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Frankie and Johnny (1991)

2:17 | Trailer
Johnny has just been released from prison, and gets a job in a café beside waitress Frankie. Frankie is a bit of a loner, but Johnny is determined their romance will blossom.


Garry Marshall


Terrence McNally (play), Terrence McNally (screenplay)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 4 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
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 Fernando López ... Jorge
Glenn Plummer ... Peter
Tim Hopper ... Lester
Harvey Miller Harvey Miller ... Mr. Rosen
Sean O'Bryan ... Bobby
Goldie McLaughlin Goldie McLaughlin ... Waitress Helen
Learn more

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Johnny on his release from his jail joins the restaurant where Frankie works. Johnny discovered his talent for cooking when in jail. Love at first sight bites Johnny on seeing Frankie. He makes direct attempts to get her heart. But deep a wound in Frankie's heart would not let her give her heart to Johnny. Johnny's divorced wife and kids have moved to a new world of a different person. Frankie opens up her tragic story and Johnny promises to be with her in difficult times. Written by Thejus Joseph Jose

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


You never choose love. Love chooses you.


Comedy | Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and sensuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The movie is notable for featuring a bearded pre-fame role of actor Nathan Lane which he appeared in before his cinematic breakthrough film role in The Birdcage (1996) around five years later. See more »


When Bobby, Tim and Frankie are together in Frankie's apartment for the first time in the film, Frankie and Tim are talking in her kitchen area. Stuck to the lower edge of a cabinet is a newspaper comic strip with a take-out menu tacked below it. The menu switches to a bumper-sticker between shots. See more »


Johnny: I know I can't the make the bad go away. You're right, I can't. But when the bad comes again, I am gonna be next to you.
See more »


References Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977) See more »


Dangerous on the Dance Floor
Written by John E. Mandell and Charles L. Jordan
Performed by Musto de Bones
Courtesy of Beggars Banquet/RCA Records
See more »

User Reviews

The Love of Mr and Ms Average
19 September 2007 | by JamesHitchcockSee all my reviews

In "Alice in Wonderland", Lewis Carroll popularised the word "uglification"- the act of making something more ugly. I think that this would be a useful word to describe the process whereby some of Hollywood's most beautiful actresses deliberately use make-up to mar their looks in the belief that they will not be taken seriously as actresses unless they do so. Yes, Nicole, I am thinking of you. And you, Charlize.

The role of Frankie in "Frankie and Johnny" might seem to be a candidate for the uglification process, given that the character is supposed to be a plain and drab waitress and that the part went to Michelle Pfeiffer, probably (along with Kim Basinger) the loveliest Hollywood star of the eighties. Fortunately, this temptation was resisted. (I say "fortunately" because, unlike the Academy which handed out Oscars to the uglified Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron, I am not impressed by that school of thought which equates beauty with shallowness). There is no attempt to hide Michelle's loveliness, even though Frankie is clearly a woman who makes little effort to enhance her looks, dressing dowdily and wearing little make-up.

The film is not based on the well-known popular song about a woman who murders her unfaithful lover, although that song is referred to at several points. It is actually based on a play entitled "Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune", shortened to something rather snappier for the film version, even though Debussy's beautiful piano piece still plays an important part. I have never seen the stage version- as far as I know it has never been put on in Britain- but the film, with its concentration on indoor scenes and greater emphasis on dialogue and character development than on physical action, clearly betrays its theatrical origins.

Frankie is a waitress in a cheap New York diner; Johnny is the cook who has recently been released after serving a jail term for forgery. He learned to cook in prison (where he also acquired a love for Shakespeare and other classical literature) and has been given the job by Nick, the gruff but kindly owner, who believes in giving a man a second chance. Johnny falls in love with Frankie, and tries to persuade her to go out with him, but she is reluctant. It is clear that her reluctance stems from her having been hurt by some romantic disappointment in her past, although we never learn the full story. Eventually, however, she agrees to a date with him.

This does not seem the most promising scenario for a film. Admittedly, "Marty", which told a similar romantic story about two ordinary New Yorkers, was a great success in the mid-fifties, but audiences in the nineties generally demanded more in the way of action. "Frankie and Johnny" works, however, because Pfeiffer and Al Pacino make us believe in their characters. Pacino gets the chance to show that he can shine in films other than crime dramas. Pfeiffer gets the chance to show here (as she was to do later in films like "The Age of Innocence" "What Lies Beneath" and "White Oleander") that she is a genuinely talented actress, not merely eye candy. They are well supported by some of the others in the cast, especially Hector Elizondo as Nick and Kate Nelligan as Frankie's colleague Cora. I was less taken with Nathan Lane as Frankie's gay friend and confidant, Tim, who seemed to have too much of the limp wrist about him.

Director Garry Marshall is noted for his ability to bring out the best in his female stars; Goldie Hawn and Julia Roberts both gave one of their best performances in one of his films, Hawn in "Overboard" and Roberts in "Pretty Woman", and he seems to have done the same for Pfeiffer here. "Overboard" and "Pretty Woman" were both (although good examples of the genre), standard Hollywood rom-coms, based around a zany, and frequently implausible, screwball plot. "Frankie and Johnnie", although sometimes characterised as a romantic comedy, is a very different type of film, based on more realistic characters and situations and with a greater emphasis on the romantic rather than the comic elements. It shows that it is still possible to make an effective, and often touching, drama about the love of Mr and Ms Average. 7/10

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Release Date:

11 October 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Frankie & Johnny See more »

Filming Locations:

Glendale, California, USA See more »


Box Office


$29,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,768,177, 14 October 1991

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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