AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Working Girl
Director: Mike Nichols (Dir)
Release Date:   21 Dec 1988
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 Dec 1988
Production Date:   16 Feb--27 Apr 1988 in New York City
Duration (in mins):   110
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Cast: Starring: Harrison Ford (Jack Trainer)  
    Sigourney Weaver (Katharine Parker)  
  [and] Melanie Griffith (Tess McGill)  
  Co-Starring: Alec Baldwin (Mick Dugan)  
    Joan Cusack (Cyn)  
  [and] Philip Bosco (Oren Trask)  
  with: Nora Dunn (Ginny)  
    Oliver Platt ([David] Lutz)  
    James Lally (Turkel)  
    Kevin Spacey (Bob Speck)  
    Robert Easton (Armbrister)  
  [and] Amy Aquino (Alice Baxter)  
    Olympia Dukakis (Personnel director [Ruth])  
    Jeffrey Nordling (Tim Rourke)  
    Elizabeth Whitcraft (Doreen DiMucci)  
  Tess's birthday party friends: Maggie Wagner    
    Lou DiMaggio    
    David Duchovny    
  [and] Georgienne Millen    
  Petty Marsh secretaries: Caroline Aaron    
    Nancy Giles    
    Judy Milstein    
    Nicole Chevance    
    Kathleen Gray    
    Jane B. Harris    
    Sondra Hollander    
    Samantha Shane    
  [and] Julie Silverman    
    Jim Babchak (Jr. executive)  
    Zach Grenier (Jim)  
    Ralph Byers (Dewey Stone reception guest)  
    Leslie Ayvazian (Dewey Stone reception guest)  
    Steve Cody (Cab driver)  
    Paige Matthews (Dewey Stone receptionist)  
    Lee Dalton (John Romano)  
    Barbara Garrick (Phyllis Trask)  
    Madolin B. Archer (Barbara Trask)  
    Etain O'Malley (Hostess at wedding)  
    Ricki Lake (Bridesmaid)  
    Marceline A. Hugot (Bitsy)  
    Tom Rooney (Bridegroom)  
    Peter Duchin (Trask wedding orchestra)  
    Maeve McGuire (Trask secretary)  
    Tim Carhart (Tim Draper)  
    Lloyd Lindsay Young (TV weatherman)  
    F. X. Vitolo (Bartender)  
    Lily Froehlich (Clerk at dry cleaner's)  
    R. M. Haley (Heliport attendant)  
    Mario T. DeFelice, Jr. (Helicopter pilot)  
    Anthony Mancini, Jr. (Helicopter pilot)  
    Suzanne Shepherd (Trask receptionist)  

Summary: In New York City, secretary Tess McGill takes the Staten Island Ferry on her way to work at Petty Marsh, a Wall Street financial firm. During the ferry ride, Tess’s friend Cyn presents her with a cupcake for her thirtieth birthday and asks about her plans. In addition to work, Tess says she has a speech class and an emerging markets seminar. She guesses correctly that a surprise birthday party has been arranged for her and agrees to be home by 7:15 p.m. At her desk, Tess changes out of the tennis shoes she wears for commuting and into high heels. She becomes despondent when she learns she has been rejected, yet again, by the company’s “entrée program,” but David Lutz, her superior, suggests she meet with his friend, Bob Speck, who works in the company’s arbitrage department. Tess agrees to the meeting, but when Speck picks her up in a limousine and snorts cocaine in the backseat, Tess realizes he intends to have a sexual tryst and nothing more. Back at Petty Marsh, she complains to the personnel director, Ruth, who discourages Tess’s ambition but offers her one last chance in the mergers and acquisitions department. Tess meets her new boss, Katharine Parker, and is surprised to find that Parker is a few months younger than her. As she goes over some ground rules, Parker tells Tess to dress impeccably and suggests she wear less jewelry. Parker claims she is open to new ideas, so Tess comes to her one morning with a proposal for one of their clients, Trask Industries. Although Trask has been attempting to acquire television stations, Tess suggests they should look into radio networks instead. She explains that owning radio stations would protect the company from being acquired by a foreign competitor because the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) forbids foreign ownership of U.S. radio entities. Parker likes the idea, and Tess suggests it might help her get into the entrée program if Parker supports it. When Parker agrees, Tess excitedly relays the news to her live-in boyfriend, Mick Dugan. The next day, Parker prepares to leave for a ski trip in the Alps and tells Tess she is expecting a marriage proposal from her boyfriend on the trip. Tess asks what she will do if he does not propose, but Parker argues that she makes things happen in her life and recommends that Tess do the same. Before she leaves, Parker informs Tess that Trask Industries did not respond well to her radio idea. Soon after, Parker breaks her leg on the ski slopes. She calls Tess from the hospital and asks her to take care of her house plants and mail for the next few weeks while she recuperates. Tess goes to the apartment and finds Parker’s tape recorder on her desk. Using the recorded messages to practice her speech, Tess discovers a dictated letter Parker planned to send to Jack Trainer at a company called Dewey Stone about the Trask radio acquisition. Although she has not sent the letter yet, Parker is planning to implement Tess’s idea without her knowledge. Dejected, Tess returns home to find Mick in bed with another woman. After sleeping at Parker’s apartment, Tess calls Jack Trainer and pretends to be an executive so that she can propose her idea for Trask Industries herself. Once the meeting is set up, Tess asks Cyn to cut her hair shorter and dons one of Parker’s expensive cocktail dresses for a Dewey Stone company party, where Tess hopes to have a casual run-in with Jack before their meeting. However, when Jack flirts with her at the bar and Tess asks where she can find “Jack Trainer,” he does not reveal his identity and says that “Jack” already left. Jack encourages her to have a drink with him, and Tess becomes inebriated after one shot of tequila because she took an antihistamine before the party. Seeing her colleagues from Petty Marsh, Tess flees and Jack follows her into a taxicab. She is too drunk to recall Parker’s address, so he takes her back to his apartment. Tess awakes in Jack’s bed the next morning and sneaks out. Later that day, she goes to her meeting at Dewey Stone and becomes flustered when she recognizes Jack from the night before. Tess proposes her idea for Trask, but Jack’s colleague, John Romano, rejects it. That afternoon, Tess tells Cyn that she botched her proposal, but Jack shows up to Petty Marsh, saying he wants to work together and has already found the ideal acquisition target – the family-owned Metro Radio Network. He asks her out to dinner, but Tess says she does not want to get romantically involved as long as they are working together. At Cyn’s engagement party, Mick attempts to make up with Tess and proposes to her in front of their friends. Tess responds with “Maybe,” prompting Mick to storm out and break up with her. The next day, Cyn comes to Tess’s office, begging her to give Mick another chance. Distracted, Tess wonders aloud if she could meet Oren Trask, the head of Trask Industries, by attending his daughter’s wedding, uninvited. They are interrupted by a call from Katharine Parker, who announces plans to return in a week. Later, Tess tells Jack she is going to meet with Oren Trask, but when he accompanies her, he discovers her scheme to infiltrate his daughter’s wedding reception. On the dance floor, Jack helps Tess approach Trask, switching dance partners with him. Tess introduces herself as a Petty Marsh associate and pitches her idea for a radio acquisition, and Trask agrees to meet with her the following week. The morning of their meeting at Trask’s office, Tess and Jack learn that another company has made an offer to buy Metro Radio Network. However, Tess argues that Metro is a family-oriented company and says its owner, Mr. Armbrister, would rather sell to Trask. She promises Armbrister will meet with him in person the next day. Back at his apartment, Jack and Tess and make love. Afterward, she starts to reveal her real job, but a phone call interrupts. Jack admits the call was from a girl friend with whom he plans to break up. When he mentions that the woman recently broke her leg on a ski trip, Tess realizes the girl friend is her boss, Katharine Parker, and rushes out. The next day, Parker returns home and instructs Tess to perform the menial tasks of carrying her luggage and picking up her prescriptions. When Jack comes to the apartment, Tess hides and overhears as he attempts to break up with Parker. Tess accidentally leaves her notebook on the bed, and Parker reads it after she leaves, discovering Jack’s phone number and notes about her next meeting with Trask. Livid, Parker barges into the meeting just after Armbrister accepts Trask’s offer of $68.5 million for his company. Identifying Tess as her assistant, Parker claims Tess stole her idea and feigns a fainting spell. Tess apologizes to everyone and leaves. The next week, Tess goes to Petty Marsh to pack up her desk. On the way out, she sees Jack and Parker enter the lobby with Trask. When Jack refuses to board the elevator with Parker and Trask unless Tess comes along, Trask is persuaded to join Jack and Tess in another elevator. Tess shows Trask her old files with the newspaper clippings that inspired her idea. When they arrive outside Parker’s office, Trask asks Parker how she came up with the idea, and Parker becomes flustered and says she cannot recall. Trask announces that he plans to have Parker fired and asks Tess to work for him. The next morning, Jack helps Tess get ready for her first day of work for Trask and presents her with a monogrammed lunch box. Tess finds her desk outside an office and sits down. However, her assistant, Alice Baxter, informs Tess that the office is hers. Thrilled, Tess calls Cyn from her new office to share the good news.  

Production Company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation  
Production Text: A Mike Nichols Film
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation  
Director: Mike Nichols (Dir)
  Robert Greenhut (Unit prod mgr)
  Mike Haley (1st asst dir)
  Nathalie Vadim (2d asst dir)
  Dan Stillman (Addl 2d asst dir)
  Carla Zackson (DGA trainee)
Producer: Douglas Wick (Prod)
  Robert Greenhut (Exec prod)
  Laurence Mark (Exec prod)
Writer: Kevin Wade (Wrt)
Photography: Michael Ballhaus (Dir of photog)
  David Dunlap (Cam op)
  Florian Ballhaus (1st asst cam)
  Robert Mancuso (2d asst cam)
  Andy Schwartz (Still photog)
  Steve Wright (Cam trainee)
  Neil Fallon (Video playback)
  John DeBlau (Gaffer)
  Dennis Gamiello (Key grip)
  Jerry DeBlau (Best boy elec)
  Brian Fitzsimons (Best boy grip)
Art Direction: Patrizia Von Brandenstein (Prod des)
  Doug Kraner (Art dir)
  Tim Galvin (Asst art dir)
  Samara Schaffer (Art dept coord)
Film Editor: Sam O'Steen (Ed)
  Richard Nord (Assoc ed)
  Kris Cole (Asst ed)
  J. G. Films, Inc. (Negative cutter)
Set Decoration: George DeTitta (Set dec)
  David Weinman (Set dresser)
  Danny Grosso (2d set dresser)
  James Mazzola (Prop master)
  Ken Kammerer (Asst prop master)
  Tom McDermott (Asst prop master)
  James Sorice (Master scenic artist)
  Cosmo Sorice (Standby scenic artist)
  Ronald J. Petagna (Const coord)
  Arnie Olsen (Chief const grip)
Costumes: Ann Roth (Cost des)
  Gary Jones (Asst cost des)
  Melissa Stanton (Women's ward)
  David Dumais (Men's ward)
  Andrea Wallace (Ward shopper)
  Mila Vyborny (Ward shopper)
Music: Carly Simon (Mus)
  Rob Mounsey (Scored by)
  Patrick Mullins (Mus ed)
  James Flatto (Asst mus ed)
Sound: David Sharp's Totally Looped Group (Vocal eff)
  Les Lazarowitz (Prod sd mixer)
  Linda Murphy (Boom op)
  Mike Bedard (Cableman)
  Stan Bochner (Supv sd ed)
  Marshall Grupp (Sd ed)
  Michael Jacobi (ADR ed)
  Richard Q. King (Asst sd ed)
  Susan Wagner (Asst sd ed)
  Joe Gutowski (Asst sd ed)
  Adam Fredericks (Apprentice sd ed)
  Lee Dichter (Rerec mixer)
Special Effects: The Optical House, N.Y. (Opticals and titles by)
  Dick Rauh (Opticals and titles by)
  John Alagna (Opticals and titles by)
Make Up: J. Roy Helland (Hair/Makeup by)
  Alan D`Angerio (Hair stylist)
  Joe Campayno (Makeup artist)
Production Misc: Juliet Taylor (Casting)
  Ellen Lewis (Assoc, Casting)
  Timothy M. Bourne (Asst unit prod mgr)
  Todd Arnow (Prod supv)
  Ingrid Johanson (Prod coord)
  Thomas Imperato (Prod auditor)
  Jan Nizen (Asst prod auditor)
  Mary Bailey (Scr supv)
  Maureen Kleinman (Asst prod coord)
  Susan MacNair (Asst to Mike Nichols)
  Sabrina Padwa (Asst to Mike Nichols)
  Helen Robin (Asst to Robert Greenhut)
  Caroline Thompson (Asst to Douglas Wick)
  Richard Baratta (Loc mgr)
  Nicholas Bernstein (Loc asst)
  Ken Gerber (Loc asst)
  Amy Herman (Loc asst)
  Pamela Thur (Loc asst)
  Brian Mannain (Studio mgr)
  Thomas J. O'Donnell, Jr. (Transportation capt)
  Louis Volpe (Transportation co-capt)
  Sound One Corporation (Post prod facilities by)
  PMK Public Relations (Pub)
  Eric Myers (Unit pub)
  Todd Thaler Casting (Addl casting)
  Judie Fixler (Addl casting)
  Al Cerullo (Helicopter pilot)
  Gary Childs (Wescam aerial op)
  Michael Kelem (Gyrosphere aerial op)
  Libby Titus (Prod asst)
  Cyd Adams (Prod asst)
  Sebastian Ballhaus (Prod asst)
  Hannah Green (Prod asst)
  Gil Williams (Prod asst)
  John Saffir (Prod asst)
  Gerry Caron (Prod asst)
  Scott Shaffer (Craft services)
Stand In: Philip G. Neilson (Stunts)
  Michael C. Russo (Stunts)
  Natasha Buser (Stunts)
  Bronwen Thomas (Stunts)
  Frank Ferrara (Stunt coord)
  Jim Dunn (Stunt coord)
Color Personnel: DuArt Film Laboratories (Col by)
  Bob Hagans (Col timer)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "I'm So Excited," written by Anita & Ruth & June Pointer and Trevor Lawrence, performed by The Pointer Sisters, courtesy of RCA Records; "The Lady In Red," written and performed by Chris DeBurgh, courtesy of A&M Records; "Straight From The Heart," written by Greg C. Jackson, performed by The Gap Band, courtesy of Total Experience Records/Lonnie Simmons; "St. Thomas," written by Sonny Rollins; "Isn't It Romantic," written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart; "The Man That Got Away," written by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin; "Poor Butterfly," written by John Golden and Raymond Hubbell.
Composer: Harold Arlen
  Chris DeBurgh
  Ira Gershwin
  John Golden
  Lorenz Hart
  Raymond Hubbell
  Greg C. Jackson
  Trevor Lawrence
  Anita Pointer
  June Pointer
  Ruth Pointer
  Richard Rodgers
  Sonny Rollins
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation 25/1/1989 dd/mm/yyyy PA399471

PCA NO: 29266
Physical Properties: Sd: Dolby Stereo® in selected theatres
  Prints: Prints by DeLuxe®

Genre: Romantic comedy
Subjects (Major): Ambition
  Career women
  Class distinction
  New York City
Subjects (Minor): Alps
  Broken limbs
  Cocktail parties
  New York City--Staten Island
  Staten Island Ferry

Note: End credits include the following statement: “The producers wish to thank the following for their assistance: New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development, Jaynne Keyes, Deputy Commissioner; New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, Pat Scott, Director; Pat Birch; Computer/Video Displays Engineered by David Satin/SMA Video Inc.; Computer Images Designed by Tony Sabatini; 7 World Trade Center, Silverstein Properties, Inc.; Arenson Office Furnishings, Inc.; L.F. Rothschild & Co., Inc.; “Daily News” Masthead and People Page, New York News, Inc.; Blackcomb Mountain; Vernon Valley Great Gorge Ski Resort; St. Thomas Boys Choir; Elan Monark; Cartier; WOR Broadcasting.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the idea for Working Girl came in 1984, when writer Kevin Wade and producer Douglas Wick were in New York City together and noticed throngs of career women who commuted to their jobs in tennis shoes while carrying their high heels. According to a 17 Dec 1988 LAT article, actress Melanie Griffith read the script a year and a half before director Mike Nichols was hired, and although she immediately expressed interest in the role of “Tess McGill,” it was not until Nichols had signed on that the actress was able to audition. Nichols, who read the script and agreed to direct while in Fort Smith, AK, filming Biloxi Blues (1988, see entry), fought for Griffith to be cast and claimed he would not work on the film without her. Griffith was given the role only after Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver came onto the project, giving Twentieth Century Fox the “insurance” of two better-known box-office stars.
       To prepare for their roles as Wall Street businesswomen, Griffith and Weaver spent time in New York brokerage firms, sitting in on meetings and shadowing executives. While Griffith met with mergers and acquisitions employees at Bear Stearns & Co., the Apr 1988 issue of Manhattan, Inc. stated that Weaver studied under portfolio manager, Elaine Garzarelli, at the Manhattan firm of Shearson, Drexel. Although he does not receive onscreen credit, the 17 Dec 1988 LAT noted that Bear Stearns Vice President Liam Dalton served as a technical adviser on the film, and was also the model for Charlie Sheen’s character in the 1987 film Wall Street (see entry).
       Principal photography began 16 Feb 1988, as noted in 8 Mar 1988 HR production charts. Filming took place entirely in New York City, with the exception of a half-day shoot in New Jersey, where the skiing sequence was filmed. Four different buildings were used to portray the offices of Petty Marsh: 1 State Street Plaza, where the secretarial pool was constructed on the building’s empty twenty-first floor; the Midday Club, which stood in for the company’s club room; the lobby of 7 World Trade Center; and the reading floor at L. F. Rothschild. The U.S. Customs House doubled as Trask Industries’ office, and two mansions on Fifth Avenue served as the site for Trask’s daughter’s wedding, including the Carnegie mansion (home to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum) and the 1904 Burden Mansion. A 19th century private residence on Irving Place doubled as “Katharine Parker’s” townhouse. Filming ended 27 Apr 1988, with a final sequence shot on the Staten Island Ferry.
       An item in the 8 Dec 1988 HR stated that Twentieth Century Fox’s promotions included mailings of pencils and buttons to 15,000 secretaries in thirty major cities, including U.S. President-elect George H. W. Bush’s secretary, and administrative assistants at the major Hollywood studios and the offices of the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Bank of America, and Donald Trump. The promotional buttons read: “Working Girl – There’s more to life than smiling, filing, and dialing.” HR also noted that a Christmas-themed premiere was set to take place 19 Dec 1988 at Fox studios.
       Critical reception was generally positive, with consistent praise going to Melanie Griffith’s performance. Carly Simon’s song “Let The River Run” received an Academy Award for Music (Original Song), and the film received the following Academy Award nominations: Actress in a Leading Role (Melanie Griffith); Actress in a Supporting Role (Joan Cusack); Actress in a Supporting Role (Sigourney Weaver); Directing; and Best Picture. Carly Simon’s Academy Award win helped boost soundtrack sales “more than 100% in some areas,” according to a 14 Apr 1989 DV news item, and box-office receipts increased by forty percent in the first weekend of Apr 1989, as stated in the 4 Apr 1989 LAT, bringing the box-office gross to $58 million.
       According to a 7 Mar 1990 DV item, Patricia Cheryl Everett filed a lawsuit against Twentieth Century Fox, claiming the studio stole her idea for the script after reading a screenplay submitted by her agent in 1987. Alleging that Working Girl bore striking similarities to her work, Everett sought $50,000 for the script, $250,000 for the “lost screen credit,” and $5 million in punitive damages. A 12 Mar 1990 LAT item stated that the studio denied the claim. The outcome of the lawsuit could not be determined as of the writing of this Note.
       A 10 Apr 1989 LAT news brief reported that the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) had ordered thirteen episodes of a television sitcom based on Working Girl, produced by Patchett-Kaufman Entertainment. Although Nancy McKeon was set to play “Tess McGill,” she was replaced by Sandra Bullock. The show, also titled Working Girl, aired on NBC 16 Apr--30 Jul 1990.

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   14 Apr 1989   p. 1, 36.
Daily Variety   7 Mar 1990.   
Hollywood Reporter   19 Feb 1988.   
Hollywood Reporter   8 Mar 1988   p. 24.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Dec 1988.   
Los Angeles Times   17 Dec 1988   Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   21 Dec 1988   p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   4 Apr 1989   Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times   10 Apr 1989.   
Los Angeles Times   12 Mar 1990   Section D, p. 2.
Manhattan, Inc.   April 1988.   
New York Times   21 Dec 1988   p. 22.
Variety   14 Dec 1988   p. 16.

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