AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Raising Arizona
Director: Joel Coen (Dir)
Release Date:   1987
Premiere Information:   New York opening: week of 11 Mar 1987; Los Angeles opening: 20 Mar 1987
Production Date:   3 Feb -- Apr 1986 in Arizona
Duration (in mins):   93
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Cast: The Players Nicolas Cage ([Herbert] H. I. [McDunnough])  
    Holly Hunter (Ed)  
    Trey Wilson (Nathan Arizona, Sr.)  
    John Goodman (Gale [Snoats])  
    William Forsythe (Evelle [Snoats])  
    Sam McMurray (Glen)  
    Frances McDormand (Dot)  
  and Randall "Tex" Cobb (Leonard Smalls)  
    T.J. Kuhn, Jr. (Nathan Junior)  
    Lynne Dumin Kitei (Florence Arizona)  
    Peter Benedek (Prison counselor)  
    Charles "Lew" Smith (Nice old grocery man)  
    Warren Keith (Younger FBI agent)  
    Henry Kendrick (Older FBI agent)  
    Sidney Dawson (Ear-bending cellmate)  
    Richard Blake (Parole board chairman)  
    Troy Nabors (Parole Board member)  
    Mary Seibel (Parole Board member)  
    John O'Donnal (Hayseed in the pickup)  
    Keith Jandacek (Whitey)  
    Warren Forsythe (Minister)  
    Ruben Young ("Trapped" convict)  
    Dennis Sullivan (Policeman in Arizona house)  
    Dick Alexander (Policeman in Arizona house)  
    Rusty Lee (Feisty hayseed)  
    James Yeater (Fingerprint technician)  
    Bill Andres (Reporter)  
    Carver Barns (Reporter)  
    Margaret H. McCormack (Unpainted secretary)  
    Bill Rocz (Newscaster)  
    Mary F. Glenn (Payroll cashier)  
    Jeremy Babendure (Scamp with squirt gun)  
    Bill Dobbins (Adoption agent)  
    Ralph Norton (Gynecologist)  
    Henry Tank (Mopping convict)  
    Frank Outlaw (Supermarket manager)  
    Todd Michael Rodgers (Varsity Nathan Jr.)  
    M. Emmet Walsh (Machine shop ear-bender)  
  Glen and Dot's kids Robert Gray    
    Katie Thrasher    
    Derek Russell    
    Nicole Russell    
    Zachary Sanders    
  [and] Noell Sanders    
  Arizona quints Cody Ranger    
    Jeremy Arendt    
    Ashley Hammon    
    Crystal Hiller    
    Olivia Hughes    
    Emily Malin    
    Melanie Malin    
    Craig McLaughlin    
    Adam Savageau    
    Benjamin Savageau    
    David Schneider    
  [and] Michael Stewart    
  And featuring the amazing voice of William Preston Robertson    

Summary: At a Tempe, Arizona, police station, H. I. McDunnough flirts with a female police officer named Ed as she takes his mug shots. Although H. I. is paroled from his prison sentence, he is arrested again for robbing a convenience store and, back at the police station, he learns that Ed’s fiancé has left her. After a third parole and subsequent robbery, H. I. slips a ring on Ed’s finger as she takes his fingerprints and reassures her that it was not stolen. When H. I. is released from prison, the couple marries. They move into a trailer in the desert and H. I. finds work at a sheet metal factory. Although he and Ed enjoy married life, Ed longs for a child and is devastated to learn she is “barren.” The couple tries to adopt, but they are rejected as suitable parents because of H. I.’s criminal record. While Ed falls into a depression and quits the police force, H. I. finds himself driving past convenience stores, longing for his past life. Back at the trailer, Ed and H. I. see a newscast about the birth of quintuplets to Florence Arizona and her husband, Nathan Arizona, the owner of a successful furniture store called Unpainted Arizona. The couple decides to kidnap one of the “Arizona Quints” to fulfill their dream of becoming a family. At the Arizona household, Nathan takes a business call and Florence reads Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care while H. I. breaks into the nursery. As he takes the boys from their crib, mayhem ensues. Concerned by the noise, Florence checks the babies and H. I. returns to the car empty-handed. When Ed insists he try again, H. I. procures Nathan Junior and Florence’s Dr. Spock book for “instructions.” Although Ed hesitates, the couple returns home to the trailer, which they have decorated to celebrate the arrival of their new son. As H. I. sets up a family photograph, Ed says she is anxious about their parental responsibilities and asks H. I. for his complete cooperation. Meanwhile, H. I.’s prison friends, brothers Gale Snoats and Evelle Snoats, emerge from the mud outside of the penitentiary after a successful escape. Stealing a car, the brothers drive to H. I.’s trailer. Although H. I. is happy to see his friends, Ed realizes the brothers are escaped convicts and insists they leave. When Gale Snoats suggests H. I. is submissive to his wife, H. I. permits them to stay and promises Ed it will only be for a few days. That night, H. I. has an apparition of a menacing motorcyclist that kills innocent creatures in his path named Leonard Smalls. Fearing that Smalls is a physical manifestation of his inner demon, H. I. worries that he unleashed the monster by kidnapping Nathan Junior. At the Arizona home, Nathan gives a press conference and assures the public that Unpainted Arizona is still open for business. Meanwhile, highway patrol officers discover the Snoats brothers’ tunnel and Smalls, a bounty hunter, follows their trail. Back at the McDunnough trailer, H. I. asks the brothers to leave for the afternoon because they are entertaining company and, later, H. I.’s work supervisor, Glen, and his wife, Dot, arrive with their throng of rambunctious children. Preparing lunch, Dot overwhelms the new parents with a frenzied description of a baby’s needs. Later, H. I. confesses his apprehension to Glen, but when Glen suggests they swap wives, H. I. breaks his nose. Without knowing the reason for her husband’s actions, Ed later berates H. I. for jeopardizing his job. Pulling into a convenience store, H. I. relieves his anxiety by attempting to steal diapers and cash, but Ed sees him from the parking lot and drives away in anger. As the police arrive, H. I. runs from the scene, dropping the diapers, and when Ed hears gunshots, she turns around to save her husband. Chased by the police, H. I. heads to a supermarket for more diapers, but uses them to repel an officer. Dodging bullets, H. I. races to the parking lot, where Ed screeches to halt. As she drives away with her husband, Ed tells him that his criminal tendencies are not appropriate for family life. However, H. I. insists she must accept him and leans out of the speeding vehicle to collect the stolen diapers he dropped. Back at the trailer, Ed orders Gale and Evelle to leave the following morning. When she retires, Gale suggests that the couple’s marital friction might be resolved by financial security and proposes that H. I. help them rob a bank. Showing H. I. a newspaper clipping, the brothers explain that all the local farmers will be cashing in their subsidy checks the following day. Although H. I. is hesitant to defy Ed, Gale convinces his friend that he is not being true to himself by living a straight life. Late that night, H. I. writes a farewell letter to Ed, claiming that he cannot be a responsible parent. Meanwhile, Smalls drives to the trailer, camps outside, and hears the cries of Nathan Junior. The next day, Smalls barges into Nathan Arizona’s office and describes himself as a man hunter. He claims that Nathan’s $25,000 reward is not commensurate with the market value of a baby and offers to return the child for $50,000. When Smalls threatens to sell the boy on the black market, Nathan suspects him of being the kidnapper and calls the police, but Smalls disappears. Meanwhile, Glen arrives at the McDunnough trailer to fire H. I. and announces his discovery that the baby was kidnapped. Instead of returning Nathan Junior for the reward, Glen has decided to keep the baby and gives H. I. one day to inform Ed. Meanwhile, the Snoats overhear Glen’s threats and decide to take the baby, themselves. After H. I. fights Gale, the brothers tie him up and take Nathan Junior, along with the Dr. Spock book. On the road, Evelle robs a grocery store for diapers, but the brothers forget to put the baby back in the car and drive away with his car seat still on the roof. As the brothers speed back to the store, they come within inches of colliding with Nathan Junior, whose car seat is resting in middle of the highway. Ed drives after the brothers in her police uniform and tells H. I. that they must return the baby. Even though she still loves H. I., she wants to end their relationship. Back at the trailer, Smalls discovers the Snoats brothers’ newspaper clipping and heads to the bank where Gale and Evelle are holding up a group of farmers. A teller slips a combustible dye pack into their loot bag while filling it with cash. As the brothers drive away, they realize that Nathan Junior was again left behind and the canister explodes. With blue paint obscuring the windshield, the brothers nearly collide with Ed and H. I., who hold them at gunpoint and demand to know the baby’s whereabouts. H. I. and Ed speed toward the bank, but Smalls approaches Nathan Junior from the opposite direction and retrieves him first. Shooting out H. I. and Ed’s car windows, Smalls throws a grenade inside the vehicle, which explodes shortly after H. I. and Ed run to safety. When Ed confronts Smalls, H. I. shoots a knife from his hand and Ed retrieves the baby. Smalls chases Ed through the bank on his motorcycle and H. I. knocks him off the bike as he returns outside. While the men fight, H. I. observes that Smalls has an identical tattoo to his own. Smalls prepares to finish off his adversary, but when he notices that H. I. pulled the pin from one of his grenades, Smalls explodes. Sometime later, H. I. and Ed return Nathan Junior and Florence’s Dr. Spock book to the Arizona home, but Nathan discovers them in the nursery. H. I. explains that they saved the baby from Smalls, but declines to elaborate. When Nathan offers the couple furniture in lieu of reward money, Ed refuses and Nathan realizes they are the kidnappers. Ed tearfully tells Nathan they were unable to conceive and H. I. says their marriage is over, but Nathan suggests the couple “sleep on it” before making a final decision. That night, H. I. dreams of the future where the Snoats brothers voluntarily return to prison, Nathan Junior receives a football as Christmas gift from an anonymous couple, and Glen unsuccessfully attempts to implicate H. I. and Ed in the Arizona kidnapping. Further into the future, H. I. envisions Nathan Junior as a star football player. At the end of his dream, H. I. sees himself and Ed as an elderly couple with children and grandchildren.
 

Production Company: Circle Films  
Production Text: A Ted and Jim Pedas/Ben Barenholtz production
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Joel Coen (Dir)
  Kevin Dowd (Prod mgr)
  Deborah Reinisch (1st asst dir)
  Kelly Van Horn (1st asst dir)
  Jon Kilik (2d asst dir)
  Patricia Doherty (2d asst dir)
  Chitra Mojtabai (2d asst dir)
Producer: Ethan Coen (Prod)
  James Jacks (Exec prod)
  Mark Silverman (Co-prod)
  Deborah Reinisch (Assoc prod)
Writer: Ethan Coen (Wrt)
  Joel Coen (Wrt)
Photography: Barry Sonnenfeld (Dir of photog)
  David M. Dunlap (Cam op)
  Stephen St. John (Steadicam op)
  Richard P. Crudo (Asst cam)
  C. Mitchell Amundsen (Asst cam)
  Brad S. Mudgett (Cam dept asst)
  Melinda Sue Gordon (Prod still photog)
  Dennis Gamiello (Key grip/Dolly grip)
  John "Earl" Lowry (Rigging grip)
  Brian Fitzsimmons (Best boy grip)
  Cindy Lagerstrom (Grip)
  Bob Preston (Grip)
  Marty Miller (Grip)
  Tom Dreesen (Grip)
  Russell Engels (Gaffer)
  Kenneth R. Conners (Best boy)
  Michael Burke (1st elec)
  Bob Field (Elec)
  George Ball (Elec)
  Dan MacCallum (Elec)
  Craig Woodruff (Elec)
  Michael Hall (Elec)
  General Camera West Los Angeles (Lighting and grip equip supplied by)
  General Camera East New York (Lenses and Panaflex camera supplied by)
Art Direction: Jane Musky (Prod des)
  Harold Thrasher (Art dir)
  J. Todd Anderson (Storyboard artist)
  John Anderson (Art dept asst)
  Flint Esquerra (Art dept asst)
  Robb Roetman (Art dept asst)
  Katie Tansley (Art dept asst)
  Gerry Thrasher (Art dept asst)
Film Editor: Michael R. Miller (Ed)
  Arnold Glassman (Assoc ed)
  Michael Berenbaum (1st asst ed)
  Kathie Weaver (Asst ed)
  Brian Johnson (Apprentice ed)
  J.G. Films, Inc. (Negative cutting)
Set Decoration: Robert Kracik (Set dec/Draftsperson)
  Marcia Calosio-Foeldi (Key set dresser)
  Roger Belk (Set dresser)
  Chris Russhon (Set dresser)
  Linette Forbes Shorr (Set dresser)
  Stephen Roll (Const coord)
  Terry Kempf (Lead carpenter)
  Pasco Di Carlo (Carpenter)
  Star Fields (Carpenter)
  Bill Holmquist (Carpenter)
  Bill Seifried (Carpenter)
  Chuck Seifried (Carpenter)
  Mark Donnelly (Scenic artist)
  Todd Hatfield (Scenic artist)
  Roger Pancake (Prop master)
  Jan Fead (Asst prop master)
  Britt Torney (Prop man)
Costumes: Richard Hornung (Cost des)
  Ellen M. Ryba (Asst to cost des)
  Stephen M. Chudej (Ward supv)
  Wendy Cracchiolo (Ward asst)
  Ada Akaji (Ward asst)
  Brian Kirk (Ward asst)
  Mary Ann Ahern (Cost const)
Music: Carter Burwell (Mus)
  Sebastian Niessen (Mus eng)
  Ben Freed (Banjo)
  Mieczysław Litwinski (Jews harp/Guitar)
  John R. Crowder (Yodeling)
  Dan Conte (Digital score asst)
Sound: Skip Lievsay (Supv sd ed)
  Allan Byer (Prod sd mixer)
  Peter F. Kurland (Boom op)
  Randy Gable (Addl boom)
  Greg Horn (Rec)
  Mel Zelniker (Re-rec mixer)
  Philip Stockton (Sd ed)
  Magdaline Volaitis (Sd ed)
  Ron Bochar (Sd ed)
  Bruce Pross (Asst sd ed)
  Marissa Littlefield (Asst sd ed)
  Steven Visscher (Asst sd ed)
  Christopher Weir (Asst sd ed)
  Frederick Szymanski (Spec elec sd eff)
  Jun Mizumachi (Spec elec sd eff)
  Carl Mandelbaum (Spec elec sd eff)
  Marko A. Costanzo (Foley artist)
  Michael Barry (Foley eng)
  Michael DiCosimo (Dolby consultant)
Special Effects: Image Engineering, Inc. (Spec eff)
  Peter Chesney (Spec eff coord, Image Engineering, Inc.)
  Guy Louthan (Spec eff lead, Image Engineering, Inc.)
  Dan Perri (Title des by)
  The Optical House New York (Opticals by)
Make Up: Katherine James-Cosburn (Make-up)
  Dan Frey (Hair)
  Camille Henderson (Hair and make-up asst)
Production Misc: Donna Isaacson (Casting)
  John Lyons (Casting)
  Sunny Seibel (Arizona casting)
  Becca Korby-Sullivan (Extras casting)
  Yvonne Van Orden (Baby casting)
  Joseph Schneider, Inc. NYC (Baby casting)
  Alma Kuttruff (Prod supv)
  Barbara-Ann Stein (Prod auditor)
  David Pomier (Loc mgr)
  Adam Grad (Loc asst)
  Rick Ashman (Loc prod asst)
  Matt Cartsonis (Loc prod asst)
  L.R. Kelly (Loc prod asst)
  Kim Seeger (Loc prod asst)
  Christopher Buchanan (Prod office coord)
  Sharon Roesler (Prod office coord)
  Andrew Sears (2d unit and post-prod mgr)
  Karl Lewis Miller (Animal action by)
  Julie Asch (Baby wrangler)
  Julie Adams (Dialect coach)
  Thomas Johnston (Scr supv)
  Maureen Hymers (A.D. prod asst)
  Erin Stewart (A.D. prod asst)
  Eric Tignini (A.D. prod asst)
  Valerie Susan Brown (Prod secy)
  Blake Hocevar (Office asst)
  Bob Childers (Craft service)
  Elizabeth Boyd (Craft service)
  Sound One (Post prod services by)
  The Spera Corporation (Post prod services by)
Stand In: Jery Hewitt (Stunt coord/Stunt player)
  Bill Anagnos (Stunt player)
  Curt Bortel (Stunt player)
  Shane Dixon (Stunt player)
  Allan Graf (Stunt player)
  Cindy Wills Hartline (Stunt player)
  Gene Hartline (Stunt player)
  Jeff Jensen (Stunt player)
  Edgard Mourino (Stunt player)
  Ron Nix (Stunt player)
  Spanky Spangler (Stunt player)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: "Goofing-Off Suite," by Pete Seeger.
Songs: "Down in the Willow Garden," written by Charlie Munroe, © copyright Charlie Munroe 1957, 1972; "Girls, Do Not Wink," courtesy of Monitor Records; "Home on the Range," performed by Phil 'Dusty' Stockton, courtesy of Outdoorsman Records.
Composer: Charlie Munroe
  Pete Seeger
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Circle Films, Inc. 17/6/1987 dd/mm/yyyy PA334988

PCA NO: 28472
Physical Properties: Sd: Dolby Stereo® in selected theatres
  col: Color by DuArt
  Lenses/Prints: Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision®

 
Genre: Comedy
 
Subjects (Major): Infertility
  Kidnapping
  Marriage
  Parentage
  Women police
 
Subjects (Minor): Adoption
  Arizona
  Bank robberies
  Black market
  Brats
  Brothers
  Businessmen
  Chases
  Children
  Criminals
  Dreams
  Family relationships
  Farmers
  Fathers and sons
  Grenades
  Gunfights
  Grocery stores
  Houseguests
  Infants
  Mate swapping
  Mothers and sons
  Motorcycles
  Prison escapees
  Prison life
  Quintuplets
  Rescues
  Rewards
  Robbery
  Separation (Marital)
  Tattoos
  Trailers

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

Before the opening credits, the film begins with eleven minutes of voiceover narration by actor Nicolas Cage in his portrayal of the character “H. I.,” who explains how he met his wife, “Ed,” and the events that preceded their decision to kidnap one of the “Arizona quints.” When the opening credits conclude, onscreen captions state: “The Arizona Household, Wednesday, April 12, 8:45 P.M.” The film also ends with voiceover narration by “H. I.,” who describes his dream of the future.
       As noted in a Spring 1987 issue of Ampersand , writer-director Joel Coen and writer-producer Ethan Coen were courted by both independent and major Hollywood film studios after the success of their first theatrical release, Blood Simple (1985, see entry), but the brothers signed a four-picture contract with the Washington, D.C.-based distributors of Blood Simple , Circle Films, to maintain creative control over their work. Although the Coen brothers intended to film The Hudsucker Proxy (1994, see entry) as their next project, they realized the budget would be unmanageable for Circle and instead spent four months in seclusion writing Raising Arizona from their New York City office. While Circle raised a budget of $6 million for production, they believed the film warranted a wide release and marketed the project to major studios for distribution. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. was selected from other interested companies because they guaranteed the Coen brothers an autonomous right to the “final cut” of the picture. Fox producer Scott Rudin told Ampersand that the studio was confident about the Coen brothers’ “precise” script and noted it was exceptional that every scene from the original screenplay was included in the finished film.
       According to 11 Feb 1986 HR production charts, shooting began 3 Feb 1986 in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe, AZ. A 14 May 1986 Var news item reported that principal photography concluded in Apr 1986 after twelve weeks on location in Scottsdale.
       According to various contemporary sources, including a 29 Mar 1987 LAT news item and studio production notes from AMPAS library files, four hundred babies under one year of age auditioned for the roles of the “Arizona quints” and fifteen were cast. As stated in LAT , eight-month-old T. J. Kuhn Jr., who portrayed the character “Nathan Junior,” was so even-tempered that he “got 90% of the screen time, often appearing to be several of the toddlers simultaneously.” At the time of production, the Coen brothers had no children of their own and had little previous experience with babies, but Joel Coen stated in production notes that he approached the infants as “somewhere between an actor and a prop.” The children posed challenges to production because of their rapid developments and reportedly one baby was fired because he learned to walk. Joel Coen told Ampersand that actors John Goodman and William Forsythe were hired in part because their facial features resembled those of infants.
       Ampersand noted that the film’s characters spoke in a “twang” dialect that was not authentic to Arizona, and Ethan Coen stated that they chose the state only because they liked the way it sounded in the title. According to a 12 Apr 1987 LAT news item, some Arizonans were offended by their depiction in the film, which they felt misrepresented them as “rednecks.” After the Southwestern premiere of the film in Scottsdale, the city’s mayor complained that the picture had “’no redeeming social value’” and was concerned that it did not conform to “’the image Arizona wants to project.’” On 5 May 1987, LAT reported that a group of Seattle, WA, “parents, clergy and social workers” staged protests at theatres and proposed a boycott of the film because they claimed it promoted kidnapping, child abandonment and abuse.
       The film was released to mixed, generally negative reviews. In her 20 Mar 1987 LAT review, Sheila Benson claimed that the Coens cultivated an air of superiority over their characters, which they manipulated like “cartoons.” Although Vincent Canby found more humor in the film than Benson, his 11 Mar 1987 NYT review stated: “Like Blood Simple , it’s full of technical expertise but has no life of its own.”
       The end credits include the following written acknowledgements: “Special Thanks to: Dick Bowers; Office of the Mayor and City Manager, City of Scottsdale, Arizona; Phoenix Motion Picture/Commercial Coordinating Office; Arizona Film Commission; Carol Porter; Short Stop Markets, A Cordon Company, Tempe, AZ; Home Depot Stores; Golden Horseshoe Stables, Scottsdale, AZ; Happy Valley Landscape Supply; Dom Masters; Kurt Woolner; Susan Rose; Indian Jewelry Courtesy of Gilbert Ortega Fine Indian Jewelry; Reata Pass Steak House, Scottsdale, AZ; Señor Greaser; Dental Work Courtesy of Dr. Gary M. Johnson; Eyewear Courtesy of Dr. Berton Siegel, O.D.D.O.; John Raffo.”
       Also noted in the end credits is the following location: “Portions of this picture were filmed in the Tonto National Forest, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Ampersand   Spring 1987   pp. 11-14.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Feb 1986.   
Hollywood Reporter   26 Feb 1987   p. 3, 25.
Los Angeles Times   20 Mar 1987   p. 1.
Los Angeles Times   29 Mar 1987.   
Los Angeles Times   12 Apr 1987.   
Los Angeles Times   5 May 1987.   
New York Times   11 Mar 1987   p. 24.
Variety   14 May 1986.   
Variety   4 Mar 1987   p. 18.

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