Greased Lightning


1h 36m 1977
Greased Lightning

Brief Synopsis

The life of NASCAR racing champion Wendell Scott. Scott's struggle to overcome racism and follow his dream of becoming a champion is seen, beginning at the end of World War II through 1971.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Biography
Sports
Release Date
1977
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures; Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m
Color
Color

Synopsis

A dramatization of the life of NASCAR racing champion Wendell Scott. Scott's struggle to overcome racism and follow his dream of becoming a champion is seen, beginning at the end of World War II through 1971.

Crew

Morrie Abrams

Production Assistant

Richard Bell

Executive Producer

James Berkey

Set Decorator

Lester Berman

Production Manager

George Bouillet

Director Of Photography

Celia Bryant

Costumes

Celia Bryant

Wardrobe

Willie Burton

Sound Recording

Don Cahn

Sound

Leonidas Capetanos

Screenwriter

Neil Castle

Other

Lee Chaney

Sound Effects

James Cook

Sound

Bradford Craig

Song ("Maybe Tomorrow")

Mark Dennis

Sound Effects

Terence A. Donnelly

Assistant Director

Lawrence Dukore

Screenwriter

Ted Duncan

Stunt Coordinator

Wayne Fitzgerald

Titles

Roberta Flack

Song Performer ("Maybe Tomorrow")

Candy Flanagin

Special Effects

Norman Gimbel

Song ("All Come True")

Richard C. Glouner

Camera Operator 2nd Unit (2nd Unit)

J Lloyd Grant

Executive Producer

E. Darrell Hallenbeck

Production Manager

Wayne Hartman

Sound

Richie Havens

Song Performer ("All Come True")

James Hinton

Associate Producer

Christopher Holmes

Editor

Preston L. Holmes

Assistant Director

Fred Karlin

Music

Fred Karlin

Songs ("Maybe Tomorrow" "All Come True")

Billie Owens

Sound Effects

Arthur H Pullen

Sound Effects

Harlan Riggs

Sound Recording 2nd Unit (2nd Unit)

Randy Roberts

Editor

Hank Salerno

Sound Effects

Henry Salley

Wardrobe

Henry Salley

Costumes

Ed Scheid

Sound Effects

Wendell Scott

Technical Consultant

Jack Senter

Art Direction

Ralph Singleton

Assistant 2nd Unit Director (2nd Unit)

Ken Swor

Assistant Director

Melvin Van Peebles

Screenwriter

Kenneth Vose

Screenwriter

Tom Ward

Special Effects

Hannah Weinstein

Producer

Dwight Williams

Assistant Director

Bob Wyman

Editor

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Biography
Sports
Release Date
1977
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures; Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m
Color
Color

Articles

Greased Lightning -


After making his feature film debut in 1967, it took Richard Pryor a decade to be given a star vehicle of his own--mostly due to the comedian's profanity laden shtick. Pryor had scored big as Gene Wilder's costar in Paramount's Silver Streak (1976), prompting Universal to feature him prominently in ads for Car Wash (1976) despite the fact that his appearance was limited to eight minutes. Seeing his potential as a headliner, producer Steve Krantz persuaded Car Wash director Michael Schultz to adapt Lina Wertmüller's political satire The Seduction of Mimi (1972) for Pryor, relocating the action from the vineyards of Sicily to the citrus groves of California under the title Which Way Is Up? (1977). During preproduction of that film, Pryor agreed to star for Melvyn Van Peebles in Greased Lightning (1977), a Warner Bros. biopic of Wendell Scott, a World War II veteran and moonshine runner who overcame racism as a stock car racer on the Dixie Circuit to become NASCAR's first African-American competitor. Artistic differences with his producers led to Van Peebles' departure from the production, leaving Pryor to ask Schultz to fill the void. The cast and crew of Greased Lightning (whose number also included Blaxploitation icon Pam Grier and Cleavon Little, who had been cast as Black Bart in Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles when Pryor proved too controversial) encountered more than their share of racial prejudice on location in rural Georgia, with locals sabotaging scenes by making noise whenever they heard Schultz call "Action!" Schultz' workaround was to begin a take by calling "Cut!" and finish with "Action!" so that distractions would begin only after he had the scene in the can.

By Richard Harland Smith
Greased Lightning -

Greased Lightning -

After making his feature film debut in 1967, it took Richard Pryor a decade to be given a star vehicle of his own--mostly due to the comedian's profanity laden shtick. Pryor had scored big as Gene Wilder's costar in Paramount's Silver Streak (1976), prompting Universal to feature him prominently in ads for Car Wash (1976) despite the fact that his appearance was limited to eight minutes. Seeing his potential as a headliner, producer Steve Krantz persuaded Car Wash director Michael Schultz to adapt Lina Wertmüller's political satire The Seduction of Mimi (1972) for Pryor, relocating the action from the vineyards of Sicily to the citrus groves of California under the title Which Way Is Up? (1977). During preproduction of that film, Pryor agreed to star for Melvyn Van Peebles in Greased Lightning (1977), a Warner Bros. biopic of Wendell Scott, a World War II veteran and moonshine runner who overcame racism as a stock car racer on the Dixie Circuit to become NASCAR's first African-American competitor. Artistic differences with his producers led to Van Peebles' departure from the production, leaving Pryor to ask Schultz to fill the void. The cast and crew of Greased Lightning (whose number also included Blaxploitation icon Pam Grier and Cleavon Little, who had been cast as Black Bart in Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles when Pryor proved too controversial) encountered more than their share of racial prejudice on location in rural Georgia, with locals sabotaging scenes by making noise whenever they heard Schultz call "Action!" Schultz' workaround was to begin a take by calling "Cut!" and finish with "Action!" so that distractions would begin only after he had the scene in the can. By Richard Harland Smith

Richard Pryor (1940-2005)


The scathing, brilliantly insightful African-American comic who proved himself on many occasions to be a highly competent screen actor, died of a heart attack on November 10 at his Encino, California home. He was 65. He had been reclusive for years after he publicly announced he was suffering from multiple sclerosis in 1992.

He was born Richard Thomas Pryor III on December 1, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois. By all accounts, his childhood was a difficult one. His mother was a prostitute and his grandmother ran a brothel. His father was rarely around and when he was, he would physically abuse him. From a young age, Pryor knew that humor was his weapon of choice to cut through all the swath he came across and would confront in his life.

After high school, he enlisted in the Army for a two-year stint (1958-60). When he was discharged (honorably!) he concentrated on stand-up comedy and worked in a series of nightclubs before relocating to New York City in 1963. In 1964, he made his television debut when he was given a slot on the variety program On Broadway Tonight. His routine, though hardly the groundbreaking material we would witness in later years, was very well received, and in the late '60s Pryor found more television work: Toast of the Town, The Wild Wild West, The Mod Squad ; and was cast in a two movies: The Busy Body (1967) with Sid Caesar; and Wild in the Streets (1968) a cartoonish political fantasy about the internment of all American citizens over 30.

Pryor's career really didn't ignite until the '70s. His stand up act became raunchier and more politically motivated as he touched on issued of race, failed relationships, drug addiction, and street crimes. His movie roles became far more captivating in the process: the piano man in Lady Sings the Blues (1972); as a wise-talking hustler in a pair of slick urban thrillers: The Mack (1973) and Uptown Saturday Night (1974); the gregarious Daddy Rich in Car Wash; his first pairing with Gene Wilder as Grover, the car thief who helps stops a runaway train in his first real box office smash Silver Streak (both 1976); and for many critics, his finest dramatic performance as a factory worker on the edge of depression in Paul Schrader's excellent working class drama Blue Collar (1978).

On a personal level, his drug dependency problem worsened, and on June 9, 1980, near tragedy struck when he caught fire while free-basing cocaine. Pryor later admitted that the incident, was, in fact, a suicide attempt, and that his management company created the lie for the press in hopes of protecting him. Fortunately, Pryor had three films in the can that all achieved some level of financial success soon after his setback: another pairing with Gene Wilder in the prison comedy Stir Crazy (1980); a blisteringly funny cameo as God who flips off Andy Kaufman in the warped religious satire In God We Tru$t (1980); an a ex-con helping a social worker (Cicely Tyson) with her foster charges in Bustin' Loose (1981). He capped his recovery with Live on the Sunset Strip (1982), a first-rate documentation of the comic's genius performed in front of a raucous live audience.

In 1983, Pryor signed a $40 million, five-year contract with Columbia Pictures. For many fans and critics, this was the beginning of his downslide. His next few films: The Toy, Superman III (both 1983), and Brewster's Millions (1985) were just tiresome, mediocre comedies. Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling (1986), was his only attempt at producing, directing, and acting, and the film, which was an ambitious autobiographical account of a his life and career, was a box-office disappointment. He spent the remainder of the '80s in middling fare: Condition Critical (1987), Moving; a third pairing with Gene Wilder in See No Evil, Hear No Evil; and his only teaming with Eddie Murphy in Harlem Nights (1989).

In 1986, Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system that curtailed both his personal appearances and his gift for physical comedy in his latter films. By the '90s, little was seen of Pryor, but in 1995, he made a courageous comeback on television when he guest starred on Chicago Hope as an embittered multiple sclerosis patient. His performance earned him an Emmy nomination and he was cast in a few more films: Mad Dog Time (1996), Lost Highway (1997), but his physical ailments prohibited him from performing on a regular basis. In 1998, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington gave Pryor the first Mark Twain Prize for humor. It was fitting tribute for a man who had given so much honesty and innovation in the field of comedy. Pryor is survived by his wife, Jennifer Lee; his sons Richard and Steven; and daughters Elizabeth, Rain and Renee.

by Michael T. Toole

Richard Pryor (1940-2005)

The scathing, brilliantly insightful African-American comic who proved himself on many occasions to be a highly competent screen actor, died of a heart attack on November 10 at his Encino, California home. He was 65. He had been reclusive for years after he publicly announced he was suffering from multiple sclerosis in 1992. He was born Richard Thomas Pryor III on December 1, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois. By all accounts, his childhood was a difficult one. His mother was a prostitute and his grandmother ran a brothel. His father was rarely around and when he was, he would physically abuse him. From a young age, Pryor knew that humor was his weapon of choice to cut through all the swath he came across and would confront in his life. After high school, he enlisted in the Army for a two-year stint (1958-60). When he was discharged (honorably!) he concentrated on stand-up comedy and worked in a series of nightclubs before relocating to New York City in 1963. In 1964, he made his television debut when he was given a slot on the variety program On Broadway Tonight. His routine, though hardly the groundbreaking material we would witness in later years, was very well received, and in the late '60s Pryor found more television work: Toast of the Town, The Wild Wild West, The Mod Squad ; and was cast in a two movies: The Busy Body (1967) with Sid Caesar; and Wild in the Streets (1968) a cartoonish political fantasy about the internment of all American citizens over 30. Pryor's career really didn't ignite until the '70s. His stand up act became raunchier and more politically motivated as he touched on issued of race, failed relationships, drug addiction, and street crimes. His movie roles became far more captivating in the process: the piano man in Lady Sings the Blues (1972); as a wise-talking hustler in a pair of slick urban thrillers: The Mack (1973) and Uptown Saturday Night (1974); the gregarious Daddy Rich in Car Wash; his first pairing with Gene Wilder as Grover, the car thief who helps stops a runaway train in his first real box office smash Silver Streak (both 1976); and for many critics, his finest dramatic performance as a factory worker on the edge of depression in Paul Schrader's excellent working class drama Blue Collar (1978). On a personal level, his drug dependency problem worsened, and on June 9, 1980, near tragedy struck when he caught fire while free-basing cocaine. Pryor later admitted that the incident, was, in fact, a suicide attempt, and that his management company created the lie for the press in hopes of protecting him. Fortunately, Pryor had three films in the can that all achieved some level of financial success soon after his setback: another pairing with Gene Wilder in the prison comedy Stir Crazy (1980); a blisteringly funny cameo as God who flips off Andy Kaufman in the warped religious satire In God We Tru$t (1980); an a ex-con helping a social worker (Cicely Tyson) with her foster charges in Bustin' Loose (1981). He capped his recovery with Live on the Sunset Strip (1982), a first-rate documentation of the comic's genius performed in front of a raucous live audience. In 1983, Pryor signed a $40 million, five-year contract with Columbia Pictures. For many fans and critics, this was the beginning of his downslide. His next few films: The Toy, Superman III (both 1983), and Brewster's Millions (1985) were just tiresome, mediocre comedies. Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling (1986), was his only attempt at producing, directing, and acting, and the film, which was an ambitious autobiographical account of a his life and career, was a box-office disappointment. He spent the remainder of the '80s in middling fare: Condition Critical (1987), Moving; a third pairing with Gene Wilder in See No Evil, Hear No Evil; and his only teaming with Eddie Murphy in Harlem Nights (1989). In 1986, Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system that curtailed both his personal appearances and his gift for physical comedy in his latter films. By the '90s, little was seen of Pryor, but in 1995, he made a courageous comeback on television when he guest starred on Chicago Hope as an embittered multiple sclerosis patient. His performance earned him an Emmy nomination and he was cast in a few more films: Mad Dog Time (1996), Lost Highway (1997), but his physical ailments prohibited him from performing on a regular basis. In 1998, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington gave Pryor the first Mark Twain Prize for humor. It was fitting tribute for a man who had given so much honesty and innovation in the field of comedy. Pryor is survived by his wife, Jennifer Lee; his sons Richard and Steven; and daughters Elizabeth, Rain and Renee. by Michael T. Toole

Noble Willingham (1931-2004)


Noble Willingham, the gruffly voiced character actor best known for his role as saloon owner C.D. Parker on Chuck Norris' long-running series Walker, Texas Ranger, died of natural causes on January 17th at his Palm Springs home. He was 72.

Born on August 31, 1931 in Mineola, Texas, Willingham was educated at North Texas State University where he earned a degree in Economics. He later taught government and economics at a high school in Houston, leaving his life-long dreams of becoming an actor on hold until the opportunity presented itself. Such an opportunity happened when in late 1970, Peter Bogdonovich was doing some on-location shooting in south Texas for The Last Picture Show (1971); at the urging of some friends, he audition and won a small role in the picture. From there, Willingham slowly began to find work in some prominent films, including Bogdonovich's Paper Moon (1973), and Roman Polanski's Chinatown (1974). Around this time, Willingham kept busy with many guest appearances on a variety of popular shows: Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Waltons, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Rockford Files and several others.

Critics didn't take notice of his acting abilities until he landed the role of Leroy Mason, the soulless plant manager who stares down Sally Field in Norma Rae (1979). Few could forget him screaming at her, "Lady, I want you off the premises now!" with unapologetic malice. It may have not been a likable character, but after this stint, better roles came along, most notably the corrupt Dr. Fenster in Robert Redford's prison drama Brubaker (1980); and the evil sheriff in the thriller The Howling (1981).

By the late '80s, Willingham was an in-demand character actor, and he scored in three hit films: a border patrol sergeant - a great straight man to Cheech Marin - in the ethnic comedy Born in East L.A.; his wonderfully avuncular performance as General Taylor, the military brass who was sympathetic to an unorthodox disc jockey in Saigon, played by Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam (both 1987); and his good 'ole boy villainy in the Rutger Hauer action flick Blind Fury (1988). His performances in these films proved that if nothing else, Willingham was a solid backup player who was adept at both comedy and drama.

His best remembered role will no doubt be his six year run as the genial barkeep C.D. Parker opposite Chuck Norris in the popular adventure series Walker, Texas Ranger (1993-99). However, film reviewers raved over his tortured performance as a foul-mouthed, bigoted boat salesman who suffers a traffic downfall in the little seen, but searing indie drama The Corndog Man (1998); the role earned Willingham a nomination for Best Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards and it showed that this ably supporting performer had enough charisma and talent to hold his own in a lead role.

In 2000, Willingham tried his hand at politics when he unsuccessfully tried to unseat Democrat Max Dandlin in a congressional campaign in east Texas. After the experience, Willingham returned to acting filming Blind Horizon with Val Kilmer in 2003. The movie is to be released later this year. Willingham is survived by his wife, Patti Ross Willingham; a son, John Ross McGlohen; two daughters, Stari Willingham and Meghan McGlohen; and a grandson.

by Michael T. Toole

Noble Willingham (1931-2004)

Noble Willingham, the gruffly voiced character actor best known for his role as saloon owner C.D. Parker on Chuck Norris' long-running series Walker, Texas Ranger, died of natural causes on January 17th at his Palm Springs home. He was 72. Born on August 31, 1931 in Mineola, Texas, Willingham was educated at North Texas State University where he earned a degree in Economics. He later taught government and economics at a high school in Houston, leaving his life-long dreams of becoming an actor on hold until the opportunity presented itself. Such an opportunity happened when in late 1970, Peter Bogdonovich was doing some on-location shooting in south Texas for The Last Picture Show (1971); at the urging of some friends, he audition and won a small role in the picture. From there, Willingham slowly began to find work in some prominent films, including Bogdonovich's Paper Moon (1973), and Roman Polanski's Chinatown (1974). Around this time, Willingham kept busy with many guest appearances on a variety of popular shows: Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Waltons, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Rockford Files and several others. Critics didn't take notice of his acting abilities until he landed the role of Leroy Mason, the soulless plant manager who stares down Sally Field in Norma Rae (1979). Few could forget him screaming at her, "Lady, I want you off the premises now!" with unapologetic malice. It may have not been a likable character, but after this stint, better roles came along, most notably the corrupt Dr. Fenster in Robert Redford's prison drama Brubaker (1980); and the evil sheriff in the thriller The Howling (1981). By the late '80s, Willingham was an in-demand character actor, and he scored in three hit films: a border patrol sergeant - a great straight man to Cheech Marin - in the ethnic comedy Born in East L.A.; his wonderfully avuncular performance as General Taylor, the military brass who was sympathetic to an unorthodox disc jockey in Saigon, played by Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam (both 1987); and his good 'ole boy villainy in the Rutger Hauer action flick Blind Fury (1988). His performances in these films proved that if nothing else, Willingham was a solid backup player who was adept at both comedy and drama. His best remembered role will no doubt be his six year run as the genial barkeep C.D. Parker opposite Chuck Norris in the popular adventure series Walker, Texas Ranger (1993-99). However, film reviewers raved over his tortured performance as a foul-mouthed, bigoted boat salesman who suffers a traffic downfall in the little seen, but searing indie drama The Corndog Man (1998); the role earned Willingham a nomination for Best Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards and it showed that this ably supporting performer had enough charisma and talent to hold his own in a lead role. In 2000, Willingham tried his hand at politics when he unsuccessfully tried to unseat Democrat Max Dandlin in a congressional campaign in east Texas. After the experience, Willingham returned to acting filming Blind Horizon with Val Kilmer in 2003. The movie is to be released later this year. Willingham is survived by his wife, Patti Ross Willingham; a son, John Ross McGlohen; two daughters, Stari Willingham and Meghan McGlohen; and a grandson. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer July 1, 1977

Released in United States Summer July 1, 1977