Harry and Walter Go to New York
|Harry and Walter Go to New York|
|Directed by||Mark Rydell|
|Produced by||Don Devlin|
|Written by||John Byrum|
|Music by||David Shire|
|Edited by||David Bretherton|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|June 17, 1976|
|Budget||under $7 million|
Harry and Walter Go to New York is a 1976 American period comedy film written by John Byrum and Robert Kaufman, directed by Mark Rydell, and starring James Caan, Elliott Gould, Michael Caine, Diane Keaton, Charles Durning and Lesley Ann Warren. In the film, two down-on-their-luck con men try to pull off the biggest heist ever seen in late nineteenth century New York. They are opposed by the greatest bank robber of the day, and by a crusading newspaper editor.
Harry Dighby (Caan) and Walter Hill (Gould) are struggling vaudevillians who are sent to jail when Dighby is caught robbing audience members. They become roommates to a cultured, wealthy, and charming bank robber named Adam Worth (Caine). Worth plans to rob the Lowell Bank and Trust, both to avenge himself on the bank manager who had arranged his capture and because his ego cannot resist the temptation of robbing a bank reputed to be perfectly secure. Though in jail, he procures detailed diagrams of the bank's security systems.
A reforming newspaperwoman named Lissa Chestnut (Keaton) visits their cell. During her visit Dighby and Hill manage to photograph the bank plans with her camera, then burn the originals. They break out of prison the next day at the same time as Worth is paroled. They meet in New York City; and, by force, Worth manages to extract a copy of the photographed plans from them. Dighby, Hill, and Chestnut then band with Chestnut's team of do-gooders to race against Worth and his professional bank robbing squad to see who can rob the Lowell Bank and Trust first.
- James Caan - Harry Dighby
- Elliott Gould - Walter Hill
- Michael Caine - Adam Worth
- Diane Keaton - Lissa Chestnut
- Charles Durning - Rufus T. Crisp
- Lesley Ann Warren - Gloria Fontaine
- Burt Young - Warden Durgom
- Kathryn Grody - Barbara
The film was the idea of producers Don Devlin and Harry Gittes. They thought the setting of 1890s New York might make an interesting arena for a film. They researched the period and decided to focus on the activities of safe crackers. John Byrum was hired to write a script. They decided to make Harry and Walter vaudevillians after watching a TV special on Scott Joplin.
Mark Rydell signed to direct the film in December 1974. Columbia present David Begelman was hoping the film would be another The Sting and wanted Jack Nicholson to play a lead. Michael Caine, Elliott Gould and James Caan signed to play the leads. Diane Keaton then signed to play the female lead.
"When you're dealing with a big budget film two major actors are almost a requirement," said producer Devlin.
Caan later said he did not want to make the film or The Killer Elite but he did because he was told "they were commercial."
The budget of the film was set to be "under $7 million". Filming took place in October 1975.
James Caan later dubbed the film "Harry and Walter Go to the Toilet" and sacked his management after making the movie. "The director sacrificed jokes to tell a story no one cared about," he said, marking it "3 out of 10".
Robert Kaufman said he wrote the film after "I got married again. I finished five years of analysis. I stopped hating. Even though it's against my nature I wrote a funny big piece of lemon meringue pie. But nobody wants to go see a funny, optimistic picture."
Lesley Ann Warren says she was unable to get a job for years after the film.
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