Working Girl

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This article is about the 1988 film. For other uses, see Working Girl (disambiguation).
Working Girl
Working Girl.jpg
Working Girl movie poster
Directed by Mike Nichols
Produced by Douglas Wick
Written by Kevin Wade
Music by Carly Simon
Rob Mounsey
Cinematography Michael Ballhaus
Edited by Sam O'Steen
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • December 21, 1988 (1988-12-21)
Running time
114 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $28.6 million
Box office $102,953,112

Working Girl is a 1988 romantic comedy-drama film directed by Mike Nichols and written by Kevin Wade. It tells the story of a Staten Island-raised secretary, Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), working in the mergers and acquisitions department of a Wall Street investment bank. When her boss, Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver), breaks her leg skiing, Tess uses Parker's absence and connections, including her errant beau Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), to put forward her own idea for a merger deal.

The film features a notable opening sequence following Manhattan-bound commuters on the Staten Island Ferry accompanied by Carly Simon's song "Let the River Run", for which she received the Academy Award for Best Song. The film was a box office hit, grossing a worldwide total of $103 million.[1]

Griffith was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, while both Weaver and Joan Cusack were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film itself was nominated for Best Picture at the 61st Academy Awards.


Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) is an Irish American working-class stockbroker's secretary from Staten Island with a bachelor's degree in Business from evening classes. She dreams of an executive position. Tricked by her boss (Oliver Platt) into a date with his lascivious colleague (Kevin Spacey), she gets into trouble by publicly insulting him and is reassigned as secretary to a new financial executive, Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver). Seemingly supportive, Katharine encourages Tess to share ideas. Tess suggests that a client, Trask Industries, should invest in radio to gain a foothold in media. Katharine listens to the idea and says she'll pass it through some people. Later, she says the idea wasn't well received. But when Katharine breaks her leg skiing in Europe, she asks Tess to house-sit. While at Katharine's place, Tess discovers some meeting notes where Katharine plans to pass off the merger idea as her own. At home, Tess finds her boyfriend (Alec Baldwin) in bed with another woman. Disillusioned, she returns to Katharine's apartment and begins her transformation.

Tess sets up a meeting with executive Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), using her boss's name as an entrée. She wants to see Trainer the evening before the meeting at a party which she will attend in a dress of Katharine's. Before the party her friend Cynthia (Joan Cusack) gives her a valium from Katharine's bathroom when Tess suffers a panic attack. At the party, Tess unknowingly meets Jack, who is fascinated by her. They have a couple of drinks and the combined effect of valium and alcohol lead to her waking next morning in Jack's bed. She leaves before he wakes and, entering the meeting, realizes Jack Trainer is the man she spent the night with. She feels the pitch goes badly. Back at her desk, she is mortified about the night before but Jack comes in and says they are happy with Tess's idea. Days later, Tess and Jack gatecrash Trask's (Philip Bosco) daughter’s (Barbara Garrick) wedding and pitch their plan. Trask is interested and a meeting is set up. Later Tess and Jack end up in bed together. Tess wants to explain her true situation but keeps quiet after learning Jack has been in a relationship with Katharine, which he says is all but over.

Katharine comes home on the day of the meeting with Trask. Tess overhears Katharine asking Jack to confirm his love for her, but he avoids answering and hurries out. Tess also rushes off, leaving her appointment book, which Katharine reads. The meeting goes well until Katharine storms in, accusing Tess, a mere secretary, of stealing her idea. Tess protests but leaves, apologizing. Days later, Tess clears out her desk, and then bumps into Jack, Katharine, and Trask in front of the lobby elevators. Tess confronts Katharine and starts to tell everyone her side of the story. Katharine tries to lead the group away, but Jack says he believes Tess. When Trask hears a convincing tidbit, he hops off the closing elevator, leaving Katharine still in the lift. Trask gets on another elevator with Jack and Tess, where Tess then gives her elevator pitch to Trask, telling him the roundabout way she came up with the idea for the merger. When they get to their office floor, Trask confronts Katharine, asking her how she came up with the idea. She stumbles and balks and can't really explain where the idea came from. Katharine is fired on the spot, and Trask offers Tess an "entry-level" job with his company.

Tess starts her new job, armed with a lunchbox prepared by Jack. Directed to an office, she sees a woman on the phone, assumes she is her new boss and seats herself in the typing pool. The woman (Amy Aquino) reveals she is, in fact, Tess’s secretary and Tess is the new junior executive for whom she is working. Tess insists they work together as colleagues, showing she will be very different from Katharine. She then calls Cynthia from her office overlooking Manhattan to say she's landed her dream job.




Many scenes were shot in the New Brighton section of Staten Island in New York City.

Tess's office building lobby scenes were shot in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center (one of the buildings destroyed in the September 11 attacks). The scenes of Tess's secretarial pool and Katharine Parker's office were filmed at One State Street Plaza at the corner of Whitehall and State Street. One Chase Manhattan Plaza was featured at the end as the Trask Industries building.[2]


Working Girl (Original Soundtrack Album)
Soundtrack album by Carly Simon
Released August 29, 1989
Length 37:09
Label Arista Records
Producer Rob Mounsey, Carly Simon

The film's main theme "Let the River Run" was written and performed by American singer-songwriter Carly Simon, and won her an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and a Grammy Award for Best Song.[3] The song reached peak positions of #49 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #11 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in early 1989.[4]

The credits for the film read "music by Carly Simon, scored by Rob Mounsey". A soundtrack album was released on August 29, 1989 by Arista Records, and it peaked at #45 on the Billboard 200.[5]

Track listing
  1. "Let the River Run" - Carly Simon
  2. "In Love" (Instrumental) - Carly Simon
  3. "The Man That Got Away" (Instrumental) - Rob Mounsey, George Young, Chip Jackson, Grady Tate
  4. "The Scar" (Instrumental) - Carly Simon
  5. "Let the River Run" - The St. Thomas Choir Of Men And Boys
  6. "Lady In Red" - Chris De Burgh
  7. "Carlotta's Heart" - Carly Simon
  8. "Looking Through Katherine's House" - Carly Simon
  9. "Poor Butterfly" (Instrumental) - Sonny Rollins
  10. "I'm So Excited" - Pointer Sisters


Box office[edit]

Working Girl was released on December 23, 1988 in 1,051 theaters and grossed USD $4.7 million on its opening weekend. It went on to make $63.8 million in North America and $39.2 million in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of $103 million.[1]


The film received positive reviews from critics with an 84% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and a 73 metascore at Metacritic. Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and wrote, "The plot of Working Girl is put together like clockwork. It carries you along while you're watching it, but reconstruct it later and you'll see the craftsmanship".[6] In her review for the Washington Post, Rita Kempley described Melanie Griffith as "luminous as Marilyn Monroe, as adorable as one of Disney's singing mice. She clearly has the stuff of a megastar, and the movie glows from her".[7] Janet Maslin, in her review for The New York Times, wrote, "Mike Nichols, who directed Working Girl, also displays an uncharacteristically blunt touch, and in its later stages the story remains lively but seldom has the perceptiveness or acuity of Mr. Nichols's best work".[8] In his review for Time, Richard Corliss wrote, "Kevin Wade shows this in his smart screenplay, which is full of the atmospheric pressures that allow stars to collide. Director Mike Nichols knows this in his bones. He encourages Weaver to play (brilliantly) an airy shrew. He gives Ford a boyish buoyancy and Griffith the chance to be a grownup mesmerizer".[9]



Award Category Nominee Result
Academy Award Best Picture[10] Douglas Wick Nominated
Best Director[10] Mike Nichols Nominated
Best Actress[10] Melanie Griffith Nominated
Best Supporting Actress[10] Joan Cusack Nominated
Best Supporting Actress[10] Sigourney Weaver Nominated
Best Original Song[10] Carly Simon Won
Golden Globe Award Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Douglas Wick Won
Best Director Mike Nichols Nominated
Best Actress – Musical or Comedy Melanie Griffith Won
Best Supporting Actress Sigourney Weaver Won
Best Screenplay Kevin Wade Nominated
Best Original Song Carly Simon Won
British Academy Film Award Best Actress Melanie Griffith Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Sigourney Weaver Nominated
Best Film Music Carly Simon Nominated
Grammy Awards Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media Carly Simon Won
Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Directing - Feature Mike Nichols Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award Best Original Screenplay Kevin Wade Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Award Best Actress Melanie Griffith Won
Best Supporting Actress Joan Cusack Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Award Best Supporting Actress Sigourney Weaver Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Award Best Actress Melanie Griffith Nominated
National Society of Film Critics Award Best Actress Melanie Griffith Nominated

American Film Institute Lists

Home media[edit]

Working Girl was released on DVD in Widescreen format on April 17, 2001 by 20th Century Fox.[11] Special features included two theatrical trailers and three TV spots. The film was released on Blu-ray Disc on January 6, 2015.[11][12] The special features from the DVD release were carried over for the Blu-ray release.

TV series[edit]

Working Girl was also made into a short-lived NBC television series in 1990, starring Sandra Bullock as Tess McGill.[13] It lasted 12 episodes.


  1. ^ a b "Working Girl". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  2. ^ "Working Girl Movie - The 80s Movies Rewind". 1988-12-21. Retrieved 2012-06-12. 
  3. ^ "Carly Simon Official Website - Awards". Retrieved 2015-01-07. 
  4. ^ "Carly Simon Chart History". Retrieved 2015-01-07. 
  5. ^ "Awards". Retrieved 2015-01-07. 
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 21, 1988). "Working Girl". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  7. ^ Kempley, Rita (December 21, 1988). "Working Girl". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  8. ^ Maslin, Janet (December 21, 1988). "The Dress-for-Success Story Of a Secretary From Staten Island". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  9. ^ Corliss, Richard (December 19, 1988). "Two Out of Five Ain't Bad". Time. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f "The 61st Academy Awards (1989)". Retrieved 2015-01-07. 
  11. ^ a b "Working Girl". Retrieved 2015-01-07. 
  12. ^ " Working Girl [Blu-ray]: Movies & TV". United States: January 9, 2015. Retrieved January 9, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Working Girl (TV Series 1990-)". Retrieved 2015-01-07. 

External links[edit]