Savannah Smiles

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For the lemon-wedge cookie of the same name, see Girl Scout cookie.
Savannah Smiles
Directed by Pierre De Moro
Produced by Clark L. Paylow
Written by Mark Miller
Starring Mark Miller
Donovan Scott
Bridgette Andersen
Peter Graves
Barbara Stanger
Pat Morita
Carol Wayne
Music by Ken Sutherland
Cinematography Stephen W. Gray
Edited by Eva Ruggiero
Distributed by Embassy Pictures
Release date
  • April 9, 1982 (1982-04-09)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $10,413,730[1]

Savannah Smiles is a 1982 family film directed by Pierre De Moro and starring Bridgette Andersen, Donovan Scott, Mark Miller, who also wrote the film for the screen, Peter Graves, and Barbara Stanger.


The story begins at a prison work site where Boots "Bootsie" McGaffey (Donovan Scott) attempts to help his old friend, Alvie Gibbs (Mark Miller), escape by causing a diversion and driving away in a crudely disguised vehicle. Reluctantly, Alvie agrees to go, and the two are able to avoid capture after a chase throughout the area. Surprisingly, Bootsie's efforts were unnecessary, as Alvie was scheduled for parole later that same week. The two friends roam the area, searching for food and shelter while continuing to evade the police.

Meanwhile, in the wealthy part of town, a six-year-old girl, named Savannah Driscoll (Bridgette Andersen), is feeling lonely and unwanted by her affluent parents. Her father Richard (Chris Robinson) is a candidate for the United States Senate and is more concerned with his public image than he is with his daughter. Feeling sad and motivated by an old episode of Our Gang, Savannah decides to run away during a trip to the park with her aunt and cousin, and leaves a note before she flees. Unfortunately, a gust of wind blows her note under her parents' bed, out of view.

Meanwhile, Alvie and Bootsie arrive at that park in an old vehicle they stole earlier, committing petty thefts, such as purse-snatching, to support themselves. While the children play hide-and-go-seek, Savannah decides to hide in the backseat the old stolen vehicle. Unknowingly, Alvie and Bootsie leave the park with Savannah. It wasn't until a run-in with a police officer that they discover they have her. To avoid suspicion and certain capture, the two pretend Savannah is a niece of Bootsie's. They try to return her to the park, but Savannah is reluctant to leave, and they can't afford to be caught. They decide to take care of her until they can find out who her parents are and why she ran away from home.

After learning Savannah is missing, Richard and his wife Joan (Barbara Stanger) contact the authorities. Believing Savannah was kidnapped, they also hire a private detective, Harland Dobbs (Peter Graves), who is an expert in such cases. The police officers soon piece together evidence and eyewitness testimony and conclude that Savannah was kidnapped. However, the eyewitnesses feel Savannah was not actually kidnapped, given the genuine surprise shown by Alvie and Bootsie. Joan is hesitant to go along with the kidnapping theory and disagrees with how to proceed. While wanting to appear tough on crime for the benefit of his Senatorial campaign, Richard agrees to follow Dobbs' strategy.

The following day, after reading a newspaper article, Alvie discovers Savannah's identity and the $100,000 reward for her safe return. As he and Bootsie are fugitives, he is unsure how they can retrieve the reward they feel they deserve, especially since they did not kidnap Savannah. In the meantime, they do their best to take care of Savannah and entertain her. Alvie attempts to make a deal with a waitress/singer he meets at a local bar, to turn in Savannah and split the reward. She turns him down but befriends Alvie in the process.

Over the next few days, Alvie and Bootsie grow closer to Savannah, and she is happy to have them in her life. It's the family, love, and attention she has always wanted. They play games, tell stories, and even go on a picnic together. During their day together after the picnic, Alvie gets Savannah a puppy that she falls in love with. As Alvie continues to plan to get the reward money, Bootsie begins to have second thoughts and would rather just give Savannah back without the reward. On the way back to their hideout, they are spotted by local police officers, who notify Dobbs. Dobbs, along with a team of officers, surround the hideout and attempt to capture Alvie and Bootsie. After an errant shot by one of the officers, Alvie realizes what is happening, and he and Bootsie take Savannah hostage in order to escape. Before they can leave, they are approached by the Driscoll Family priest, Father O'Hara (Pat Morita), who tries to be the peacemaker. Not wanting to make peace just yet, Alvie orders Father O'Hara to accompany them on their escape. Father O'Hara goes along to assure Savannah's safety, under the condition that he be dropped off at a nearby wedding ceremony he is scheduled to perform. The group uses the wedding to continue their getaway, by switching vehicles and escaping during the post-wedding procession. They are successful, and proceed to the resort area previously visited during their picnic day.

While at home waiting to hear from the alleged kidnappers, Richard is handed the note Savannah had left behind, which her nanny has found. Not wanting to create confusion or change his stance, Richard burns the note and instructs the nanny to keep that information between the two of them. He takes a call from Father O'Hara, notifying them of the fugitives' whereabouts. Richard notifies Dobbs and his team, then goes to the resort area with Joan.

Once arriving at the resort, Alvie and Father O'Hara travel down the mountain to meet the Driscolls, to negotiate Savannah's safe return. Richard assures Alvie they will not press charges so long as Savannah is returned. Alvie declines the reward money he originally sought and agrees to the terms. He and Father O'Hara proceed back up the mountain. Meanwhile, Bootsie and Savannah are waiting atop the mountain. After a while, Savannah takes her new puppy for a walk, but he gets away from her, and she ends up disappearing into the woods . Alvie and Father O'Hara arrive, and along with Bootsie, discover Savannah is missing. Father O'Hara urges Alvie and Bootsie to leave while a clean getaway is still possible, but they refuse and begin a search for Savannah instead. Dobbs and his team arrive at the site and surround the area. They easily capture Bootsie, then wait for Alvie who is still searching for Savannah. The Driscolls, too, arrive. Alvie finds Savannah, but then sees the officers have him surrounded. Before turning himself in, he wants to say good-bye to Savannah. He explains to her that their time together is over, and although they had fun, they need to go back home. Joan, against Richard's wishes, rushes to meet with Alvie and Savannah as they approach. Father O'Hara shows his support and escorts Alvie into the custody of the officers. Disgusted with the turn of events, Joan decides to take Savannah back home on her own and leave Richard. Alvie and Bootsie are arrested, but are happy Savannah is back home, safe. They feel fortunate to have spent time with a little girl who changed their lives for the better.

VHS and DVD releases[edit]

Savannah Smiles was released on VHS, Beta, Laserdisc & CED in 1982 by Embassy Home Entertainment, but has since gone out of print.[citation needed]

The latest DVD release was issued September 26, 2006 by Anchor Bay, under license from Savannah Smiles Productions and StudioCanal (current rights holder of the Embassy theatrical library).[citation needed]


External links[edit]