixer
Boom op
Cableman
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff foreman
Spec eff
Titles and opt eff by
Miniature eff by, Stetson Visual Services
Miniature eff by, Stetson Visual Services
Chief model maker
Prod coord
Model maker
Model maker
Model maker
DANCE
Choreog
Choreog
MAKEUP
Key makeup artist
Spec makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Key hairstylist
Spec hairstylist
Hairstylist
Spec makeup eff
Rob Bottin Productions crew
Rob Bottin Productions crew
Rob Bottin Productions crew
Rob Bottin Productions crew
Rob Bottin Productions crew
Rob Bottin Productions crew
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Prod coord
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Set estimator
Loc mgr
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Picture cars
Asst prod coord
Prod secy
Spec asst
Spec asst
Asst to Mr. Levinson
Asst to Mr. Johnson
Asst to Mr. Johnson
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Casting assoc
Casting asst
Addl casting
Cont asst
First aid
Craft service
Spec catering
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive,” written by Johnny Mercer & Harold Arlen, performed by Johnny Mercer, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“Candy,” written by Alex Kramer, Mack David, & Joan Whitney, performed by Johnny Mercer & Jo Stafford, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“Come Rain Or Come Shine,” written by Johnny Mercer & Harold Arlen, performed by Margaret Whiting, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
+
SONGS
“Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive,” written by Johnny Mercer & Harold Arlen, performed by Johnny Mercer, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“Candy,” written by Alex Kramer, Mack David, & Joan Whitney, performed by Johnny Mercer & Jo Stafford, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“Come Rain Or Come Shine,” written by Johnny Mercer & Harold Arlen, performed by Margaret Whiting, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear To Tread),” written by Rube Bloom & Johnny Mercer, performed by Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra, courtesy of The RCA Records Label of BMG Music
“Long Ago And Far Away,” written by Jerome Kern & Ira Gershwin, performed by Jo Stafford, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“Moonlight In Vermont,” written by Karl Suessdorf & John Blackburn, performed by Margaret Whiting, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“Ole Buttermilk Sky,” written by Hoagy Carmichael & Jack Brooks, performed by Kay Kyser & His Orchestra, with Mike Douglas & The Campus Kids, courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“On A Slow Boat To China,” written by Frank Loesser
“Perfidia,” written by Alberto Dominguez & Milton Leeds, performed by Glenn Miller & His Orchestra, courtesy of The RCA Records Label of BMG Music
“Tanga, Rumba-Afro-Cubana,” written by Mario Bauza, performed by Machito’s Orchestra, Flip Phillips, soloist, courtesy of PolyGram Special Products, a division of PolyGram Group Distribution Inc.
“There I’ve Said It Again!” written by Redd Evans & David Mann, performed by Vaughn Monroe, courtesy of The RCA Records Label of BMG Music
“Torna A Surriento,” written by Ernesto DeCurtis & B. G. DeCurtis
“Waitin’ For The Train To Come In,” written by Sunny Skylar & Martin Block, performed by Peggy Lee, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
“Why Don’t You Do Right? (Get Me Some Money Too!)” written by Joe McCoy, performed by Peggy Lee, courtesy of Capitol Records, by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 December 1991
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 12 December 1991
Los Angeles and New York openings: 13 December 1991
Production Date:
began 21 January 1991
Copyright Claimant:
TriStar Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
17 January 1992
Copyright Number:
PA551443
Physical Properties:
Sound
Spectral Recording Dolby Stereo SR™ in selected theatres
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
135
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31278
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

New York gangster Benjamin Siegel, whose erratic behavior has earned him the nickname “Bugsy,” is sent to Los Angeles, California, by his bosses, Meyer Lansky and Charlie “Lucky” Luciano. Bugsy has orders to take over an illegal gambling operation run by small-time gangster Jack Dragna, and return home in four days. However, on his first day in Los Angeles, Bugsy visits George, an actor friend, on a movie set and becomes smitten with Virginia Hill, a spitfire actress known to date mobster Joey Adonis. Abandoning his wife, Esta, and two daughters in Scarsdale, New York, Bugsy buys opera singer Lawrence Tibbett’s Beverly Hills mansion for $50,000 in cash. He forces Jack Dragna to turn over his gambling rackets to Meyer Lansky and Charlie Luciano in exchange for a twenty-five percent stake in the business, and begins dating Virginia Hill. One day, Dragna reports to Bugsy that Mickey Cohen has robbed $56,000 from one of their gambling parlors. Bugsy confronts the short-tempered Cohen, who finally admits to stealing $42,000 and informs Bugsy that Virginia has a reputation for dating a lot of men, including musicians and bullfighters. Bugsy offers Cohen a job in return for the stolen money, and threatens Dragna at gunpoint for trying to steal from him by over-reporting the losses. Cohen takes Bugsy and Virginia on a road trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, where gambling is legal. He suggests Bugsy buy an existing gambling parlor, but Bugsy and Virginia are unimpressed by the dusty saloon Cohen shows them. Instead, Bugsy experiences a vision when they drive through the desert, and conceives of a high-end hotel and casino he wants to build there. Promising Virginia he is going ... +


New York gangster Benjamin Siegel, whose erratic behavior has earned him the nickname “Bugsy,” is sent to Los Angeles, California, by his bosses, Meyer Lansky and Charlie “Lucky” Luciano. Bugsy has orders to take over an illegal gambling operation run by small-time gangster Jack Dragna, and return home in four days. However, on his first day in Los Angeles, Bugsy visits George, an actor friend, on a movie set and becomes smitten with Virginia Hill, a spitfire actress known to date mobster Joey Adonis. Abandoning his wife, Esta, and two daughters in Scarsdale, New York, Bugsy buys opera singer Lawrence Tibbett’s Beverly Hills mansion for $50,000 in cash. He forces Jack Dragna to turn over his gambling rackets to Meyer Lansky and Charlie Luciano in exchange for a twenty-five percent stake in the business, and begins dating Virginia Hill. One day, Dragna reports to Bugsy that Mickey Cohen has robbed $56,000 from one of their gambling parlors. Bugsy confronts the short-tempered Cohen, who finally admits to stealing $42,000 and informs Bugsy that Virginia has a reputation for dating a lot of men, including musicians and bullfighters. Bugsy offers Cohen a job in return for the stolen money, and threatens Dragna at gunpoint for trying to steal from him by over-reporting the losses. Cohen takes Bugsy and Virginia on a road trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, where gambling is legal. He suggests Bugsy buy an existing gambling parlor, but Bugsy and Virginia are unimpressed by the dusty saloon Cohen shows them. Instead, Bugsy experiences a vision when they drive through the desert, and conceives of a high-end hotel and casino he wants to build there. Promising Virginia he is going to ask Esta for a divorce, Bugsy flies back to New York and pitches his idea for the “Flamingo Hotel and Casino” to Lansky, Luciano, and their gangster cohorts. Although Lansky fears publicity, Bugsy assures him that the legal gambling venture would legitimize their organization. He convinces the men to give him $1 million for the project. That night, Esta asks Bugsy if they should get a divorce, but he assures her everything is fine. Back in Los Angeles, he finds Virginia with another man and throws him through a window before discovering it is her brother, Chick. Nevertheless, Bugsy becomes increasingly suspicious and orders Cohen to follow Virginia. He also makes her the bookkeeper for the Flamingo. She struggles to pay the bills as Bugsy’s vision for the project grows and the budget balloons to $6 million. In the meantime, World War II ends, and Bugsy finally asks Esta for a divorce. He is arrested for the murder of Harry Greenberg, a gangster who informed on Charlie Luciano. Although guilty of the crime, Bugsy is held only a short time. Of the remaining $3 million needed to finish the Flamingo, Lansky agrees to give Bugsy $1 million but cuts future ties with him. Bugsy is forced to sell his belongings and one-third stake in the hotel. Meanwhile, Cohen continues to spy on Virginia and discovers she has stashed $2 million in a foreign bank account. Bugsy refuses to believe she would betray him. However, when Virginia sees him talking to a starlet seeking a job at the casino, she flies into a jealous rage and packs her things. Bugsy accuses her of stealing from him, but she denies it. Virginia returns to Los Angeles, while Bugsy remains in Las Vegas. Shortly before the Flamingo is set to open on Christmas Day, Charlie Luciano holds a meeting in New York. He tells Lansky and several other associates that Virginia stole $2 million of their money, and Bugsy was likely involved. Lansky defends Bugsy, arguing that he is a “dreamer” who was blinded by his love for Virginia, and there was no way he knew about the stolen money. Nevertheless, Luciano reports that Bugsy has oversold shares in the Flamingo, marking up its value by 400 percent. He worries that a fiasco will ensue when it is time for shareholders to collect their profits. Lansky suggests they wait to see how the Flamingo performs: if it is a success, they will leave Bugsy alone; if not, Lansky will handle the problem himself. On Christmas Day, the Flamingo’s grand opening is thwarted by a thunderstorm. No guests arrive, and the power goes out. A defeated Bugsy announces to the staff that the hotel will close, and have a grand re-opening at a later date. He receives a phone call from Lansky, who gives him orders to meet gangsters Moe Sedway and Gus Greenbaum in Los Angeles that night. Turning somber, Bugsy urges Lansky to hold onto his shares in the Flamingo, as they will be valuable someday. At the airfield, just before he boards a plane to Los Angeles, he is intercepted by Virginia, who has come to apologize. She confesses to stealing the money and offers him a check for $2 million. He tells her to rip it up, suggesting they save it for a rainy day, instead. He promises her he will be back in two hours and kisses her goodbye. However, when he arrives home in Los Angeles, Bugsy is shot dead by an unseen assailant. Soon afterward, Moe Sedway and Gus Greenbaum enter the Flamingo and announce that they are taking over operations. When she learns that Bugsy is dead, Virginia goes silent and wanders into the thunderstorm outside. In time, she returns the $2 million she stole to Meyer Lansky, then commits suicide in Austria. The Flamingo goes on to generate $100 billion in revenue by 1991. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Gangster


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

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