Partners (1982 film)

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Directed byJames Burrows
Written byFrancis Veber
Produced by
CinematographyVictor J. Kemper
Edited by
Music byGeorges Delerue
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • April 30, 1982 (1982-04-30)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$6 million[1][2]
Box office$6.1 million (US)[3]

Partners is a 1982 American gay-themed buddy comedy film directed by James Burrows and starring Ryan O'Neal and John Hurt as a mismatched pair of cops.


After a series of murders in Los Angeles's gay community, heterosexual police officer Sgt. Benson (Ryan O'Neal) is assigned to go undercover as half of a gay couple with Officer Kerwin (John Hurt), a Records Clerk. Kerwin naively believes that he is closeted, although the entire Department knows about his sexual identity. The pair discover an earlier murder and learn that both victims appeared in the same gay magazine. Each had received a call from a hoarse-voiced man asking them to model for him, only to turn up dead soon after. Benson models for the magazine and is approached by the same hoarse-voiced man; but, when another model turns up dead, the man is cleared as a suspect.

Benson grows close to Jill (Robyn Douglass), the photographer of his shoot, and plans a weekend getaway with her. Kerwin suspects her of the murders, but his superiors put it down to jealousy. Kerwin uncovers evidence implicating Jill; but, when the police move to apprehend her, they discover her corpse. Her death unknown to Benson, he arrives for his rendezvous with Jill; and Kerwin races to his aid. Jill's killer, a closeted man whom Jill and one of the victims were blackmailing, admits to Benson that he killed Jill and two of the men but insists that Jill killed her partner in crime. Realizing that Kerwin is outside, the killer shoots at Kerwin who returns fire. Kerwin is wounded, but the other man is killed.



Veber wrote the film in Paris, with little knowledge of the gay scene in Los Angeles. Veber wanted to do it because "it seemed to me it could be amusing and I wanted to do something quite different from Cruising which seemed to me to be a really bad eye on the gay world.[4]

The film was developed by Michael Medavoy at Orion Pictures. When he decided not to make it he sent the project to Aaron Russo, who was Bette Midler's agent. "It's a comedy," said producer Russo. "It's a comedy that comes out of real situations, out of the tradition of French farce. I felt for both characters." Russo arranged for James Burrows, then best known for directing episodes of Taxi, to direct.[1]

Burrows later wrote in his memoirs "We needed an overtle masculine character who felt out of place in the gay community."[5]

The leading roles were originally offered to Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen. Eastwood expressed interest if Allen signed, but Allen declined. Other actors considered were Alan Arkin, James Caan and Nick Nolte.[1] Burrows said they almost cast Sam Elliott and Peter Riegert but Barry Diller who ran Paramount "didn't think he could sell the movie with them attached."[5] Eventually the two stars were John Hurt and Ryan O'Neal. Burrows thought O'Neal "would have been great as the gay cop" but was cast as the straight cop.[5]

The film was one of six relatively low budgeted films rushed into production by Paramount Pictures in 1981 prior to an impending director strike, with budgets between $4–8 million. Paramount were interested to see what the results would be like on films with a shortened pre-production process. The other films were Some Kind of Hero, Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again, I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can, White Dog and An Officer and a Gentleman. A seventh film, Young Lust, was "picked up" from another production company. Partners was not championed within the studio by Don Simpson (Michael Eisner, also at the studio, said that he "hated" the script.) who lumped it together with every other rush-job project except for "An Officer and a Gentleman, which ultimate yielded a deal where Simpson agreed to get the fast tracked projects done on time and on budget as long as Eisner gave a green light to the eventual Richard Gere-Debra Winger-Louis Gossett Jr. starring blockbuster. Of all the seven films, Paramount executives were most enthusiastic about the script for Partners.[6]

The movie was one of a number of gay-themed films being made in Hollywood at the time, the others being Making Love and Deathtrap. According to Burrows, Francis Veber "wanted it to be apparent that John's character was gay. He wanted to advance the gay rights movement, which was still taboo as a film subject in 1981.[5]

In the original script and cut of the film Hurt's character commits suicide "because his life was so sad," said Veber. "We shot the scene but when people saw the film they had grown to like Hurt so much that by the point that the suicide came as too much of a shock, so we took it out. In France it would have been quite acceptable. I found that interesting."[4]

Burrows wrote "after the experience, I knew that feature films were not in my wheelhouse."[4]


Rex Reed, writing for the New York Post, panned the film, saying, "Hollywood's latest crime against humanity in general and homosexuals in particular is a dumb creepshow called Partners – stupid, tasteless and homophobic, this sleazy, superficial film implies that gay cops can't be trusted to work with straight cops because they might fall in love with them."[7] Gene Siskel was also offended and later called it one of the worst films of 1982.[8] O'Neal was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award as Worst Actor of the Decade.[9]

In his book The Celluloid Closet published in 1985, film historian and LGBT activist Vito Russo wrote that "this comedy of a straight cop and a gay cop infiltrating the gay community in order to catch a killer was insensitive to the point of slander".[10] He criticized the stereotypes presented in the movie, stating that "John Hurt is a terrified closet case who can't even hold a gun without dropping it or raise his voice above a timid whisper," and he also questioned the casting choices, referring to Ryan O'Neil as a "world-class homophobe".[10]

When asked if the film drew any complaints from gay men during filming, John Hurt said, "They didn't like it that I was wearing a lilac-colored track suit in it. They say homosexuals do not necessarily do that. And the person who's saying this is sitting there in a pink track suit, It's a crazy world we live in."[11]

The film was a financial failure. Head of Paramount Barry Diller later said "Partners was the essence of a badly made movie, partly because it was rushed against a date."[6]

An article in the Vulture noted the film's comparison in story terms to Cruising, observing "Where Cruising has been rediscovered and embraced, Partners remains defiantly and appropriately unloved, a movie that was dismissed as a tacky and offensive exploitation of retrograde stereotypes at the time of its release and whose reputation hasn’t exactly improved in the ensuing decades."[12]


Partners: Music from the Motion Picture Composed and Conducted by Georges Delerue
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedMarch 20, 2014 (2014-03-20)
StudioRecord Plant
LabelQuartet Records
ProducerGeorges Delerue

Partners: Music from the Motion Picture Composed and Conducted by Georges Delerue is a 1.000 Units Limited Edition soundtrack album from the film of the same name, released on March 20, 2014, by Spanish label Quartet Records.[13] The album, released on CD, contains 21 tracks composed and conducted by Georges Delerue, plus 3 bonus tracks.[14]

Critic James Southall describes the soundtrack as "typical of [Delerue's] work on American movies at the time – light, airy, wonderfully tuneful and very enjoyable", and concluded that it was "never unappealing."[14]

Track listing[edit]

All music arranged and conducted by Georges Delerue. All music composed by Georges Delerue, except bonus tracks.[15]

1."Partners Theme" 2:14
2."1M2 / 1M3" 2:02
3."Meet Hardelstam" 1:21
4."3M1" 1:11
5."M51" 1:08
6."I Need Some Air" 1:36
7."The First Clue" 1:41
8."M52" 1:01
9."The Market" 2:01
10."Domestic Scene" 3:14
11."M61 / M62" 1:02
12."8M4" 1:48
13."Where’s Everyone?" 2:06
14."The Bait" 4:40
15."10M1 / 10M3" 1:26
16."Thanks Kerwin" 1:32
17."Kerwin Searches House / Close Encounters / The Invitation" 3:30
18."Kerwin’s Suspicion" 1:44
19."Find Benson / I Want The Negatives" 3:48
20."I’m No Crying" 1:36
21."Partners Theme" 1:08
22."In The Mood" (bonus track)3:34
23."Moonlight Serenade" (bonus track)3:36
24."Tuxedo Junction" (bonus track)3:07
Total length:53:04


  1. ^ a b c Lee, Grant (8 July 1981). "RUSSO ON LIFE AFTER MIDLER". Los Angeles Times. p. g1.
  2. ^ "The Unstoppables". Spy. November 1988. p. 92.
  3. ^ "Partners". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c 'A LITTLE FRENCHMAN' TRIES HIS LUCK IN AMERICA Los Angeles Times 19 Jan 1982: g4.
  5. ^ a b c d Burrows, James (2022). Directed by James Burrows. Ballantine Books. p. 175.
  6. ^ a b Harmetz, Aljean (23 May 1983). "How Paramount 'Seven' Fared at the Box Office". New York Times. p. C13.
  7. ^ Russo, Vitto. "The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies". Harper & Roe, Publishers Inc. 1987 (Revised Edition). P282.
  8. ^ Gene Siskel, Roger Ebert. "Sneak Previews – 1982: Stinkers of 1982". Retrieved May 17, 2019.
  9. ^ "Decade's Worst -The 80's". Golden Raspberry Award. Archived from the original on May 11, 2013. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Russo, Vito (20 September 1987). The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies. Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-06-096132-9.
  11. ^ Rutledge, Leigh W. (1989). The Gay Fireside Companion. Alyson Publications, Inc. p. 166. ISBN 9781555831646.
  12. ^ Rabin, Nathan (4 November 2015). "Homosexuality in Mainstream Comedy and the Confused, Fascinating Sexual Politics of 'Partners'". Vulture.
  13. ^ "Partners (1982)". The MovieMusic Store. Retrieved March 16, 2021.
  14. ^ a b James Southall (May 16, 2014). "Partners". Movie Wave. Retrieved March 16, 2021.
  15. ^ Partners: Music from the Motion Picture Composed and Conducted by Georges Delerue (CD liner notes). Georges Delerue. Quartet Records. 2014. QR141&1.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)

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