Cast & Crew
On the day of its grand opening, the world's tallest building becomes victim to an electrical mishap and a subsequent huge fire on its upper floors, causing all of the city's rescue teams to converge upon the scene and attempt to fight against what is a raging monster.
L. B. Abbott
John A Bonner
A. D. Flowers
Malcolm R Harding
Fred J. Koenekamp
Harold F. Kress
Frank M Robinson
Thomas N Scortia
Richard Martin Stern
Best Supporting Actor
TCM Remembers Paul Newman (1925-2008) - Important Schedule Change for Paul Newman Tribute
Sunday, October 12
Sunday, October 12 Program for TCM
6:00 AM The Rack
8:00 AM Until They Sail
10:00 AM Torn Curtain
12:15 PM Exodus
3:45 PM Sweet Bird of Youth
6:00 PM Hud
8:00 PM Somebody Up There Likes Me
10:00 PM Cool Hand Luke
12:15 AM Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
2:15 AM Rachel, Rachel
4:00 AM The Outrage
TCM Remembers Paul Newman (1925-2008)
Paul Newman, with his electric blue eyes and gutsy willingness to play anti-heroes, established himself as one of the movies' great leading men before settling into his latter-day career of flinty character acting. Born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, in 1925, Newman studied at the Yale Drama School and New York's Actors Studio before making his Broadway debut in Picnic.
Newman's breakthrough in films came in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), in which he played boxer Rocky Graziano. He quickly reinforced his reputation in such vehicles as The Rack (1956) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), for which he won the first of nine Oscar® nominations as an actor.
In 1958, while shooting The Long Hot Summer (1958) - which earned him the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival - in Louisiana, he became re-acquainted with Joanne Woodward, who was the film's female lead. The two soon fell in love, and after divorcing Jackie, Newman and Woodward were married in Las Vegas in 1958. The couple appeared in numerous films together and had three daughters, which they raised far from Hollywood in the affluent neighborhood of Westport, CT.
The 1960s was a fruitful decade for Newman, who starred in such hits as Exodus (1960), Sweet Bird of Youth (1962) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969); and scored Oscar® nominations for The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963) and Cool Hand Luke (1967).
Newman's political activism also came to the forefront during the sixties, through tireless campaigning for Eugene McCarthy's 1968 presidential campaign. His association with McCarthy led to his being named on future President Richard Nixon's infamous "Opponents List;" Newman, who ranked #19 out of 20, later commented that his inclusion was among the proudest achievements of his career.
Newman's superstar status - he was the top-ranking box office star in 1969 and 1970 - allowed him to experiment with film roles during the 1970s, which led to quirky choices like WUSA (1970), Sometimes a Great Notion (1971), Pocket Money (1972), and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) - all of which he also produced through First Artists, a company he established with fellow stars Sidney Poitier and Barbra Streisand.
After coming close to winning an Oscar® for Absence of Malice (1981), Newman finally won the award itself for The Color of Money (1986). He also received an honorary Oscar® in 1986 and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1994. A producer and director as well as an actor, Newman has directed his wife (and frequent costar) Joanne Woodward through some of her most effective screen performances [Rachel, Rachel (1968), The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972)].
He remained active as an actor in his later years, playing the Stage Manager in Our Town on both stage and television, lending his voice to the animated features Cars (2006) and Mater and the Ghostlight (2006). Off-screen, Newman set the standard for celebrity-driven charities with his Newman's Own brand of foods, which brought $200 million to causes, and the Hole in the Wall Gang camp for seriously ill children.
TCM Remembers Paul Newman (1925-2008) - Important Schedule Change for Paul Newman Tribute Sunday, October 12
The Towering Inferno
Here's the plot in a nutshell: The world's tallest new building catches on fire during its grand opening, trapping hundreds of party-goers inside, and it's up to the fire chief and his men to save the day with the help of the building's architect. In a film where Fred Astaire, William Holden, and Jennifer Jones are the second-tier stars, you know it's going to be a doozy. Steve McQueen plays the no-nonsense fire chief, Paul Newman the architect, and Faye Dunaway stars as his girlfriend. McQueen and Newman had not been in a film together since Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956); as an extra, McQueen vowed that he would one day have higher billing than Newman (reportedly, this was the missing component that made Steve turn down Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in 1969). McQueen almost got his wish with Inferno, or at least, an acceptable compromise: The actors' names were presented using diagonal billing, meaning that Steve's name was first when reading from left to right, but Newman's name was placed higher on the screen. McQueen also insisted that the two have the exact same number of lines in the script, were paid the same salary and received the same percentage of box office profits. Newman, for his part, never appeared bothered by McQueen's obvious chip on the shoulder and was relaxed and calm throughout production. As a comparison, Steve declared he was accepting no visitors or press interview invitations, while Paul just asked to be given advance notice on considering any press requests.
William Holden was also rather prickly on-set, mostly because he didn't want to do the film in the first place. He deemed the story to have "a lousy script" and of his character, the tower's builder, complained, "I spend all of the time talking on the phone." So why did he take the part? Moolah and lots of it! He collected $750k for his work, his largest paycheck in years. The money, however, did not prevent him from flipping out on often-tardy co-star Faye Dunaway. Biographer Bob Thomas revealed in Golden Boy: The Untold Story of William Holden that "For two hours one day, Bill waited on her to appear for an important scene. When she finally arrived, he took her by the shoulders and shoved her against the sound-stage wall. 'You do that to me once more,' he muttered, 'And I'll push you through that wall.' Set workers noted that Miss Dunaway's punctuality improved thereafter." Dunaway makes a curious statement in her autobiography Looking for Gatsby that may refer to the incident: "[Holden] and I had brushed up against each other briefly in Towering Inferno, a movie that had left a bad taste in his mouth." Interesting choice of words!
Inferno was Jennifer Jones' last film: her part was turned down by Olivia de Havilland and the industry rumor was that her millionaire husband (and hefty Fox stockholder) Norton Simon, had secured the role for her. An avid art collector, he also lent no less than four Picassos to be used as set decoration! The tireless Fred Astaire, by this point over forty years into his career, retained his trademark amiability, commenting in an interview from Astaire: The Man, the Dancer, by Bob Thomas: "Towering Inferno was a good cameo. If you're going to do a cameo, that was a good one to do, because it stood out. The other guys in the picture said, 'Hey, I wish I had that part.'" Jones and Astaire have a short dance scene together, something costume designer Paul Zastupnevich remembers the actress was very excited about. Yet despite their caliber, Jones and Astaire weren't treated exceptionally well by the studios: Zastupnevich remembers that they were initially relegated to trailer dressing rooms that were parked outside the stage area in the gutter, a situation finally resolved by his indignant insistence. But the two remained consummate professionals: in Edward Z. Epstein's bio Portrait of Jennifer, the designer recalled, "It's amazing that she was paired off with Fred. I was amazed to discover that Fred, too, was so shy and reserved. Fred and Jennifer were so much alike! I suppose that's why they got along so well and blended so smoothly."
Most of the medium and close shots were done on the Fox lot, where a full five floors of the skyscraper were constructed in full scale; in total, 57 sets were constructed there, setting a record for a single production. The coup de grace was the mammoth promenade deck set, which cost over $300k to construct and boasted a 340 foot long cyclorama around it to represent the city landscape the deck overlooks. It was destroyed--like most of the other sets--in the final scene by almost one million gallons of rushing water. In fact, after shooting wrapped, only 8 sets were left standing. In keeping with the film's larger-than-life nature, even the miniature replica of the glass tower was big: using half-inch scale, the 138-floor building came in at 70 feet... that's roughly a 5-story building! Real-life locations were used for key shots: for example, the scenic elevator and lobby area were graciously provided by the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco.
To capture the action, a then-record number of four camera crews were used to cover character filming, aerial shots, special effects, and, of course, the action sequences. Working in such a precarious environment meant that the producers took no chances with safety: over 30 members from the San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Fox Studio fire departments were hired as consultants to supervise the action scenes. In addition, a fireman was assigned to each member of the cast during scenes where potentially dangerous effects were being used. As stunt coordinator Paul Stader pointed out, "In most films, if something goes wrong a stuntman would get hurt. In The Towering Inferno, if something had gone wrong a stuntman could have been killed."
Aside from thoroughly entertaining audiences, The Towering Inferno also brought attention to safety issues regarding tall buildings, as well as recognizing the men and women who were committed to helping in perilous situations. As its opening credit message indicates: "To those who give their lives, so that others may live--to the firefighters of the world--this picture is gratefully dedicated." The Fox PR machine pulled out the stops when it arranged for McQueen to be dubbed an honorary L.A. firefighter. The film reportedly inspired an increase in safety awareness with a reexamination of building codes in many cities, and it had a personal effect on a few people directly associated with the film. Allen switched his New York hotel suite to the 5th floor from the 38th, and Newman allegedly stopped seeing his dentist...whose office was on the 14th floor.
In terms of box office, The Towering Inferno did well, grossing almost ten times its budget; with eight total, it also scored in terms of Oscar® nominations. The film ultimately walked away with three: Best Song, and two of the most technically coveted awards - for Best Cinematography and Best Editing. Beyond the star-studded primary cast, viewers will also spot Richard Chamberlain, Robert Wagner, and O.J. Simpson. But keep an eye out for Newman's son Scott in a bit role as a fireman and Mike Lookinland (aka Bobby Brady) as a child in need of rescue. Readers interested in learning more behind the scenes information should visit www.thetoweringinferno.info webpage, a fascinating reference for any Towering Inferno enthusiast.
Producer: Irwin Allen
Director: John Guillermin, Irwin Allen
Screenplay: Stirling Silliphant
Cinematography: Fred J. Koenekamp
Film Editing: Carl Kress, Harold F. Kress
Art Direction: Ward Preston
Music: John Williams
Cast: Steve McQueen (Chief Michael O'Hallorhan), Paul Newman (Doug Roberts), William Holden (James Duncan), Faye Dunaway (Susan Franklin), Fred Astaire (Harlee Claiborne), Susan Blakely (Patty Simmons).
by Eleanor Quin
The Towering Inferno
Just how bad is it?- James Duncan
It's a fire. All fires are bad.- Chief O'Hallorhan
At this rate it's going to take a couple of hours to get everyone down. So, I would suggest that those of us with stout hearts and trim waistlines start using the stairs.- Senator Parker
That's 135 floors.- James Duncan
All downhill.- Senator Parker
For what it's worth, architect, this is one building I figured would never burn.- Chief O'Hallorhan
Give me the architect that designed you, and who needs Doug Roberts?- James Duncan
I do.- Susan
You know... there is really nothing the living can do to bring back the dead.- James Duncan
Many bit players from Poseidon Adventure, The (1972) also appear in this film
Based on two novels: "The Tower" by Richard Martin Stern, and "The Glass Inferno" by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson. After the success of Poseidon Adventure, The (1972), disaster was hot property and Warner Brothers bought the rights to film "The Tower" for $390,000. Eight weeks later 'Allen, Irwin' (of 20th Century Fox) discovered "The Glass Inferno" and bought the rights for $400,000. To avoid two similar films competing at the box office the two studios joined forces and pooled their resources, each paying half the production costs. In return, 20th Century Fox got the US box office receipts and Warners the receipts from the rest of the world.
Scriptwriter Stirling Silliphant combined the two novels to create one screenplay. The combined three words that make up the titles of the two novels were combined to give the name of the film, and the name of the building that is on fire (The Glass Tower).
Silliphant also took seven main figures from each novel and incorporated them into the screenplay, as well as the major climax of each novel: the lifeline rescue to an adjacent roof-top from "The Tower", and the exploding water-tanks from "The Glass Inferno'.
At star 'McQueen, Steve' 's insistence, himself and other star 'Newman, Paul' had to have exactly the same number of lines of dialogue in the script!
Released in United States 1974
Re-released in United States on Video May 14, 1996
Formerly distributed by CBS/Fox Video.
Released in United States 1974
Re-released in United States on Video May 14, 1996