Thursday, January 2, 2014

Moonstruck (1987)

Ronny Cammareri:  I love you.
Loretta Castorini:  [slaps him twice] Snap out of it!
Loretta Castorini, a book keeper from Brooklyn, New York, finds herself in a difficult situation when she falls for the brother of the man she agreed to marry (the best friend of her late husband who died seven years previously).
It was on December 16, 1987 that "Moonstruck" made its premiere to a limited audience in New York City, New York.  Two days later, the film would be released two days later to just seven screens, bringing in just under $128,000.  It was MGMs plan to release it this way as there were quite a few other films that opened the same weekend as "Moonstruck".  Films such as "Broadcast News", "Eddie Murphy: Raw", "*batteries not included", "Overboard", and "Ironweed".  It was also just a week before Christmas when these films came out.  However, when MGM eventually released "Moonstruck" to 1,178 screens nationwide, in time its overall earnings were that of over $80.6 million, making the film the fifth highest grossing film of 1987 and MGMs biggest hit of the year.
This wasn't by any means Norman Jewison's directorial debut.  Not by a long shot.  He had already directed such fantastic films as "In the Heat of the Night", "The Thomas Crown Affair", "Fiddler on the Roof", "Jesus Christ Superstar", "... And Justice for All", and "Agnes of God."  All of these starred incredible and well-known actors and actresses and were all nominated for Academy Awards as well as other honors, winning most of them.  "Moonstruck" was no exception.  Written by John Patrick Shanley and produced by Norman Jewison, "Moonstruck" was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Supporting Actor (Vincent Gardenia), Best Director, and Best Picture.  It ended up winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Olympia Dukakis), and Best Actress (Cher).  The film was also nominated for five Golden Globes, one of which nodded its way toward Nicolas Cage (sadly, he didn't win), but Olympia and Cher found themselves winners by the end of the evening.
"Moonstruck" had an incredible cast including Cher as Loretta, Nicolas Cage as Ronny, Olympia Dukakis as Rose, Vincent Gardenia as Cosmo, and co-starred Danny Aiello as Johnny, John Mahoney as Perry, Julie Bovasso as Rita, Louis Guss as Raymond, and Feodor Chaliapin, Jr. as the Old Man.
Filmed almost entirely on location in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, here are some other delightful things to consider regarding the making of this fabulous film...
1.  Screenwriter John Patrick Shanley wrote the film's script with Sally Field in mind for the lead role which, in the end, was played by Cher instead.
2.  Originally, the film was called "The Bride and the Wolf".
3.  Cher had just done two movies back-to-back and was so tired, she originally turned this part down.  She also thought she could not play a bookkeeper because she is such a lavish spender in real life.
4.  Nicolas Cage's screen test didn't impress the studio, and they wanted to get someone else to play Ronny.  But Cher insisted that Cage was the one to play that role, and threatened to quit unless he was hired.  After a few days, the studio relented.
5.  According to casting director Howard Feuer, both Anne Bancroft and Maureen Stapleton had been considered for the role of Cher's mother, but their fees were too expensive for the production budget.  Feuer remembered Olympia Dukakis, a character actress known for years to most in casting.  She read for director Norman Jewison and he hired her instantly.
6.  Olympia Dukakis is only 15 years older than her on-screen daughter Cher.
7.  Danny Aiello and Nicolas Cage play brothers, even though Aiello, in reality, is 31 years older than Cage.
8.  Feodor Chaliapin, Jr. (the Old Man) is the son of Feodor Chaliapin Sr., who was one of the greatest basses of all time - a Russian who often performed at the Metropolitan Opera in the early 1900s.
9.  The opening title sequence was originally played on the score from "La bohème" opera but was changed to the Dean Martin track "That's Amore" as the preview drew negative test audience reaction.  Many shifted uncomfortably on their seats thinking that they had been lured into an art film.
10.  The opening credits show a sign advertising the opera "La Bohème", conducted by "Roger Paradiso".  Roger Paradiso was involved with the production of this film.
11.  Remember the scene where Johnny gets down on his knees to propose?  As he kneels down and his face nearly leaves the camera, you see him burst out laughing for about one second.  If you listen closely, you can hear people laughing at him.  It wasn't just the patrons in the restaurant laughing, but the camera crew as well.
12.  The scene where "Loretta" tells "Ronny" to "Snap out of it!"... that was a pretty hard slap, right?  Not the first one, but the second.  It was the second slap where Cher slapped Nicolas so hard that she bloodied his nose.
13.  The original screenplay featured a subplot that showed the characters played by Cher and Vincent Gardenia volunteering at a men's homeless shelter as penance for their sins.  The subplot was discarded.
14.  When Johnny hails a cab at the airport after his return from Sicily, he asks the driver to take him to "19 Cranberry Street, Brooklyn."  This is the actual house address as the house is located a few blocks from the East River, just like the exteriors shown in the movie.
15.  Norman Jewison has stated that the climactic kitchen sequence was the most difficult scene that he ever shot in his career.  The crew were dismissed and Jewison rehearsed with the cast for quite some time, using a stage production approach.  It was only after the actors perfected their timing that he decided where to put the camera for filming the scene.
16.  Director Norman Jewison was fined by the Actors' Union for not allowing his actors to go to lunch until they perfected the moods of their characters for the climax scene in the kitchen.
17.  As aforementioned, John Mahoney plays the part of "Perry".  It was good that he was in this film as he later revealed that the role got him widespread attention, helping him get cast in the very familiar and popular TV series, "Frasier."
And now you know.
"Moonstruck" is one of my most favorite romantic comedies to watch.  I have seen it so many times that when I'm watching it with others I have to concentrate on keeping my mouth shut as I'll most likely quote lines from the film before or as the movie is playing.  I know.  Distracting, right?
Below are pictures of the key characters in "Moonstruck" as well as approximately 130 pictures stills from the film itself arranged in chronological order, following that of the storyline.
First the key characters...
And now the storyline...
Ronny Cammareri:  Loretta, I love you.  Not like they told you love is, and I didn't know this either, but love don't make things nice - it ruins everything.  It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess.  We aren't here to make things perfect.  The snowflakes are perfect.  The stars are perfect.  Not us.  Not us!  We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and *die*.  The storybooks are *bullshit*.  Now I want you to come upstairs with me and *get* in my bed!

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