Frankie and Johnny




A bittersweet romantic story about two people trying to find love. Johnny is a short order cook just released from Prison. Frankie is a waitress who has given up on love. He falls in love with her and tries to help her to let go of the fear of being hurt and let love in again.




Directed by
Garry Marshall

Writing credits (WGA)
Terrence McNally (play)
Terrence McNally (screenplay)
Al Pacino .... Johnny
Michelle Pfeiffer .... Frankie
Hector Elizondo .... Nick
Nathan Lane .... Tim
Kate Nelligan .... Cora
Jane Morris .... Nedda
Greg Lewis .... Tino
Al Fann .... Luther
Ele Keats .... Artemis
Fernando López .... Jorge
Glenn Plummer .... Peter
Tim Hopper .... Lester
Harvey Miller .... Mr. Rosen
Sean O'Bryan .... Bobby
Goldie McLaughlin .... Waitress Helen

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GARY MARSHALL  (director)

(check out his autobiography, "Wake Me When it's Funny: How to Break into Show Business and Stay There ", it has many quotes about Al and F&J, and it's funny.

"Usually when Al Pacino smiles, somebody is going to die, but in Frankie and Johnny he plays a really nice guy who just can't cope with the world." (Entertainment Weekly, "A Short-Order Romance Bringing "Frankie and Johnny" in "The Clair De Lune" to the Screen, by Melinda Gerosa)

"Prince Charming or Cinderella may already be there in your life -- the person next door, the person who works next to you, or the person you meet on the bus. They're a little flawed, but it's them."

Director Garry Marshall wrote in the bowling scene because  Michelle Pfeiffer likes to bowl. "It's much more difficult to teach actors new hobbies."

"Before I sat down with Al Pacino, I knew about his love of Shakespeare and his altruism toward actors and esoteric projects, but what he told me was that he also had a passion for handball. We were able to work handball right into "Frankie and Johnny" when we placed a small rubber ball in his character's pocket. Throughout the film, whenever it was appropriate, Johnny would play with his rubber ball."

"Before "Frankie and Johnny"; Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino had worked together on "Scarface", but on that film, Al had been the big star and Michelle was just the newcomer. Their working relationship on that film could not have been described as close; he didn't say more than two words to her off screen. I wanted them to get reacquainted on "Frankie and Johnny". I had them come to my house for an informal rehearsal.
    In the beginning the conversation moved rather slowly, but after a while Michelle picked up the pace. She became very animated and asked Al all  sorts of personal questions: "What's your favorite color? Your favorite food? Your favorite time of year?" Al, being the shy, reclusive kind of actor that he is, got very defensive and said, "What are you trying to be Michelle, a talk show host?" Eventually, even Al settled down and stopped looking at Michelle as if she were Sally Jessy Raphael. I asked them what they liked best about their bodies. Michelle said she liked her neckline but thought her hands were too big. I believe she referred to them as "meat hooks". So we had her character constantly opening jars for other people to call attention to her strong hands. Al said he liked his eyes but thought his posture was terrible. Later when we shot the scene in the flower mart, Al was wearing a trench coat and Michelle turned to him and said, "Can you stand up straighter? I feel like I'm working with Columbo."

Michelle Pfieffer helped the prop department by dressing the set with some personal items from her house.

Al Pacino had his own private writers to enhance his role.

"When we began shooting "Frankie and Johnny", Al Pacino was very intense. He often would request up to fifteen takes to get a scene right, and usually just as we were getting tired, he would hypnotize us with a brilliant piece of acting. I think Al is one of the great talents in our industry, but he's very serious and at the start of our movie he was particularly somber. He had been shooting several heavy dramatic movies back to back, but my crew wasn't going to let him remain serious for long. One day we were shooting a scene on the set of a ladies room at a bowling alley, and Al became distracted by his own reflection in a medium-size mirror on the wall. He came bursting through the closed door, started to perform, and suddenly went "Ooooooh ...ahhh!"
    I yelled "Cut."
    What's with the 'Oooooh, ahhh'?" I asked.
    "Garry, I saw myself in the mirror."
    Not sure what to say, I said, "So, how'd you look?"
    "No. No. You don't understand. It throws me off. I can't have that mirror." He asked me to replace the mirror with a smaller version so his attention wouldn't be diverted. I told the cast to take a break while we fixed the problem.
    Since Al had asked for a smaller mirror, I asked the crew to bring me the most gigantic mirror they could find. It's unbelievable how fast a prank can improve the speed of a crew. When I called for the big mirror, men who hadn't moved in three days leaped to their feet and initiated the search. The winner was a ten-foot mirror that covered the entire wall of the set. When we had it securely in place, we called the cast back in. Michelle Pfeiffer came on the set first and was easily persuaded to go along with the gag. Al took his place behind the closed bathroom door for his entrance.
    Al burst through the door and launched into his speech.
    "Of course I don't know you. You don't know me either. We got off to a great start. Why do you want to stop? Woooo!" Al screamed, taken aback.
He's such a disciplined actor that he was able to recite several lines of his speech flawlessly before he looked up and saw the gigantic mirror. And then he laughed.
    This wouldn't be the end for Al. His no-nonsense attitude made him an easy target for more practical jokes.
    We were shooting a scene - eventually cut from the movie - in which Al's character returns to his apartment and is surprised to find some old fiends from prison in his room. we were shooting very late on the Paramount lot and everyone was getting a little groggy. I sensed that both cast and crew needed a little pick-me-up other than the usual supply of bagels and granola. During a break I went to the sound stage next door where they were shooting one of the "Star Trek" movies. I talked to the actors about coming over to our set for a visit and they were game.
    Around midnight we were still shooting the same scene, and Al burst through the apartment door for the umpteenth time. But instead of finding our two actors, he found William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelly fully dressed in their "Star Trek" garb. Al broke up and everybody met his "Star Trek" favorites. For the rest of the film, every time Al came through a door he had a suspicious look on his face, never knowing what was on the other side.

"On "Frankie and Johnny", a film with more dialogue than most, I rehearsed with Michelle and Al on the weekends. It was the only time when the three of us could escape. We'd meet at one of our homes; we went to Al's place the most because he had the best food and a personal chef. We shot for twelve weeks and ten of those weeks we rehearsed on Saturdays, occasionally on Sundays. At first, we just read the script aloud. Then, eventually, when they felt more comfortable with the words, I got them on their feet to rehearse.

"This film is dedicated to all those women who think Prince Charming got hit by a truck and isn't coming; and to the guys who are sure Cinderella is locked away somewhere and won't be showing up before or after midnight."


AL PACINO  (johnny)

"Johnny sees that Frankie is struggling with something. Behind her wall he believes she is empathetic and compassionate. Johnny feels her need to be drawn out, and that need in her is tremendously attractive to him."

"Frankie and Johnny are both survivors, but what's interesting about him is that he's taking his disappointment and turning it into something positive."

"Johnny has done some time in prison for forgery, for taking shortcuts. But, while he was there, he learned there was something he loved to do -- he loved to cook. He wants to be a great cook and I think there's something really moving about that because basically that's what we look for -- a way to express ourselves -- whatever it is that we do. If we can do that; we're lucky."

"And Johnny is always looking to learn. Word-learning is symbolic for his development. He's in his middle age and he's found that he has aspirations. It's a youthful quality. And I think if we can find that in our lives -- at any age, at any period -- it's an affirmation. This is a guy who has made a second chance for himself."



"The wonderful thing about being human and the sad thing about being human is no matter how many times we get hurt, we still manage to allow ourselves to have hope and to open up one more time."

"Years ago, Frankie came to New York with the vague intention of becoming an actress. She quit high school and now she's self-conscious about her lack of education. But, at the time, she wanted to get out of where she was. I don't think she was ambitious enough or particularly talented enough to break into acting. Nor did she have the kind of personality that could take the bouncing back all the time."
"Then, out of needfulness or naiveté, she ended up in a series of negative relationships. People who've been hurt in life in some way, whether it's physical or emotional, often come to a psychological or emotional shutdown, and I think that's where she is when Johnny comes into her life."
"At first she thinks -- who is this guy? She thinks he's a complete jerk. But, he doesn't take no for an answer. He is relentless. I think Frankie is very courageous to try love again."

"She (Frankie) reached a point in her life -- which I think is true of many women her age -- where she doesn't want to live up to somebody else's image of the perfect woman."

"The Apollo is a world where Frankie feels very safe, very accepted, and non-judged. She's a good waitress and she likes her customers."



"This story is a celebration of people who follow the yearning -- and are willing to enter the joust once more."



"Life at the Apollo is a microcosm of the world. The Apollo is a gathering place -- in a sense, a small village in the middle of New York City. This little United Nations is a very romantic and funny place, albeit intense at times. Nick is a bit of a patriarch and penurious as hell. He is very proud. He makes me laugh because he takes himself so seriously."



"Cora is very attractive and sleeps with a lot of men. She's looking to stave off loneliness, but doesn't know how to accomplish that. Her intention is to find somebody and figure out how to live."



"She's (Nedda) been there forever; every place has one. I had to search for friendly aspects of her, but I'll never reveal them; that's Nedda's secret life. If Frankie doesn't watch out, she will end up old and bitter like Nedda."





What's the matter with you? You went to college?

She had that look, you know? My mother had that look her whole life when she was alive. Disappointed.

I seen the end of the world.

The heart does things for reasons that reason cannot understand.

Everything I want is in this room.

Now, there's a man and a woman. He's a cook, she's a waitress. Now they meet, and they don't connect. Only she noticed him, he could feel it, and he noticed her. And they both knew it was going to happen. They made love, and for maybe one whole night they forgot the 10 million things that make people think... I don't love this person... I don't like this person... I don't know this... instead it was perfect. And they were perfect. And that's all there was to know about it. Only now she's beginning to forget all that, and who knows pretty soon he's going to forget it too. So I was just wondering, could you play an encore for Frankie and Johnny in the hope of something that's gonna to last and not self-destruct.

I want to kill myself sometimes when I think that I'm the only person in the world. And that part of me that feels that way is trapped inside this body that only bumps into other bodies, without ever connecting to the only other person in the world trapped inside of them. We have to connect. We just have to.


I thought you were sad, Johnny, I thought you were wierd, but I didn't know you were cruel.  

I am. I am afraid. I'm afraid of being alone, I'm afraid not to be alone, I'm afraid of what I am, what I'm not, what I might become, what I might never become. I don't want to stay at my job the rest of my life but I'm afraid to leave. And I'm just tired, you know? I'm just so tired of being afraid.

I'm a BLT down sort of person, and I think you're looking for someone a little more pheasant under glass.


Look, if he jumps he jumps, but they never do.

(to Frankie) You're picking up a guy in a funeral parlor in front of a freakin' stiff. In my wildest dreams I didn't do anything like that.

People think I'm a tough bitch, but it ain't true. Shit like this chokes me up.


Want some bran? You might as well eat rope and yank it through.


(about walking the dog) Now be careful she likes to chase limos. She has delusions of grandure.

A vcr? I hope it comes with a lot of attachments.


That boy, all he got on his mind is pussy. Yea, you open up his head I bet you find is little hairy triangles.


Hi you buyin'? I'm on sale.

prison Warden New York City can be a real dangerous hostile place.
Johnny Well it'll be a nice change.

Frankie  Don't get dramatic.
Tim  It's an occupational hazard.

Frankie How can you have empathy with someone you've never met?
Johnny Well I didn't have to meet her, you see. I just looked at her picture on the casket and I knew, I knew she lived alone, I knew she had these dreams that weren't quite enough to keep her heart beating, so she kept it going by putting a bottle of "Four Roses" under her pillow every night, nobody knew about.

Frankie: All I have to do is open up that window and scream.
In this city? Are you kidding? Everybody's going to be doing the same thing, who'd gonna hear you?

Cora (about Johnny's quiet orgasm) Yea but, usually a guy will moan or yell or something. You didn't even clear your throat.
I trained myself to do it quietly.
Well, let's just say I've been in places where full-throated orgasm would be highly inappropriate.
You mean like a monestary?
Yea, sorta.

Cora (to Johnny) Anybody ever tell you you got a cute ass?
Johnny Last job I had.

Cora Who do I have to fuck to get a waffle?
(points to himself)
Forget about the waffle.



Playwright Terrence McNally wrote the part of Frankie specifically for the actress Kathy Bates (who originated the role here in New York) for the play Frankie & Johnny in the Clair de Lune. It premiered at New York's "Manhattan Theater Club" (on October 27, 1987) with Kathy Bates portraying Frankie and and Kenneth Welsh (The Freshman) as Johnny. The play is much darker than the film. They are very different. The show ran 533 performances. Later couples would include Carol Kane and Bruce "Hill Street Blues" Weitz, and Bonnie Franklin and Tony Musante.   

The entire interior (and believe it or not) the entire exterior (street, subway entrance, cars passing by, etc.) was built on a sound stage (either at Paramount Studios or at nearby Raleigh Studios; both studios were used in this film).

The real New York FlowerMart (which pretty much looks as it does in the film) wasn't used either. It was recreated in a California warehouse and stocked with 20,000 carnations, 40,000 chrysanthemums, thousands of roses and gladiolas, and 400 orchids (and of course, Frankie's corsage).

The real Brooklyn Heights "Promenade" was used for the scene where Johnny first gazes out at lower Manhattan in the film.

Remember the handball court where Frankie and Johnny played handball? You can use that same court for a quick game the next time you are in New York. It is located right at the corner of Broadway and West 3rd St. (Frankie and Johnny played in the court nearest West 3rd, directly across from McDonalds.)

Remember the Altoona, Pennsylvania countryside seen in Frankie & Johnny? Well... it was actually filmed around Sacramento, California. And that correctional facility that Johnny and Lester are released from (supposedly also in Pennsylvania). That is actually Folsom Prison in California.

Also, that really is New York City's "Port Authority Bus Terminal" that Michelle Pfieffer exits as she leaves the bus station.

And, that really is the 14th St., Union Square Station that Frankie and Johnny walk by (the scene where they eat their tuna sandwiches was filmed in the adjoining park.

Restaurateur Steve Restivo, a friend of director Garry Marshall, examined the kitchen built for the film, and gave Pacino tips on how to appear to be an authentic short order cook. (Restivo appears onscreen as "Andreas," the night cook). Pacino also worked as a short order cook a few times at a friend's restaurant, in order to get a "feel" for it. (Unlike most actors, Pacino never worked in a restaurant during his struggling years).

Do you remember the sidewalk preacher shouting outside the bus station as Frankie exits the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal? That is none other than Scott Marshall (the director's son). Garry Marshall's wife, Barbara, portrayed Helen's nurse in the film. Daughter, Lori, portrayed one of the guests at Peter's good-bye party.

Michelle Pfeiffer's sister, Dedee, portrayed her cousin in the film.



(11k) Claire de Lune (music only)
(274k) Johnny asks Frankie out.
(311k) ...that place where no one can find you




Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, Dolby
Theatrical trailer(s)
Widescreen anamorphic format
Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Package Type: Keep Case



Buy the video
Buy the soundtrack
Internet Movie Database
movieguide database, tvgen
E! Online Factsheet
Hollywood Online

Hector Elizondo page (includes a review of F&J)

If you would like to buy a copy of the play you can get one from
723 Seventh Avenue
NY, NY 10019
phone: 212-944-0595
(it cost $5.25 + postage at the time I ordered it)