AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
An Officer and a Gentleman
Director: Taylor Hackford (Dir)
Release Date:   1982
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York openings: 28 Jul 1982
Production Date:   20 Apr -- early Jul 1981
Duration (in mins):   125
Print this page
Display Movie Summary


Cast:   Richard Gere (Zack Mayo)  
    Debra Winger (Paula Pokrifki)  
  Also starring David Keith (Sid Worley)  
  Also starring Robert Loggia (Byron Mayo)  
  Also starring Lisa Blount (Lynette Pomeroy)  
  Also starring Lisa Eilbacher (Casey Seeger)  
  And Louis Gossett, Jr. (Sgt. Emil Foley) as
  Co-starring David Caruso (Topper Daniels)  
  Co-starring Victor French (Joe Pokrifiki)  
  Co-starring Tommy Petersen (Young Zack)  
  Co-starring Tony Plana (Emiliano Della Serra)  
  Co-starring Harold Sylvester (Perryman)  
  Co-starring Grace Zabriskie (Esther Pokrifiki)  
    Mara Scott Wood (Bunny)  
    David Greenfield (Schneider)  
    Dennis Rucker (Donny)  
    Jane Wilbur (Nellie Rufferwell)  
    Buck Welcher (Thraxton)  
    Vern Taylor (Tom Worley)  
    Elizabeth Rogers (Betty Worley)  
    David R. Marshall (Drill instructor #1)  
    Gary C. Stillwell (Drill instructor #2)  
    Tee Dennard (Dilbert dunker instructor)  
    Norbert M. Murray (Altitude chamber instructor)  
    Daniel Tyler (New recruit)  
    William Graves (Captain Graves)  
    Brian D. Ford (Aerodynamics instructor)  
    Michael C. Pavey (Officer of the day)  
    Keith J. Haar (Air officer candidate)  
    Pia Boyer (Paula's sister)  
    Danna Kiesel (Paula's sister)  
    Marvin Goatcher (Himself)  
    John Laughlin (Troy)  
    Jeffrey P. Rondeau (Troy's friend)  
    Michael Lee Bolger (Man in crowd)  
    Mark L. Graves (Bartender)  
    Meleesa Wyatt (Prostitute #1)  
    Jo Anna Keane (Prostitute #2)  
    Ed Begley, Jr. (Voice of altitude chamber instructor)  

Summary: In Seattle, Washington, Zack Mayo finds his father, Byron Mayo, in bed with a prostitute. Remembering his youth, Zack recalls meeting Byron in the Philippine Islands, where his father was stationed with the United States Navy. Zack’s mother had recently committed suicide and the boy blamed his father for deserting them. Although Byron was an alcoholic philanderer, who wanted to avoid his parental responsibilities, Zack protested going home and raised himself in a community of prostitutes and thieves. Now grown up, Zack announces to his father that he is joining the Navy to become a pilot. Despite Byron’s objections, Zack drives his motorcycle to the Port Rainier Naval Air Station and joins a group of new recruits. Drill instructor Sergeant Emil Foley warns the men and women that they must devote six years of their lives to the Navy and reprimands enlistee Sid Worley for failing to refer to him as “Sir.” When Zack snickers at Foley’s sexually suggestive language, Foley yells at him for looking him in the eye. Foley cautions the recruits that he will use any means necessary to weed out those who are unworthy of being pilots. Meanwhile, at a nearby paper factory, employees Paula Pokrifki and Lynette Pomeroy finish their work and head to the base to look for mates. With shaved heads and new uniforms, the recruits file into their rooms, then follow Foley’s command to line up outside. When a young woman named Casey Seeger laughs at Sid and Zack’s comments about people who feign pregnancy as an excuse to get married, Foley punishes them with fifty push-ups. Paula and Lynette walk past and tell Zack and Sid that they’ll see them in a month’s time when they are on “liberty.” During training, Foley pushes the endurance of his class and complains they are the worst he has ever seen. Back in the dormitory, Zack’s roommate, Perryman, warns that Zack’s covert operation, polishing boots and belt buckles for cash, will get the whole unit expelled. While Zack excels at physical training, he struggles with his academic studies and when Sid discovers Zack buying polished boots and buckles from a middleman, the friends agree that Sid will help Zack pass Aerodynamics in return for free goods. Later, at a dance, Zack and Sid reunite with Paula and Lynette. While Sid and Lynette discover they both have brothers who died in the Vietnam War, Paula encourages Zack to fulfill his dream of becoming a pilot and they kiss. Sometime later, the ladies meet Zack and Sid at a bar, but the men are hassled by locals and Zack breaks a man’s nose. After driving to the Tides Inn motel, Zack regrets the fight and rejects Paula’s attempt to console him, but, after Zack apologizes, the couple spends the night together. Back at the base, trainee Topper Daniels panics in a plane crash simulator and Foley dives into the water to save him. After Topper willingly drops out of the class, Foley inspects the dorm room to discover the stashed inventory from Zack’s covert business. When Zack refuses to withdraw from training, Foley vows to break the young man’s will by subjecting him to a weekend of abuse. As Zack works out in a pool of mud, Foley tells the young man that his childhood experiences have guided his life on a course of failure. At the end of the weekend, Zack remains resolute. Although Foley decides to expel him anyway, Zack cries that he has nowhere to go and Foley agrees to give him another chance. Back at the Tides Inn, Zack and Paula make love. Zack reveals that his mother overdosed, but when he claims to be unaffected by her suicide, Paula does not believe him. Later, on a ferryboat, Lynette admits to Paula that she has considered getting pregnant to trap Sid into a marriage. After an uncomfortable dinner with Paula’s family, Zack tells her that he will move to a base in Penascola, Florida, after graduation in three weeks. When Zack says he has no interest in marriage and family, Paula shows him a picture of her “real father,” a Naval officer candidate who left her mother. The next weekend, as Zack is dismissed on “liberty,” Paula calls him from the factory, but he refuses to answer. Although Paula is determined to go after Zack, her mother, Esther, stops her, warning that Paula might resort to dishonesty to “trap” him. After dinner with Sid’s parents, a Naval captain and his wife, Zack learns that his friend is planning to marry Susan, a girl who was engaged to his brother before he died in Vietnam. When Sid admits he has a date with Lynette that evening, Zack suggests that his friend “break it off clean” with Lynette the way he did with Paula. At a bar, Zack sees Paula flirting with a flight instructor and although he apologizes, she leaves with her date. Meanwhile, at the Tides Inn, Sid asks Lynette about her late period and she swears that, if pregnant, she would take responsibility for it herself. Back at the base, Sid tells Zack that Lynette’s pregnancy is confirmed by a doctor and she refuses to get an abortion because she is Catholic. When Sid says he will marry her out of duty, Zack suggests that his friend takes too much responsibility for others, including the death of his brother. Later, during a training exercise in an oxygen decompression chamber, Sid panics and refuses to put his mask on. Zack comes to his rescue, but Foley is not impressed and Sid is expelled. When Zack swears at Foley, claiming that Sid is the best candidate in the class, Sid admits that he voluntarily dropped out and says he was only in training because of his brother. Sid takes a cab to Lynette’s house after spending his life savings on a wedding ring, but when she learns he is no longer an officer candidate, she says she is not pregnant. Although Sid still wants to get married, Lynette refuses, explaining that she only wants to marry an officer so she can live overseas. Meanwhile, Zack picks up Paula to look for his friend and she takes him to see Lynette, who tells them she rejected Sid. Checking into the Tides Inn motel, Sid swallows the engagement ring with a bottle of alcohol, and, soon after, Zack and Paula discover his dead body hanging in the shower stall. Outside, Paula consoles Zack and reminds him that he is not responsible for the deaths of his mother and Sid. Although Zack tries to brush her off, Paula argues that she is not like Lynette. When she declares her love for him, Zack runs away, claiming that he does not want to be loved. At the base, Zack requests to see Foley privately, and when Foley refuses, Zack threatens to quit. Challenging Zack to a fight, Foley is surprised by Zack’s skills, but he overcomes Zack by kicking him in the groin. As Zack lies on the ground, Foley permits him to drop out of training. However, at the candidate’s graduation ceremony, Zack takes a pledge of allegiance with his class and, upon Foley’s order, they toss their hats in celebration. When Foley personally congratulates his graduates with their first official salutes, Zack tells the drill instructor that he would not have made it through without him. As Zack drives away, he sees Foley initiating a new class using the same orders he heard on his first day. In his officer’s uniform, Zack strides through the paper factory to collect Paula and, as he carries her away, her fellow workers, including Esther and Lynette, applaud.  

Production Company: Lorimar, Inc.  
Production Text: A Taylor Hackford Film
Brand Name:
Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures Corp. (A Gulf + Western Company)
Director: Taylor Hackford (Dir)
  Bob Schneider (Unit prod mgr)
  David McGiffert (1st asst dir)
  Pamela M. Eilerson (2d asst dir)
  Daniel J. Heffner (2d asst dir)
Producer: Martin Elfand (Prod)
  Douglas Day Stewart (Assoc prod)
Writer: Douglas Day Stewart (Wrt)
Photography: Donald Thorin (Dir of photog)
  Jack Cooperman (Underwater photog)
  Dick Colean (Cam op)
  Earl L. Clark (Cam asst)
  James T. Boyle (Gaffer)
  Daniel R. Jordan (Key grip)
  Carol McCullough (Still photog)
Art Direction: Philip M. Jefferies (Prod des)
  John Cartwright (Art dir)
Film Editor: Peter Zinner (Ed)
  Priscilla Nedd (Assoc ed)
Set Decoration: James I. Berkey (Set dec)
  Erik L. Nelson (Prop master)
  Eugene S. Kelley (Const coord)
Costumes: Rita Riggs (Cost supv)
  Laurie M. Riley (Cost supv)
Music: Jack Nitzsche (Mus)
  Curt Sobel for La Da Productions (Mus ed)
Sound: Jeff Wexler (Sd mixer)
  Todd-AO (Re-rec)
  Buzz Knudson (Re-rec mixer)
  Robert Glass (Re-rec mixer)
  Don DiGirolamo (Re-rec mixer)
  Neiman-Tillar Associates (Post-prod sd by)
  Clive Smith (Supv sd ed)
  Don Coufal (Boom op)
Special Effects: Joseph P. Mercurio (Spec eff)
  Dan Perri (Titles des by)
  Howard A. Anderson Co. (Titles and eff by)
Make Up: Gerald O'Dell (Make-up artist)
  Marina Pedraza (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Lynn Stalmaster & Associates (Casting)
  Nancy Klopper (Casting)
  Martina Ritt (Extra casting)
  Mary Ann Newfield (Scr supv)
  James E. Foote (Transportation coord)
  Bridget Terry (Unit pub)
  Capt. William Graves U.S.N. (Ret.) (Tech adv)
  Buck Welcher (Tech adv)
  Bob Williams (Tech adv)
  Jette Sorensen (Prod auditor)
  William R. Borden (Loc mgr)
  Paul Hensler (Loc mgr [Philippines])
  Sandra Morley (Asst to Mr. Elfand)
  Janice Lisalda (Assoc to Mr. Hackford)
  Nilo A. Otero (Asst to Mr. Schneider)
  Steven Pollack (Asst to Mr. Schneider)
  George Goode (Conceptual research)
Stand In: Jason Randal (Stunt coord)
  Samuel M. Pace (Stuntman)
  Bill Stewart (Stuntman)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: "Love Theme," performed and arranged by Lee Ritenour; "Theme for 'An Officer and a Gentleman'," by Jack Nitzsche and Buffy Sainte-Marie; "Gamelan Gong: Barong Dance," from Music from the Morning of the World , courtesy of David Lewiston & Nonesuch Records; "The Plains of Mindañao," from Bayanihan 7 , courtesy of Monitor Records; "Galan Kangin," performed by Gong Kebyar, Sebatu, courtesy of Archiv Produktion, a division of PolyGram Classics.
Songs: "Up Where We Belong," sung by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, lyric by Will Jennings, music by Jack Nitzsche and Buffy Sainte-Marie, recording produced by Stewart Levine; "Treat Me Right," by D. Lubahn and P. Benatar, performed by Pat Benatar, courtesy of Chrysalis Records, Inc.; "Hungry for Your Love," by V. Morrison, performed by Van Morrison, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc.; "Be Real," by D. Sahm, performed by The Sir Douglas Quintet, courtesy of Phillips Records; "Tush," by B. Gibbons, D. Hill and F. Beard, performed by ZZ Top, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc.; "Tunnel of Love," by M. Knopfler, performed by Dire Straits, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc. and Phonogram Limited; "Feelings," by Morris Albert; "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree," by Irwin Levine & L. Russell Brown; "Anchors Aweigh," by Charles A. Zimmerman, George D. Lottman & Alfred H. Miles; "Moon River," by Henry Mancini & Johnny Mercer; "Big Money Dollars," by John Thomas Lenox.
Composer: Morris Albert
  Frank Beard
  Pat Benatar
  L. Russell Brown
  Billy Gibbons
  Dusty Hill
  Will Jennings
  Mark Knopfler
  John Thomas Lenox
  Irwin Levine
  George D. Lottman
  Douglas Lubahn
  Henry Mancini
  Johnny Mercer
  Alfred H. Miles
  Van Morrison
  Jack Nitzsche
  Doug Sahm
  Buffy Sainte-Marie
  Charles A. Zimmerman
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Capital Equipment Leasing, Ltd. 28/9/1982 dd/mm/yyyy PA157777

PCA NO: 26387
Physical Properties: Sd:
  col: color by Metrocolor®
  Lenses/Prints: Lenses and Panaflex® cameras by Panavision®

 
Genre: Drama
  Romance
 
Subjects (Major): Flight training
  Officers (Military)
  Romance
  Suicide
  United States. Navy. Air Corps
 
Subjects (Minor): Aviation instructors
  Courtship
  Factory workers
  Fathers and sons
  Friendship
  Guilt
  Love
  Marriage
  Motels
  Motorcycles
  Philippines
  Pregnancy
  Prostitution
  United States--History--Vietnam War, 1964--1973
  Washington (State)

Note: The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary was written by participant Dane Heiss, a student at Oregon State University, with Jon Lewis as academic advisor.

A 24 Jul 1980 HR news item announced that John Frankenheimer contracted with Lorimar, Inc. to direct the picture, but the deal was contingent on both the approval of the film’s budget and cooperation from the United States Department of Defense. As reported in a 29 Sep 1982 Var news item, Frankenheimer sued Lorimar for nearly $4.5 million in a breach of contract lawsuit, claiming that the production company refused to let him direct or produce the film. Their denial was not related to military approval or budgetary concerns. In May 1979, Lorimar hired Frankenheimer to develop the novel Destinies and agreed to offer him a role in a similarly budgeted picture if they decided to pass on the project. After presenting Frankenheimer with An Officer and a Gentleman as a “suitable alternative” to Destinies , Lorimar backed out of the agreement and Frankenheimer claimed entitlement to compensation and damages as well as a percentage of the film’s profits.
       According to a 26 Nov 1982 LAT article, writer Douglas Day Stewart’s script for An Officer and a Gentleman was autobiographical. Stewart, who was one of four naval officers that escorted the first battalion of Marines to Vietnam in 1962, spent time in the Philippine Islands and attended a naval academy in Pensacola, FL. He told LAT that although the character “Zack Mayo” was “a tougher guy than I was,” the film’s narrative reflected “all the components of my experience,” including the phenomenon of young women searching for husbands at the academy. Stewart noted that the original script was written with a naval cadet as its protagonist, but the character was changed to a pilot to make the story “’more romantic.’” LAT stated that Stewart completed the script in 1979, but no studio expressed interest until Donald Simpson, then president of production of Paramount Pictures, took the project under his wing and acted as a “mentor” to Stewart.
       A 30 Sep 1982 Rolling Stone article reported that director Taylor Hackford brought the script to Simpson’s attention six years after it was written. While Hackford was working at Paramount on an original screenplay for his second film as a director, threats of a Directors Guild strike forced him to put the project on hold. Anticipating the strike, Paramount offered Hackford a number of properties that were ready for production, but Hackford was not interested in their suggestions and presented Simpson with An Officer and a Gentleman . Aside from appreciating the story, Simpson saw potential in the script because it was owned by Lorimar, which had a distribution deal with Paramount and was “phasing out of feature films,” making them eager to unload properties. As reported in a 2 Mar 1981 DV news item, Lorimar, previously an independent company, had contracted with Paramount Pictures for both financing and distribution of eight films. According to Var , An Officer and a Gentleman was the first Lorimar film to be financially backed by Paramount after the deal was negotiated.
       While Hackford liked the script, he told Rolling Stone that he was initially ambivalent about directing the picture because of his political beliefs. In the 1960s, he worked for the Peace Corps. in Bolivia and felt hesitant to make a film “’that was a fairly positive statement about the armed forces.’” Although Hackford concluded that it is necessary for governments to maintain militaries and the film had a legitimate message, he noted that the story focused more on personal relationships than politics.
       As reported in various contemporary sources, including LAT and a 2 Aug 1982 New York news item, the U.S. Navy was uncooperative with the filmmakers and attempted to sabotage the production. Stewart told LAT that Hackford was persuaded to question the legitimacy of his script after meeting with military advisors, who contended the account was “’a total lie.’” Although the film was initially scheduled for principal photography in Pensacola, as reported in a 24 Jul 1980 HR news item, the Navy prevented the filmmakers’ use of their facilities and the production relocated to former army bases near Port Townsend, WA. During the shoot, the filmmakers discovered that military personnel were “officially” prohibited from associating with the production. However, Stewart reported, many “did so covertly” because they wanted to make sure the film was accurate. According to New York , the Navy refused Hackford’s request to film planes from their aerobatic squadron, the Blue Angels, so he arranged to portray them with Canadian Snowbirds. Shortly before the shoot, however, Canada withdrew their cooperation because of pressure from the U.S. military. In the Philippines, Hackford attempted to cast off-duty naval workers as extras, but his efforts were thwarted by a threatening memo circulated around the base which implied that cooperation with the production was impermissible. The Navy also prohibited the filmmakers from using their “plane-crash simulators,” but Hackford told New York that he was able to create the same effects for much less money.
       As reported in DV on 14 Jul 1981, the Navy opposed the film because of its perceived inaccuracy and “strong language.” A military spokesman expressed concern that the film would have a negative impact on recruitment and might frighten the mothers of potential enlistees. Hackford told Rolling Stone that the military “’hated the portrayal of the father… and suggested we make him a modern chief who does community work a couple nights a week.” Furthermore, according to Hackford, the military denied that their recruits were interested in pursuing sexual relationships with the women who flocked to the bases looking for lovers and husbands, as portrayed in the film.
       A 10 Apr 1981 HR news item reported that principal photography was set to begin 20 Apr 1981 in Port Townsend and, on 14 Jul 1981, a DV article reported that the film had recently concluded an eight-week shoot. Fort Worden was noted as a primary location. Rolling Stone stated that despite a grueling, forty-three day shooting schedule and a tight budget of $7.5 million, the film was completed on time in anticipation of the Directors Guild strike; however, the union did not stage a walkout as planned.
       As noted in Rolling Stone , the film was initially rated X (no one under seventeen years of age admitted) by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) because of its love scene. Although Hackford claimed that he intentionally made the love-making “sweet” by avoiding filmic conventions such as soft-focus and “dissolve-to-music technique,” the MPAA found the character “Paula Pokrifki’s” position on top of Zack during sex, and her “undulating,” salacious. They also objected to the length of the scene, which was composed of two shots. After Hackford issued an appeal to the MPAA, actress Debra Winger mentioned her disbelief about the X-rating to the press and the director received an onslaught of publicity about the controversy. Hackford told Rolling Stone that he decided to edit the scene and drop the appeal because he felt audiences would be disappointed by the film if they viewed it expecting an X-rated picture. The director said that he used the existing footage of the scene, but made it shorter and “’went in optically above Debra’s waist to take out the – quote – objectionable part.’”
       According to Rolling Stone , the role of “Sgt. Emil Foley” was conceived as a white man, but the filmmakers had trouble filling the role with an actor who portrayed the character’s “bravura.” Hackford noted that actor Louis Gossett Jr. impressed them because he “’played the role as it was written’” and no lines were rewritten “’to make the character black.’” In order to maintain the emotional distance from the cast, Gossett had independent accommodations during the shoot and refrained from socializing with his colleagues.
       After the film previewed successfully in Toronto, Canada, and New Orleans, LA, Paramount’s then president of distribution and advertising, Frank Mancuso, decided to release the film three months early, positioning it with summer blockbusters. As noted in a 17 Aug 1982 NYT article, Mancuso’s “gamble” was rewarded. Despite mixed reviews, the picture grossed $3,329,896 million by its second weekend and showed a $25,000 increase in ticket sales after the first week. The film opened in 346 theaters, which was intentionally moderate enough to allow “room to build.” According to NYT , Paramount took the unusual steps of promoting the film with a “double-image” advertisement, which was discouraged by experts because it emphasized the “soft,” love-story of the film, and of setting the opening date on a Wednesday. Mancuso told NYT that audience interest was a result of intensively screening the film, which generated word of mouth. Mancuso noted: “’When we opened it on Wednesday, we saw Wednesday and Thursday being like extra previews.’” A 24 Aug 1992 issue of HR published a profit statement from Paramount which showed that the film grossed a net profit of $33,759,292 by 25 Mar 1989.
       A 26 Jan 1983 DV news item announced that Lorimar and Paramount intended to produce a video series entitled Sgt. Foley as a spin-off of the film, starring Gossett Jr., but the project was never realized.
       While the character portrayed by Debra Winger is spelled “Paula Pokrifki” in the end credits, the last names of her parents are spelled “Pokrifiki.” According to the original script, the correct spelling is “Pokrifki.”
       The film received the following Academy Award nominations: Actress in a Leading Role, Film Editing, Music (Original Score), and Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen). Gossett Jr. won an Academy Award for Actor in a Supporting Role and Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Will Jennings won in the category of Music (Original Song) for “Up Where We Belong.”
       The end credits include the following acknowledgements: “Special thanks to Art Kulman of the Washington State Dept. of Commerce & Economic Development, Fort Worden State Park, Gus Gustafson, Brent Shirley, and the people of Port Townsend, Washington.”
 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   2 Mar 1981.   
Daily Variety   14 Jul 1981.   
Daily Variety   26 Jan 1983.   
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jul 1980.   
Hollywood Reporter   10 Apr 1981.   
Hollywood Reporter   19 Jul 1982   pp. 3-4.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Aug 1992.   
Los Angeles Times   28 Jul 1982   p. 1, 6.
Los Angeles Times   26 Nov 1982   p. 1, 9.
New York   2 Aug 1982.   
New York Times   28 Jul 1982   p. 18.
New York Times   17 Aug 1982.   
Rolling Stone   30 Sep 1982.   
Variety   2 Mar 1981.   
Variety   21 Jul 1982   p. 20.
Variety   29 Sep 1982   p. 3, 29.

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.