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HISTORY

The 14 Aug 1962 DV announced plans for a cinematic version of Jean Genêt's controversial 1957 play, Le balcon, to be made by City Film Corp., a partnership between writer Ben Maddow and director Joseph Strick. The 11 Nov 1962 NYT revealed that Strick spent a month conferring with Genêt in Italy. Aware of the playwright's distrust of "Hollywood movie-makers," Strick presented him with Maddow's treatment and screened a print of City Film's prior release, The Savage Eye (1960, see entry). By the time Strick left Italy, Genêt was reportedly enthusiastic over the project.
       The article stated that Maddow changed the setting from a brothel to a soundstage, as it could better accommodate "a house of illusion." He also incorporated newsreel footage of street violence, and removed much of Genêt's "mysticism" and "double symbolism" to emphasize the characters' "struggle for power."
       The cast, including lead actors Shelley Winters and Peter Falk, believed so much in the project that they were willing to accept either "minimum scale" with deferred payments, or a share of the profits. Financing was credited to Walter Reade Jr.-Sterling Inc., Lewis Allen and Dana Hodgdon, and Continental Distributing, Inc. Although it may have been more cost-effective to film in a foreign country, Maddow insisted that "Hollywood is the best place to make movies," in addition to the fact that he and his colleagues all lived there. The 12 Dec 1962 Var noted that Cy Harvey of Janus Films was also interested in financing the picture, but was still reading the screenplay while the deal was being ... More Less

The 14 Aug 1962 DV announced plans for a cinematic version of Jean Genêt's controversial 1957 play, Le balcon, to be made by City Film Corp., a partnership between writer Ben Maddow and director Joseph Strick. The 11 Nov 1962 NYT revealed that Strick spent a month conferring with Genêt in Italy. Aware of the playwright's distrust of "Hollywood movie-makers," Strick presented him with Maddow's treatment and screened a print of City Film's prior release, The Savage Eye (1960, see entry). By the time Strick left Italy, Genêt was reportedly enthusiastic over the project.
       The article stated that Maddow changed the setting from a brothel to a soundstage, as it could better accommodate "a house of illusion." He also incorporated newsreel footage of street violence, and removed much of Genêt's "mysticism" and "double symbolism" to emphasize the characters' "struggle for power."
       The cast, including lead actors Shelley Winters and Peter Falk, believed so much in the project that they were willing to accept either "minimum scale" with deferred payments, or a share of the profits. Financing was credited to Walter Reade Jr.-Sterling Inc., Lewis Allen and Dana Hodgdon, and Continental Distributing, Inc. Although it may have been more cost-effective to film in a foreign country, Maddow insisted that "Hollywood is the best place to make movies," in addition to the fact that he and his colleagues all lived there. The 12 Dec 1962 Var noted that Cy Harvey of Janus Films was also interested in financing the picture, but was still reading the screenplay while the deal was being finalized with Continental.
       News items in the 6 Sep 1962 and 13 Sep 1962 issues of DV reported the additions of Jonathan Harris and Joanne Patrick to the cast. According to a 28 Sep 1962 DV production chart, principal photography began eleven days earlier at the studios of KTTV, a television station in Hollywood, CA. The 15 Aug 1962 NYT estimated the shooting schedule at six weeks, and the budget at less than $200,000. Strick defended the modest budget saying it was "inversely proportional" to the "the artistic risks" taken on film.
       The Balcony opened 21 Mar 1963 in New York City to mixed reviews. Although the 20 Mar 1963 Var described it as "one of the most original and 'adult' American films in years," the 22 Mar 1963 NYT dismissed it as a "ribald and hollow mockery" of humanity. Openings at five theaters in the Los Angeles, CA, area followed in late Apr 1963.
       The picture garnered an Academy Award nomination for Cinematography-Black-and-White (George J. Folsey), and a nomination from the Writers Guild of America (WGA) for Best Written American Drama (Ben Maddow).
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
14 Aug 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
6 Sep 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Sep 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
28 Sep 1962
p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
26 Apr 1963
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
3 May 1963
Section C, p. 11.
New York Times
15 Aug 1962
p. 36.
New York Times
11 Nov 1962
p. 151.
New York Times
22 Mar 1963
p. 7.
Variety
12 Dec 1962
p. 3.
Variety
20 Mar 1963
p. 6.
Variety
28 Mar 1963
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus cond
SOUND
Sd ed
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Le balcon by Jean Genêt (trans. by Bernard Frechtman as The Balcony
London, 22 Apr 1957).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
1963
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 21 March 1963
Los Angeles opening: late April 1963
Production Date:
17 September--early November 1962
Copyright Claimant:
Walter Reade--Sterling, Inc.
Copyright Date:
10 December 1962
Copyright Number:
LU3227
Duration(in mins):
84
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Madam Irma's brothel, The Balcony, is located in a vast, converted movie studio. Although a revolution is raging in the city streets, Irma ignores the turmoil and continues catering to the desires of her clientele. A gas station attendant pretends to be a bishop erotically stimulated by the lewd confessions of a penitent; a milkman posing as a general delights in whipping his female "horse"; and an accountant pretends he is a chief justice trying the case of a petty thief. One day Irma's lover, the chief of police, commandeers the three phony dignitaries and parades them through the streets in the hope that it will quiet the populace. When the men begin to believe their roles, the chief brutally strips them of their illusions. While Irma is pretending to be the queen, the rebel leader arrives at The Balcony and announces that he wants to impersonate the police chief. As he is being seduced by Carmen, Irma's lesbian confidante, he is suddenly confronted by the chief. The two men begin to fight, and Irma orders her women to strip them of their uniforms. Clad only in bath towels, they leave The Balcony as Irma turns to the audience and tells them to go home, where the illusions they practice are even more false than those she sells at her ... +


Madam Irma's brothel, The Balcony, is located in a vast, converted movie studio. Although a revolution is raging in the city streets, Irma ignores the turmoil and continues catering to the desires of her clientele. A gas station attendant pretends to be a bishop erotically stimulated by the lewd confessions of a penitent; a milkman posing as a general delights in whipping his female "horse"; and an accountant pretends he is a chief justice trying the case of a petty thief. One day Irma's lover, the chief of police, commandeers the three phony dignitaries and parades them through the streets in the hope that it will quiet the populace. When the men begin to believe their roles, the chief brutally strips them of their illusions. While Irma is pretending to be the queen, the rebel leader arrives at The Balcony and announces that he wants to impersonate the police chief. As he is being seduced by Carmen, Irma's lesbian confidante, he is suddenly confronted by the chief. The two men begin to fight, and Irma orders her women to strip them of their uniforms. Clad only in bath towels, they leave The Balcony as Irma turns to the audience and tells them to go home, where the illusions they practice are even more false than those she sells at her brothel. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.