CANNON MONTH: Street Smart (1987)

This movie was a long-time passion project for star Christopher Reeve, but he couldn’t get it financed. When Cannon acquired the rights to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, Reeve agreed to do that movie if Cannon paid for this one.

The story came from David Freeman, who wrote the last draft for Alfred Hitchcock’s final unproduced movie The Short Night, which the author turned into the 1984 book The Last Days of Alfred Hitchcock. The script was in a big pile of ones sent to Reeve, who had read a few pages and decided that it wasn’t for him. Weeks later, he picked it up, read it again and decided he had to make it.

It’s sort of based on real life, as Washington Post writer Janet Cooke has won a Pulitzer for her story about the life of a 9-year-old heroin addict. Two days after the award was given, the newspaper’s publisher Donald E. Graham held a press conference and admitted that the story was fictional. To make things worse, Cooke had forged her educational and resume. She left the paper, but after doing an interview with former boyfriend Mike Sager, the twosome sold the film rights to their story to Tri-Star Pictures for $1.6 million. That movie was never made.

This one was.

Director Jerry Schatzberg (The Seduction of Joe Tynan) and Reeve wanted to shoot on location in New York City, but Cannon was in money-saving mode and probably kept $2 million of their money by shooting it in Quebec. In fact, Cannon meddled throughout the movie and finally dumped it in just 300 theaters.

The irony of that is that this is one of a handful of Cannon movies that achieved their dream: co-star Morgan Freeman was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Fast Black.

Fast Back is really a pimp named Leo Smalls, Jr. and everyone believes that he’s the pimp that reporter Jonathan Fisher (Reeve) has been writing about and discussing on his new TV show, Street Smart. Now, his editor Ted Avery (Andre Gregory of My Dinner With Andre) and district attorney Leonard Pike (Jay Patterson) want him to give up his sources. The problem is that he’s made everything up.

But the real world that Jonathan soon finds himself in is dangerous, with him in danger of being prosecuted, being found out as a liar or worse, losing his life and the life of his lover Alison (Mimi Rogers).

With a Miles Davis soundtrack and an intense performance by Freeman, Street Smart is one of the better movies Cannon would make, even if they didn’t know how to sell it.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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