AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
The Thomas Crown Affair
Alternate Title: The Crown Caper
Director: Norman Jewison (Dir)
Release Date:   Aug 1968
Premiere Information:   World premiere in Boston: 19 Jun 1968; Los Angeles and New York openings: 26 Jun 1968
Production Date:   6 Jun--22 Sep 1967
Duration (in mins):   102
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Steve McQueen (Thomas Crown)  
    Faye Dunaway (Vicki Anderson)  
    Paul Burke ([Lt.] Eddy Malone)  
    Jack Weston (Erwin [Weaver])  
    Biff McGuire (Sandy)  
    Addison Powell (Abe)  
  And Introducing Astrid Heeren (Gwen)  
    Gordon Pinsent (Jamie [McDonald])  
    Yaphet Kotto (Carl)  
    Sidney Armus (Arnie)  
    Richard Bull (Booth guard)  
    Peg Shirley (Honey [Weaver])  
    Patrick Horgan (Danny)  
    Carol Corbett (Miss Sullivan)  
    Tom Rosqui (Pvt. detective)  
    Michael Shillo (Swiss banker)  
    Nora Marlowe (Marcie)  
    Sam Melville (Dave)  
    Ted Gehring (Marvin)  
    Paul Verdier (Elevator operator)  
    Judy Pace (Pretty girl)  
    Todd Martin (Benjy)  
    Jon Shank (Curley)  
    Allen Emerson (Don)  
    Harry Cooper (Ernie)  
    John Silver (Bert)  
    John Orchard (John)  
    Leonard Caron (Jimmy Weaver)  
    Paul Rhone (Cash room guard)  
    Victor Creatore (Cash room guard)  
    James Rawley (Elevator operator)  
    Charles Lampkin (Elevator operator)  
    Carole Kelly (Motel girl)  
    Patty Regan (Girl in elevator)  

Summary: In a Boston hotel room, Erwin Weaver finds himself being blinded with a bright spotlight and informed by a man, using a microphone to disguise his voice, that he can earn $50,000 for buying a Ford station wagon and driving it as instructed, whenever he is called. The mysterious man is millionaire businessman Thomas Crown, who later, bored with his various successes and disenchanted with the establishment of which he is a part, places phone calls to five men stationed at various phone booths around town. The men, who call him “Charlie,” then agree to field calls again at precise intervals until each receives the signal from Tommy to “go.” At the signal, the men head to the Mercantile Bank, where two of them commandeer an elevator, another quietly holds up the security guard, and another takes control of the elevator bank on the ground floor, holding bystanders at gunpoint and forcing to the ground two guards transporting over $2.5 million in cash. When one customer tries to run, he is shot in the leg, after which the robbers carry the bags of money out the front door, where Erwin waits in the station wagon. Dropping smoke bombs down the hallway, the robbers signal Erwin to drive off and then casually stride down the street. Erwin, nervous and inexperienced, is briefly caught in traffic jam, where he watches the police speed to the bank and round up the witnesses. Finally, he is able to drive away and, unaware that Tommy is following in his Rolls Royce, proceeds to the agreed-upon meeting point at a cemetery. As instructed, Erwin deposits the bags of money in a garbage can, changes the car’s license plates and drives off. Posing as a mourner, Tommy retrieves the money and returns to his mansion, where he enjoys a celebratory drink in solitude. Meanwhile, Lt. Eddy Malone leads the police investigation, but finds few clues to the meticulously organized crime. After a witness identifies the station wagon, Eddy orders all similar cars searched, and although Erwin is stopped, the car passes inspection and he is released. Tommy flies to Geneva, where he deposits some of the cash in a secret bank account, easily convincing the bank manager to accept the new account without any personal information. Insurance investigator Jamie McDonald, furious that his company must pay off the bank, insists that Eddy work with a specialist, Vicki Anderson. Eddy is at first dismissive, but upon meeting the charming and sophisticated Vicki, allows her access to his files. She tells him that every crime has a personality, and despite disdaining her intuitive approach, he soon recognizes her intelligence. While they mull over how the crime has been accomplished, Tommy pilots his private plane and relaxes with his girl friend, Gwen. After a week of contemplation, Vicki deduces that the robber has transported the money to a bank in Switzerland over multiple airplane flights, knowing that the country’s customs agents rarely inspect baggage. Realizing that a check of airline records would reveal repeat passengers, Eddy grows more enthusiastic about Vicki’s unorthodox methods. She then wonders if the robber’s cohorts could have been strangers, paid off in installments, and suggests that they place an advertisement offering a reward for anyone who has noticed a loved one who was out of town during the robbery and suddenly come into possession of a sudden influx of cash. Later, the two consider photographs of the short list of men who lately have made multiple trips to Switzerland. After instinctively discarding most of the suspects, Vicki sees Tommy’s picture and is instantly attracted to the urbane entrepreneur. Attending his polo game soon after, she brazenly attracts his attention by filming him with a home movie camera, and later declares to an unconvinced Eddy that Tommy is definitely the culprit. Knowing he will be there, she attends an art auction, prompting Tommy to outbid her on a set of lithographs in order to have an excuse to approach her. As they talk, she reveals immediately that she is investigating him as a suspect in the bank robbery, causing him to laugh incredulously at her candor. Over dinner, the two well-matched adversaries spar verbally, their attraction growing. Later, while Tommy notes that his house is being watched, Eddy wonders to his assistant why a man as wealthy as Tommy would rob a bank, concluding it must be “for kicks.” The newspaper ad attracts the attention of Erwin’s irritable wife, who calls with information about Erwin’s suspicious behavior. Although Eddy expressly forbids Vicki from pursuing Erwin using illegal means, she hires private detectives to steal Erwin’s station wagon and kidnap his son, demanding $5,000 in ransom. Refusing to call the police, Erwin delivers the money only to find Vicki, who returns the boy and cash, which she points to as proof of his involvement in the robbery, and extracts a full confession. Eddy, jealous at how impressed Vicki is with Tommy’s plot and appalled by her unethical techniques, questions her morality, causing her to admit with anger that she is indeed immoral and interested only in her compensation, ten percent of the recovered money. Vicki then invites Tommy to meet her at the police station, where she and Eddy watch through a two-way mirror as he waits in a room with Erwin. Erwin, however, has no idea what Tommy looks like, and Tommy reveals no glimmer of recognition. After Vicki introduces Eddy to Tommy and the two greet each other warily, Tommy brings her to his house, where she admires his refined taste. Over drinks, she taunts him that he will eventually lose their rivalry, then challenges him to a game of chess. During the intense game, their sexual chemistry reaches a peak, and finally he pulls her to him for a long kiss. As the pair continues to date, their romance deepens, as does their psychological struggle. Weary of being trailed by police and audited by the IRS, Tommy deliberately begins dating Gwen again, knowing Vicki will be informed. Upset, she confronts him about Gwen, but he replies that he is merely testing her devotion. They visit his unbuilt beach house, which consists only of a foundation and fireplace, and happily wander the cozy town. In a spa sauna, Vicki urges Tommy to let her cut a deal for him, but when he instructs her to call Eddy, as he has presupposed, Eddy refuses any deals. Confused by her feelings of guilt, Vicki is further shocked when Tommy declares that he is planning another robbery. One night soon after, he announces that the robbery will take place the following day and informs her of the cemetery at which he will pick up the money, stating that he is testing her to ensure that she is on his side. Despite her dismay and hesitance, Vicki informs Eddy about the pickup, and the next day they await Tommy at the cemetery. When it appears that he is not coming, Eddy angrily questions Vicki if she has been honest, but just then, the Rolls Royce drives in with a funeral procession, then veers off toward them. Eddy triumphantly has the car surrounded, but when Vicki opens the door, the driver, a messenger, hands her a telegram from Tommy. It states that he has “left early,” asks her either to join him with the money or keep the car, and is signed “All my love, Tommy.” As Tommy jets away to safety, wondering what Vicki will do, she tears up the telegram and searches the sky, overcome by emotion. 

Production Company: The Mirisch Corporation  
  Solar Productions, Inc.  
Production Text: A Norman Jewison Production
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp. (Transamerica Corp.)
Director: Norman Jewison (Dir)
  Jack N. Reddish (1st asst dir)
  Walter Hill (2d asst dir)
Producer: Norman Jewison (Prod)
  Hal Ashby (Assoc prod)
Writer: Alan R. Trustman (Wrt)
Photography: Haskell Wexler (Dir of photog)
  Ralph Gerling (Cam op)
  Morris Rosen (Key grip)
  Gaylin Schultz (Key grip)
Art Direction: Robert Boyle (Art dir)
  Nikita Knatz (Sketch artist)
Film Editor: Hal Ashby (Film ed)
  Ralph E. Winters (Film ed)
  Byron Brandt (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edward Boyle (Set dec)
  Anthony Bavero (Prop)
Costumes: Alan Levine (Ward)
  Thea Van Runkle (Miss Dunaway's ward des)
  Ron Postal (Mr. McQueen's ward consultant)
  Kenneth Jay Lane (Miss Dunaway's jewelry des)
Music: Michel Legrand (Mus comp and cond)
  Tom Downing (Mus ed)
Sound: Walter Goss (Sd)
  Clem Portman (Sd rec)
  Jim Richard (Sd ed)
Special Effects: Pablo Ferro Films (Multiple screens by)
Make Up: Del Armstrong (Makeup)
  Lynn Del Kail (Hairstyles)
Production Misc: Lynn Stalmaster (Casting)
  Allen K. Wood (Prod supv)
  James E. Henderling (Prod mgr)
  J. Howard Joslin (Unit mgr)
  Alfred Sheinwald (Tech adv)
  Gary Wooten (Tech adv)
  Neil R. Ayer (Tech adv)
  Marshall Wolins (Scr supv)
  Pete Condos (Dune buggy des)
  Leonard Shannon (Unit pub)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "The Windmills of Your Mind," music by Michel Legrand, lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman, sung by Noel Harrison.
Composer: Alan Bergman
  Marilyn Bergman
  Michel Legrand
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Mirisch-Simkoe-Solar Productions 19/6/1968 dd/mm/yyyy LP35996

PCA NO: 21612
Physical Properties: col: DeLuxe
  Sd: Westrex Recording System
  Widescreen/ratio: 1.85:1

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Crime
Subjects (Major): Bank robberies
  Boston (MA)
  Love affairs
  Police detectives
Subjects (Minor): Abduction
  Dune buggies
  Rolls-Royce automobiles
  Upper classes

Note: The working titles of this film were Thomas Crown, Esquire , The Crown Caper and Thomas Crown and Company . The film’s opening credits show brightly colored photographs of the actors in shots from the picture, sometimes in small frames within the larger screen, and sometimes with only parts of their faces shown, with the facial features being mixed with others as they appear. The names of Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Paul Burke and Jack Weston appear with their photographs. Although the picture's copyright claimant was Mirisch-Simkoe-Solar Productions, the actual production companies were The Mirisch Corporation, Simkoe and Solar Productions, Inc., the latter of which was formed by McQueen in 1961.
       The Thomas Crown Affair marked the first feature film written by Alan R. Trustman, a Boston lawyer and former banker. According to contemporary sources, Trustman first thought of the film’s story while working at a bank, and later wrote the treatment after becoming a lawyer. He sold the treatment to the William Morris Agency, which then interested director Norman Jewison. In modern sources, Jewison has noted that he worked extensively with Trustman on the screenplay.
       In his autobiography, Jewison stated that both he and Trustman originally wanted Sean Connery for the part of “Thomas Crown,” but Connery, tired after completing You Only Live Twice (see below), declined. Modern sources assert that Jewison also considered Rock Hudson for the role. McQueen, whom Jewison had directed in 1965’s The Cincinnati Kid (see above), lobbied hard for the part, which Jewison was reluctant to give him, as he felt it was too divergent from McQueen’s onscreen and offscreen personas. Jewison also noted that among the many actresses considered to play “Vicki Anderson” were Brigitte Bardot, Julie Christie, Leslie Caron, Vanessa Redgrave, Sharon Tate, Raquel Welch, Candice Bergen and Anouk Aimeé. On the suggestion of McQueen, Jewison tested Camilla Sparv, but ultimately the part went to Dunaway on the strength of footage Jewison saw from 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde (see above) before its release. Modern sources include Bruce Glover in the cast. The picture marked the screen debut of fashion model Astrid Heeren, although she went on to make only two more films.
       As noted by contemporary sources, The Thomas Crown Affair was shot mostly on location in Boston, MA, with interiors filmed at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood. Studio publicity related that the production shot for ten weeks in ninety locations around Boston. In press releases, Jewison asserted that the initial bank robbery was filmed at the downtown branch of the National Shawmut Bank, and that although the guards and bank officials knew what was going on, the customers did not because the filmmakers were using a concealed camera. Although they apparently thought that a real robbery was occurring, none of the customers or pedestrians interfered in any way. In an Oct 1968 AmCin article, director of photography Haskell Wexler clarified that it was mostly the exterior sequences that were shot at the Boston bank, with many of the interiors shot at the Goldwyn Studios. Hidden cameras were used frequently to photograph various street scenes in Boston as well. Other Boston locations listed by studio press releases include Beacon Hill, Copp’s Hill Cemetery, the Commons and Crane’s Beach, as well as Provincetown on Cape Cod. The glider scenes were shot in Salem, NH, according to contemporary sources. In Nov 2003, WSJ reported that the house used for Crown’s mansion was a property on Beacon Hill that was one of three built by merchant Harrison Gray Otis.
       According to modern sources, the producers applied to the FBI for cooperation in shooting the picture and sought to film the FBI headquarters in Boston, but the agency refused, claiming that the script made it look incompetent. Studio press releases noted that the dune buggy in the film was designed and customized by McQueen and Pete Condos, “an off-road vehicle builder.” McQueen, a sports enthusiast, learned to play polo for the film and was taught by Gary Wooten and Neil R. Ayer, real-life polo players, as well as by first assistant director Jack N. Reddish, who was a nationally ranked player at the time. In Feb 1968, Box reported that United Artists had alerted distributors that the company would be seeking blind bids for exhibition rights to the picture, as prints of it would not be finished in time to be viewed before its release. Blind bidding was no longer a common practice by the late 1960s, and UA had to make special efforts to notify the National Association of Theatre Owners of its intentions.
       According to the audio commentary recorded by Jewison for the film’s 2005 DVD release, he first became fascinated by the use of multiple screens during the 1967 Expo in Montreal, at which Christopher Chapman’s short film A Place to Stand was exhibited. The short consisted entirely of images on multiple screens, and Jewison realized that the technique could be an optimal way to convey several story points without having to focus on them individually at length or employ a complicated montage. The director frequently used the multiple screen technique for The Thomas Crown Affair , most notably during the first bank robbery, when the criminals arrive separately in Boston, contact Crown and then rob the bank. Different actors and actions are seen in small frames within the larger screen, which is sometimes black or filled with other action, and occasionally the smaller frames move in and out of focus to draw attention to other action. Sometimes the same action is seen in multiple small frames that fill the entire screen in a checkerboard effect, as during some shots of the polo match played by Crown and photographed by Vicki. The polo match was partially filmed by mounting a camera onto a chest harness on one of the players, according to the AmCin article.
       In his autobiography, Jewison wrote that he hired Pablo Ferro to do the multiple screen work after Ferro designed the credits for his hit 1966 film The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming (see above). Jewison stated that for the work on The Thomas Crown Affair , which had a budget of $4 million, Ferro “came up with a complex process that involved mattes, an animation camera, [and] an optical printer,” and that the action was not storyboarded ahead of filming, as was usual. In an information sheet about the special effects, submitted by Jewison to AMPAS so that the picture could be considered for a visual effects Oscar, he estimated that during the robbery sequences, because so much story information was conveyed “in the 3 ½ to 4 minutes of multiple image time, audiences had really been exposed to close to 15 minutes of straight-cut film.” Jewison also asserted that The Thomas Crown Affair “was the first feature film to utilize the multiple image effect within a dramatic form.”
       One of the film’s most famous sequences is the chess match between Crown and Vicki, played in the study of Crown's mansion. The scene is played with very little dialogue, rapid cuts and a mixture of extreme close-ups and regular shots. After Vicki defeats Crown, he suggests that they play something else, then kisses her. In his DVD commentary and autobiography, Jewison stated that the chess and kissing scenes took three days to shoot. During the kiss, the camera begins to revolve 360 degrees around the characters, with increasing speed until the action goes out of focus and dissolves into various colors. Jewison related that in order to achieve the effect, Wexler, who used a handheld camera, stood on a skateboard while grips pushed him around the kissing actors. According to studio press materials, the game played by Vicki and Crown, designed by technical advisor Alfred Sheinwald, was based on a real, Grand Masters’ match played in 1899. Several reviews of the film compared the chess sequence to the sexually charged eating scenes in the 1963 picture Tom Jones (see below). A clip of the chess sequence was included in the 1979 picture Being There , in which Peter Sellers watches the clip on television and imitates it while romancing Shirley MacLaine. Being There was directed by Hal Ashby, who had served as the supervising editor and associate producer of The Thomas Crown Affair .
       The elegant, chic costumes worn by McQueen and Dunaway are another frequently discussed aspect of the film. In contrast to the often hippiesh clothes of the late 1960s, the costumes were designed to enhance the picture's glamor and high style, according to contemporary comments made by Jewison and costume designer Thea Van Runkle, who designed Dunaway's costumes for Bonnie and Clyde . In studio press releases, Van Runkle emphasized what she called the "Method accessorizing" she used in The Thomas Crown Affair to highlight Vicki's emotions, such as a linen suit set off with carnelians and garnets to show that Vicki "was out for blood." Many reviews commented on the lavish outfits, with the HCN critic calling Dunaway "a dazzling vision."
       The picture received mixed reviews at the time of its release, although it was in the top twenty at the box office for the year, was very popular in Europe and has since become regarded as a classic of 1960s cinema. While some critics applauded the picture’s emphasis on style over content, the Time reviewer complained that Jewison has “turned out a glimmering, empty film reminiscent of an haute couture model: stunning on the surface, concave and undernourished beneath.” The Var critic, however, hailed the film as “[w]ell-tooled, professionally crafted and fashioned with obvious meticulous care,” and asserted: “A major asset in the story is its essential simplicity, and its lack of plot pretension.” Several modern sources claim that McQueen considered The Thomas Crown Affair his favorite of all his movies.
       The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score and won an Oscar for Best Original Song for “The Windmills of Your Mind.” The song became very popular, although in his autobiography, Jewison noted that he first asked Andy Williams to sing the song for the film, but Williams demurred and the assignment went to Noel Harrison. Another hit song from the film was set to the love theme heard during the chess game. Alan and Marilyn Bergman later wrote lyrics for the theme, and under the title "His Eyes, Her Eyes," the song has been recorded by numerous singers.
       In 1999, M-G-M released a remake of the film, also titled The Thomas Crown Affair . Directed by John McTiernan, the remake starred Pierce Brosnan as a millionaire art thief who is pursued by an insurance investigator played by Rene Russo. Faye Dunaway appeared in the 1999 film in a small role as Crown's analyst, and the song “The Windmills of Your Mind” was recorded in a new version by Sting. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   Oct 1968   p. 740+.
Boston After Dark   19 Jun 1968.   
Box Office   5 Feb 1968.   
Box Office   22 Apr 1968.   
Box Office   24 Jun 1968.   
Daily Variety   26 Jan 1967.   
Daily Variety   19 Sep 1967.   
Daily Variety   29 Sep 1967.   
Daily Variety   19 Mar 1968.   
Daily Variety   29 May 1968.   
Daily Variety   19 Jun 1968.   
The Exhibitor   19 Jun 1968.   
Film Daily   20 Jun 1968   p. 5.
Filmfacts   1968   pp. 232-34.
Films and Filming   Apr 1969   pp. 41-42.
Hollywood Citizen-News   28 Jun 1968.   
Hollywood Reporter   6 Feb 1967.   
Hollywood Reporter   5 Jun 1967.   
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jun 1967   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Sep 1967   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Jun 1968   p. 3, 5.
Los Angeles Times   10 Sep 1967.   
Los Angeles Times   6 Jun 1968.   
Los Angeles Times   28 Jun 1968   Section IV, p. 1, 14.
Life   Nov 1967.   
Motion Picture Herald   19 Jun 1968   p. 823.
New Republic   13 Jul 1968   p. 33.
New York Times   27 Jun 1968   p. 48.
New York Times   14 Jul 1968.   
New York Times   30 Apr 1968.   
New York Times   4 Aug 1968   p. 1, 13.
New Yorker   13 Jul 1968   p. 82.
Time   12 Jul 1968   p. 77.
Variety   19 Jun 1968   p. 6.
Wall Street Journal   28 Nov 2003.   

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.