Wait Until Dark
Cast & Crew
Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
As a flight from Montreal lands at Kennedy Airport, Lisa, a fashion model asks commercial artist Sam Hendrix to hold a toy doll for her. When the woman disappears, Sam takes the doll to his Greenwich Village apartment. A short time later, hoodlums Mike Talman and Carlino arrive at Sam's empty apartment to keep what they think is an appointment with Lisa. Instead, they are met by Roat, a master criminal skilled in disguise, who informs them that he has murdered Lisa for attempting a doublecross and that they must now dispose of her body and find the missing doll, which contains a fortune in heroin. The following day, after Lisa's corpse has been removed to a nearby lot, the three man trick Sam into going to New Jersey, leaving his blind wife, Susy, alone. One by one the three hoodlums call at the house under false pretenses. Finally, Carlino, in the guise of a detective, announces that he is investigating the murder of a young woman found in the neighborhood; by insinuation Susy is led to suspect that Sam is involved in the killing and the missing doll is the link. Gradually, however, Susy begins to suspect that Roat and Carlino are imposters, and she appeals to Mike for help. After he has left, Gloria, a little girl from upstairs who had taken the doll, returns it. Believing Mike to be her husband's friend, Susy telephones him the good news; but with the help of Gloria, Susy learns that the number Mike gave her is for a telephone booth across the street. Realizing that all three men are involved in the plot to get the doll, Susy sends Gloria to meet Sam, returning from New Jersey, at the terminal. After the child has left, Susy discovers that her telephone line has been cut. Mike arrives and, touched by Susy's plight, tells her the truth about Sam's innocence. Roat, who has already killed Carlino, bursts into the apartment and murders Mike. Terrified, Susy smashes all the light fixtures in a desperate attempt to even her chances against Roat. When he opens the refrigerator door and turns on the small bulb, Susy grabs a kitchen knife and stabs him. As he lunges after her, she hides behind the refrigerator and pulls the plug. Clutching the knife he was stabbed with, Roat inches toward her in the dark. A few seconds later, Sam and the police arrive and find Susy in a corner with Roat lying dead at her feet.
Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
George James Hopkins
Jean Burt Reilly
Warner Bros. Cosmetics
Wait Until Dark
In the film, Hepburn plays Susy Hendrix, a woman recently blinded in an accident and still learning how to adapt. She is often home alone while her photographer husband, Sam (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.), travels from assignment to assignment. As Sam is returning from a business trip, he meets a woman in the airport who asks him to hold onto a doll for her. It turns out that the doll contains heroin and a man named Roat (Alan Arkin) is after it. Enlisting the aid of two con men (Richard Crenna and Jack Weston) to help him retrieve the drugs, Roat tries to insinuate himself into Susy's life after her husband departs on another trip. Together the three men concoct an elaborate scheme of deception in order to gain Susy's trust and locate the missing doll. Complicating the situation is the fact that Susy and Sam are unaware that a little girl in their apartment building had actually taken the doll. Eventually, Susy sees through Roat's scheme and realizes she is in grave danger. In the chilling climax, filmed mostly by the light of an open refrigerator, Susy is forced to fight for her life against a cunning psychopath.
Hepburn and Ferrer wanted Terence Young, director of the first three James Bond films, to helm Wait Until Dark, but studio executive Jack Warner was concerned about Young's tendency to go over budget on his films. Warner also had Sir Carol Reed in mind for director but, in the end, Young got the job. As for the casting, George C. Scott and Rod Steiger were initially offered the role of the main villain, Roat, but both actors turned down the unsympathetic part. Eventually the role went to Alan Arkin, who was better known for his stage work, although he had just received an Academy Award nomination as Best Actor for his film debut in The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!(1966).
In order to prepare for her role, Audrey Hepburn spent time training at the Lighthouse for the Blind in New York along with director Terence Young. According to Warren G. Harris in Audrey Hepburn: A Biography, "At the Lighthouse, Audrey and Young had to wear black shields over their eyes until they became acclimated to what it was like in the world of the visually impaired. Bit by bit, Audrey learned how to depend on hearing and touch rather than sight. She took lessons in Braille and how to walk with a stick. She became adept at applying makeup and fixing her hair without help from a mirror." Young admitted that "Audrey was miles faster than I. She was quickly able to find her way, blindfolded, around the Lighthouse rooms and corridors....when it was my turn, every natural disaster took place."
For filming, Jack Warner insisted Hepburn wear contact lenses because he thought her eyes were too expressive for a blind person. The actress refused, saying she could convey blindness without them plus the contacts were extremely uncomfortable to wear. Unfortunately, Warner had the final word and Hepburn was forced to comply. Despite her physical discomfort in the role, she impressed her peers with her professionalism. Young stated, "I ran picture after picture to see previous attempts of other actors playing blind and I never saw anybody nearly as good. She was able to focus in the far distance, and to keep the focus so that even if she was talking to someone very near, her eyes would not refocus on that person." Co-star Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. also admired Hepburn, "That performance is so extraordinarily authentic. Working with her was heaven, even though she was going through hell with Mel."
Indeed, Audrey Hepburn and husband Mel Ferrer were going through a difficult time in their marriage prior to filming Wait Until Dark. The situation got worse with the added pressures of filming such an emotionally demanding picture. The couple had one son, but Hepburn wanted more children and to cut back on her filmmaking. According to Warren G. Harris in Audrey Hepburn: A Biography, "Mel╒s career had become so entwined with hers that if she cut back, he might find it hard getting work on his own." While filming in New York and California, the couple left their son at home in Switzerland with his grandmother. Hepburn missed him so much that she ran up hundred-dollar-a-day phone bills just to hear the sound of his voice. Hepburn and Ferrer officially separated later that year and divorced the following year. Audrey Hepburn did not make another film for almost a decade until Robin and Marian (1976).
When Mel Ferrer and Terence Young showed the film to Jack Warner, he liked everything except the climactic scene between Hepburn and Arkin in the dark apartment. Warner decided to test the film at a sneak-preview to see how audiences would react to it. According to Harris, "During the showing at a 900-seat theater in Glendale, the disputed scene left the capacity crowd gasping and shrieking with fright, so Warner gave it his blessing."
Although Audrey Hepburn gave strong performances in both Two for the Road and Wait Until Dark, she received the Academy Award nomination for Wait Until Dark that year. She was up against Faye Dunaway for Bonnie and Clyde and Anne Bancroft for The Graduate. But the award went to another Hepburn - Katharine - for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
Director: Terence Young
Producer: Mel Ferrer
Screenplay: Robert and Jane Howard-Carrington. Based on a play by Frederick Knott
Cinematography: Charles Lang
Art Direction: George Jenkins
Music: Henry Mancini
Cast: Audrey Hepburn (Susy Hendrix), Alan Arkin (Roat), Richard Crenna (Mike Talman), Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (Sam Hendrix), Jack Weston (Carlino), Julie Herrod (Gloria).
C-108m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Deborah L. Johnson
Wait Until Dark
Richard Crenna, 1927-2002
Born on November 30, 1927 in Los Angeles, California, Crenna was the son of a pharmacist father and a mother who managed a number of small hotels in the Los Angles area the family owned, where Crenna was raised. At the tender age of 11, he was encouraged by a teacher to audition for a radio show, "Boy Scout Jamboree" at the nearby KFI-AM radio studio. Little did he realize that it would be the start of a very long and prosperous career.
Crenna found steady radio work for the next several years, culminating in 1948 with his breakthrough role of the goofy, squeaky-voiced Walter Denton in the hit radio series Our Miss Brooks. Crenna carried the momentum of his success to television when he spent four more seasons as Walter on Our Miss Brooks (1952-1956). Almost immediately after the run of that show, Crenna scored another hit series as Luke McCoy in the rustic comedy The Real McCoys (1957-1963) co-starring Walter Brennan.
Although he had been acting in films since the early '50s Crenna roles didn't come to critical notice until the mid '60s, appearing in Robert Wise's acclaimed The Sand Pebbles (1966) as the stalwart gunboat captain co-starring Steve McQueen; Terence Young's intense thriller, Wait Until Dark (1967), as a criminal who terrorizes a blind Audrey Hepburn; and another Robert Wise film, the Gertrude Lawrence biopic Star! (1968) playing the high profile role of Richard Aldrich opposite Julie Andrews.
Crenna's profile slowed down in the '70s, despite a brief return to television comedy in Norman Lear's political satire All's Fair (1976-1977) with Bernadette Peters. That show may not have lasted long, but Crenna bounced back with a resurgence in the '80s with a string of hit character parts: Lawrence Kasden's stylish film noir Body Heat (1981), as Kathleen Turner's ill-fated husband; Ted Kotchoff's hit Rambo: First Blood (1982), as Colonel Samuel Trautman, Sylvester Stallone's former Commander; Gary Marshall's excellent coming-of-age tale The Flamingo Kid (1984), one of his best performances (for which he received a Golden Globe nomination) as a smooth, charismatic gin-rummy champ who takes Matt Dillon under his tutelage; and many other quality roles in theatrical and made for television movies.
At the time of his death, Crenna was a member of the Screen Actors Guild board of directors and had a recurring role in the hit CBS dramatic series Judging Amy. In addition to Penni, his wife of 47 years, Crenna is survived by a son, Richard, two daughters, Seana and Maria, and three granddaughters.
by Michael T. Toole
Richard Crenna, 1927-2002
And then, topsy turvy. Me topsy and them turvy.- Harry Roat Jr
Damn it, you act as if you're in kindergarten! This is the big bad world, full of mean people, where nasty things happen!- Mike Talman
Now you tell me.- Susy Hendrix
I cannot negotiate in an atmosphere of mistrust.- Harry Roat Jr
Bye, dope.- Susy Hendrix
Bye, dope.- Sam Hendrix
Mr. Roat, are you looking at me?- Susy Hendrix
Produced by Audrey Hepburn's then-husband, actor Mel Ferrer. Hepburn's film residence is at 4 St. Luke's Place in Manhattan.
Audrey Hepburn and director Terence Young attended a school for the blind to learn more about the visually impaired. Hepburn even learned to read Braille.
Hepburn had to be fitted with special (and painful) contact lenses because her eyes were deemed too expressive for a blind person.
Despite getting an Oscar nomination for this movie, Hepburn would not make another film until Robin and Marian (1976).
When the film was released, the theatres darkened all their lights "to the legal limit" during the last twelve minutes of the film, each light going out as Audrey Hepburn smashed each light bulb. The one remaining light in the theatres would be switched off as the last light source in the film went out.
The role that eventually went to Alan Arkin was difficult to cast because the producers couldn't find actors willing to be cast in such a villainous role -- not only terrorizing a blind woman, but terrorizing beloved Audrey Hepburn to boot! Hepburn tried to get this film shot in Europe, but relented when she was told not filming it in the US might have led to the closure of underused studio facilities in Hollywood.
Location scenes filmed in Montreal and Greenwich Village.
Released in United States March 1979
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1967
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1967
Released in United States March 1979 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The 50-Hour Mighty MovieMarathon: Mystery and Suspense) March 14-30, 1979.)