Taglines: When life was glittering, glamorous… and dangerous.
This musical is based on four short stories by Damon Runyon. In one tale, gambler Feet Samuels sells his body to science just as he realizes that Hortense loves him and that he would rather live than die. In another story, Harriet’s parrot is killed, and she has problems dealing with her loss. Then, there is a gambler, “Right”, who has bloodhounds on his trail when he becomes a murder suspect. Finally, “The Brain” is bleeding profusely, and his friends search for a way to save his life through a blood transfusion.
Bloodhounds of Broadway is a 1989 American ensemble period comedy film based on four Damon Runyon stories: “The Bloodhounds of Broadway”, “A Very Honorable Guy”, “The Brain Goes Home” and “Social Error”. It was directed by Howard Brookner and starred Matt Dillon, Jennifer Grey, Anita Morris, Julie Hagerty, Rutger Hauer, Madonna, Esai Morales and Randy Quaid. Madonna and Jennifer Grey perform a duet, “I Surrender Dear”, during the film. Madonna earned a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actress for her performance in the film, where she lost to Brooke Shields for Speed Zone.
Bloodhounds of Broadway was Brookner’s only feature-length film; he died shortly before the film opened. The film was recut by the studio and Walter Winchell-esque narration was added. Six months following its theatrical release, the film was televised as a presentation of PBS’s American Playhouse on May 23, 1990.
About the Story
On 31 December 1928, Waldo Winchester, a reporter, enters Mindy’s restaurant looking for a story and comes upon the “Brain,” a crime boss, treating John Wangle, a young penniless hillbilly and his two bloodhounds to a meal. He is surrounded by his bodyguards, “Crunch” Sweeney and Sam “The Skate,” as well as “Regret,” a gambler, who stuffs sausages into his pockets.
Across the room, “Red” Henry, a two-bit hood, is dining with Harriet MacKyle, a socialite who is infatuated with criminals. Harriet loses all interest in Red when her gigolo, Handsome Jack, and his bald friend, Basil Valentine, enter. Jack ignores Harriett and smiles at “Lovey” Lou, a showgirl, who dines with Miss “Missouri” Martin, a speakeasy owner. Winchester takes a seat with “Feet” Samuels, a depressed gambler who is too poor to tell Hortense Hathaway, another showgirl, that he is in love with her. He complains the only reason he has not killed himself is he owes Brain a hundred dollars.
Then to Winchester’s surprise, Feet takes out a roll of bills and pays off Brain. Marvin Clay, a millionaire, enters and attempts to flirt with Lovey. Regret rushes over to report seeing Clay smooching with her sister earlier. The two men get in a fight and are thrown out of the restaurant. “Widow Mary” comes in selling roses for a nickel. Brain pays her five dollars for three and is touched by her show of gratitude.
As he leaves the restaurant, a man stabs him in the chest and runs off. Brain, fearing a gang war, instructs Crunch and Skate to take him home. Meanwhile, Basil is outside telling bystanders about the stabbing when police Inspector McNamara arrives and detains him for questioning. When McNamara drags Basil to a murder scene, he is irate to see “Doc” Bodeeker, a disgraced surgeon, examining the body of Marvin Clay. Bodeeker pronounces the millionaire dead as the result of a gunshot wound to the chest. McNamara is stumped on how to proceed, until Basil suggests using John Wangle’s bloodhounds to track the killer.
Across town, Brain’s wife refuses Crunch and Skate’s pleas to allow Brain in his house, claiming she is throwing a New Year’s Eve party for “respectable” people who cannot afford to be part of a scandal. Brain orders them to take him to his girl friend’s. Skate asks “which one?”
Meanwhile, Feet wins diamond earings, a necklace, a bracelet and a large sum of money in a crap game. Regret suggests they hit the racetrack the next day, but Feet explains he sold his body to Doc Bodeeker for a medical experiment, and must commit suicide by morning. He waves off Regret’s protests, stating that he has never welched on a deal in his life. Regret follows him to a party at Harriet MacKyle’s and telephones Winchester for help.
After he gets reporter Waldo Winchester to agree to come over, Regret is accosted by Lovey, who is infuriated that he never called her after a night of lovemaking. Regret explains he lost all his money at the track and was too embarrassed to call, but she refuses to forgive him. Meanwhile, Feet finds Hortense and showers her with the diamonds he won.
Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989)
Directed by: Howard Brookner
Starring: Matt Dillon, Jennifer Grey, Julie Hagerty, Rutger Hauer, Madonna, Esai Morales, Anita Morris, Randy Quaid, Anita Morris, Dinah Manoff, Julie Hagerty, Tamara Tunie
Screenplay by: Howard Brookner, Colman deKay
Production Design by: Linda Conaway-Parsloe
Cinematography by: Elliot Davis
Film Editing by: Camilla Toniolo
Costume Design by: Abigail Murray, Beatrix Aruna Pasztor
Set Decoration by: Ruth Ammon
Art Direction by: Jefferson Sage
Music by: Jonathan Sheffer
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Release Date: November 3, 1989