|Dog Day Afternoon|
|Directed by||Sidney Lumet|
|Produced by||Martin Bregman|
|Written by||Frank Pierson|
P. F. Kluge
|Edited by||Dede Allen|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Release date||September 21, 1975|
|Running time||124 min.|
Dog Day Afternoon is a 1975 film directed by Sidney Lumet and written by Frank Pierson. The film stars Al Pacino, John Cazale, Chris Sarandon and Charles Durning. Based on the events of a bank robbery in 1972, Dog Day Afternoon tells the story of Sonny Wortzik, who, with his partner Salvatore Naturile, holds hostage the employees of a Brooklyn, New York City bank.
This film was inspired by P.F. Kluge's article The Boys in the Bank, which tells a similar story of the robbery of a Brooklyn bank by John Wojtowicz and Salvatore Naturile; this article was first published in Life (magazine) in 1972. The film received generally positive reviews, some of which referred to its anti-establishment tones. Although it was nominated for major awards, Dog Day Afternoon won just a single Academy Award and failed to win a Golden Globe. Pacino's "Attica! Attica!" line from the film, referencing the Attica Prison riots, has become widely quoted, and was #86 on the American Film Institute's "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes" list.
The bank is closing. The police are somehow alerted that there is a robbery in progress. Detective Moretti and numerous officers set up a siege around the bank. When Moretti calls the bank to tell the lead robber, Sonny, that the police have arrived, Sonny warns that he and his armed accomplice, Sal, have hostages and will kill them if anyone tries to come into the bank. Detective Moretti acts as hostage negotiator, while FBI Agent Sheldon monitors his actions. Howard, the doorman, has an asthma attack, so Sonny releases him when Moretti asks for a hostage as a sign of good faith. Moretti convinces Sonny to step outside the bank to see how overwhelming the police forces are. After a moment, Sonny starts his now-famous "ATTICA!" chant, and the civilian crowd starts cheering for Sonny.
After realizing they cannot make a simple getaway, Sonny demands transportation: a jet to take them out of the country. When a tactical team approaches the back door, he fires a shot to warn them off. Moretti tries to persuade Sonny that those police were a separate unit that he was not controlling. Later, Sonny incites the crowd by throwing money over the police barricades. Some overrun the barricade and a few are arrested. When Sonny's wife Leon Schermer (a transwoman) (Chris Sarandon) arrives, she reveals that Sonny is robbing the bank to pay for Leon's sex reassignment surgery and that Sonny also has a legal wife, Angie, and children. Leon refuses to speak with Sonny, even over the telephone.
As night sets in, the lights in the bank all shut off. Sonny goes outside again and discovers that Agent Sheldon has taken command of the scene. He refuses to give Sonny any more favors, but when hostage Mulvaney (Sully Boyar) goes into a diabetic shock, Agent Sheldon lets a doctor through. While the doctor is inside the bank, Sheldon convinces Leon to talk to Sonny on the phone. The two have a lengthy conversation that reveals Leon had attempted suicide to "get away from" Sonny. She had been hospitalized at the psychiatric ward of Bellevue Hospital until the police brought her to the scene. Leon turns down Sonny's offer to join him and Sal, to wherever they take the plane. Sonny tells police listening to the phone call that Leon had nothing to do with the robbery attempt.
After the phone call, the doctor asks Sonny to let Mulvaney leave and Sonny agrees. Mulvaney refuses, instead insisting he remain with his employees. The FBI calls Sonny out of the bank again. They have brought his mother to the scene. She unsuccessfully tries to persuade him to give himself up and Agent Sheldon signals that a limousine will arrive in ten minutes to take them to a waiting jet. Once back inside the bank, Sonny writes out his will, leaving money from his life insurance to Leon for her sex change and to his wife Angie.
When the limousine arrives, Sonny checks it for any hidden weapons or booby traps. When he decides the car is satisfactory, he settles on Agent Murphy to drive himself, Sal, and the remaining hostages to Kennedy Airport. Sonny sits in the front next to Murphy while Sal sits behind them. Murphy repeatedly asks Sal to point his gun at the roof so Sal won't accidentally shoot him. As they wait on the airport tarmac for the plane to taxi into position, Agent Sheldon forces Sonny's weapon onto the dashboard, creating a distraction which allows Murphy to pull a pistol hidden in his armrest and shoot Sal in the head. Sonny is immediately arrested and the hostages are all escorted to the terminal. The film ends with Sonny watching Sal's body being taken from the car on a stretcher.
The movie was based on the story of John Wojtowicz and adheres to the basic facts of what actually happened according to the Life article "The Boys in the Bank". With Sal Naturile, Wojtowicz held up a Chase Manhattan Bank branch in Brooklyn on August 22, 1972. Many details from the actual robbery are depicted in the film, such as the arrival of Ernest Aron (Leon Shermer in the film) at the scene and her refusal to meet with Wojtowicz, the robbers demanding pizza (although in the actual event it was delivered by FBI agents, not a delivery boy), and the gun that was hidden in the getaway car used to shoot Naturile. In reality, the robbery and resulting hostage situation took 14 hours from beginning to end; in the film it appears to take about the same time.
After being apprehended, Wojtowicz was convicted in court and sentenced to twenty years in prison, of which he only ultimately served seven. Wojtowicz wrote a letter to the New York Times in 1975 out of concern that people would believe the version of the events portrayed in the film which he said was "only 30% true". Some of Wojtowicz's objections included the portrayal of his wife Carmen Bifulco, the conversation with his mother that Wojtowicz claimed never happened, and that although shown in the film, the police actually refused to let him speak to his wife Carmen. He did however praise Al Pacino and Chris Sarandon's characterizations of himself and "wife" Ernest Aron as accurate.
Sonny is seen making out a will during the film which entitles Leon to his life insurance so that even if he should be killed, Leon might still be able to pay for the operation. The real-life Wojtowicz was paid $7,500 plus 1% of the film's net profits for the rights to his story, $2,500 of which he gave to Ernest Aron to pay for her sexual reassignment surgery. Aron subsequently became Elizabeth Debbie Eden and lived out the rest of her days in New York, eventually dying of complications from AIDS in Rochester in 1987. Wojtowicz himself died of cancer in January 2006.
The bank where the robbery took place was a branch of the Chase Manhattan Bank, at 450 Avenue P in Brooklyn, New York, at the cross street of East 3rd Street, in Gravesend Brooklyn. Today the location is the Brooklyn Medical Imaging Center.
The original inspiration for the film was an article written by P. F. Kluge and Thomas Moore for Life in September 1972. The article included many of the details later used in the film and notes the relationship Wojtowicz and Naturile developed with hostages and the police. Bank manager Robert Barrett was quoted as saying "I'm supposed to hate you guys [Wojtowicz/Naturile], but I've had more laughs tonight than I've had in weeks. We had a kind of camaraderie." and teller Shirley Bell said that "if they had been my houseguests on a Saturday night, it would have been hilarious." The novelization of the film was penned by organized crime writer, Leslie Waller.
The film has no musical score other than the Elton John song "Amoreena" (which first appeared on John's 1971 album Tumbleweed Connection) in the opening credits. Although many scenes within the bank establish that it was quite hot during the robbery in the movie universe, some outdoor sequences were shot in weather so cold that actors had to put ice in their mouths to stop their breath from showing on camera. Exterior shots were filmed on location on Prospect Park West between 17th and 18th Street in the Windsor Terrace of Brooklyn, while the interior shots of the bank were filmed in a warehouse.
Wojtowicz was described in the Life article as "a dark, thin fellow with the broken-faced good looks of an Al Pacino or Dustin Hoffman". An 18 year old actor was originally to be cast in the role of Sal to match the age of the actual Salvatore. The table below summarizes the main cast of Dog Day Afternoon.
|Character||Actor/Actress||Role||Similar person from Life article|
|Sonny Wortzik||Al Pacino||Bank robber||John Wojtowicz|
|Salvatore "Sal" Naturile||John Cazale||Sonny's partner in the robbery||Salvatore Antonio Naturile|
|Detective Sgt. Eugene Moretti||Charles Durning||Police detective who originally negotiates with Sonny|
|Agent Sheldon||James Broderick||FBI agent who replaces Moretti in negotiations||Agent Richard Baker|
|Agent Murphy||Lance Henriksen||FBI agent/driver||Agent Murphy|
|Leon Shermer||Chris Sarandon||Sonny's lover||Ernest Aron|
|Sylvia "The Mouth"||Penelope Allen||Bank teller||Shirley Bell (Wojtowicz also called her "The Mouth")|
|Mulvaney||Sully Boyar||Bank manager||Robert Barrett|
|Angie||Susan Peretz||Sonny's other wife||Carmen Bifulco|
|Jenny "The Squirrel"||Carol Kane||Bank teller|
|Stevie||Gary Springer||Sonny's second partner in the robbery||A second unknown partner who left immediately is mentioned|
|Howard||John Marriott||Unarmed bank guard||Calvin Jones|
Dog Day Afternoon was released in 1975 during United States withdrawal from the Vietnam War amid heavy opposition to the war. Sonny repeatedly reminds people he is a Vietnam veteran. Some critics say he was "anti-establishment" as he references the Attica Prison riots (another event that created distrust in power around the time of the film's release) and he is robbing the bank to pay for his wife Leon's sex-change operation. As such the film is sometimes thought of as a counterculture film.
Upon its release, Dog Day Afternoon received generally favorable reviews. Vincent Canby called it "Sidney Lumet's most accurate, most flamboyant New York movie" and praised the "brilliant characterizations" by the entire cast. Roger Ebert called Sonny "one of the most interesting modern movie characters" and gave the movie three-and-a-half stars out of four. As time has passed, the film continues to generate a positive critical reception. For example, Christopher Null has said that the film "captures perfectly the zeitgeist of the early 1970s, a time when optimism was scraping rock bottom" and that "John Wojtowicz was as good a hero as we could come up with". P.F. Kluge, author of the article that inspired the film, believed that the filmmakers "stayed with the surface of a lively journalistic story" and that the film had a "strong, fast-paced story" without "reflection" or "a contemplative view of life".
References in popular culture
During the confrontation with the police, Sonny shouts the word "Attica" in order to rile up the crowd of onlookers, and gain their support in opposition to the police. This single-word quote is listed at #86 on the AFI's list of "100 Years...100 Movie Quotes" and has been mentioned or referenced in a number of other movies. One instance occurs in the film Saturday Night Fever, when Tony Manero (John Travolta) utters "Attica! Attica!" after looking at a poster of Al Pacino in his bedroom. Penn Jillette chants "Attica" as he's escorted from a casino by security in a scene from the film Penn & Teller Get Killed. Dr. Gregory House chants "Attica!" at his boss in the show House when Lisa Cuddy refuses one of his requests.
In the opening scene of Swordfish, Gabriel Shear, also played by Travolta, suggests that if Pacino had handled the hostage situation in Dog Day Afternoon as Pacino had originally told police he would (by "throwing bodies out the window" to show he meant business), the robbery would have proven far more successful. The film is also referenced in the Spike Lee film Inside Man, also a film about a bank robbery and the resulting police siege, which featured many references to Al Pacino films. A 2000 documentary The Third Memory, directed by Pierre Huyghe, contrasted news footage of the actual robbery with Dog Day Afternoon and a contemporary retelling of the events by John Wojtowicz.
The 1994 film Airheads borrows heavily from Dog Day Afternoon, with the main characters taking the employees of a radio station hostage, winning over the crowd outside with their anti-establishment attitudes (chanting "Rodney King, Rodney King!" instead of "Attica!"), and creating a live TV media circus. That same year The Naked Gun 33⅓ had lead character Lt. Frank Drebin (played by Leslie Nielsen) go undercover in prison, where he attempted to prove his criminal authenticity by chanting "Attica!" in the cafeteria.
In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode, Missing Identity, SpongeBob is looking for his name tag while wondering if a criminal is using it. Then, a cutaway made by his imagination shows a robber charging into a bank while wearing SpongeBob's name tag. He then yells out, "Attica!" as a reference to the film.
In a 2007 episode of Stargate SG-1 entitled "Bad Guys," Cameron Mitchell suggests the team demand for "a jet to Algeria" while they are posing as rebels holding Museum goers hostage.
Dog Day Afternoon won the Academy Award for Writing - Original Screenplay (Frank Pierson) and was nominated for:
- Academy Award for Best Picture
- Academy Award for Best Director (Sidney Lumet)
- Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Al Pacino)
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (Chris Sarandon)
- Academy Award for Best Film Edition (Dede Allen)
The film was also nominated for the following seven Golden Globes, winning none:
- Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama
- Golden Globe Award for Best Director - Motion Picture (Sidney Lumet)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama (Al Pacino)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay - Motion Picture (Frank Pierson)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture (Charles Durning)
- Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture (John Cazale)
- Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture - Male (Chris Sarandon)
The film won other awards, including a NBR Award for Best Supporting Actor (Charles Durning), a Writers Guild Award for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen (Frank Pierson), and a Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (Sidney Lumet). The film is also listed at #70 on AFI's "100 Years... 100 Thrills" list. In 2006 Premiere Magazine issued their "100 Greatest Performances of all Time" and Pacino's performance as Sonny is ranked as the 4th greatest of all time.
- Dog Day Afternoon, Directed by Sidney Lumet and written by Frank Pierson, 1975. DVD.
- Charm City North for Baltimore Style by Mark J. Miller, September/October 2005. Retrieved April 24, 2006.
- Trivia from Dog Day Afternoon for IMDb. Retrieved April 24, 2006.
- "The Boys in the Bank" by P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore for Life, September 22, 1972, Vol. 73(12).
- 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes for AFI, 2006. Retrieved April 24, 2006.
- To Crooks, It's All Pies in Sky for New York Daily News by Ellen Fleysher on August 24, 1972. Retrieved May 3, 2006.
- Real Dog Day hero tells his story by John Wojtowicz from Jump Cut, no. 15, 1977, pp. 31-32. Retrieved March 13, 2007
- Liz Eden Papers for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Center 1973-1986 (Bulk 1974). Retrieved April 24, 2006.
- Dog Days Afternoon Remembered by Yasmene Jabbar for Trans World News. Retrieved April 24, 2006.
- An Insider is Sought in Bank Holdup for New York Daily News by Paul Meskil. Retrieved May 3, 2006.
- 11223 USPS Gravesend Post Office
- Brooklyn Medical Imaging Center listing on Switchboard.com
- Dog Day Afternoon "It Happened in New York" for Newsday by Cynthia Blair. Retrieved April 28, 2006.
- The bank and street from Dog Day Afternoon for Mark Allen Cam by Mark Allen on February 20, 2006. Retrieved April 28, 2006.
- Full Credits for Dog Day Afternoon from IMDb. Retrieved April 27, 2006.
- 10 Best Heist Movies Ever for Movie Magic. Retrieved April 28, 2006.
- A review of Dog Day Afternoon hosted on Rotten Tomatoes by Dragan Antulov on January 8, 2002. Retrieved April 28, 2006.
- Screen: Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon by Vincent Camby for The New York Times on September 22, 1975. Retrieved June 3, 2006.
- Dog Day Afternoon by Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun-Times on January 1, 1975. Retrieved June 3, 2006.
- Dog Day Afternoon Reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, quote by Christopher Null. Retrieved April 28, 2006.
- "The Write Stuff: Magazine articles that make it to the Big Screen" by Nina Rayburn Dec for the New York Review of Magazines. Retrieved April 24, 2006.
- Saturday Night Fever directed by John Badham for Paramount Pictures, released 1977.
- Swordfish directed by Dominic Sena for Village Roadshow Pictures and Warner Bros, released 2001.
- Inside Man directed by Spike Lee for 40 Acres and a Mule Productions, Imagine Entertainment, and Universal Pictures. Released 2006.
- Awards for Dog Day Afternoon for IMDb. Retrieved April 24, 2006.
- 100 Years...100 Thrills for the AFI on June 13, 2001. Retrieved May 9, 2006.
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