Sweet Charity


2h 29m 1969
Sweet Charity

Brief Synopsis

A taxi dancer's faith in love leads her to one bad match after another.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Musical
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
Boston opening: 11 Feb 1969
Production Company
Universal Pictures
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Sweet Charity by Neil Simon, Cy Coleman, Dorothy Fields (New York, 29 Jan 1966).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 29m
Sound
70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints), Mono (Westrex Recording System) (35 mm prints)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Charity Hope Valentine, though only a hostess in a cheap New York City dancehall called the Fandango Ballroom, refuses to be disillusioned by the disappointments life has handed her; ever the optimist, she dreams of one day meeting the true love who will bring her happiness and respectability. Charity's latest beau, Charlie, a gangster-gigolo, pushes her off a Central Park bridge and runs away with her life savings, leaving her with only his name tattooed across an arrow-pierced heart on her arm; nevertheless, she refuses to give up hope. One night Charity witnesses a sidewalk argument between Italian film star Vittorio Vitale and his elegant girl friend Ursula. Ursula drives off in a rage, whereupon Vittorio impulsively takes Charity to an exclusive nightclub and then back to his apartment for an intimate supper. But the evening is ruined when an apologetic Ursula arrives, and Charity is forced to spend the night hiding in one of Vittorio's closets. Following a disastrous attempt to better herself by registering at an employment agency, Charity becomes trapped in an elevator with Oscar Lindquist, a timid, claustrophobic insurance actuary. Believing that Charity works in a bank, he asks her for a date, and, despite the warnings of Helene and Nickie, her girl friends at the Fandango, Charity decides that this romance is the one she has been waiting for all her life. Oscar asks Charity to marry him, despite his learning that she is a dancehall hostess; but he meets her Fandango chums at the Marriage License Bureau and gets a good look at Charity's tattoo, and he is unable to go through with the wedding. Once again alone and abandoned, Charity wanders through Central Park until she finds herself at the bridge where Charlie deserted her. As she broods over her fate, a group of flower children hand her a daisy and thus renew her faith in what tomorrow will bring. Songs : "My Personal Property" (Charity), "Hey, Big Spender" (Ballroom Girls), "Rich Man's Frug" (instrumental), "If My Friends Could See Me Now" (Charity), "There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This" (Charity, Nickie & Helene), "It's a Nice Face" (Charity), "Rhythm of Life" (Big Daddy & Ensemble), "Sweet Charity" (Oscar), "I'm a Brass Band" (Charity), "I Love To Cry at Weddings" (Herman & Ensemble), "Where Am I Going?" (Charity).

Cast

Shirley Maclaine

Charity Hope Valentine

Sammy Davis Jr.

Big Daddy

Ricardo Montalban

Vittorio Vitale

John Mcmartin

Oscar Lindquist

Chita Rivera

Nickie

Paula Kelly

Helene

Stubby Kaye

Herman

Barbara Bouchet

Ursula

Alan Hewitt

Nicholsby

Dante D'paulo

Charlie

John Wheeler

Rhythm of Life dancer

John Craig

Man in Fandango Ballroom

Dee Carroll

Woman on tandem

Tom Hatten

Man on tandem

Sharon Harvey

Young woman on bridge

Charles Brewer

Young man on bridge

Richard Angarola

Maître d'

Henry Beckman

Jeff Burton

Policemen

Ceil Cabot

Married woman

Alfred Dennis

Waiter at Chile Hacienda

David Gold

Panhandler

Nolan Leary

Manfred

Diki Lerner

Man with dog on bridge

Buddy Lewis

Appliance salesman

Joseph Mell

Man on bridge

Geraldine O'brien

Lady on bridge

Alma Platt

Lady with hat on bridge

Maudie Prickett

Nurse on bridge

Chet Stratton

Waiter

Robert Terry

Doorman

Roger Til

Greeter at Pompeii Club

Buddy Hart

Bill Harrison

Baseball players

Suzanne Charny

Lead frug dancer

Bick Goss

Drummer boy

Chelsea Brown

Ray Chabeau

Bryan Da Silva

Lynn Fields

Roy Fitzell

Ellen Halpin

Dick Korthaze

April Nevins

Maris O'neill

Lee Roy Reams

Sandy Roveta

Charleen Ryan

Juleste Salve

Patrick Spohn

Jerry Trent

Ben Vereen

Bud Vest

Lorene Yarnell

Frug dancers

John Frayer

Dom Salinaro

Paul Shipton

Walter Stratton

Patrons at dancehall

Larry Billman

Herman Boden

Dick Colacino

Lynn Mcmurrey

Ted Monson

Ed Robinson

Waiter-dancers

Leon Bing

Sue Linden

Jackie Mitchell

Carroll Roebke

Models

Kathryn Doby

Al Lanti

Gloria Mills

Louise Quick

Victoria Scruton

Tiffni Twitchell

Renata Vaselle

Adele Yoshioka

Dancers in "Big Spender" number

Chuck Harrod

Charles Lunard

Jerry Mann

Frank Radcliff

Singers

Marie Bahruth

Toni Basil

Carol Birner

Donald Bradburn

Lonnie Burr

Cheryl Christiansen

Marguerite De Lain

Jimmy Fields

Ben Gooding

Carlton Johnson

Kirk Kirksey

Lance Le Gault

Trish Mahoney

Walter Painter

Bob Thompson Jr.

Bonnie G. West

Kay York

Dancers in "Rhythm of Life" number

Leon Alton

Norman Stevans

Conversions

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Musical
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
Boston opening: 11 Feb 1969
Production Company
Universal Pictures
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Sweet Charity by Neil Simon, Cy Coleman, Dorothy Fields (New York, 29 Jan 1966).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 29m
Sound
70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints), Mono (Westrex Recording System) (35 mm prints)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1969

Best Costume Design

1969
Edith Head

Best Score

1969

Articles

Sweet Charity


Shirley MacLaine returned to her roots in musical comedy for Sweet Charity, a lavish 1969 film musical that marked the feature-directing debut of one of the entertainment world's greatest talents -- Bob Fosse. The film's box-office failure (a $4 million domestic gross on a budget of $20 million) helped put an end to big-budget movie musicals for a while, but today it seems ahead of its time with startling cinematic effects that literally make the camera one of the dancers. That position is more than borne out by the success three years later of Fosse's second big-screen musical Cabaret (1972).

Sweet Charity was born when Broadway star Gwen Verdon and husband Fosse decided to create a stage musical based on Federico Fellini's Italian film classic Le Notti di Cabiria (1957) as a vehicle for her. The role of a streetwalker who tries to escape the world's oldest profession through marriage only to face rejection when her new beau decides he can't live with her past seemed perfect for Verdon. Although some critics would accuse them of sanitizing the original, they decided to transform the leading character, the ever-hopeful Charity, from a streetwalker into a dance-hall hostess. Fosse argued that setting the show in New York City made the change necessary; the hookers there were too hard-edged for the story. The musical opened in 1966 with great songs by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, including "Hey, Big Spender" and "If My Friends Could See Me Now," and became a big hit.

A few years later, Lew Wasserman, head of Universal Pictures, was looking to produce a film musical to capitalize on the success of such films as My Fair Lady (1964) and The Sound of Music (1965). MacLaine suggested a film version of Sweet Charity and even fought to have Fosse hired to make his film directing debut with the picture (he had choreographed in Hollywood since the '50s on both original musicals and adaptations of his stage hits). In a way, she was paying back past favors. Fosse had cast her first as a member of the chorus and then as understudy to one of the leads in The Pajama Game. MacLaine was on the verge of quitting that hit to understudy Verdon in Can-Can, with hopes that she would get to play the role, when Carol Haney, the actress/dancer she understudied in Pajama Game, sprained her ankle. MacLaine went on in her place the night a talent scout was attending, and the rest is Hollywood history.

Verdon had hoped to play Charity in the screen version, but realized that MacLaine's name was well known to moviegoers and would mean more at the box office. It also seemed a fair exchange, since she had modeled her characterization on MacLaine's image as a kooky gamin. She even signed on as an assistant choreographer, helping teach MacLaine the dances and leading the camera through some of the more intricate routines.

Only one star from the original Broadway production made it into the film. John McMartin, who would go on to appear in such Broadway hits as Follies and Into the Woods, played the young accountant who almost marries MacLaine. Chita Rivera and Paula Kelly, cast as Charity's dance hall friends, had appeared in the show in London (with Rivera in the lead). To this mix they added screen veteran Ricardo Montalban as a movie star who picks up Charity after a spat with his girlfriend, Stubby Kaye as the dance-hall manager and, in a cameo, Sammy Davis, Jr. as the leader of a religious revival. In the dance chorus would be future Broadway stars Ben Vereen and Lee Roy Reams, mime Lorene Yarnell (later of Shields and Yarnell), Laugh-In star Chelsea Brown and Toni Basil, later the singer of the top-20 hit "Mickey."

Fosse wanted the film version to maintain the gritty texture of both the stage musical and the original Italian film. In that area, he quarreled with producer Ross Hunter, who had a long career of creating lavish, glamorous and, most importantly, moneymaking films for Universal. When they failed to come to terms, Wasserman stood behind the new director and replaced Hunter with another of the studio's stalwart producers, Robert Alan Arthur. He also supported Fosse's decision to re-shoot an ending the director thought too corny (Charity reconciles with the man who dumped her at the altar) and replace it with one in which Charity goes off to seek happiness on her own terms.

But for all the good work and solid professionalism that went into Sweet Charity, it was caught in the storm of changing times. The same year she danced in the film's chorus, Toni Basil played a small role in Easy Rider, a film that would change the face of filmmaking with its appeal to a younger, alienated audience. To them, the old-fashioned Hollywood musical was a dinosaur, and Sweet Charity became one of several big-budget musical flops that put the genre to rest -- at least for a while. With the recent success of Chicago (2002), another adaptation of a Bob Fosse-Gwen Verdon stage hit, Sweet Charity deserves a second look as the collaboration of one of the world's greatest choreographers and one of its most energetic and appealing stars.

Producer: Robert Alan Arthur
Director: Bob Fosse
Screenplay: Peter Stone
Based on the musical by Neil Simon, Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, adapted from the screenplay " Le Notti di Cabiria " by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli and Ennio Flaiano Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Art Direction: Alexander Golitzen, George C. Webb
Music: Cy Coleman, Joseph Gershenson
Cast: Shirley MacLaine (Charity Hope Valentine), Sammy Davis, Jr. (Big Daddy), Ricardo Montalban (Vittorio Vitale), John McMartin (Oscar Lindquist), Chita Rivera (Nickie), Paula Kelly (Helene), Stubby Kaye (Herman), Suzanne Charney, Chelsea Brown, Lee Roy Reams, Ben Vereen, Lorene Yarnell (Frug Dancers), Toni Basil (Convert), Bud Cort, Kristoffer Tabori (Hippies).
C-154m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller
Sweet Charity

Sweet Charity

Shirley MacLaine returned to her roots in musical comedy for Sweet Charity, a lavish 1969 film musical that marked the feature-directing debut of one of the entertainment world's greatest talents -- Bob Fosse. The film's box-office failure (a $4 million domestic gross on a budget of $20 million) helped put an end to big-budget movie musicals for a while, but today it seems ahead of its time with startling cinematic effects that literally make the camera one of the dancers. That position is more than borne out by the success three years later of Fosse's second big-screen musical Cabaret (1972). Sweet Charity was born when Broadway star Gwen Verdon and husband Fosse decided to create a stage musical based on Federico Fellini's Italian film classic Le Notti di Cabiria (1957) as a vehicle for her. The role of a streetwalker who tries to escape the world's oldest profession through marriage only to face rejection when her new beau decides he can't live with her past seemed perfect for Verdon. Although some critics would accuse them of sanitizing the original, they decided to transform the leading character, the ever-hopeful Charity, from a streetwalker into a dance-hall hostess. Fosse argued that setting the show in New York City made the change necessary; the hookers there were too hard-edged for the story. The musical opened in 1966 with great songs by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, including "Hey, Big Spender" and "If My Friends Could See Me Now," and became a big hit. A few years later, Lew Wasserman, head of Universal Pictures, was looking to produce a film musical to capitalize on the success of such films as My Fair Lady (1964) and The Sound of Music (1965). MacLaine suggested a film version of Sweet Charity and even fought to have Fosse hired to make his film directing debut with the picture (he had choreographed in Hollywood since the '50s on both original musicals and adaptations of his stage hits). In a way, she was paying back past favors. Fosse had cast her first as a member of the chorus and then as understudy to one of the leads in The Pajama Game. MacLaine was on the verge of quitting that hit to understudy Verdon in Can-Can, with hopes that she would get to play the role, when Carol Haney, the actress/dancer she understudied in Pajama Game, sprained her ankle. MacLaine went on in her place the night a talent scout was attending, and the rest is Hollywood history. Verdon had hoped to play Charity in the screen version, but realized that MacLaine's name was well known to moviegoers and would mean more at the box office. It also seemed a fair exchange, since she had modeled her characterization on MacLaine's image as a kooky gamin. She even signed on as an assistant choreographer, helping teach MacLaine the dances and leading the camera through some of the more intricate routines. Only one star from the original Broadway production made it into the film. John McMartin, who would go on to appear in such Broadway hits as Follies and Into the Woods, played the young accountant who almost marries MacLaine. Chita Rivera and Paula Kelly, cast as Charity's dance hall friends, had appeared in the show in London (with Rivera in the lead). To this mix they added screen veteran Ricardo Montalban as a movie star who picks up Charity after a spat with his girlfriend, Stubby Kaye as the dance-hall manager and, in a cameo, Sammy Davis, Jr. as the leader of a religious revival. In the dance chorus would be future Broadway stars Ben Vereen and Lee Roy Reams, mime Lorene Yarnell (later of Shields and Yarnell), Laugh-In star Chelsea Brown and Toni Basil, later the singer of the top-20 hit "Mickey." Fosse wanted the film version to maintain the gritty texture of both the stage musical and the original Italian film. In that area, he quarreled with producer Ross Hunter, who had a long career of creating lavish, glamorous and, most importantly, moneymaking films for Universal. When they failed to come to terms, Wasserman stood behind the new director and replaced Hunter with another of the studio's stalwart producers, Robert Alan Arthur. He also supported Fosse's decision to re-shoot an ending the director thought too corny (Charity reconciles with the man who dumped her at the altar) and replace it with one in which Charity goes off to seek happiness on her own terms. But for all the good work and solid professionalism that went into Sweet Charity, it was caught in the storm of changing times. The same year she danced in the film's chorus, Toni Basil played a small role in Easy Rider, a film that would change the face of filmmaking with its appeal to a younger, alienated audience. To them, the old-fashioned Hollywood musical was a dinosaur, and Sweet Charity became one of several big-budget musical flops that put the genre to rest -- at least for a while. With the recent success of Chicago (2002), another adaptation of a Bob Fosse-Gwen Verdon stage hit, Sweet Charity deserves a second look as the collaboration of one of the world's greatest choreographers and one of its most energetic and appealing stars. Producer: Robert Alan Arthur Director: Bob Fosse Screenplay: Peter Stone Based on the musical by Neil Simon, Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, adapted from the screenplay " Le Notti di Cabiria " by Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli and Ennio Flaiano Cinematography: Robert Surtees Art Direction: Alexander Golitzen, George C. Webb Music: Cy Coleman, Joseph Gershenson Cast: Shirley MacLaine (Charity Hope Valentine), Sammy Davis, Jr. (Big Daddy), Ricardo Montalban (Vittorio Vitale), John McMartin (Oscar Lindquist), Chita Rivera (Nickie), Paula Kelly (Helene), Stubby Kaye (Herman), Suzanne Charney, Chelsea Brown, Lee Roy Reams, Ben Vereen, Lorene Yarnell (Frug Dancers), Toni Basil (Convert), Bud Cort, Kristoffer Tabori (Hippies). C-154m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Frank Miller

Quotes

Without love, life would have no purpose.
- Vittorio
There ain't no use flappin' your wings, 'cause we are stuck in the flypaper of life!
- Helene

Trivia

Original producer Ross Hunter dropped out after a conflict with director Bob Fosse over how to handle the racy story line.

Notes

Location scenes filmed in New York City. Filmed in 35mm and blown up to 70mm for some roadshow presentations. The play Sweet Charity was based on Fellini's film, Notti di Cabiria (1957).

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter February 11, 1969

Released in United States on Video November 12, 1987

Re-released in United States on Video January 12, 1994

A screen translation of the Bob Fosse/Neil Simon/Cy Coleman/Dorothy Fields musical, itself based on Federico Fellini's "Nights of Cabiria" (Italy/1957).

Bob Fosse's directorial debut.

Two running times denote that film was made available with two different endings - one upbeat and the other downbeat.

Released in USA on laserdisc December 1988.

Released in United States Winter February 11, 1969

Released in United States on Video November 12, 1987

Re-released in United States on Video January 12, 1994