I must confess a bit of prejudice regarding this movie. It was produced by John Foreman, my best friend during my Hollywood years. I thought it was a great movie even before I met John. It was nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, which would have meant an Oscar on his mantle. But it was the year of Out of Africa—which I thought was a pretty good but rather ordinary picture—which was nominated for eleven awards and won seven. Prizzi’s Honor was nominated for eight Oscars, and won only for Angelica Huston’s wonderful supporting performance. In addition to Best Picture, I think William Hickey as the crafty, grandfatherly, purely evil Don Corrado Prizzi, should have won for supporting actor.
What it is, is a brilliant, biting satire on the Mafia. It is uproariously funny at times, though in the end it is a tragedy. Jack Nicholson is amazing as the not-too-bright hit man, Charley Partanna, who falls like a ton of bricks for Kathleen Turner, who turns out to be a better hitter than he is. (Great lines of dialogue: Irene Walker: Charley, I’ve been doin’ three to four hits a year for the past couple of years, most at full pay. Charley Partanna: That many? Irene Walker: Well, it’s not many when you consider the size of the population.) The movie is full of stuff like that. Charley, when he learns of his beloved’s occupation: “Do what? Do I ice her? Do I marry her? Which one of these?” He plays it with some sort of dental appliance that makes his upper lip stick out, and he is brilliant, as is Turner.
But in the end it was too new and revolutionary for the old farts of the Academy, as so often happens. It’s not an injustice quite on the scale of giving the Oscar to that pleasant and forgettable little feel-good movie, Forrest Gump, instead of the obvious Best Picture, Pulp Fiction, but it was close.