Mike Murphy (City Heat)

Created by Sam O. Brown
Pseudonym of Blake Edwards


“When a hotshot cop and a wise-guy detective get together… the heat is on!”
— the film’s tagline.

Burt Reynolds is MIKE MURPHY, a 1930’s down-on-his-luck Kansas City P.I., reluctantly teamed-up with former Homicide partner Speer (played by Clint Eastwood), in the 1984 would-be buddy flick City Heat, directed by Richard Benjamin, and written by Blake Edwards.

When Murphy’s partner Dehl Swift (Richard “Shaft” Roundtree, ) is killed in a blackmail/double-cross scheme gone wrong, gang war between local mob bosses Primo Pitt (Rip Torn) and Leon Coll (Tony Lo Bianco) breaks out. Murphy is thrown into the middle, along with his ex-partner and ex-friend, Lieutenant Speer (Eastwood).

Eastwood and Reynolds were Hollywood’s number one leading men by the time City Heat was made, and the vehicle should have been a slam-dunk, a sure-fire winner, with a talented supporting cast (which included Madeline Kahn as Murphy’s heiress-girlfriend and Jane Alexander as his long-suffering secretary and Speer’s love interest), Eastwood’s own jazz songs as period music, and a story by the man responsible for both Peter Gunn and The Pink Panther.

Sure-fire, however, quickly became misfire. I’m not a talented enough film critic to recognize exactly what went wrong; suffice it to say something did. Reynolds played Reynolds–this time in a trench coat and fedora instead of a Trans-Am–but managed to pull off elegant and seedy without over-the-top smugness; Eastwood was wonderfully self-deprecating as a taciturn, terror-inducing homicide dick whose eye begins to twitch whenever he is bumped.  And there’s a great gunfight scene in which Murphy discards one semi-auto after another, each bigger than the previous one, only to be out-done by Speer, who manages to pull out and empty larger and larger revolvers…

But the movie just didnn’t work. Not terrible. But not terribly memorable, either. City Heat was regrettably luke-warm.

Ironcially, it was during a fight scene that Reynolds suffered the TMJ-producing jaw injury that would plague his health and nearly end his career. And although Eastwood’s best work as a filmmaker was still ahead of him, in a larger context, City Heat was the swan-song of Eastwood and Reynolds as de facto tough guys.


  • “Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds are stuck in one of the biggest bombs of the year, an incomprehensible mess disguised as a period gangster picture… How do travesties like this get made? I have a feeling the problem starts at the level of negotiations, in which everybody protects his own turf, and the movie suffers. There are moments here when you want to squirm, especially when Clint Eastwood allows his incomparable screen persona to be parodied. The Dirty Harry movies themselves border on parody–that’s part of their charm–but they know what they’re doing. City Heat is a movie in which people almost obviously don’t have a clue.”
    — Roger Ebert
  • “Nope. I remember being so disappointed by this one. Not that I had high hopes—I figured a popcorn movie at best, starring two guys who knew how to do it. By the time this was made, both Reynolds and Eastwood were bona-fide superstars with well-established screen personas to fall back on.  But that was the problem—instead of offering something even slightly new, they leaned so heavily on their respective safe zones that there was nothing new–and nothing else-to see. We’d seen this film before it even began. The only real suspense was whether one of them would tarnish their brand–the script might as well have been re-written by their handlers. Which may be why screenwriter Blake Edwards kept his name off the finished product.”
    — Kevin Burton Smith


  • CITY HEAT | Buy this video Buy this DVD Watch it now!
    (1984, Warner Bros.)
    93 minutes
    Based on a story by Sam O. Brown (Blake Edwards)
    Screenplay by Sam O. Brown (Blake Edwards) and Joseph C. Stinson
    Directed by Richard Benjamin
    Cinematography by Nick McLean
    Original Music by Clint Eastwood and Lennie Niehaus
    Produced by Fritz Manes
    Starring Clint Eastwood as Lieutenant Speer
    Burt Reynolds as MIKE MURPHY
    Also starring Jane Alexander, Madeline Kahn, Rip Torn, Irene Cara, Richard Roundtree, Tony Lo Bianco, William Sanderson, Nicholas Worth, Robert Davi, Jude Farese, John Hancock, Tab Thacker, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Bruce M. Fischer


Respectfully submitted by H. Kelly Levendorf.

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