August 22, 2007

Dog Day Anniversary

Update 9/23/09: Google just made a large collection of old LIFE Magazine issues available for viewing on-line. You can now read the original article that inspired Dog Day Afternoon in its entirety on-line.

35 years ago today, a couple guys named John Wojtowicz and Sal Naturile held up a Chase Manhattan bank in Brooklyn at the corner of Avenue P and East 3rd Street. At the time, New York City was experiencing one or two bank robberies per day. But before it was over, this one became the hottest thing on TV. The police were alerted, hostages were taken, and 12 hours later the ordeal finally came to an end after several strange turns.

dogday09.gifI don’t want to go too much further into what happened, because the story was turned into the excellent 1975 movie Dog Day Afternoon, starring Al Pacino and directed by Sidney Lumet, and some of you may not have seen it before. I don’t want to spoil it. I highly recommend it as a great movie to watch during these dog days of summer.

The movie was based on a Life Magazine article about the holdup called “The Boys in the Bank.” I dug up the original article, by PF Kluge and Thomas Moore, and was amazed to discover that the photos of the event looked surprisingly similar to stills from the movie. I knew that Lumet had strived to achieve a realistic look to his film, but there were many details that were nearly identical to the real events.

Here are some side-by-side comparisons. On the left, we have photos from the actual crime scene. On the right, we have images from the movie.

John (called “Sonny” in the movie, played by Al Pacino) talks to cops outside the bank:

dogday01.jpg dogday02.jpg

Ernest (called “Leon” in the movie, played by Chris Sarandan) arrives at the scene:

dogday03.jpg dogday04.jpg

Sal (called “Sal” in the movie, played by John Cazale) was actually 18 when the events took place. I think Cazale looks quite a bit older. But I can forgive them. Because it’s John Cazale.

dogday07.jpg dogday08.jpg

Cops (called “cops” in the movie, played in part by James Broderick) huddle behind a car across the street with reporters, watching events unfold:

dogday05.jpg dogday06.jpg

I should have an original copy of the magazine coming my way soon, and when it does I’ll try to add a couple more side-by-side comparisons using more photos from the story. In the meantime, as further encouragement for you to watch this movie, here’s a famous scene (that’s relatively spoiler free) to tease you. Enjoy.


Less than five minutes ago, I was talking to someone about this movie. Nice to read this background information… Thanks!

Very interesting.
I never watched the whole movie, but I’ve seen it probably 20 times in parts on TCM.
Now I have to try and see all the 124 minutes.

Good movie! Pacino is awesome here. So young. Alas, the ravages of time.

Nice. I am always amazed at the attention to detail some movies go to on this kind of thing.

I’m noticing a trend in Lummet’s movies. He seems to like limited locations. This is once example. 12 Angry Men is another. That whole movie takes place in two rooms.

As much as I liked Dog Day Afternoon, the telephone call between Sonny and Leon was painful. Pacino and Sarandon are, generally, good actors. But the chemistry here? Bleh.

Photo of Chase Manhattan Bank branch located at 450 Avenue P., the actual location of the robbery -


I had no idea it was based on a true story. All the more amazing.

in reply to ur message sayin there was no chemistry this was probaly done on purpose because the couple obviously had problems

When I was visiting New York a while back we went to the Guggenheim, and they had a great installation piece on display. It was scenes from “Dog Day Afternoon” being discussed by the real life “Sonny”, and he was a really funny and charming guy. It was easy to see why the hostages began to side with him. They also got him to do some re-enactments, which were great.

I wish I could tell you who the artist was, because it was brilliant.

Jennifer I was wondering when you went. That sounded amazing. I heard that the real life Sonny died on 1/2/06.

Well written and well documented. Great read while watching the movie…

Cops (called “cops” in the movie…

Classic, just classic.

Appears that the location of the movie shoot was 285 Prospect Park West, Brooklyn. Go to street view and you get the 360 degree from the street.

Loved the movie. Too bad Sal was killed. 18 years old, what a horrible start and end to such a young man. I read a letter that Sonny wrote in NYT, complaining about being ripped off from a verbal agreement of 1% gross profits. The robber got robbed….Can’t say I feel sorry for him. Al Pacino, what a looker, eh?

I want to see real news footage from local tv about the robbery.

Sad irony… John Cazale telling the head teller he, “Sal” never smoked cigarettes. “Why?” she asks.

“I don;t want the Cancer,” he whispers.

I am a big fan of AlPacino. Love all his movies. Even met him once about 20 years ago.Dogs Day afternoon is one of his best . My wife and i just watched it on demand. She loved it too.

The real Sal looks very much like ‘Tenoch’ (Diego Luna) in Y Tu Mama Tambien

This has been my favorite movie of all times. Talk about screwed up crimes. This was so funny I hurt from laughing so much. I have recently purchased the DVD so that I can relive the enjoyment of when first seeing this film. One of the best scenes was when Sonny said to Sal that they could leave the country and go to any country they wanted and asked Sal what country he wanted to go to and Sal responded “Wyoming”. I still get a kick out of this scene everytime I think of it.

i love dog day after noon this was made of
my family sal antonio naturile was one of my uncle down the road and i thank u very much for puting this movies up i didnt even know about him til i seen this movie and ask my family about him and they told me that he was one of my uncle thank u once more time sign out antonio naturile

One of my favorite New York Movies of all time Dog Day Afternoon is a classic in every sense of the word!!! Although I grew up on Staten Island I am originally from Park Slope Windsor Terrace Brooklyn and in fact the bank in the movie was in my old neighborhood!!! I lived two blocks away down 17th street on the left side of the bank which is now a group of condminums!!! My Mother Older Brother and Grandmother were actually in the crowd shouting ATTICA!!! along with Al Pacino and everybody else when the movie was shooting!!! My Mother’s Uncle was the security guard on the set and personally met Al Pacino John Cazale Charles During and the rest of the cast even got their autographs and pictures with them!! Al Pacino and Chris Sarandon should have won the Oscar for their performances in this masterpiece!!! A true Empire State Tale with that real life experience to capp it off with!!!

love the news images and seeing just how different the world was. i always loved that the street became the stage. i was 13 that year and saw dog day the year it came out. just watched it again front to back and it really is fantastic. tight, taut, great performances. i always loved the scene with the black driver when sonny calls him out. and of course the ‘kiss me’ scene. the film doesn’t just stand up, stand the test of time, it shines. watching ‘panic in needle park’ now, an early pacino film, written by joan didion and her husband writer john dunne.