Dog Day Afternoon is a neo-noir film made in 1975, based on real events from 1972. John Wojtowicz and Salvatore Naturile try to rob a branch of Chase Manhattan bank in Brooklyn, New York. The reason they are trying to rob the bank is for Wojtowicz’s lover, Ernest Aron, who is trying to pay for a sex change operation. This is to crazy to be true but it is!
Even though this film was mostly improvised, Frank Pierson won an Academy Award for his screenplay. He got the idea from a Life Magazine article. This was nominated for 5 Academy Awards in total, but only won one. This movie was unfortunately up against One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest for most of its awards. This will be remembered as one of Al Pacino’s best performances and the 4th time he was nominated for an Academy Award in 4 consecutive years. All 4 nominations where for classic neo-noir roles as well, with The Godfather, Serpico, The Godfather Part II, and this performance. All 4 are now legendary roles, but he didn’t win for any of them.
This film was directed by legendary director Sidney Lumet. Lumet made some of the greatest films of all time including many neo-noir films. We will be re-looking at many of his films later on this blog.
Our co-star is John Cazale, who was way to old to play the part of real-life 18-year-old Sal. Pacino insisted on Cazale playing the role, even though Lumet thought he was all wrong. When Lumet saw his audition he hired him on the spot. Cazale, who’s short career only produced 5 films before his death from cancer didn’t disappoint. All 5 films he appeared in were nominated for best picture and all 5 are classics. They are:
The Godfather II
Dog Day Afternoon
The Deer Hunter
Who knows what Cazale could have done if his time here was longer.
Other standouts in the cast are Charles Durning as our Police Sargent in charge, Carol Kane and Penelope Allen as two of the bank tellers who become hostages, and Lance Henriksen as the bus driver.
This is required viewing for the fan of grimy 1970’s film, and noir and neo-noir fans. Trivia note, John Wojtowicz lover did get his sex change operation after all, paid for by Wojtowicz earnings from selling his story for this film.