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John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!

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John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!
1965 theatrical poster
Directed byJ. Lee Thompson
Written byWilliam Peter Blatty
Produced byParker–Orchard Productions
StarringShirley MacLaine
Peter Ustinov
Richard Crenna
CinematographyLeon Shamroy
Edited byWilliam B. Murphy
Music byJohn Williams
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • March 24, 1965 (1965-03-24)
Running time
96 min
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,000,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[2]

John Goldfarb, Please Come Home![3] is a 1965 American comedy film based on the novel by William Peter Blatty published in 1963. The movie was directed by J. Lee Thompson.


The comic spoof of the Cold War was inspired by a May 1960 incident involving American Francis Gary Powers, a CIA operative whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, sparking an international diplomatic incident. Writer William Peter Blatty's tale concerns John "Wrong-Way" Goldfarb, a former college football star who once ran 95 yards for a touchdown in the wrong direction. Now a U-2 pilot, his plane malfunctions and crashes in the mythical Arab kingdom of Fawzia.

The country's leader threatens to turn him over to the Soviets unless he agrees to coach a football team. Jenny Ericson, the magazine journalist who made Goldfarb famous, is on an undercover assignment as a member of the King's harem, and when she discovers she was wrong in thinking the King is no longer romantically interested in his wives, she seeks help from Goldfarb. The King blackmails the U.S. Department of State into arranging an exhibition football game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and his own team from Fawz University. Jenny becomes a cheerleader and then the quarterback who scores the winning touchdown for Fawz University.


Original novel

Blatty was inspired to write the story by Gary Francis Powers. It was originally written as a screenplay. Blatty pitched the project to Steve Parker and Parker's wife Shirley MacLaine who agreed to be attached. However no studios would finance. "Everyone was afraid we'd hurt people's feelings", said Blatty.[4] Blatty briefly had "an arrangement" with Columbia Pictures but they decided not to finance as well, after the University of Notre Dame refused permission to use the university's name.[5]

At Parker's suggestion, Blatty reworked it as a novel, which was published by Doubleday in 1963 (ISBN 0553142518). The Los Angeles Times called it "a thigh slapper".[6] The New York Times called it "a wildly comic exercise by a talented humourist."[7] It sold 8,500 copies in hard back and 200,000 copies in paperback.[8]

Blatty said "It took Tom Jones and Dr Strangelove to break the fear of satire, which had been around for about 400 years. Now everyone's on the bandwagon. But for us it was a tough two year battle to get this film made."[4]


In September 1963 Hedda Hopper reported Arthur Jacbos and J. Lee Thompson were reading the book.[9] Jacobs and Thompson had made What a Way to Go with Shirley MacLaine at 20th Century Fox, which had been a hit. Fox agreed to finance Goldfarb.[10]

The film was budgeted at $4.5 million and, like What a Way to Go, was mostly shot on the Fox backlot.[11] There was location filming in the Mojave Desert in May.[12]

Montgomery Clift was reportedly offered a lead role and turned it down, even though he was not being offered much work at the time, because he disliked the script.[13]

Thompson had been unable to find a male star, and eventually went with Richard Crenna, then best known for his work on The Real McCoys. Fox took an option on his services for three more movies.[14]

Hedda Hopper saw a preview in November 1964 and called it a "waste of money and actors."[15] She later wrote Thompson "went hog wild" on the film.[16] Representatives from Notre Dame also saw a preview on 17 November. This was to have major ramifications for the movie.[5]


Fox expected the film to open on Christmas Day 1964, however in early December the University of Notre Dame filed a suit against Fox and the publishers of the book to stop the movie and recall the novel saying both did "immeasurable damage" to the school's reputation, particularly the final football sequence. The university sought no monetary damages, just that the film not be released. Fox said the film "is obviously a good natured lampoon of contemporary American life... It is unfortunate that Notre Dame is trying to transform a zany fantasy into a realistic drama."[17] Blatty said "I feel curiouser and curiouser that a great university like Notre Dame should stoop to – if you pardon the expression – to doing battle with a farcical piece of fiction."[18]

The University said it had denied Fox permission to use their name but Fox denied it had ever asked for permission.[19] On December 17 a judge ruled the film could not be shown in New York state claiming the novel and film "knowingly and illegally" exploited the name, symbols and institution of the football team and university. The judge also ordered that the book be recalled.[20] Fox tried to get a stay of the injunction but was unsuccessful – they offered the 200 theatres that was going to show John Goldfarb another film The Pleasure Seekers.[21]

The ruling was highly controversial and the ACLU became involved.[22][23] Fox appealed the decision and the case was heard again in January.[24] The following month the five-judge appellate court unanimously reversed the original judge's decision – Fox had won.[25][26] The case went to the Court of Appeals who upheld Fox's victory 4–2, enabling the studio to release the film.[27] The studio rushed the movie into release in March and Notre Dame decided not to try suing in another jurisdiction.[28]


Box office

According to Fox records, the film needed to earn $6,200,000 in rentals to break even and made $3,880,000, meaning it made a loss.[29]

Later, Jim Backus wrote a memoir called What Are You Doing After the Orgy?, the title taken from one of his lines in the film.


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p254
  2. ^ This figure consists of anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Big Rental Pictures of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 6 and Solomon p 230. Please note figures are rentals not total gross.
  3. ^ Exclamation point is in onscreen title. Also listed as such at "John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Scheuer, Philip K. (May 11, 1964). "Hawks Will Direct Racing-Car Thriller: McDowall's 'Disinherited'; It's Goldfinger and Goldfarb". Los Angeles Times. p. C19.
  5. ^ a b ROBERT E. TOMASSON (Dec 8, 1964). "Notre Dame Seeks To Block New Film: FILM BAN SOUGHT BY NOTRE DAME MUSIC NOTES". New York Times. p. 1.
  6. ^ Kirsch, Robert R. (11 July 1963). "THE BOOK REPORT: A Thigh Slapper From W. J. Blatty". Los Angeles Times. p. C4.
  7. ^ MARTIN LEVIN (28 July 1963). "A Reader's Report". New York Times. p. 218.
  8. ^ PAUL CROWELL (Dec 18, 1964). "Notre Dame Wins Suit to Block 'Goldfarb' Film: Court Rules Fox Used Name of the University Illegally Showings and Novel Barred -- Appeals Are Planned showing and distribution of the film "John Goldfarb, Please Come Home." NOTRE DAME WINS BAN ON 'GOLDFARB'". New York Times. p. 1.
  9. ^ Hopper, Hedda (Sep 16, 1963). "Entertainment: Susan Oliver Wins Contract at Metro Delighted With 5-Year Deal; MacMurray's Slate Filled". Los Angeles Times. p. D12.
  10. ^ Scheuer, Philip K (Apr 6, 1964). "Siege of Khartoum Recruits Lancaster: Bond Snaps 'Goldfinger'; Arties at 99 Cents Next?". Los Angeles Times. p. D23.
  11. ^ "New Film Comedy Star in Making". Chicago Tribune. Apr 12, 1964. p. e11.
  12. ^ Smith, Jack (May 25, 1964). "Oasis Palms Off Its Phony Arabs". Los Angeles Times. p. D1.
  13. ^ Bosworth, Patricia (1979). Montgomery Clift. Bantam Books. p. 399.
  14. ^ Hopper, Hedda (Nov 15, 1964). "Dick Crenna: Fantasyland's Real McCoy". Los Angeles Times. p. D6.
  15. ^ Hopper, Hedda (Nov 17, 1964). "'P. T. Barnum' Next on Jurow Schedule: Producer Seeks Jack Lemmon for Role of Noted Showman". Los Angeles Times. p. C10.
  16. ^ Hopper, Hedda (Dec 10, 1964). "Hollywood Jolted by 'Goldfarb' Suit: Follows Legion of Decency's 'Moral Bankruptcy' Charge". Los Angeles Times. p. D24.
  17. ^ "'GOLDFARB' BOOK TOO: Notre Dame Moves to Block New Movie". Los Angeles Times. Dec 8, 1964. p. 4.
  18. ^ Trimborn, Harry (Dec 9, 1964). "'Goldfarb' Author Hits Notre Dame for Suit: Wonders Why University Should 'Stoop' to Battle Over Farcical Piece of Fiction". Los Angeles Times. p. B16.
  19. ^ "FOX DENIES IT ASKED PERMISSION ON FILM". New York Times. Dec 9, 1964. p. 61.
  20. ^ Bilitz, Walter (Dec 18, 1964). "Notre Dame Gets Ban on Showing of Movie". Chicago Tribune. p. 17.
  21. ^ ROBERT E. TOMASSON. (Dec 19, 1964). "FOX LOSES MOVE ON FILM OPENING: ' Goldfarb' Appeal Scheduled for Hearing Jan. 5". New York Times. p. 25.
  22. ^ SEIDENBAUM, ART (Jan 3, 1965). "The Law Against Goldfarb". Los Angeles Times. p. b1.
  23. ^ M.S. HANDLER (Jan 3, 1965). "A.C.L.U. QUESTIONS 'GOLDFARB' RULING: Friend of Court Brief to Ask Review of Property Right". New York Times. p. 84.
  24. ^ ROBERT E. TOMASSON (Jan 16, 1965). "GOLDFARB'BAN ARGUED IN COURT: Appellate Division Reserves Decision on Football Film". New York Times. p. 14.
  25. ^ "BAN REVERSED IN 'GOLDFARB COME HOME': Fox Wins Appeal from Notre Dame Writ". Chicago Tribune. Feb 10, 1965. p. 3.
  26. ^ ROBERT E. TOMASSON (Feb 10, 1965). "COURT REVERSES 'GOLDFARB' BANS: Notre Dame Loses Move to Enjoin Film and Book COURT REVERSES 'GOLDFARB' BANS". New York Times. p. 1.
  27. ^ IRVING SPIEGEL Special to The New York Times (Mar 19, 1965). "GOLDFARB' SCORES ANOTHER VICTORY: Appeals Court, 4-2, Upholds Lifting of Ban on Film". p. 27.
  28. ^ "GOLDFARB' FILM FINALLY TO OPEN: Fox Sets Wednesday Date on Basis of Court Ruling". New York Times. Mar 20, 1965. p. 16.
  29. ^ Silverman, Stephen M (1988). The Fox that got away : the last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 324.
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