Book Vs Movie: “Dog Day Afternoon”
The Classic Hollywood 1974 film Vs “The Boys in the Bank” from 1972 article from Life Magazine
On August 22, 1972, John Wojtowicz and two accomplices entered a bank In Brooklyn at 450 Avenue P (in Gravesend) and started a robbery. One left early, (20-year-old Bobby Westeberg) while Wojtowicz and 18-year-old Sal Naturale proceeded to steal almost $200,000 in cash and traveler’s checks before being surrounded by the police. What happened for the next 14 hours was a standoff and media circus for the ages.
Turns out Wojtowicz said he needed the money for a “sex change” operation (as it was known at the time) for his partner Ernest Aron. The police brought Aron to the scene straight from the hospital where they had attempted suicide the week before. Another of Wojtowicz lover was brought out and he kissed him on the mouth in front of the news camera which hundreds of locals who made up the crowd. He also threw money into the air and ordered pizza for the bank hostages held inside.
Eventually, the robbers and many of the bank hostages were taken to JFK airport where Naturale was shot in the chest and killed immediately. Wojtowicz was arrested and eventually spent a few years in jail for his crimes. He married again while in prison and had a tough time holding down a job because of his past. In the end, he was reduced to trying to make some money by posing in front of the bank for autographs. He died of cancer in 2006 at the age of 60.
Aron eventually had gender reassignment surgery and died from the complications of AIDS in 1987. She took the name, Elizabeth Eden.
Writers P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore wrote about the crime and hostage situation on September 22, 1972, for Life magazine and the title of the article was “The Boys in the Bank” that was bought by Warner Brothers pictures and developed into the film Dog Day Afternoon.
The 1975 film directed by Sidney Lumet and screenplay by Frank Pierson changes a few of the major details. The lead crook is “Sonny Wortzik” played by Al Pacino and his main cohort is Sal Naturile played by 40-year-old acting legend John Cazale. Filmed in Winsdor Terrace, Brooklyn (near Margo D’s home!) the movie would become a huge moneymaker and nominated for all of the major categories at the Academy Awards in 1976 (and losing most to One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest which was the movie to beat that season.)
The film is a modern classic and entered in 2009 to the Library of Congress and in the National Film Registry.
In 2014, The Dog a documentary by filmmakers Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren told the “real” story by following the real John Wojtowicz who painted himself as an early gay rights icon and misunderstood human.
So, between the original novel and the movie–which did we prefer? Have a listen and find out!
In this ep the Margos discuss:
- The backstory behind the 1972 robbery & the aftermath
- The biggest differences between the real story and the 1975 film
- Rumors as to who was really behind the bank robbery
- What happened to the main figures
- The cast: Al Pacino (Sonny Wotzik,) John Cazale (Sal Naturile,) Charles Durning (Sergeant Eugene Moretti,) Penelope Allen (Sylvia,) Susan Peretz (Angie,) James Broderick (FBI agent,) Lance Henricksen (FBI agent,) Carol Kane (The Squirrel,) and Chris Sarandon as Leon Shermer.
- The bank robbery
- Dog Day Afternoon trailer
- Sonny negotiates with Moretti
- “Leon” comes to the site
- Final phone call for Sonny and his wife
- Music Amoreena by Elton John
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