It was love at first sight when John Stanley Wojtowicz met Elizabeth Debbie "Liz" Eden at an Italian feast in 1971. These lovebirds were married later on that year in Greenwich Village.
Everything fell apart when Liz desire for a sex-change operation led his husband to an attempted bank robbery portrayed in the film Dog Day Afternoon (1975).
On August 22, 1972, Wojtowicz, along with Salvatore Naturile and Robert Westenberg, attempted to rob a branch of the Chase Manhattan bank on the corner of East Third Street and Avenue P in Gravesend, Bk. Wojtowicz and Naturile held seven Chase employees hostage for 14 hours.
At the time of Wojtowicz's attempted robbery, Eden was in a psychiatric institution, following a series of suicide attempts. She was not previously aware of his plans.
Agrandir le plan
Westernberg fled the scene before the robbery was underway when he saw a police car on the street. Wojtowicz, a former bank teller, had some knowledge of bank operations. However, he apparently based his plan on scenes from the movie The Godfather, which he had seen earlier that day. The robbers became media celebrities. Wojtowicz was arrested, but Naturile was killed by the FBI during the final moments of the incident.
According to Wojtowicz, he was offered a deal for pleading guilty, which the court did not honor, and on April 23, 1973, he was sentenced to 20 years in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary of which he served 14. He made $7,500 selling the movie rights to the story. Ms Eden's (later known as Ernest Aron) sex change was financed with part of Wojtowicz's share of the proceeds from the film. Wojtowicz was released from prison on April 10, 1987. Eden died few months later, of pneumonia resulting from AIDS. Eventually John died of cancer in 2006.
Dog Day Afternoon was based on Life Magazine Story about the real robbery, "The Boys in the Bank" by P. F. Kluge and Thomas Moore.
>>> In the 1972 Life magazine article, P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore describe robber John Wojtowicz as "a dark, thin fellow with the broken-faced good looks of an Al Pacino or a Dustin Hoffman". Although Al Pacino had initially agreed to play the role based on Wojtowicz, he told Sidney Lumet near the start of production that he couldn't play it. Pacino had just completed production on The Godfather : Part II (1974) and was physically exhausted and depressed after the shoot. With his reliance on the Method, Pacino didn't relish the thought of working himself up to a state of near hysteria every day. Lumet unhappily accepted the actor's decision and dispatched the script to Dustin Hoffman. Pacino changed his mind when he heard that his rival was in the fray.
Al Pacino 's performance as Sonny Wortzik is ranked #4 on Premiere Magazine's "100 Greatest Performances of All Time" (2006).
>> John Wojtowicz had watched The Godfather (1972) to get ideas the day he robbed the Chase Manhattan bank. Both Al Pacino and John Cazale (who played Sal in the Lumet's film) were in "The Godfather".
> The bank's manager Robert Barrett later said he had more laughs in that one night than he'd had in weeks, while teller Shirley Bell said if they'd been her houseguests on a Saturday night it would have been hilarious.