Scent of a Woman

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Films

Scent of a Woman

A promotional film poster for Scent of a Woman.
Directed by Martin Brest
Produced by Ovidio G. Assonitis
Martin Brest
G. Mac Brown
Ronald L. Schwary
Written by Giovanni Arpino (novel)
Bo Goldman (screenplay)
Starring Al Pacino
Chris O'Donnell
James Rebhorn
Gabrielle Anwar
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Todd Louiso
Music by Thomas Newman
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) December 23, 1992 (USA)
Running time 157 min.
Language English
IMDb profile

Scent of a Woman is a 1992 film which tells the story of a preparatory school student who takes a job as an assistant to an irascible blind, medically retired Army officer. It stars Al Pacino, Chris O'Donnell, James Rebhorn, Gabrielle Anwar, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is a remake of a movie made by Dino Risi in 1974, Profumo di donna, in which Vittorio Gassman played one of his best known roles.

The movie was adapted by Bo Goldman from the novel Il Buio E Il Miele ("Darkness and Honey") by Giovanni Arpino and from the 1974 screenplay for the movie Profumo Di Donna by Ruggero Maccari and Dino Risi. It was directed by Martin Brest.

It won the Academy Award for Best Actor (Al Pacino) and was nominated for Best Director, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Portions of the movie were filmed on location at the Emma Willard School, an all-girls school in Troy, N.Y.


Actor Role
Al Pacino Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade
Chris O'Donnell Charlie Simms
James Rebhorn Mr. Trask
Philip Seymour Hoffman George Willis, Jr.
Gabrielle Anwar Donna
Richard Venture W.R. Slade
Bradley Whitford Randy
Rochelle Oliver Gretchen
Tom Riis Farrell Garry
Nicholas Sadler Harry Havemeyer
Todd Louiso Trent Potter
Ron Eldard Officer Gore


Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

The film revolves around Charlie Simms (Chris O'Donnell), a student at a private preparatory school, who comes from a poor family. To earn the money for his flight home to Gresham, Oregon for Christmas, Charlie takes a job over Thanksgiving looking after retired U.S. Army officer Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (Al Pacino), a cantankerous middle-aged man who is now blind and impossible to get along with. Slade decides to visit New York City and enlists the help of Charlie Simms to lead him on the trip. Whilst Charlie is leading Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade through New York, he is facing a very big problem at school. Fellow students have played a prank on the school principal, and only Charlie and George Willis, Jr. (Philip Seymour Hoffman) know the identity of the culprits. After threatening both students with expulsion, Headmaster Trask asks Willis to exit the office. At this moment, he tries to bribe Charlie by assuring him admission to Harvard, if he names those who committed the prank. Charlie tells him nothing, and Trask warns him that he must be honest or suffer the consequences.

Slade takes Charlie around New York. They stay at the Waldorf-Astoria. After eating at a fancy restaurant with $24.00 hamburgers (the Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel), Slade visits his relatives, where Charlie learns how Slade lost his sight. It is at this point in the film that Colonel Slade reveals the real reason for his trip to New York City: to eat at an expensive restaurant, stay at an amazing hotel, dance and sleep with a beautiful woman, and then commit suicide with his gun. Later, the sly Colonel tangos with a girl, and drives a Ferrari, with a very nervous and worried Charlie tagging along. Charlie is a good person at heart, refusing to rat out his classmates over a prank, taking pity on Colonel Slade, and sticking by his side through thick and thin. Charlie's loyalty is not lost on the Colonel. When Slade tricks Charlie into leaving the room to get a cigar, his sly plan fails when Charlie remembers that Slade was earlier armed with a military Colt .45 pistol ( M1911). He comes back to the room to find Slade ready to commit suicide with his gun. After a few emotional minutes of talking, yelling, and action, Charlie convinces Slade not to kill himself. It is here that Slade realizes that Charlie is a very brave and tough person at heart, and he would not even let a worthless, bitter man, like himself, take his own life.

Charlie returns to school, knowing that George Willis, Jr. is betraying him to get off the hook. The Headmaster holds a courtroom-like meeting, where he questions George Willis, who complains of his poor vision and resorts to his powerful father to help him weasel out of this jam. Unfortunately, it is discovered that Charlie's vision is fine and he received no help from his parents. The Headmaster is on the verge of expelling him, when Colonel Slade, who enters the court during the Headmaster's opening speech on "a Baird man," delivers a provocative and compelling speech of how "the great ship" of education and obedience is no more than a rat barge teaching rats to betray friends. When Slade says that "If I were the man I was five years ago I'd take a flame thrower to this place," he wins over the students, and the jury. Willis's statement that he saw three people set up the prank, and that they might have been "Havemeyer, Potter, and Jameson," is enough to tell the jury who the culprits were. The three young men are placed on disciplinary probation for the prank, but Willis is given no recognition.

The story ends with Charlie being excused from any penalties and expulsions, and Slade going back home. However, no longer bitter, he acts very kindly to his relatives and seems to have a new "look" at life - as does Charlie.

Spoilers end here.

Related articles

Scent of a Woman (soundtrack)


  • In order to get Charlie out of the hotel room Slade asks him to buy some aspirins and a Montecristo #1 cigar, a Cuban product banned in the US due to the Cuban embargo.
  • Pacino prepared for the famous 'tango' scene by taking Argentine tango lessons at DanceSport, a Manhattan dance studio located near Columbus Circle.
  • Slade notices the girl he will tango with a few minutes later by her smell. When Slade and Charlie talk to her, she tells them her name is Donna - which is the Italian word for "woman." The title of the original 1974 movie was Profumo Di Donna.
  • During the tango scene, Gabrielle Anwar's earrings disappear and reappear numerous times.
  • Reportedly to get Chris O'Donnell to cry during the attempted suicide scene Al Pacino took him aside and screamed at him 'drill sergeant' style.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman considered his part in this movie as his "breakthrough role."

Box office

In the US Scent of a Woman earned $63,095,253; internationally it earned ~$71,000,000.

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