Dog Day Afternoon
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Dog Day Afternoon

Dog Day Afternoon
Movie poster includes five circles spaced out vertically throughout the image with various screenshots included. Interwoven throughout the circles is text reading "The robbery should have taken 10 minutes. 4 hours later, the bank was like a circus sideshow. 8 hours later, it was the hottest thing on live TV. 12 hours later, it was history. And it's all true." Text at the bottom of the image includes the title and credits.
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySidney Lumet
Produced by
Screenplay byFrank Pierson
Story byThomas Moore
Based on"The Boys in the Bank"
by P. F. Kluge
CinematographyVictor J. Kemper
Edited byDede Allen
Artists Entertainment Complex
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • September 20, 1975 (1975-09-20) (San Sebastián)
  • September 21, 1975 (1975-09-21) (United States)
Running time
125 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget< $400,000[1]
Box office$50 million (US/Canada)[2]

Dog Day Afternoon is a 1975 American biographical neo-noir[3]crime drama film directed by Sidney Lumet, written by Frank Pierson, and produced by Martin Bregman and Martin Elfand. Starring Al Pacino, John Cazale, James Broderick, and Charles Durning, it chronicles the events following a bank robbery committed by Sonny Wortzik (Pacino) and Salvatore Naturile (Cazale).[4]

Inspired by a 1972 Life magazine article "The Boys in the Bank" by P. F. Kluge,[5]Dog Day Afternoon is largely a dramatization of the 1972 bank robbery masterminded by John Wojtowicz.[6] Despite this, Wojtowicz claimed a number of the film's events contained inaccuracies. Dog Day Afternoon is notable for its anti-establishment tone, and marks the third collaboration between Pacino and Cazale, after The Godfather and The Godfather Part II.[7] It is the final film released in Cazale's lifetime (The Deer Hunter was released after his death),[8] and its title refers to the sultry "dog days" of summer.

The film contains no musical score, except for three diegetic songs. The majority of Dog Day Afternoon was shot on location in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, near the site of the actual bank robbery. Although the film follows the basic text of the script as written by Pierson, Lumet encouraged the actors to improvise and workshop scenes to facilitate naturalistic dialogue.[9]

Dog Day Afternoon was released in the United States on September 21, 1975, and received near-universal acclaim for the performances of its cast, its directing, and its screenplay. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards and seven Golden Globe awards, and won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. In 2009, Dog Day Afternoon was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress, and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.[10][11][12]


On August 22, 1972, first-time crook Sonny Wortzik, his friend Salvatore "Sal" Naturile, and Stevie attempt to rob the First Brooklyn Savings Bank. The plan immediately goes awry when Stevie loses his nerve and flees, and Sonny discovers they have arrived after the daily cash pickup, finding only $1,100 in cash.

Sonny takes the bank's traveler's cheques and burns the register in a trash can, but the smoke raises suspicion outside, and the building is surrounded by police. The two panicked robbers take the bank employees hostage.

Police Detective Sergeant Eugene Moretti calls the bank and Sonny bluffs that he is prepared to kill the hostages. Sal assures Sonny that he is ready to kill if necessary. A security guard has an asthma attack and Sonny releases him as a display of good faith. Moretti convinces Sonny to step outside. Using the head teller as a shield, Sonny begins a dialogue with Moretti that culminates in his shouting "Attica! Attica!" to invoke the recent Attica Prison riot. The crowd begins cheering for Sonny.

Sonny demands a vehicle to drive himself and Sal to the airport so they can board a jet. He also demands for pizzas to be brought for the hostages, and for his wife to be brought to the bank. Sonny's partner, Leon Shermer, arrives and reveals that the robbery was intended to pay for her sex reassignment surgery as she is transgender. She divulges that Sonny has children with his estranged wife, Angie.

As night sets in, the bank's lights are shut off as FBI Agent Sheldon takes command of the scene. He refuses to give Sonny any more favors, but when the bank manager Mulvaney goes into diabetic shock, Sheldon lets a doctor inside. Sheldon convinces Leon to talk to Sonny on the phone; she reveals that she attempted suicide to escape the abusive Sonny, and was hospitalized at Bellevue Hospital when police found her. Leon turns down Sonny's offer to join him and Sal in their escape. Sonny tells police that Leon had nothing to do with the robbery.

Sonny agrees to let Mulvaney leave, but he refuses to leave his employees. The FBI calls Sonny out of the bank to talk to his mother, who unsuccessfully tries to persuade him to give himself up. Back inside, Sonny writes out his will, leaving money from his life insurance to Leon for her surgery and to Angie.

When the requested limousine arrives, Sonny checks for hidden weapons or booby traps, and selects Agent Murphy to drive him, Sal, and the remaining hostages to Kennedy Airport. Sonny sits in the front beside Murphy with Sal behind. Murphy repeatedly asks Sal to point his gun at the roof so Sal won't accidentally shoot him.

As they wait on the airport tarmac for the plane to taxi into position, Sal releases another hostage, who gives him her rosary beads for his first plane trip. Murphy again reminds Sal to aim his gun away. Sal does, and Sheldon seizes Sonny's weapon, allowing Murphy to pull a revolver hidden in his armrest and shoot Sal in the head. Sonny is immediately arrested, and the hostages are freed.

The film ends as Sonny watches Sal's body being taken from the car on a stretcher. On-screen text reveals that Sonny was sentenced to 20 years in prison, Angie and her children subsisted on welfare, and Leon, who changed her name to Elizabeth, was able to have the surgery.


The Life article described Wojtowicz as "a dark, thin fellow with the broken-faced good looks of an Al Pacino or Dustin Hoffman".[4] Hoffman was later offered the role when Pacino briefly quit the production. An 18-year-old actor was originally to be cast in the role of Sal to match the age of the actual Salvatore.[13] The table below summarizes the main cast of Dog Day Afternoon.[4]

Character Actor Role Similar person from Life article
Sonny Wortzik Al Pacino Bank robber John Wojtowicz
Salvatore "Sal" Naturile John Cazale Sonny's partner in the robbery Salvatore "Sal" Naturile
Sergeant Eugene Moretti Charles Durning Police Sergeant who originally negotiates with Sonny NYPD Police Chief of Detectives Louis C. Cottell
Agent Sheldon James Broderick FBI agent who replaces Moretti in negotiations Agent Richard Baker
Agent Murphy Lance Henriksen FBI agent/driver Agent Murphy
Leon Shermer Chris Sarandon Sonny's lover Elizabeth Eden
Sylvia "Mouth" Penelope Allen Head teller Shirley "Mouth" Ball
Mulvaney Sully Boyar Bank manager Robert Barrett
Angela "Angie" Wortzik Susan Peretz Sonny's ex-wife Carmen "Mouth" Bifulco
Jenny "The Squirrel" Carol Kane Bank teller
Margaret Beulah Garrick Bank teller
Deborah Sandra Kazan Bank teller
Edna Estelle Omens Bank teller Josephine Tuttino
Miriam Marcia Jean Kurtz Bank teller
Maria Amy Levitt Bank teller Kathleen Amore
Stevie Gary Springer Bank robber Robert Westenberg
Howard Calvin John Marriott Unarmed bank guard Calvin Jones
Doctor Philip Charles MacKenzie Doctor who treats Mulvaney Doctor
Carmine Carmine Foresta
Phone cop Floyd Levine
Limo driver Dick Anthony Williams
Sonny's father Dominic Chianese
Neighbor Marcia Haufrecht
Sonny's mother Judith Malina Theresa Basso-Wojtowicz
TV anchorman William Bogert
TV reporter Ron Cummins
Sam Jay Gerber Insurance salesman from across the street Joe Anterio
Maria's boyfriend Edwin "Chu Chu" Malave
Pizza boy Lionel Pina

Historical accuracy

A bank building on the corner of a city street. A car can be seen parked out front and a traffic light is located on the sidewalk in front of the building. Other buildings can be seen in the background.
The location of the actual event, 450 Avenue P, Brooklyn, New York (1975 photo).

The film is based on the story of John Wojtowicz. It adheres to the basic facts of what happened, according to a Life article published on September 22, 1972, entitled "The Boys in the Bank". Wojtowicz, along with Sal Naturile, held up a Chase Manhattan Bank branch in Gravesend, Brooklyn, on

After being apprehended, Wojtowicz was convicted in court and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 1973, of which he served five.[14]

Wojtowicz wrote a letter to The New York Times in 1975 claiming that the events of the film were "only 30% true." Some of Wojtowicz's objections to the film's accuracy included the portrayal of his ex-wife, whose real name was Carmen Bifulco, the conversation with his mother and the refusal of police to let him speak to Carmen (Angie). He did, however, praise Al Pacino and Chris Sarandon's portrayals of himself and Leon.[15] Also, although Sal was 18 years old at the time of the robbery, he is portrayed in the film by then 39-year-old John Cazale.

The film shows Sonny making out a will to give Leon his life insurance so that if Sonny were killed, she might still be able to pay for the operation. The real-life Wojtowicz was paid $7,500 ($38,900 today) plus 1% of the film's net profit for the rights to his story, from which he gave to Eden enough to pay for her sexual reassignment surgery.[16] She died of complications from AIDS in Genesee Hospital, in Rochester, New York, in 1987.[17] Wojtowicz died of cancer in January 2006.

The robbery took place at the Chase Manhattan Bank branch at 450 Avenue P in Brooklyn on the cross street of East 3rd Street, in Gravesend.[18] (40°36?32?N 73°58?15?W / 40.6089°N 73.9707°W / 40.6089; -73.9707) Additionally, Wojtowicz actually attempted to steal $38,000 in cash and $175,000 worth of traveler's checks in his heist, as opposed to the $1,100 in the film.[19]


The original inspiration for the film was an article written by P. F. Kluge and Thomas Moore for Life in September 1972. The article included many of the details later used in the film and noted the relationship which Wojtowicz and Naturile developed with hostages and the police. Bank manager Robert Barrett said, "I'm supposed to hate you guys [Wojtowicz/Naturile], but I've had more laughs tonight than I've had in weeks. We had a kind of camaraderie." Teller Shirley Ball said, "[I]f they had been my houseguests on a Saturday night, it would have been hilarious."[4] The novelization of the film was penned by organized crime writer Leslie Waller.

The film has no musical score other than three songs, which are diegetic: during the opening credits, Sonny, Sal, and Stevie are listening in their car to "Amoreena" by Elton John (which first appeared on his 1970 album Tumbleweed Connection); during scenes inside the bank, the Faces song "Stay with Me" and "Easy Livin" by Uriah Heep both briefly play on the radio.[20] Although many scenes within the bank establish the temperature was quite hot during the robbery, some outdoor sequences were shot in weather cool enough that actors had to put ice in their mouths to stop their breath from showing on camera.[21] Exterior shots were filmed on location on Prospect Park West between 17th and 18th Street in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. The interior shots of the bank were filmed in a set created in a warehouse.[22][23]

Though the actors kept to the basic text of the script as written by Frank Pierson, director Lumet encouraged them to improvise and workshop scenes to create more natural dialogue. Changes made through this process included Cazale's memorable reply when asked what country he'd like to go to ("Wyoming"), and during Pacino's aggressive dialogue after shots are fired within the bank.[24]


Dog Day Afternoon was released nationally in 1975, and is based on events that took place in Brooklyn three years earlier, in August 1972. During this era of strong opposition to the Vietnam War, "anti-establishment" Sonny repeats the counter-cultural war cry, "Attica!", in reference to the Attica Prison riot of September 1971.[25]

Critical reception

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 96% based on 45 reviews, with an average rating of 8.58/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "Framed by great work from director Sidney Lumet and fueled by a gripping performance from Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon offers a finely detailed snapshot of people in crisis with tension-soaked drama shaded in black humor."[26] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 86 out of 100, based on 15 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[27]

Vincent Canby called the film "Sidney Lumet's most accurate, most flamboyant New York movie" and praised the "brilliant characterizations" by the entire cast.[28]Roger Ebert called Sonny "one of the most interesting modern movie characters" and gave the movie three-and-a-half stars out of four.[29] He would later add this film to his list of The Great Movies.[30]Gene Siskel awarded four stars out of four, calling it a "superb" film with a performance by Pacino that "made me believe the unbelievable."[31] He placed it fourth on his year-end list of the best films of 1975.[32] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called it "a triumphant new classic of American movie naturalism."[33]Penelope Gilliatt of The New Yorker wrote, "Though the farcical tone of the movie is blusterous, falling into the common show-biz habit of supplying energy in place of intent, the movie succeeds, on the whole, because it has the crucial farcical value of not faltering."[34]

The film has continued to generate a positive critical reception. Christopher Null wrote in 2006 that the film "captures perfectly the zeitgeist of the early 1970s, a time when optimism was scraping rock bottom and John Wojtowicz was as good a hero as we could come up with".[35]

P.F. Kluge, coauthor of the Life magazine article that inspired the film, believed the filmmakers "stayed with the surface of a lively journalistic story" and that the film had a "strong, fast-paced story" without "reflection" or "a contemplative view of life".[5]

Dog Day Afternoon ranks 443rd on Empire 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time.[36]Vrij Nederland named the bank robbery scene the third best bank robbery in film history, behind Raising Arizona (1987) and Heat (1995).[37]

Box office

Based on theatrical rentals of $22.5 million, the film grossed an estimated $50 million in the United States and Canada.[38][39][2]


Dog Day Afternoon won the Academy Award for Writing - Original Screenplay (Frank Pierson) and was nominated for five other Oscars:[40]

The film was also nominated for the following seven Golden Globes, winning none:[40]

The film won other awards, including an NBR Award for Best Supporting Actor (Charles Durning) and a Writers Guild Award for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen (Frank Pierson) as well as the British Academy Award for Best Actor (Al Pacino). The film is #70 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills list.[41] Also Al Pacino's quote, "Attica! Attica!" placed at #86 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes. It was nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies in 1998[42] and 2007.[43] In 2006, Premiere magazine issued its "100 Greatest Performances of All Time", citing Pacino's performance as Sonny as the fourth-greatest ever.[44] In 2012, the Motion Picture Editors Guild listed the film as the 20th-best edited film of all time based on a survey of its membership.[45]

See also


  1. ^ The True Story Behind Dog Day Afternoon. Movies! Retrieved August 11, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Dog Day Afternoon (1975)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012.
  3. ^ Silver, Alain; Ward, Elizabeth; eds. (1992). Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style (3rd ed.). Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5
  4. ^ a b c d e Kluge, P.F; Moore, Thomas (September 22, 1972). "The Boys in the Bank". Life. 73 (12). p. 66.
  5. ^ a b Rayburn, Nina. "The Write Stuff: Magazine articles that make it to the Big Screen". New York Review of Magazines. Archived from the original on January 11, 2006. Retrieved 2009.
  6. ^ "Holly Woodlawn, from A Low Life in High Heels". The Stonewall Reader. Penguin Classics. 2019 [Original chapter from 1991]. p. 160. ISBN 9780143133513.
  7. ^ a b "Robber killed, 7 bank hostages freed". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. August 23, 1972. p. 1.
  8. ^ a b "Homosexual robs bank, asks release of 'wife'". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. August 23, 1972. p. 3.
  9. ^ a b "FBI kills man, frees 7". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. August 23, 1972. p. 2.
  10. ^ "25 new titles added to National Film Registry". Yahoo News. Yahoo. December 30, 2009. Archived from the original on January 2, 2010. Retrieved 2009.
  11. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing | Film Registry | National Film Preservation Board | Programs at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2020.
  12. ^ "Michael Jackson, the Muppets and Early Cinema Tapped for Preservation in 2009 Library of Congress National Film Registry". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2020.
  13. ^ Lumet, Sidney. Dog Day Afternoon, feature commentary
  14. ^ "Bank robber wins parole". Ocala Star-Banner. (Florida). Associated Press. November 29, 1978. p. 3A.
  15. ^ Real Dog Day hero tells his story by John Wojtowicz from Jump Cut, no. 15, 1977, pp. 31-32. Retrieved March 13, 2007
  16. ^ "Elizabeth Eden, Transsexual Who Figured in 1975 Movie", The New York Times, October 1, 1987
  17. ^ Jabbar, Yasmene. "Dog Days Afternoon Remembered". Trans World News. Archived from the original on November 7, 2003. Retrieved 2009.
  18. ^ Meskil, Paul (August 24, 1972). "An Insider is Sought in Bank Holdup". Daily News.
  19. ^ "Robber Sentenced In a Holdup to Pay 'Sex Change'". The New York Times. April 24, 1973. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019.
  20. ^ Dog Day Afternoon (1975) - Soundtracks
  21. ^ Lumet, Sidney. The Making of Dog Day Afternoon, Special Feature on Dog Day Afternoon (Two-Disc Special Edition) DVD
  22. ^ Blair, Cynthia (2007). "1975: "Dog Day Afternoon" Filmed in Brooklyn". Newsday. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved 2009.
  23. ^ The bank and street from Dog Day Afternoon for Mark Allen Cam by Mark Allen on February 20, 2006. Retrieved April 28, 2006.
  24. ^ From the director's commentary on the DVD release.
  25. ^ 10 Best Heist Movies Ever for Movie Magic. Retrieved April 28, 2006. Archived February 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "Dog Day Afternoon (1975)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2020.
  27. ^ "Dog Day Afternoon Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020.
  28. ^ "Screen: Lumet's 'Dog Day Afternoon'". Vincent Canby. The New York Times. September 22, 1975. Retrieved June 3, 2006.
  29. ^ "Dog Day Afternoon". Roger Ebert. Chicago Sun-Times. January 1, 1975. Retrieved June 3, 2006.
  30. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Dog Day Afternoon Movie Review (1975) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2018.
  31. ^ Siskel, Gene (October 24, 1975). "A (dog) day in the life of the Hostage Taker". Chicago Tribune. Section 3, p. 1.
  32. ^ Siskel, Gene (January 4, 1976). "Ten films outclass the publicity pitch". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 6.
  33. ^ Arnold, Gary (October 15, 1975). "A Gritty and Gripping 'Dog Day Afternoon'". The Washington Post. A14.
  34. ^ Gilliatt, Penelope (September 22, 1975). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 95.
  35. ^ Null, Christopher (February 28, 2006). "Dog Day Afternoon". Archived from the original on March 30, 2006. Today Dog Day Afternoon is an unabashed classic, a template by which other movies are based and a formula which is periodically tweaked and refined. There are few things you can complain about in Dog Day -- a second act that relies on a few too many variations of the same "the cops are scheming" bit, and that's about it. But Pacino's fiery performance and Sidney Lumet's perfect direction does more than create a great crime movie. It captures perfectly the zeitgeist of the early 1970s, a time when optimism was scraping rock bottom and John Wojtowicz was as good a hero as we could come up with.
  36. ^ "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time: 500-401". Empire. Retrieved 2009.
  37. ^ Porcelijn, Max (April 26, 2008). "The 5 Best Bank Robberies in Film History". Vrij Nederland. pp. 96-97.
  38. ^ Cohn, Lawrence (October 15, 1990). "All-Time Film Rental Champs". Variety. p. M154.
  39. ^ "ACNielsen EDI Box Office News: More Power To Pacino". Variety. November 15, 1999. p. 27.
  40. ^ a b Awards for Dog Day Afternoon for IMDb. Retrieved April 24, 2006.
  41. ^ 100 Years...100 Thrills for the AFI on June 13, 2001. Retrieved May 9, 2006. Archived May 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  42. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Ballot Archived August 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Archived September 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  44. ^ "100 Greatest Movie Performances of All Time". Premiere Magazine. Retrieved 2014.
  45. ^ "The 75 Best Edited Films". Editors Guild Magazine. 1 (3). May 2012. Archived from the original on March 17, 2015. Retrieved 2017.

External links

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Music Scenes