Take the Money and Run

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Take the Money and Run
Original movie poster for the film Take the Money and Run.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Woody Allen
Produced by Charles Joffe
Written by Woody Allen
Mickey Rose
Starring Woody Allen
Janet Margolin
Louise Lasser
Narrated by Jackson Beck
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Cinematography Lester Shorr
Edited by Paul Jordan
Ron Kalish
ABC Pictures
Palomar Pictures International
Distributed by Cinerama Releasing Corporation (1969, original)
MGM (2004, DVD)
Release dates
  • August 18, 1969 (1969-08-18)
Running time
85 minutes
Language English
Budget $1,530,000[1]
Box office $3,040,000 (rentals)[1]

Take the Money and Run is a 1969 American comedic mockumentary directed by Woody Allen and starring Allen and Janet Margolin (with Louise Lasser in a small role). Written by Allen and Mickey Rose, the film chronicles the life of Virgil Starkwell (Woody Allen), an inept bank robber.[2] Filmed in San Francisco and San Quentin State Prison,[3] Take the Money and Run received Golden Laurel nominations for Male Comedy Performance (Woody Allen) and Male New Face (Woody Allen), and a Writers Guild of America Award nomination for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen (Woody Allen, Mickey Rose).[4]


Virgil Starkwell's story is told in documentary style, using both stock footage and interviews with people who knew him. The film shows Starkwell entering a life of crime at a young age. As a child, Virgil was a frequent target of bullies, who would snatch his glasses and stomp them on the floor. As an adult, Virgil is inept and unlucky, and both police and judges both ridicule him by stamping on Virgil's glasses.

Starkwell is arrested for trying to rob a bank after passing to a teller a threatening note that misspells the word "gun". Sent to prison, Virgil attempts escape using a bar of soap carved to resemble a gun. Unfortunately for Virgil, it was raining outside and his gun melts. Starkwell does escape prison, but by accident. Joining a mass breakout plan, Virgil is the only inmate not warned that the scheme had been called off. Outside but unemployed, Virgil finds no way to support himself and his family. Eventually he is rearrested and sent to a chain gang where he is undernourished (the single meal of the day is a bowl of steam) and brutally punished (consigned to a steam box with an insurance salesmen).

Starkwell again escapes but is eventually captured when attempting to rob a former friend who reveals he is now a cop.

Starkwell's story ends with Starkwell back in prison. He is sentenced to 800 years but remains upbeat knowing that "with good behavior, I can get that cut in half". In the last scene, Starkwell is shown carving a bar of soap, and asking the interviewer if it was raining outside.



This was the second film directed by Woody Allen, and the first with original footage (after What's Up, Tiger Lily, which consisted of visuals taken from a Japanese James Bond knockoff). He had originally wanted Jerry Lewis to direct, but when that did not work out, Allen decided to direct it himself. Allen's decision to become his own director was partially spurred on by the chaotic and uncontrolled filming of Casino Royale (1967), in which he had appeared two years previously. This film marked the first time Allen would perform the triple duties of writing, directing, and acting in a film. The manic, almost slapstick style is similar to that of Allen's next several films, including Bananas (1971) and Sleeper (1973).

Allen discussed the concept of filming a documentary in an interview with Richard Schickel:

Take the Money and Run was an early pseudo-documentary. The idea of doing a documentary, which I later finally perfected when I did Zelig was with me from the first day I started movies. I thought that was an ideal vehicle for doing comedy, because the documentary format was very serious, so you were immediately operating in an area where any little thing you did upset the seriousness and was thereby funny. And you could tell your story laugh by laugh by laugh... The object of the movie was for every inch of it to be a laugh.[6]

The film was shot on location in San Francisco,[3] including one scene set in Ernie's restaurant, whose striking red interior was immortalized in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958). Other scenes were filmed at San Quentin State Prison,[3][7] where 100 prisoners were paid a small fee to work on the film. The regular cast and crew were stamped each day with a special ink that glowed under ultra-violet light so the guards could tell who was allowed to leave the prison grounds at the end of the day. (One of the actors in the San Quentin scenes was Micil Murphy, who knew the prison well: he served five and a half years there, for armed robbery, before being paroled in 1966.)

Allen initially filmed a downbeat ending in which he was shot to death, courtesy of special effects from A.D. Flowers. Reputedly the lighter ending is due to the influence of Allen's editor, Ralph Rosenblum, in his first collaboration with Allen.


Box Office[edit]

By 1973 movie had earned rentals of $2,590,000 in North America and $450,000 in other countries. After all costs were deducted, it reported a loss of $610,000.[1]

Critical response[edit]

The film received mostly positive reviews. Vincent Canby of The New York Times described it as "a movie that is, in effect, a feature-length, two-reel comedy—something very special and eccentric and funny", even though toward the end "a certain monotony sets in" with Allen's comedy rhythm.[8] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times found the film to have many funny moments, but "in the last analysis it isn't a very funny movie", with the fault lying with its visual humor and editing.[9] In October 2013, the film was voted by the Guardian readers as the sixth best film directed by Woody Allen.[10]

On the review aggregator web site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 90% positive rating from top film critics based on 18 reviews, with one of the two negative reviews coming from Roger Ebert. The film holds a 77% positive audience rating based on 11,375 ratings.[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • Golden Laurel Nomination for Male Comedy Performance (Woody Allen)
  • Golden Laurel Nomination for Male New Face (Woody Allen)
  • Writers Guild of America Award Nomination for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen (Woody Allen, Mickey Rose).[4]

American Film Institute recognition[edit]

Bank Teller #1: "Does this look like 'gub' or 'gun'?"
Bank Teller #2: "Gun. See? But what's 'abt' mean?"
Virgil Starkwell: "It's 'act'. A-C-T. Act natural. Please put fifty thousand dollars into this bag and act natural."
Bank Teller #1: "Oh, I see. This is a holdup?"


Take the Money and Run was released to DVD by MGM Home Video on July 6, 2004 as a Region 1 fullscreen DVD.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "ABC's 5 Years of Film Production Profits & Losses", Variety, 31 May 1973 p 3
  2. ^ "Take the Money and Run". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 11, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "Locations for Take the Money and Run". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 11, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Awards for Take the Money and Run". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 11, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Full cast and crew for Take the Money and Run". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 11, 2012. 
  6. ^ Schickel, Richard (2003). Woody Allen: A Life in Film. New York: Ivan R. Dee. p. 92. ISBN 978-1566635288. 
  7. ^ Allen, Woody; Björkman, Stig (2005). Woody Allen on Woody Allen. Grove Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0802115560. 
  8. ^ Canby, Vincent (August 19, 1969). "Take the Money and Run". The New York Times. Retrieved May 11, 2012. 
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 6, 1969). "Take the Money and Run". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 11, 2012. 
  10. ^ "The 10 best Woody Allen films". The Guardian. October 4, 2013. Retrieved November 22, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Take the Money and Run". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 11, 2012. 
  12. ^ 100 Years... 100 Laughs. American Film Institute. June 14, 2000.

External links[edit]