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Working Girl

Working Girl movie poster
Directed by Mike Nichols
Produced by Douglas Wick
Written by Kevin Wade
Starring Harrison Ford
Melanie Griffith
Sigourney Weaver
Alec Baldwin
Joan Cusack
Music by Carly Simon (Main song)
Rob Mounsey
Cinematography Michael Ballhaus
Editing by Sam O'Steen
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) December 21, 1988
Running time 115 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $28.6 million
Gross revenue $102,953,112 (Worldwide)

Working Girl is a 1988 romantic comedy film written by Kevin Wade and directed by Mike Nichols. It tells the story of a Staten Island-raised secretary, Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), working in the mergers and acquisitions department of a Wall Street investment bank. When her boss, Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver), breaks her leg skiing, Tess uses her absence and connections, including Parker's errant beau Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), to put forward her idea for a merger deal.

The film features a notable opening sequence following Manhattan-bound commuters on the Staten Island Ferry accompanied by Carly Simon's song "Let the River Run", for which she received the Academy Award for Best Song. The film was a box office hit, grossing a worldwide total of $103 million.


Plot summary

Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) is an intelligent, working-class secretary, at a firm called Petty Marsh, who has recently earned a bachelor's degree in Business by attending college at night. Her goal is to move out of the secretarial pool and into an executive position. As she turns 30, her dream remains unrealized; because her education was not acquired at a prestigious school, she cannot gain entry to her firm's training program for recent college graduates. After being misled into thinking that her boss, David Lutz (Oliver Platt), is helping her get a better job, Tess finds herself set up as a sexual plaything for one of his sleazy friends, Bob Speck (Kevin Spacey); she then gets into trouble by publicly calling her boss a "sleazoid pimp with a tiny little dick".

Tess is reassigned as secretary to a new financial executive, Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver). Seemingly supportive and benevolent, Katharine encourages Tess to share any good business ideas she has. Tess suggests to Katharine that Trask Industries, one of the firm's clients, should invest in Metro Radio, so it can gain more of a foothold in the media market. When Katharine seems interested, Tess begins to feel her luck is finally changing. However, when Katharine breaks her leg on a skiing trip in Europe, she asks Tess to house-sit for her. While at Katharine's place, Tess accidentally finds evidence that Katharine was planning to steal Tess's idea and pass it off as her own. That night, when Tess returns home, she finds her boyfriend Mick Dugan (Alec Baldwin) in bed with another woman, Doreen DiMucci (Elizabeth Whitcraft). Disillusioned with Katharine and disgusted with Mick, she returns to Katharine's apartment and begins to hatch her own plan.

The next day, Tess calls Dewey Stone executive Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), using her boss's name as an entree. She tells Jack that she has a proposal to run by him and sets up a meeting. The evening before the meeting, Tess attends a merger party, wearing a sophisticated new hairstyle and an expensive cocktail dress from Katharine's closet, which she models beforehand for her friend Cynthia (Joan Cusack), called "Cyn". To calm her nerves, she accepts a Valium from Cyn.

At the party, she unknowingly encounters Jack, who never mentions his name, and has a few drinks with him, but Tess passes out thanks to the combination of alcohol and pills. Jack takes her to his place in a cab; Tess wakes up the next morning in Jack's bed wearing only her underwear and leaves before Jack awakens. On entering the meeting, she realizes that Jack is the man with whom she spent the night. She submits her proposal to him but his colleagues seem uninterested. Returning to her own office, Tess cries to Cyn that she at least gave it a shot and is mortified about the previous evening. Jack then arrives at the office and Cyn (at Tess's frantic request) pretends to be Tess's secretary. Jack announces that they will proceed with Tess's pitch.

After Cyn’s engagement party, Mick and Tess officially break up. Days later, Tess and Jack crash Oren Trask's (Philip Bosco) daughter’s (Barbara Garrick) wedding, intending to make an appointment and pitch their plan. They succeed and meet with two of his executives. Trask is interested. Back at Jack's apartment, the pair end up in bed together. Tess wants to tell Jack about herself, but learning of his relationship with Katharine, she decides not to reveal herself.

On the day of the Trask/Metro meeting, Katharine returns home with her leg still in plaster, enlisting Tess's aid as her personal assistant at home. At Katharine's insistence, Jack visits but extricates himself quickly seeing that Katharine has marriage on her mind. Tess, who was hiding in the closet, emerges after he leaves, gives Katharine her pills and rushes out of the apartment, accidentally leaving her appointment book behind. Katharine reads it and becomes enraged after she discovers what Tess has been up to.

At the meeting for the Trask/Metro merger, Jack and Tess realize they're in love. However, Katharine storms into the meeting, accusing Tess of stealing her idea, and announces that she is just a secretary. Tess is unable to make the others understand that Katharine is the liar and leaves the meeting in shame. At Cynthia’s wedding, she finds that Mick is going on with his life with Doreen.

Back at the office, Tess cleans out her desk and packs her belongings. She bumps into Jack, Katharine and Trask in the lobby. As Katharine tries to lead the group onto the elevator, Jack refuses to come, stating that Tess is this team's leader and he believes her. He and Tess convince Trask that Katharine has been lying (by asking Katharine to recall what gave her the idea for the merger, which, of course, she cannot). Trask assures Katharine she will lose her job over this duplicity, and offers Tess an "entry-level" job, which she happily accepts. Katharine haughtily stalks out of their lives in disgrace.

Tess moves in with Jack and starts her first day of her new job at Trask Industries. When she arrives, she sees a woman in an office talking on the phone, and presumes she is to be the woman's secretary. However, it is quickly revealed that the woman is, in fact, Tess’s secretary (Amy Aquino). It is clear that she then realizes that Trask's definition of "entry-level" involved the type of opportunity and position she had dreamed of, not another secretarial or assistant-type position as she had assumed. She insists her new secretary treat her as a colleague, rather than a superior, proving she is going be a very different boss from Katharine. Tess then calls Cynthia telling her the good news, and Cynthia shouts to everyone that Tess has finally made it out of the typing pool.


Actor Role
Harrison Ford Jack Trainer
Sigourney Weaver Katharine Parker
Melanie Griffith Tess McGill
Alec Baldwin Mick Dugan
Joan Cusack Cynthia
Philip Bosco Oren Trask
Nora Dunn Ginny
Oliver Platt David Lutz
James Lally Turkel
Kevin Spacey Bob Speck
Elizabeth Whitcraft Doreen DiMucci
Jeffrey Nordling Tim Rourke
Robert Easton Armbrister
Olympia Dukakis Personnel Director
Amy Aquino Alice Baxter (Tess' Secretary)
Timothy Carhart Tim Draper
David Duchovny Tess's Birthday Party Friend
Zach Grenier Jim
Ricki Lake Bridesmaid
Lloyd Lindsay Young TV Weatherman

Actor notes

  • Kevin Spacey was brought in as a last-minute replacement for another actor in the part of Bob Speck.
  • When Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) comes back to New York and gets out of the helicopter, she carries a big stuffed-toy gorilla. Weaver played the role of Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey (1988) just a few months before.[citation needed]
  • The movie is David Duchovny's screen debut. He appears in two scenes; once at Tess's birthday party at her apartment and later at Cyn's engagement party. This is also Oliver Platt's first screen role.


Box office

Working Girl was released on December 23, 1988 in 1,051 theaters and grossed USD $4.7 million on its opening weekend. It went on to make $63.8 million in North America and $39.2 million in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of $103 million.[1]


The film was very well-received by critics with an 84 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes and a 73 metascore at Metacritic. Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and wrote, "The plot of Working Girl is put together like clockwork. It carries you along while you're watching it, but reconstruct it later and you'll see the craftsmanship".[2] In her review for the Washington Post, Rita Kempley described Melanie Griffith as "luminous as Marilyn Monroe, as adorable as one of Disney's singing mice. She clearly has the stuff of a megastar, and the movie glows from her".[3] Janet Maslin, in her review for the New York Times, wrote, "Mike Nichols, who directed Working Girl, also displays an uncharacteristically blunt touch, and in its later stages the story remains lively but seldom has the perceptiveness or acuity of Mr. Nichols's best work".[4] In his review for Time, Richard Corliss wrote, "Kevin Wade shows this in his smart screenplay, which is full of the atmospheric pressures that allow stars to collide. Director Mike Nichols knows this in his bones. He encourages Weaver to play (brilliantly) an airy shrew. He gives Ford a boyish buoyancy and Griffith the chance to be a grownup mesmerizer".[5]



Academy Award nominations

Shooting locations

Many scenes were shot in the New Brighton section of Staten Island in New York City.

The lobby of Tess' office building was located in the 7 World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the September 11 attacks. The scenes of Tess' secretarial pool and Katharine Parker's office were filmed at 1 State Street Plaza at the corner of Whitehall and State Street. One Chase Manhattan Plaza was featured at the end as the Trask Industries building.[6][7]



  1. "Let the River Run" - Carly Simon
  2. "In Love (Instrumental)" - Carly Simon
  3. "The Man That Got Away" (Instrumental)
  4. "The Scar" (Instrumental) - Carly Simon
  5. "Let the River Run" - The St. Thomas Choir Of Men And Boys
  6. "Lady In Red" - Chris De Burgh
  7. "Carlotta's Heart" - Carly Simon
  8. "Looking Through Katherine's House" - Carly Simon
  9. "Poor Butterfly" (Instrumental) - Sonny Rollins
  10. "I'm So Excited" - Pointer Sisters

TV series

Working Girl was also made into a short-lived NBC television series in 1990, starring Sandra Bullock as Tess McGill. It only lasted 12 episodes.


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Working Girl is a 1988 film about a spunky Wall Street secretary whose business idea is stolen by her boss, but when her boss is injured, she seizes an opportunity to steal it back by pretending she has her boss's job.

Directed by Mike Nichols. Written by Kevin Wade.
For anyone who's ever won. For anyone who's ever lost. And for everyone who's still in there trying. Tagline


Tess McGill

  • [Mick has bought Tess some lingerie for her birthday] Y'know, Mick, just once I could go for like a sweater or some earrings... something that I could actually wear outside of this apartment?
  • [from her new, private office] Hey, Cyn. Guess where I am.


  • [looking at a dress] Six thousand dollars? It's not even leather!
  • Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn't make me Madonna. Never will.
  • You got it! Oh, my God! I can't believe it! She's out! She made it out! She got out! She has her own office!

Katharine Parker

  • [Upon reading Tess' day planner] Why that little... slut! That goddamn little... bitch! Secretary!
  • [on computer] Dear Jack, There's a light bulb over my head. I know Trask and you know media. And that adds up to us finally doing a deal together. Let's run with it. Best, Katherine.


Tess McGill: No lunch. I got speech class.
Cynthia: What'dya need speech class for? You talk fine!

Cynthia: Can I get ya anything, Mr. Trainer? Coffee? Tea? Me?
Tess McGill: [to Jack] Isn't she a riot. That'll be all, Cynthia.

Personnel Director: Tess, Tess, Tess...
Tess McGill: I know.
Personnel Director: You won't get anywhere by calling your boss a pimp.
Tess McGill: Well, he is.

Katharine Parker: Ugh! What a slob.
Tess McGill: You were so smooth with him. I probably would have...
Katharine Parker: Never burn bridges. Today's junior prick, tomorrow's senior partner. So, how do you think the party's going?
Tess McGill: Pretty well, I think. Should I stop serving now?
Katherine Parker: Better make one more round.
Tess McGill: Right.
Katharine Parker: I'd love to help you but... we can't busy the quarterback with passing out the Gatorade.

Katharine Parker: I think he's it, and I think this could be the weekend we decide. He said that there was something very important that he wanted to discuss with me. I think he's going to pop the question.
Tess McGill: What if he doesn't?... pop the question?
Katharine Parker: I really don't think that's a variable. We're in the same city now, I've indicated that I'm receptive to an offer, I've cleared the month of June... and I am, after all, me.

Cynthia: [watching a chandelier that lowers from the ceiling] Why does it do that?
Tess McGill: For cleaning...
Cynthia: Are you kiddin' me?
Tess McGill: No, I'm not.

Jack Trainer: I've been looking for you.
Tess McGill: Why, do you know me?
Jack Trainer: No. No, but I promised myself that when I saw you, I would get to know you. You're the first woman I've seen in one of these damn things that dresses like a woman, not like a woman thinks a man would dress if he was a woman.
Tess McGill: Thank you I guess.

Tess McGill: [after taking several shots of tequila] Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.
Jack Trainer: You okay?
Tess McGill: Mmm, I'm fine. I'm just fine. I took an antihistamine before, and it makes for a nice little buzz.
Jack Trainer: Oh, I didn't know that they let bad girls into these things.
Tess McGill: Do I look like I don't belong here?
Jack Trainer: No. No, I'm sure that you're a real ace in whatever it is that you do do.
Tess McGill: Damn straight.
Jack Trainer: But how you look...
Tess McGill: I have a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?
Jack Trainer: Uh, no. No.

Tess McGill: Shoot me, just shoot me.
Cynthia: Will you cut that out, they didn't throw you out, did they?
Tess McGill: Well, they don't exactly have bouncers at these things, they're a little more subtle than that, Cyn. Oh God, and last night!
Cynthia: Yeah, I should've checked the miligrams. Live and learn. Well, maybe, he'll feel sorry for you and make it up to your doing your deal or whatever it is.
Tess McGill: I'm not looking for sympathy. You know, I had a shot at it... you know!

Tess McGill: Why did you say you weren't you last night?
Jack Trainer: Because I knew it would happen. All Mergers and Acquisitions. No lust and tequila.
Tess McGill: That was... I mean that just happened, okay? I want to make it clear, um... What did happen, exactly?
Jack Trainer: The earth moved. The angels wept. The Polaroids are, are, uh... [gropes about in his coat pockets] are in my other coat. [grins] Nothing happened. Nothing happened!
Tess McGill: I woke up in my underwear.
Jack Trainer: I'll bet you look nice.

Mick Dugan: Tess, will you marry me?
Tess McGill: Maybe.
Mick Dugan: Ya call that an answer?
Tess McGill: You want another answer, ask another girl.

Mick Dugan: I want to get things solidified. Things in my life! You're not the only one with plans, you know!
Tess McGill: I said, maybe.
Mick Dugan: Maybe means dick! Fuck maybe! I want an answer now!
Tess McGill: Please, don't yell at me! You treat me like I'm dumb!
Mick Dugan: Why are we always talkin' about the way you get treated, huh? Who the fuck died and made you Grace Kelly?!
Tess McGill: I am not steak! You can't just order me!
Mick Dugan: Look, I don't need this! You get your priorities straight, maybe we'll talk. Right now, we're history.

Cynthia: Look, all I'm saying is, if you're so smart, why don't you act smart and save your ass while you still can. Else they're gonna find out, you're not gonna have your job, or any job. You're outta your man and your home already!
Tess McGill: I'm gonna come clean as soon as I get my end set up. I swear. I know what I'm doing.
Cynthia: Yeah, so do I... screwing up your life.
Tess McGill: No, I'm trying to make it better! I'm not gonna spend the rest of my life working my ass off and getting nowhere just because I followed rules that I had nothing to do with setting up, okay?

Tess McGill: How did you get the scar?
Jack Trainer: Some guy pulled a knife in Detroit.
Tess McGill: Really?
Jack Trainer: No. No, I was nineteen and I thought it'd be cool to have a pierced ear. My girlfriend stuck the needle through and I heard this pop and fainted and hit my chin on the toilet.
Tess McGill: [laughs] Have you been telling that story ever since?
Jack Trainer: You're the only one who knows the true story.
Tess McGill: Except the girlfriend?
Jack Trainer: I had her, uh... disappear. It's too bad. Nice girl. Real shame.

Tess McGill: [to Jack] Look, we're in a business deal together now, and I just don't think that we should get involved that way. My life is real complicated as it is.
Jack Trainer: I don't want to complicate it either. I just thought dinner, maybe a movie.
Tess McGill: We both know what we're talking about.
Jack Trainer: I certainly hope so!
Tess McGill: You know, maybe I just don't like you.
Jack Trainer: Me? Naaah!

Tess McGill: [to Katharine] Look, you, maybe you've got everyone around here fooled with this saint act you have going, but do not ever speak to me again like we don't know what really happened! You got me?
Katherine Parker: Tess, this is business. Let's just bury the hatchet, okay?
Tess McGill: You know where you can bury your hatchet? Now get your bony ass outta my sight! [to Jack] And if you really think that I said I loved you as part of some scheme, then that is really pathetic, you know?
Katharine Parker: My God, she'll stop at nothing.

Tess McGill: You can bend the rules plenty once you get to the top, but not while you're trying to get there. And if you're someone like me, you can't get there without bending the rules
Oren Trask: You've got a real fire in your belly. Or was this just a one-time stunt that you pulled?
Tess McGill: I'm not quite sure what you mean, sir. I've got something in my belly, but I think it's nervous knots.

Katharine Parker: Oren, I beg your pardon, but if you are insinuating...
Oren Trask: Miss Parker, if I were you... I'd go to your office and take a long last look around. Because in about five minutes, I'm going to see to it that you get the boot... but good!
Katharine Parker: Oren, this is a simple misunderstanding and I... You cannot...
Oren Trask: I can and I will! Now get your... [to Tess] What was that you called it?
Tess McGill, Jack Trainer: Bony ass.
Oren Trask: Yes... your bony ass out of my sight!
Katharine Parker: I'm sorry... but I simply won't stand for that kind of talk. Will you excuse me, please?

Alice Baxter: Uhm, Ms. McGill?
Tess McGill: Yes.
Alice Baxter: [pointing to private office] That's your desk... in there...
Tess McGill: I don't think so.
Alice Baxter: Oh, yes. I sit out here.
Tess McGill: Sorry, I thought the secretary would sit out here...
Alice Baxter: That's right, I'm the secretary. If you don't mind, I'd prefer assistant.


  • For anyone who's ever won. For anyone who's ever lost. And for everyone who's still in there trying.


Actor Role
Harrison Ford Jack Trainer
Sigourney Weaver Katharine Parker
Melanie Griffith Tess McGill
Alec Baldwin Mick Dugan
Joan Cusack Cynthia
Philip Bosco Oren Trask
Nora Dunn Ginny
Oliver Platt Lutz
James Lally Turkel
Kevin Spacey Bob Speck
Elizabeth Whitcraft Doreen DiMucci
Jeffrey Nordling Tim Rourke
Robert Easton Armbrister
Olympia Dukakis Personnel Director
Amy Aquino Alice Baxter
David Duchovny Tess's Birthday Party Friend
Timothy Carhart Tim Draper

External links

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