Bugsy Malone


1h 33m 1976
Bugsy Malone

Brief Synopsis

A gangster movie where all the gangsters are children. Instead of real bullets they use "splurge guns" that cover the victim in cream. The story tells of the rise of "Bugsy Malone" and the battle for power between "Fat Sam" and "Dandy Dan".

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
1976
Production Company
Goodtimes Enterprises; National Film Finance Corporation
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures; Rank Film Distributors Ltd

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

A spoof of classic gangster movies with a cast of children. The violence is limited to pies in the face and machine guns that shoot custard as the story of the rise of Bugsy's rise to power is told.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
1976
Production Company
Goodtimes Enterprises; National Film Finance Corporation
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures; Rank Film Distributors Ltd

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m
Color
Color
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Song Score

1977

Articles

Bugsy Malone


In a 1994 interview around the time of the release of his 11th feature, The Road to Wellville, director Alan Parker said his mission was to make at least one film in every genre. With his first film, Parker covered four bases: gangster picture, comedy, musical and kid flick. If those sound like incompatible genres for a single motion picture, check out Bugsy Malone (1976), Parker's award-winning critical success that launched a highly varied four-decade career.

Parker was enjoying success in advertising, first as a copywriter and then as a director of TV ads, when he started making short films. His 1975 BBC film The Evacuees won a BAFTA TV Award and an International Emmy for its story of two young Jewish boys evacuated from Manchester to Blackpool during the Blitz bombing of England in World War II. But it wasn't his intention to take on another child-centered plot for his first theatrical feature until his own kids became part of the production's genesis.

"I had four young children and we used to go to a cottage in Derbyshire at weekends," he told The Guardian in 2015. "On the long, boring car journey up there, I started telling them the story of a gangster called Bugsy Malone. They'd ask me questions and I'd make up answers, based on my memories of watching old movie reruns as a kid." (The name an amalgam of infamous real-life gangsters Bugs Moran and Al Capone.) His eldest son suggested casting children in all the roles.

Parker set about casting mostly unknowns, although for his "femme fatale" character, Tallulah, he chose 13-year-old veteran Jodie Foster, who had been acting since the age of three. Foster was already known for numerous TV roles and for her part as the precocious Audrey in Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974). By the time Bugsy Malone was released in the summer of 1976, she had gained notoriety as the teenage prostitute in Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976), which hit theaters several months earlier.

As the title character, Parker opted for Scott Baio (also 13 when he auditioned) after the young actor threw the script down and stormed out of the audition because he wanted to be home hanging out with friends. Baio made his debut in this picture and went on to have a successful acting career, primarily on television. Most of the other kids in the cast made only a handful of other pictures, if any at all, after this production. Baio, however, was sold on acting, as he described it years later: "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 one aspect of the production Parker was not pleased with was the musical element. Paul Williams, the composer of such pre-Bugsy hits as "We've Only Just Begun" for The Carpenters and "An Old Fashioned Love Song" for Three Dog Night, was chosen to write the dozen or so songs used in the picture with an eye to reflecting the 1920s New York gangster milieu while still having enough appeal for modern audiences. According to Parker, Williams wrote the numbers while he was touring and sent recordings back to the director. Williams sang on several of the tunes himself, along with other singers he knew. Hearing those adult voices coming out of the mouths of actors in their early teens was "bizarre" in Parker's estimation, but since the recordings arrived so close to shooting, he decided to use them as they were.

Perhaps this - along with the picture's lackluster box office in the U.S. - was the reason Parker rarely talked about Bugsy Malone for years or acknowledged it as part of his filmography. But later in his career, he re-evaluated the film and embraced it with pride.

Bugsy Malone may not have made much money on its initial U.S. run, thanks in large part to Paramount dumping it on a double bill with the re-release of an already played-out The Bad News Bears (1976), but it did well in Parker's native U.K. and in Japan and received a number of favorable reviews from major critics. Williams' score was nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe, with another Golden Globe nomination for the title tune, and the soundtrack, production design/art direction and screenplay won BAFTAs.

Parker wrote the book for a 1983 stage production in London's West End, using Williams music, sung by actual child performers this time. That version was directed by former Monkees star Micky Dolenz and featured 14-year-old Catherine Zeta-Jones as Tallulah. The production was revived a few times; the most recent (2015-2016) was nominated for an Olivier Award.

Parker has yet to achieve his goal of making a film in every conceivable genre, but he has directed four other musicals: Fame (1980), Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982), The Commitments (1991) and Evita (1996).

Director: Alan Parker
Producer: David Puttnam
Screenplay: Alan Parker
Cinematography: Peter Biziou, Michael Seresin
Editing: Gerry Hambling
Production Design: Geoffrey Kirkland
Art Direction: Malcolm Middleton
Music: Paul Williams
Cast: Scott Baio (Bugsy), Florrie Dugger (Blousey), Jodie Foster (Tallulah), John Cassisi (Fat Sam), Martin Lev (Dandy Dan)

By Rob Nixon
Bugsy Malone

Bugsy Malone

In a 1994 interview around the time of the release of his 11th feature, The Road to Wellville, director Alan Parker said his mission was to make at least one film in every genre. With his first film, Parker covered four bases: gangster picture, comedy, musical and kid flick. If those sound like incompatible genres for a single motion picture, check out Bugsy Malone (1976), Parker's award-winning critical success that launched a highly varied four-decade career. Parker was enjoying success in advertising, first as a copywriter and then as a director of TV ads, when he started making short films. His 1975 BBC film The Evacuees won a BAFTA TV Award and an International Emmy for its story of two young Jewish boys evacuated from Manchester to Blackpool during the Blitz bombing of England in World War II. But it wasn't his intention to take on another child-centered plot for his first theatrical feature until his own kids became part of the production's genesis. "I had four young children and we used to go to a cottage in Derbyshire at weekends," he told The Guardian in 2015. "On the long, boring car journey up there, I started telling them the story of a gangster called Bugsy Malone. They'd ask me questions and I'd make up answers, based on my memories of watching old movie reruns as a kid." (The name an amalgam of infamous real-life gangsters Bugs Moran and Al Capone.) His eldest son suggested casting children in all the roles. Parker set about casting mostly unknowns, although for his "femme fatale" character, Tallulah, he chose 13-year-old veteran Jodie Foster, who had been acting since the age of three. Foster was already known for numerous TV roles and for her part as the precocious Audrey in Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974). By the time Bugsy Malone was released in the summer of 1976, she had gained notoriety as the teenage prostitute in Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976), which hit theaters several months earlier. As the title character, Parker opted for Scott Baio (also 13 when he auditioned) after the young actor threw the script down and stormed out of the audition because he wanted to be home hanging out with friends. Baio made his debut in this picture and went on to have a successful acting career, primarily on television. Most of the other kids in the cast made only a handful of other pictures, if any at all, after this production. Baio, however, was sold on acting, as he described it years later: "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 one aspect of the production Parker was not pleased with was the musical element. Paul Williams, the composer of such pre-Bugsy hits as "We've Only Just Begun" for The Carpenters and "An Old Fashioned Love Song" for Three Dog Night, was chosen to write the dozen or so songs used in the picture with an eye to reflecting the 1920s New York gangster milieu while still having enough appeal for modern audiences. According to Parker, Williams wrote the numbers while he was touring and sent recordings back to the director. Williams sang on several of the tunes himself, along with other singers he knew. Hearing those adult voices coming out of the mouths of actors in their early teens was "bizarre" in Parker's estimation, but since the recordings arrived so close to shooting, he decided to use them as they were. Perhaps this - along with the picture's lackluster box office in the U.S. - was the reason Parker rarely talked about Bugsy Malone for years or acknowledged it as part of his filmography. But later in his career, he re-evaluated the film and embraced it with pride. Bugsy Malone may not have made much money on its initial U.S. run, thanks in large part to Paramount dumping it on a double bill with the re-release of an already played-out The Bad News Bears (1976), but it did well in Parker's native U.K. and in Japan and received a number of favorable reviews from major critics. Williams' score was nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe, with another Golden Globe nomination for the title tune, and the soundtrack, production design/art direction and screenplay won BAFTAs. Parker wrote the book for a 1983 stage production in London's West End, using Williams music, sung by actual child performers this time. That version was directed by former Monkees star Micky Dolenz and featured 14-year-old Catherine Zeta-Jones as Tallulah. The production was revived a few times; the most recent (2015-2016) was nominated for an Olivier Award. Parker has yet to achieve his goal of making a film in every conceivable genre, but he has directed four other musicals: Fame (1980), Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982), The Commitments (1991) and Evita (1996). Director: Alan Parker Producer: David Puttnam Screenplay: Alan Parker Cinematography: Peter Biziou, Michael Seresin Editing: Gerry Hambling Production Design: Geoffrey Kirkland Art Direction: Malcolm Middleton Music: Paul Williams Cast: Scott Baio (Bugsy), Florrie Dugger (Blousey), Jodie Foster (Tallulah), John Cassisi (Fat Sam), Martin Lev (Dandy Dan) By Rob Nixon

Quotes

Trivia

All singing was dubbed by adult vocalists.

All of the cast were 16 or under at the time of filming.

The splurge guns did not actually fire the "splurge". Director Alan Parker first tried wax balls filled with cream but these hurt when fired, so in the end the splurge guns actually fired ping pong balls, which the actors fired at nothing and what we see on-screen is clever editing between this and shots of actors being hit by handfuls of cream thrown at them by others.

When looking for Fat Sam, director Alan Parker went to a Brooklyn classroom and asked who was the naughtiest boy in class; all the class replied John Cassisi, who subsequently got the part.

Florrie Dugger was originally only a minor part - until the actress meant to play Blousey underwent a growth spurt and became taller than Bugsy (Scott Baio), thus the two swapped roles.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 2014

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1976

Released in United States 2014 (Official Selection)

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1976