AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Marathon Man
Director: John Schlesinger (Dir)
Release Date:   8 Oct 1976
Premiere Information:   New York opening: week of 7 Oct 1976; Los Angeles opening: 8 Oct 1976 at Mann's Chinese Theater, the Village Theater, and La Mirada Drive-In
Production Date:   early Oct 1975--mid-Feb 1976 in Paris, New York City, and Los Angeles
Duration (in mins):   125
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Dustin Hoffman ([Thomas Babbington] Babe [Levy])  
    Laurence Olivier ([Christian] Szell)  
    Roy Scheider (Doc [Levy])  
    William Devane ([Peter "Janey"] Janeway)  
    Marthe Keller (Elsa [Opel])  
  Co-starring Fritz Weaver (Professor Biesenthal)  
  Co-starring Richard Bright (Karl)  
  Co-starring Marc Lawrence (Erhard)  
    Allen Joseph (Babe's father)  
    Tito Goya (Melendez)  
    Ben Dova (Szell's brother [Klaus])  
    Lou Gilbert (Rosenbaum)  
    Jacques Marin (Leclerc)  
    James Wing Woo (Chen)  
    Nicole Deslauriers (Nicole)  
    Lotta Andor-Palfi (Old lady on 47th street)  
  Street gang: Lionel Pina    
    Jaime Tirelli    
  [and] Wilfredo Hernandez    
  Jewelry salesmen: Harry Goz    
    Michael Vale    
    Fred Stuthman    
  [and] Lee Steele    
    William Martel (Bank guard)  
    Glenn Robards (Plainclothesman)  
    Ric Carrott (Plainclothesman)  
    Alma Beltran (Laundress)  
    Daniel Nunez (Guard in Uruguay)  
    Tony Pena (Guard in Uruguay)  
    Chuy Franco (Guard in Uruguay)  
  Tourist couple: Billy Kearns    
  [and] Sally Wilson    
    Tom Ellis (T.V. announcer)  
    Bryant Fraser (Young photographer)  
    George Dega (Hotel valet)  
    Gene Bori (French doctor)  
    Annette Claudier (Nurse)  
    Roger Etienne (Headwaiter)  
    Ray Serra (Truck driver)  
    John Garson (Bystander)  
    Charlott Thyssen (Bystander)  
    Estelle Omens (Bystander)  
    Madge Kennedy (Lady in bank)  
    Jeff Palladini (Young Babe)  
    Scott Price (Young Doc)  

Summary: On the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, Thomas Babbington “Babe” Levy, a Columbia University graduate student, runs in New York City’s Central Park. Elsewhere, after removing a Band-aid tin from a security deposit box at a bank, an older German man hands off the tin to a passerby on the street. Driving home, he has a heated argument with another driver, and both cars run into an oil truck, causing an explosion. Later that day, Babe sees a news report about the accident, in which the German man is identified as Klaus Szell, the brother of infamous Nazi, Christian Szell, who was presumed dead after World War II. In a hotel room in Paris, France, a valet attempts to deliver a suit that does not belong to the room’s occupant, Doc Levy. On a phone call to his friend “Janey,” Doc worries that someone besides Janey might know he is there. Doc becomes more suspicious after he delivers a package to LeClerc, a French antique dealer, and detects that LeClerc is surprised to see him. However, LeClerc denies it and promises to have a package for Doc that night at the opera. When Doc leaves in a taxi, a bomb explodes nearby. After showing up late to a seminar, Babe speaks to Professor Biesenthal about his dissertation on the use of tyranny in American political life. Biesenthal says he was once a mentee to Babe’s father, H. V. Levy., and tells Babe that McCarthyism will have to be a focus of his dissertation, even if it was the force that brought his father down, prompting Babe to remember his father’s suicide. Back in Paris, Doc meets his colleague, Peter Janeway, aka “Janey,” for lunch, and announces that someone is trying to kill him. That night, at the opera, Doc finds LeClerc dead and runs away. The next morning, Chen, an assassin, tries to strangle Doc in his hotel room, but Doc overpowers the man and breaks his neck. Doc learns from Janeway that Klaus Szell has died, and deduces that the attack by Chen must be related, saying that they are “getting rid of the couriers.” Meanwhile, Babe meets an attractive girl named Elsa Opel at the library and follows her home. Despite Elsa’s insistence that their relationship cannot go anywhere, she agrees to a date. Sometime later, Babe and Elsa are robbed by two well-dressed muggers in Central Park. On a flight from Uruguay to New York City, Christian Szell disguises himself by shaving the top of his head bald. As Szell’s airplane lands in New York, Karl and Erhard, the men who robbed Babe, are there to meet him. Doc, who is Babe’s older brother, shows up at Babe’s apartment and becomes suspicious when he hears that Babe was robbed by men in suits. Babe asks Doc to take a look at some interviews he has conducted with his father’s old colleagues, but Doc yells at him to forget their father, saying he was a suicidal drunk. The next day, Doc takes Babe and Elsa to lunch, and Babe nervously watches as Doc flirts with Elsa. Catching Elsa in a lie, Doc accuses her of being German instead of Swiss, and suggests she is after Babe for a green card. That night, at a secret rendezvous, Szell admits to Doc that Elsa has been spying on Babe, then stabs Doc in the abdomen. Doc stumbles to Babe’s apartment, bleeding to death, but dies before he can deliver a warning about Szell. Janeway arrives at Babe’s apartment, where police officers address him as commander. Sending the others away, Janeway tells Babe that he suspects Doc’s murder was “political,” having to do with Doc’s line of business. Although Babe believed his brother worked in the oil industry, Janeway reveals that he was an employee of a secret government agency called “The Division.” Later that night, after Janeway has left, Karl and Erhard break into Babe’s apartment, kidnap him, and take him to a secret location. There, Babe is tied to a chair in a sparse room and joined by Szell, who arrives with a set of dental instruments. Szell asks Babe multiple times, “Is it safe?” After Babe responds that he has no idea what Szell is talking about, Szell examines Babe’s teeth with a metal scraper and asks again, “Is it safe?” Babe doesn’t answer, and Szell tortures him with the dental instrument. Later, when Karl moves Babe to another room, Janeway appears and stabs Karl to death. Shooting Erhard as they escape, Janeway takes Babe to his waiting car and drives away, explaining that Karl and Erhard were associated with Szell, the wealthiest and most wanted Nazi alive. He says Szell was a dentist who made money bribing Jewish prisoners for release from Auschwitz, and later invested in gold and diamonds that had been hidden in New York in a safety deposit box. Janeway says that Szell was after Babe because Doc was a courier who transported diamonds to Paris for Szell in exchange for Szell’s cooperation with the Division as an informant. Becoming stern, Janeway orders Babe to confess what Doc has told him about the diamonds, but Babe claims ignorance. Janeway stops the car, and Karl and Erhard approach from outside. Stupefied, Babe cries out that Janeway already killed Karl and Erhard but Janeway admits to using a fake knife and blanks in his gun. Back in Szell’s hideout, Janeway informs Szell that Babe knows nothing, but Szell insists he cannot risk it. In another torture session, Szell wields an electric drill and tells Babe there must be a reason Doc went to his apartment. After Szell drills into one of Babe’s teeth, he determines that Babe knows nothing. Meanwhile, Janeway calls Szell a useless relic and informs him that he must leave the country the next day. When Karl and Erhard force Babe into another car, Babe manages to break away. Using his distance running skills, he outruns Janeway, who hops into Karl and Erhard’s car and directs them toward the highway ramp where Babe has run. Babe jumps from one ramp to another, and an automobile accident stops Janeway’s crew from pursuing him further. Exchanging the Rolex watch that Doc gave him for a taxi ride back to his block, Babe calls Elsa from a payphone and arranges to meet her, then sneaks into a building across the street from his apartment, aware that his building is being watched. In the other apartment building, Babe asks Melendez, a loose acquaintance, to rob his apartment and take his father’s old gun, stashed inside a desk drawer. Melendez agrees, and later breaks into Babe’s apartment with a crew of several men. As Janeway appears and draws a gun, five of Melendez’s men draw their own guns and continue with the robbery. Retrieving the gun from Melendez, Babe meets Elsa and she drives them to a country house. Upon arrival, Babe is suspicious and asks if the house belongs to Szell and if Janeway is inside. Elsa finally admits that Janeway is coming soon and confesses to working as a courier for Szell. When Janeway arrives with Karl and Erhard, Babe holds Elsa hostage, but allows the men to come inside. In the living room, Karl draws his gun unexpectedly and Janeway tries to stop him, but Babe shoots Karl first. Janeway shoots Erhard and Elsa before dropping his own gun, then tells Babe the location of the bank where Szell’s safety deposit box is located. Elsa urges Babe to leave, but as he walks out of the house, Janeway retrieves his gun, shoots Elsa again, and aims at Babe through the window. Babe shoots Janeway first, however, killing him. In Manhattan’s jewelry district, Szell goes to various appraisers to learn the market value of diamonds, but is recognized by one of the appraisers who is a Holocaust survivor. Running away, Szell is recognized on the street by an old lady, another Holocaust survivor, who yells for people to stop him. When the appraiser catches up to him, Szell slits the man’s throat with a switchblade and takes a taxi to his bank. Opening the security deposit box, Szell rejoices at the sight of his massive diamond collection. Leaving the bank with his briefcase full of diamonds, Szell is accosted by Babe, who leads him, at gunpoint, to a water treatment facility in Central Park. There, Babe grabs a handful of diamonds and throws them into the air, telling Szell that he can keep as many diamonds as he can swallow. After swallowing a few, Szell refuses to continue and orders him to shoot. Babe remains frozen, and Szell eventually knocks the gun out of his hand, approaching him with the switchblade. Babe grabs the briefcase and throws it down a set of stairs. Lunging after the diamonds, Szell falls down and accidentally stabs himself, dropping dead into the water. Outside, Babe throws his father’s gun into a lake.  

Production Text: A Robert Evans/Sidney Beckerman Production
A John Schlesinger Film
Brand Name:

Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures (A Gulf + Western Company)
Director: John Schlesinger (Dir)
  Everett Creach (2d unit dir)
  Stephen F. Kesten (Unit prod mgr)
  Howard W. Koch, Jr. (Asst dir)
  Burtt Harris (Asst dir)
  William Saint John (2d asst dir)
Producer: Robert Evans (Prod)
  Sidney Beckerman (Prod)
  George Justin (Assoc prod)
Writer: William Goldman (Scr)
Photography: Conrad Hall (Dir of photog)
  Garrett Brown (Spec photog)
  Nick McLean (Cam op)
  Earl Clark (Asst cam)
  Howard Ford (2d asst cam)
  Richard Martens (Gaffer)
  Charles Langham (Best boy)
  Les Kovacs (Elec)
  Sal Orefice (Elec)
  Robert O. Moore (Key grip)
  Art Boyle (2d company grip)
  Buzz Warren (Dolly grip)
  Kenneth Sheehan (Grip)
  Bud Heller (Grip)
  Peter Sorel (Stills)
  Holly Bower (Stills)
Art Direction: Richard MacDonald (Prod des)
  Jack De Shields (Art dir)
Film Editor: Jim Clark (Ed)
  Arthur Schmidt (Assoc film ed)
  Dennis Wooley (Asst ed)
Set Decoration: George Gaines (Set dec)
  Bill Macsems (Prop master)
  Guy Bushman (Asst prop master)
  Bill Parks (Const coord)
  Mike Higelmire (Lead man)
  Gary Kudroff (Swing gang)
Costumes: Robert de Mora (Cost)
  Ann Roth (Cost des)
  Bernie Pollack (Ward)
  Robert M. Moore (Ward)
  Roland Meledandri (Roy Scheider's clothes)
Music: Michael Small (Mus comp and cond)
  Patrick Moore (Mus ed)
  Jack Hayes (Orch)
Sound: David Ronne (Sd mixer)
  Robert Crosby (Boom man)
  Edward L. Sandlin (Sd ed)
  Freddie Stafford (Sd ed)
  John K. Wilkinson (Re-rec mixer)
Special Effects: Richard E. Johnson (Spec eff)
  Charles Spurgeon (Spec eff)
  Dan Perri (Title des)
Make Up: Dick Smith (Spec make-up consultant)
  Ben Nye (Make-up artist)
  Barbara Lorenz (Hair stylist)
Production Misc: Nick Sgarro (Scr supv)
  Michael Childers (Asst to the prods)
  Mike Fenton (Casting)
  Jane Feinberg (Casting)
  Juliet Taylor (New York casting)
  MDA (New York casting)
  Maslansky/Koenigsberg (Pub)
  Mark Griffiths (AFI observer)
  Connaught Productions (Services by)
  Jack Clements (Loc mgr)
  Wally Samson (Prod mgr, Studio features)
  Bob Archer (Production, Studio)
  Freeman Packard (Production, Studio)
  Arlene Albertson (Prod office coord)
  Paul Steinbaum (Prod asst)
  Barbara Kalish (Secy to prods)
  Stephanie Aranas (Secy to prods)
  Bobbie Leslie (Secy to prods)
  Cathy Chazan (Secy to exec prod)
  Mary Peck (Secy to dir)
  Martin Brown (Craft service)
Stand In: Everett Creach (Stunt coord)
  Sig Frohlich (Stand-in)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "Dors, ô cité perverse" from 'Herodiade' by Massenet, sung by Joseph Rouleau with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra, conducted by John Matheson, courtesy of London and Decca Records; "Der Neugierige," by Franz Schubert, sung by Fritz Wunderlich, used by arrangement with Polydor Inc.; "Le Tram," music by C. Mougeot.
Composer: Jules Massenet
  C. Mougeot
  Franz Schubert
Source Text: Based on the novel Marathon Man by William Goldman (New York, 1974).
Authors: William Goldman

PCA NO: 24461
Physical Properties: Sd:
  col: Color by Metrocolor
  Lenses/Prints: Filmed with Panavision® equipment

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Suspense
Subjects (Major): College students
  Secret agents
  War criminals
Subjects (Minor): Abduction
  Automobile accidents
  Family relationships
  Fathers and sons
  Holocaust survivors
  Jewelry stores
  New York City
  New York City--Central Park
  Paris (France)
  Search and rescue operations
  United States. Congress Army--McCarthy Hearings
  Yom Kippur

Note: A 20 May 1974 Publishers Weekly news item announced that filming rights to William Goldman’s novel, Marathon Man, were sold to Paramount Pictures, with Robert Evans and Sidney Beckerman set to produce, and Goldman contracted to write the screenplay. Goldman was to receive $500,000 for the rights and his writing services, as well as “a substantial participation in the profits.” As stated in a 27 Oct 1975 Box item, shooting was set to begin early Oct 1975 with one week in Paris, France, followed by five weeks in New York City, and finishing in Los Angeles, CA, in Jan 1976. However, according to production notes in AMPAS library files, filming did not end until 15 Feb 1976, one day before director John Schlesinger’s fiftieth birthday.
       A 22 Oct 1975 Var brief noted that the foreign locale was originally scripted to take place in London, England, but later changed to Paris, where locations included a flea market, or “marché aux puces,” and the Paris Opera House, as stated in production notes. In New York, filming took place at Central Park, Columbia University, Fulton Fish Market, and the Diamond Center at 47th Street. On two soundstages at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, a re-creation of a Central Park water treatment facility was built; there, actors Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier filmed their final confrontation. Also in Los Angeles, the University of Southern California served as a double for Columbia University.
       A 29 Dec 1976 New York item reported that the oil truck explosion caused by "Klaus Szell" at the beginning of the film was shot on East 91st Street in New York City. According to a 1 Jun 1977 Var news item, John and Cleopatra Flessas, a couple who lived on East 92nd Street, later sued the production for $85,000, claiming that the smoke and fumes from the 31 Oct 1975 staged explosion had caused them permanent respiratory damage. The outcome of the lawsuit could not be determined as of the writing of this Note.
       Critical reception was mixed. While the 29 Sep 1976 DV review criticized the film as overly long and boring, and a more positive review by Vincent Canby in the 7 Oct 1976 NYT lauded the filmmaking and performances while acknowledging that the confusing narrative’s “double-, triple-, and quadruple crosses…finally cancel themselves out,” Arthur Knight of the 29 Sep 1976 HR praised every aspect of the film, deeming it “superior movie making, period.”
       For his role as “Szell,” Laurence Olivier received a Golden Globe Award for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture,” and an Academy Award nomination for “Actor in a Supporting Role.” The Golden Globes also nominated Marathon Man for awards in the following categories: Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Dustin Hoffman); Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Marthe Keller); Best Director – Motion Picture; and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) nominated Dustin Hoffman for “Best Actor,” and Jim Clark for “Best Film Editing.”

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   27 Oct 1975.   
Daily Variety   6 Jan 1976.   
Daily Variety   29 Sep 1976   pp. 3-4.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Sep 1976   p. 2, 11.
Los Angeles Times   3 Oct 1976   p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   8 Oct 1976.   
New York   29 Dec 1976   p. 60.
New York Times   7 Oct 1976   p. 62.
Publishers Weekly   20 May 1974.   
Variety   22 Oct 1975.   
Variety   29 Sep 1976   p. 30.
Variety   1 Jun 1977.   

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.