Oh, God!


1h 44m 1977
Oh, God!

Brief Synopsis

A grocer is selected by God to help spread a message.

Film Details

Also Known As
Min polare Gud, Oh, God!
MPAA Rating
PG
Genre
Comedy
Release Date
1977

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

Jerry Landers, an unassuming assistant manager of a grocery store is approached by God in the form of a good natured old man. God informs Jerry that he has been chosen to spread the Word to the world. But when Jerry attempts to spread God's message everyone thinks he's nuts. Even his loving wife Bobbie doubts him.

Film Details

Also Known As
Min polare Gud, Oh, God!
MPAA Rating
PG
Genre
Comedy
Release Date
1977

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Writing, Screenplay

1978

Articles

Oh, God!


The Sunshine Boys (1975) revitalized the career of George Burns. For decades he had been a comedy star of television, radio and the stage, but he hadn't appeared in a feature film since 1939. Now, at age 79, the role of Al Lewis won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and turned him into a bona fide movie star. It also launched the remarkable final act of his life and career, both of which would continue for two more decades. His next movie, Oh, God! (1977), was another hit that surprised even its makers with its popularity and box-office longevity.

It's a warm comedy in which Burns plays God--in the form of an old Jewish man with a New York accent. He sends a message to an agnostic, southern-California grocery store manager, Jerry Landers (John Denver), to meet him in an ordinary office building where God instructs Jerry to spread the word of God's existence.

The film's laughs and entertainment value impressed audiences and critics, with Roger Ebert deeming it "a treasure of a movie: A sly, civilized, quietly funny speculation on what might happen if God endeavored to present himself in the flesh yet once again to forgetful Man... Part of the movie's charm is in the way it surprises us by treating its subject matter with affection and respect." Screenwriter Larry Gelbart later said he "saw it as a lovely chance to make comments about how we are and how we might be. I didn't look on it as a morality play, but I suppose it's there."

Gelbart's script was based on a 1971 novel by Avery Corman that had kicked around Hollywood for years, having been optioned several times. David Geffen, then in a yearlong stint as vice chairman of Warner Brothers Pictures, finally picked up the option and set the project into motion. He assigned Gelbart to write, Jerry Weintraub to produce and Carl Reiner to direct, and in an inspired bit of thinking decided upon folk singer John Denver for the role of Jerry. Denver had done very little acting, but Geffen gambled that his popularity with young people--for his records and his television specials--would mesh with his "Everyman" quality to make him perfect for the part. Geffen was right: Variety called Denver "sensational in [his] screen debut."

For the role of God, Mel Brooks and Woody Allen were considered before the part was offered to Alan Arkin. But when The Sunshine Boys was released, Geffen, Reiner and Weintraub realized that George Burns would in fact be the ideal choice. Arkin agreed to step aside, and Burns went on to cement his comeback in American popular culture. (Years later, when Weintraub produced the remake of Ocean's 11 [2001], he cast Arkin in the part of Saul, another sage, funny old man, but just before production was set to begin, Arkin required surgery and had to bow out. In a panic, Weintraub approached Carl Reiner to play the role instead; Reiner joked, "Oh, I see. Alan is still not ready to play God.")

Burns impressed all concerned with his professionalism and work ethic. Weintraub never forgot the initial table read, he later wrote, because Burns arrived not just with his own part memorized but with every other character's, too. He corrected actors who fumbled their lines and offered numerous creative ideas and insights.

During the shoot, director Reiner made some special provisions because of Burns's age. For a courtroom scene, he used two cameras to film a close-up and a long shot at the same time, saving Burns from having to recite a long speech too often; Burns was perfect from the start and the scene was done by noon. On another day, for a scene in which God makes it rain inside a car, drenching Burns, Reiner costumed his star with special waterproof gear under his clothes for fear of too many takes' worth of water, but Burns nailed the scene in one take. "Nobody stays alive for that long and keeps his senses," said Reiner, "unless he's gifted with the best genes in the world."

All the while, Burns displayed his impeccable comic timing, from claiming the New York Mets' World Series victory as one of God's miracles to quipping, "So help me, me," when being sworn in during the courtroom sequence.

Burns did refuse to appear on screen without his toupee, however, a problem that was solved when Weintraub and Reiner decided to place God in a hat of some sort in every scene. Weintraub later wrote that he simply could not bring himself to show God wearing a toupee.

Oh, God! cost about $2.2 million, but its initial ad campaign cost an eyebrow-raising $5.5 million--an unheard-of ratio for such a small movie. Most of that cost went toward television advertising because Denver had had such success with young audiences on TV. It was an uncommon practice at the time to devote so much of a film's advertising to TV, but it paid off handsomely. The picture stayed in theaters for nearly a year--"the biggest surprise of my life," Reiner later said.

Larry Gelbart, then riding high as writer and producer of the TV show M*A*S*H, was Oscar-nominated for his screenplay but lost the award to Alvin Sargent for Julia (1977). Gelbart's script did, however, win a Writers Guild award.

Yet the most remarkable measure of the film's success was in George Burns. He reinvented himself as a likably crusty and very funny elderly man, popular with young and old alike. He went on to do more movies, including two sequels to Oh, God!, but also wrote books, became a fixture on late-night talk shows, and was engaged for live shows in Las Vegas and Atlantic City for up to $50,000 per week. After this picture's release, fans from New York City streets to fine restaurants would routinely address Burns as "God."

"It was great for my ego," Burns quipped, "but did nothing for my sex life."

By Jeremy Arnold

SOURCES:
George Burns, The Third Time Around
John Denver, Take Me Home
Martin Gottfried, George Burns: The Hundred Year Dash
Jerry Weintraub, When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead
Oh, God!

Oh, God!

The Sunshine Boys (1975) revitalized the career of George Burns. For decades he had been a comedy star of television, radio and the stage, but he hadn't appeared in a feature film since 1939. Now, at age 79, the role of Al Lewis won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and turned him into a bona fide movie star. It also launched the remarkable final act of his life and career, both of which would continue for two more decades. His next movie, Oh, God! (1977), was another hit that surprised even its makers with its popularity and box-office longevity. It's a warm comedy in which Burns plays God--in the form of an old Jewish man with a New York accent. He sends a message to an agnostic, southern-California grocery store manager, Jerry Landers (John Denver), to meet him in an ordinary office building where God instructs Jerry to spread the word of God's existence. The film's laughs and entertainment value impressed audiences and critics, with Roger Ebert deeming it "a treasure of a movie: A sly, civilized, quietly funny speculation on what might happen if God endeavored to present himself in the flesh yet once again to forgetful Man... Part of the movie's charm is in the way it surprises us by treating its subject matter with affection and respect." Screenwriter Larry Gelbart later said he "saw it as a lovely chance to make comments about how we are and how we might be. I didn't look on it as a morality play, but I suppose it's there." Gelbart's script was based on a 1971 novel by Avery Corman that had kicked around Hollywood for years, having been optioned several times. David Geffen, then in a yearlong stint as vice chairman of Warner Brothers Pictures, finally picked up the option and set the project into motion. He assigned Gelbart to write, Jerry Weintraub to produce and Carl Reiner to direct, and in an inspired bit of thinking decided upon folk singer John Denver for the role of Jerry. Denver had done very little acting, but Geffen gambled that his popularity with young people--for his records and his television specials--would mesh with his "Everyman" quality to make him perfect for the part. Geffen was right: Variety called Denver "sensational in [his] screen debut." For the role of God, Mel Brooks and Woody Allen were considered before the part was offered to Alan Arkin. But when The Sunshine Boys was released, Geffen, Reiner and Weintraub realized that George Burns would in fact be the ideal choice. Arkin agreed to step aside, and Burns went on to cement his comeback in American popular culture. (Years later, when Weintraub produced the remake of Ocean's 11 [2001], he cast Arkin in the part of Saul, another sage, funny old man, but just before production was set to begin, Arkin required surgery and had to bow out. In a panic, Weintraub approached Carl Reiner to play the role instead; Reiner joked, "Oh, I see. Alan is still not ready to play God.") Burns impressed all concerned with his professionalism and work ethic. Weintraub never forgot the initial table read, he later wrote, because Burns arrived not just with his own part memorized but with every other character's, too. He corrected actors who fumbled their lines and offered numerous creative ideas and insights. During the shoot, director Reiner made some special provisions because of Burns's age. For a courtroom scene, he used two cameras to film a close-up and a long shot at the same time, saving Burns from having to recite a long speech too often; Burns was perfect from the start and the scene was done by noon. On another day, for a scene in which God makes it rain inside a car, drenching Burns, Reiner costumed his star with special waterproof gear under his clothes for fear of too many takes' worth of water, but Burns nailed the scene in one take. "Nobody stays alive for that long and keeps his senses," said Reiner, "unless he's gifted with the best genes in the world." All the while, Burns displayed his impeccable comic timing, from claiming the New York Mets' World Series victory as one of God's miracles to quipping, "So help me, me," when being sworn in during the courtroom sequence. Burns did refuse to appear on screen without his toupee, however, a problem that was solved when Weintraub and Reiner decided to place God in a hat of some sort in every scene. Weintraub later wrote that he simply could not bring himself to show God wearing a toupee. Oh, God! cost about $2.2 million, but its initial ad campaign cost an eyebrow-raising $5.5 million--an unheard-of ratio for such a small movie. Most of that cost went toward television advertising because Denver had had such success with young audiences on TV. It was an uncommon practice at the time to devote so much of a film's advertising to TV, but it paid off handsomely. The picture stayed in theaters for nearly a year--"the biggest surprise of my life," Reiner later said. Larry Gelbart, then riding high as writer and producer of the TV show M*A*S*H, was Oscar-nominated for his screenplay but lost the award to Alvin Sargent for Julia (1977). Gelbart's script did, however, win a Writers Guild award. Yet the most remarkable measure of the film's success was in George Burns. He reinvented himself as a likably crusty and very funny elderly man, popular with young and old alike. He went on to do more movies, including two sequels to Oh, God!, but also wrote books, became a fixture on late-night talk shows, and was engaged for live shows in Las Vegas and Atlantic City for up to $50,000 per week. After this picture's release, fans from New York City streets to fine restaurants would routinely address Burns as "God." "It was great for my ego," Burns quipped, "but did nothing for my sex life." By Jeremy Arnold SOURCES: George Burns, The Third Time Around John Denver, Take Me Home Martin Gottfried, George Burns: The Hundred Year Dash Jerry Weintraub, When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead

Oh, God!


For one miraculous week in the fall of 1977, Carl Reiner's Oh, God! knocked the George Lucas juggernaut Star Wars out of the Number 1 slot at the American box office. Based on the 1971 novel of the same name by Avery Corman (whose semiautobiographical book Kramer vs Kramer was then in development at Columbia), Oh, God! originated with veteran radio and TV writer Larry Gelbart. Gelbart had adapted the Corman book with a mind toward directing and envisioned the roles of an unassuming supermarket assistant manager and the Almighty who makes of him a reluctant prophet going to Mel Brooks and Woody Allen - Gelbart's former writing room comrades on Sid Caesar's old Caesar's Hour TV series. Brooks was agreeable but Allen demurred, then developing his own existential comedy, Stardust Memories (1980). The project ultimately fell into the hands of Warner Bros., who purchased Gelbart's first draft screenplay and assigned Carl Reiner (another Sid Caesar alumnus) to direct. Warners followed up on Gelbart's recommendation that God be played by 80 year-old George Burns and cast opposite the former vaudevillian singer-songwriter John Denver. A gentle comedy of character, Oh God! proved to be an unexpected smash, earning back nearly all of its $2.2 million budget in its first weekend alone and bringing in better than $60 million in rentals. The seventh most profitable release of 1977, Oh God! earned Gelbart an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Burns reprised his title role in two sequels, Oh, God! Book II (1980), and Oh, God! You Devil (1984).

By Richard Harland Smith

Oh, God!

For one miraculous week in the fall of 1977, Carl Reiner's Oh, God! knocked the George Lucas juggernaut Star Wars out of the Number 1 slot at the American box office. Based on the 1971 novel of the same name by Avery Corman (whose semiautobiographical book Kramer vs Kramer was then in development at Columbia), Oh, God! originated with veteran radio and TV writer Larry Gelbart. Gelbart had adapted the Corman book with a mind toward directing and envisioned the roles of an unassuming supermarket assistant manager and the Almighty who makes of him a reluctant prophet going to Mel Brooks and Woody Allen - Gelbart's former writing room comrades on Sid Caesar's old Caesar's Hour TV series. Brooks was agreeable but Allen demurred, then developing his own existential comedy, Stardust Memories (1980). The project ultimately fell into the hands of Warner Bros., who purchased Gelbart's first draft screenplay and assigned Carl Reiner (another Sid Caesar alumnus) to direct. Warners followed up on Gelbart's recommendation that God be played by 80 year-old George Burns and cast opposite the former vaudevillian singer-songwriter John Denver. A gentle comedy of character, Oh God! proved to be an unexpected smash, earning back nearly all of its $2.2 million budget in its first weekend alone and bringing in better than $60 million in rentals. The seventh most profitable release of 1977, Oh God! earned Gelbart an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Burns reprised his title role in two sequels, Oh, God! Book II (1980), and Oh, God! You Devil (1984). By Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me me.
- God
If You're God, how can You permit all the suffering that goes on in the world?
- Jerry
I don't permit the suffering - you do.
- God

Trivia

When Jerry is in the hotel room about to give God a quiz, "Dick Van Dyke Show, The" (1961), (created by Carl Reiner) is on TV.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall October 7, 1977

Released in United States Fall October 7, 1977