Fat Sam (John Cassisi), Bugsy (Scott Baio) and Tallulah (Jodie Foster) are kids playing adults in Roaring 20s New York.
Bugsy Malone is a 1976 British musical gangster film, directed by Alan Parker. Set in Chicago, the film is loosely based on events from the early 1920s to 1931 during Prohibition, specifically the exploits of real-life [[gangster]s like Al Capone and Bugs Moran, as dramatized in cinema. Featuring only child actors (with singing voices provided by adults), Parker lightened the subject matter considerably for the childrens market; in the U.S. the film received a G rating.
The film was Parkers feature-length directorial debut, introduced actor Scott Baio, and featured a 13-year old Jodie Foster.
A pint-sized cast illuminates this musical that is unlike any other ever made. Set in 1929 New York City, Bugsy Malone captures a flashy world of would-be hoodlums, showgirls, and dreamers - all played by child actors! As Tallulah, the sassy girlfriend of the owner of Fat Sam's Grand Slam Speakeasy, future superstar Jodie Foster dances and sings her way into our hearts.
A mobster named Roxy Robinson is "splurged" by members of a gang, using rapid-fire custard-shooting "splurge guns". Once splurged, a kid is "all washed up... finished". Speakeasy boss Fat Sam introduces himself and Bugsy Malone, a boxing promoter with no money ("Bugsy Malone").
At Fat Sams speakeasy, there is much dancing and singing ("Fat Sams Grand Slam"). Fat Sam is worried that his rival Dandy Dan will try to take control of the speakeasy. Blousey Brown, an aspiring singer, has come for an audition, but Sam is too distracted to see her. Bugsy meets Blousey when he trips over her luggage. He is smitten and flirts with her. Fat Sams is raided by Dandy Dans men, who shoot up the place. Dandy Dans men continue to attack Fat Sams empire, eventually taking away rackets and splurging members of Fat Sams gang. Fat Sam sends all his available men to see if they can track down the guns. They are trapped at a laundry and all are splurged by Dandy Dans gang.
Bugsy returns to Fat Sams to arrange a new audition for Blousey. Fat Sams girlfriend, the chanteuse Tallulah, makes a pass at him. Although Bugsy rejects her flirtation, Tallulah plants a big kiss on Bugsys forehead when Blousey enters; Blousey is jealous. Fat Sam hires Blousey after her audition, but she refuses to speak to Bugsy ("Im Feelin Fine").
Fat Sam hires Bugsy to accompany him to a meeting with Dandy Dan. The meeting is a trap, but Bugsy helps Fat Sam escape. Gratefully, Fat Sam pays him $200. Bugsy and Blousey reconcile and have a romantic outing on a lake; Bugsy promises to take her to Hollywood. When he returns Sams car to the garage, he is attacked and his money is stolen. Bugsy is saved by Leroy Smith, who assaults the attackers and drives them away. Bugsy realizes that Leroy has the potential to be a great boxer. Bugsy introduces Leroy to Cagey Joe and helps him train ("So You Wanna Be a Boxer?"). Fat Sam again seeks Bugsys aid after his assistant Knuckles is unintentionally killed. Bugsy resists, but Fat Sam offers $400, enough money to keep his promise to Blousey. Blousey is disappointed when she learns that Bugsy hasnt bought the tickets to California yet ("Ordinary Fool"). Bugsy and Leroy follow Dandy Dans men to a warehouse, where the guns are being stashed. The two of them cant take the place alone, so Bugsy recruits a large group of down-and-out workers at a soup kitchen ("Down and Out").
They steal the crates of guns and take them to Fat Sams, arriving just as Dandy Dans gang arrives. Chaos ensues as a massive splurge gun fight erupts, covering everyone with custard. Unarmed patrons throw cream pies. The piano player is hit from behind and falls onto the keys, striking a single bass note. The tone silences the room, and the cream-covered crowd performs in a final number ("You Give a Little Love"). They realize they can all be friends, and Bugsy and Blousey leave for Hollywood.Scott Baio as Bugsy Malone, an Italian-Irish ex-boxer/boxing scout
Florrie Dugger as Blousey Brown, a sassy young dame interested in Hollywood
Jodie Foster as Tallulah, Fat Sams moll, the speakeasys star chanteuse and Bugsys old flame
John Cassisi as Fat Sam Staccetto, crime boss. He is dubbed by the press as "The Alleged Mobster King of the Lower East Side".
Martin Lev as Dandy Dan, rival gang boss who steals Fat Sams territory.
Paul Murphy as Leroy Smith, an African-American tramp who discovers he has a talent for boxing
Sheridan Russell as Knuckles, Fat Sams main hoodlum who constantly cracks his knuckles. The only character to actually be killed by the splurge as opposed to "finished".
Albin Humpty Jenkins as Fizzy, Caretaker at Fat Sams Grand Slam, tap dancer
Paul Chirelstein as Smolsky, dim-witted police captain
Andrew Paul as ODreary, dumb policeman
Jeffrey Stevens as Louis, one of Fat Sams hoodlums
Donald Waugh as Snake Eyes, one of Fat Sams hoodlums
Peter Holder as Ritzy, one of Fat Sams hoodlums
Michael Kirkby as Angelo, one of Fat Sams hoodlums
Dexter Fletcher as Baby Face, down and out
Davidson Knight as Cagey Joe, the boxing gym owner
John Williams as Roxy Robinson, Fat Sams best bodyguard, splurged by Dandy Dans gang
Bonnie Langford as Lena Marelli, showy, pompous theatre performer
Mark Curry as Oscar DeVelt, stuck-up theatre producer
Jonathan Scott-Taylor as News Reporter
Sarah E. Joyce as Smokey Priscilla, showgirl, Tallulahs Troupe
Helen Corran as Bangles, showgirl, Tallulahs Troupe
Kathy Spaudling as Loretta, showgirl, Tallulahs Troupe
Vivienne McKone as Velma, showgirl, Tallulahs Troupe
Lynn Aulbaugh as Louella, Dandy Dans wife and polo partner
Michael Jackson as Razamatazz - Fat Sams personal pianist and performer at the Grand Slam Speakeasy (n.b. not Michael Jackson)
Louise English as ballerina Mel
Bugsy Malone was Alan Parkers first feature film. Parker was trying to find a film that his children would enjoy, and his eldest son suggested one featuring a cast of only children.
The director chose to cast several unknown actors in the film. To find his Fat Sam, Parker visited a Brooklyn classroom, asking for "the naughtiest boy in class". They were unanimous in selecting John Cassisi, and Parker gave him the role. Actress Florrie Dugger was originally cast in a smaller role; when the actress cast as Blousey suddenly grew taller than Baio, Dugger was promoted. At the time they filmed, all of the cast were under 17 years old.
Parker cast Baio after he slammed down the script and stormed out of his audition. Baio later remembered:
I had quit the business, because I didn’t like driving into Manhattan. Well, the long and the short of it is that I wanted to play with my friends after school, but it happened to be raining that day, so I went to the city to meet with Alan Parker. I read it, but I just barely read it. I didn’t even want to be there. He was English, but I didn’t even know what that was. He was just this weird guy with long hair, and I didn’t know what he was. [Laughs.] So I sort of read the script, threw it at him, and walked out the door. That was it: I’d gotten the part before I got home.
Parker chose Paul Williams to score the film in order to get a more "palatable" modern sound, and simply because he liked him. Williams had scored Brian De Palmas commercial failure Phantom of the Paradise, but had also written huge pop-radio hits (such as "Weve Only Just Begun" (lyrics), and "(Just An) Old Fashioned Love Song"). In fact, Williams would soon win an Oscar for his song "Evergreen" from the 1976 film A Star Is Born. (He would also go on to become very well known for his work in childrens films, such as "The Rainbow Connection" from his score for The Muppet Movie).
Williams felt that "...the challenge for me was to provide songs that reflected the period ... and yet maintained an energy that would hold the young audiences attention." According to Parker, Williams was writing while on tour, recording songs in different cities, and sending the completed tapes to Hollywood. Arriving during pre-shoot rehearsals, the songs had to be accepted and used as they were, with voices by Paul, Archie Hahn and others.
Neither the director nor the songwriter was entirely comfortable with the results. Williams later wrote "Im really proud of the work and the only thing Ive ever doubted is the choice of using adult voices. Perhaps I should have given the kids a chance to sing the songs." Parker also commented: "Watching the film after all these years, this is one aspect that I find the most bizarre. Adult voices coming out of these kids mouths? I had told Paul that I didnt want squeaky kids voices and he interpreted this in his own way. Anyway, as the tapes arrived, scarcely weeks away from filming, we had no choice but to go along with it!"
The film was rehearsed and shot in England, largely on Pinewood Studios "H" stage, with locations in Black Park Country Park (Wexham, Buckinghamshire) and Reading, Berkshire.
The "splurge guns" proved to be problematic. After initial experiments with cream-filled wax balls proved painful, Parker decided to abandon the idea of filming the guns directly. Instead, the guns fired ping-pong balls, and a fast cut to a victim being pelted with "splurge" was used to convey the impression of the rapid-firing guns.
Baio later said making the film was "awesome":
A kid’s fantasy: You get to dress up as gangster, you get to shoot guns that fire whipped cream, you get to drive cars with pedals that look like real cars, and you get to talk like a grown-up. I mean, you couldn’t ask for a better first big gig. Talk about getting you hooked on a business! It was fantastic.
The film was released in late 1976 to positive reviews. It currently holds a score of 82% on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite the positive critical reception, Bugsy Malone was not a commercial success in the US, bringing in just over $2.7 million. Paramount gave it a limited release, usually in second-tier theaters in a double-bill with The Bad News Bears, which had already been out for six months and was no longer much of a draw. The film gained a small cult following in the US during airings on HBO, and later on home video. The film performed well in the UK and Japan, however. By 1985 it had earned an estimated profit of £1,854,000.
The film garnered 15 award nominations, including "Best Motion Picture (Musical/Comedy)", "Best Original Score" and "Best Original Song" (for the title track) from the Golden Globes, an Oscar for "Best Original Song Score" (Paul Williams), and the prestigious Golden Palm at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival. Actress Jodie Foster received two BAFTAs, "Best Supporting Actress" and "Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles", however, both her nominations were for her previous years work in Taxi Driver in addition to her work on Bugsy Malone. Alan Parker received the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay, and a nomination for Best Direction. Geoffrey Kirkland won the BAFTA Award for Best Production Design. Additionally, Paul Williams received a nomination for the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music, and Monica Howe a Best Costume Design nomination. The film itself received a Best Picture nomination.
Bugsy Malone was nominated for AFIs Top 10 Gangster Films list.
In the early eighties, Bugsy Malone was released on VHS. On 16 April 1996, it was re-released by Paramount on VHS. Although the film has never been commercially released on Region 1 DVD, it has been available through Internet sites as an Asian import supporting Region 1 (US). On 9 September 2008, BMG/Arista released a Blu-ray version, encoded for "all regions", as a United Kingdom import. This edition includes a directors commentary as well as other special features, however, as of October 2009, the Blu-ray version has been discontinued. A US DVD (Region 1) release was listed around 2003/04 as being available soon, however the film has yet to be released in this format.
The album was originally released as an LP in 1976. In March 1996, Polydor UK released the soundtrack on CD. It has yet to be released in the US on CD but is available through various outlets as an import.
Performers include Paul Williams, Archie Hahn, Julie McWhirter, and Liberty Williams. The track listing is:
- "Bugsy Malone" – Paul Williams
- "Fat Sams Grand Slam" – Paul Williams
- "Bad Guys"
- "Im Feeling Fine"
- "My Name Is Tallulah" - Louise "Liberty" Williams
- "So You Wanna Be a Boxer?"
- "Ordinary Fool"
- "Down and Out"
- "You Give a Little Love" – Paul Williams
A cast recording of the National Youth Music Theatre stage version of Bugsy Malone was released in 1998. Like the stage show, this recording featured two songs originally written by Williams, but not used in the film: "Thats Why They Call Him Dandy" and "Show Business". There is also some additional incidental orchestral score, such as an Overture and Exit Music, with music arranged by John Pearson.
In 2003, Bugsy Malone was voted #19 on a list of the 100 greatest musicals, as chosen by viewers of Channel 4 in the UK, placing it higher than The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and The King and I. Bugsy Malone ranks 353rd on Empire Magazines 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.
Bugsy Malone has been adapted into a stage show in two forms. A TV documentary called Bugsy Malone: After They Were Famous features a reunion and interviews with Jodie Foster, Scott Baio, John Cassisi and Florrie Dugger. The British actors who played Fat Sams gang are also reunited at Pinewood Studios. It was aired in December 2004 on ITV in the UK.
In 2010, UK band Silvery included a cover of "You Give a Little Love" on their second album Railway Architecture, and Olly Murs, runner up in the 2009 UK series of The X Factor, sampled "So You Wanna Be a Boxer" in his song "Hold On" that can be found on his debut album.
In 2011, the film was the most screened film in secondary schools in the United Kingdom.Bugsy Malone (2:34)
Fat Sams Grand Slam (1:48)
Bad Guys (2:19)
Im Feeling Fine (4:32)
My Name Is Tallulah (3:38)
So You Wanna Be a Boxer (2:32)
Ordinary Fool (4:19)
Down and Out (3:07)
You Give a Little Love (3:54)
Alan Parker wrote the book for a stage adaptation of Bugsy Malone, using Paul Williamss music. Music Theatre International currently holds the licensing and performance rights for both the regular production and a "Junior" version of the show meant for children.