Sweet Bird of Youth (1962)

120 mins | Melodrama | 23 March 1962

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HISTORY

The 21 Oct 1960 LAT reported that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM) acquired rights to the controversial 1959 play by Tennessee Williams. As stated in the 17 Aug 19 DV, Williams received $400,000 with a guarantee of three percent of gross receipts exceeding $2.8 million.
       In the 29 Feb 1960 LAT, columnist Hedda Hopper suggested actress Bette Davis for the role of “Alexandra Del Lago,” originated on Broadway by Geraldine Page. However, director Richard Brooks told the 20 Jun 19 1960 DV that Greta Garbo was his only choice for the role. Aware that the long-retired Garbo was not likely to accept, Brooks admitted his own disinterest in the project, saying, “I’ve had Tennessee Williams up to my ears.” Vincente Minnelli was being considered as Brooks’s replacement, according to the 7 Jul 1960 DV. Rumors that Ava Gardner would assume the part were disputed by the 13 Oct 1960 DV, which revealed that producer Pandro S. Berman had other actresses in mind. On 16 Jun 1960, LAT reported that Paul Newman, who played “Chance Wayne” on Broadway, had competition for the film version from actors Burt Reynolds and Rip Torn, both of whom assumed the role in other stage productions. The 3 Oct 1960 DV noted that John Michael Hayes was writing the screenplay, but he did not remain with the project.
       Months later, the 13 Jan 1961 DV announced Brooks as director and screenwriter. Geraldine Page would reprise her award-winning Broadway role after facing competition from established film actresses Melina Nercouri, ... More Less

The 21 Oct 1960 LAT reported that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM) acquired rights to the controversial 1959 play by Tennessee Williams. As stated in the 17 Aug 19 DV, Williams received $400,000 with a guarantee of three percent of gross receipts exceeding $2.8 million.
       In the 29 Feb 1960 LAT, columnist Hedda Hopper suggested actress Bette Davis for the role of “Alexandra Del Lago,” originated on Broadway by Geraldine Page. However, director Richard Brooks told the 20 Jun 19 1960 DV that Greta Garbo was his only choice for the role. Aware that the long-retired Garbo was not likely to accept, Brooks admitted his own disinterest in the project, saying, “I’ve had Tennessee Williams up to my ears.” Vincente Minnelli was being considered as Brooks’s replacement, according to the 7 Jul 1960 DV. Rumors that Ava Gardner would assume the part were disputed by the 13 Oct 1960 DV, which revealed that producer Pandro S. Berman had other actresses in mind. On 16 Jun 1960, LAT reported that Paul Newman, who played “Chance Wayne” on Broadway, had competition for the film version from actors Burt Reynolds and Rip Torn, both of whom assumed the role in other stage productions. The 3 Oct 1960 DV noted that John Michael Hayes was writing the screenplay, but he did not remain with the project.
       Months later, the 13 Jan 1961 DV announced Brooks as director and screenwriter. Geraldine Page would reprise her award-winning Broadway role after facing competition from established film actresses Melina Nercouri, Maria Schell, Lana Turner, and Rita Hayworth. On 15 Feb 1961, DV reported Newman’s withdrawal from the project. Brooks was considering Elvis Presley and Dean Stockwell as possible replacements. Three months later, Newman returned, as stated in the 22 May 1961 LAT. Rip Torn and Madeleine Sherwood, also members of the Broadway cast, appeared as “Thomas J. Finley, Jr.” and “Miss Lucy,” respectively. The 14 Jun 1961 DV noted that Brooks was negotiating with Hedda Hopper to appear in the film as herself, in place of the fictional columnist “Sally Powers.”
       A 22 Jun 1961 DV news item stated that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) approved Brooks’s script, and hinted that the castration scene from the stage play had been excluded. Principal photography began 6 Jul 1961, according to that day’s DV. As reported in the 22 Aug 1961 DV, Brooks ordered the cast and crew not to discuss the picture with the media, fearing unfair comparisons to the stage play. Although Brooks confirmed the MPAA’s approval his shooting script, he was aware that it could be revoked, depending on revisions made during production. The filmmaker added that “several themes by Williams” not included in the play would appear in the picture. The 4 Oct 1961 DV noted that photography was completed that week. The 7 Sep 1961 DV estimated the final budget at $2.9 million, including $600,000 for the play and $700,000 for the cast.
       On 27 Oct 1961, LAT announced that Tennessee Williams was debuting a revised version of his play on 14 Nov 1961 at the Civic Playhouse in Los Angeles, CA. Several changes were made to the story, including a “happy ending” in place of the original “tragic conclusion.” The article noted that it may have been the first instance of a playwright significantly altering his work following its Broadway run and national tour. The revised play received a negative notice in the 16 Nov 1961 LAT.
       The film premiered 23 Mar 1961 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA, followed by 28 Mar 1961 openings at several New York City theaters. Reviews were generally positive.
       Sweet Bird of Youth was nominated for three Academy Awards: Actress in a Leading Role (Geraldine Page), Actor in a Supporting Role (Ed Begley), and Actress in a Supporting Role (Shirley Knight). The 9 Apr 1963 DV noted that Begley thanked his agent upon winning the award. Geraldine Page received a Golden Globe for her performance, along with Italy’s David of Donatello and England’s British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards for best foreign actress. Newman, Knight, and Begley were also nominated for Golden Globes. Brooks won Belgium’s Prix Femina Belge Du Cinema for “best directed picture of the year,” as reported in the 10 Jul 1962 DV. Paul Newman was voted “best actor” by readers of Exhibitor, a trade magazine for theater owners and film buyers.
       The 21 Jan 1963 DV announced the picture’s re-released in Los Angeles on 27 Feb 1963, double-billed with Lolita (1962, see entry), as part of MGM’s Academy Awards campaign.
       Casting announcements included musician Eddy Samuels (7 Jul 1961 DV), Michael Ferris and John Gallaudet (11 Jul 1961 DV), and Eugene Jackson (12 Sep 1961 DV). According to the 14 Jun 1961 LAT, William Mims was considered for the role of “Dr. George Scudder” before the part went to Philip Abbott. A news item in the 1 Feb 1961 DV noted the possibility that actor-singer Burl Ives would join the cast.
       The 23 Feb 1962 DV reported that four recorded versions of the theme song, “Ebb Tide,” would be released to coincide with the film’s opening.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
20 Jun 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Jul 1960
p. 3.
Daily Variety
17 Aug 1961
p. 1.
Daily Variety
3 Oct 1960
p. 6.
Daily Variety
13 Oct 1960
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Jan 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
1 Feb 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
15 Feb 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
14 Jun 1961
p. 1.
Daily Variety
22 Jun 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Jul 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
7 Jul 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Jul 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
22 Aug 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
7 Sep 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
12 Sep 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
4 Oct 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Feb 1962
p. 6.
Daily Variety
28 Feb 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
7 Mar 1962
p. 23.
Daily Variety
3 Apr 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
4 Apr 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
26 Jun 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
10 Jul 1962
p. 5.
Daily Variety
21 Jan 1963
p. 1.
Daily Variety
9 Apr 1963
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
29 Feb 1960
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
16 Jun 1960
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
21 Oct 1960
Section B, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
22 May 1961
Section B, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jun 1961
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
16 Nov 1961
Section A, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
11 Mar 1962
Section A, p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
23 Mar 1962
Section C, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
31 Dec 1962
Section B, p. 6.
New York Times
27 Oct 1961
p. 27.
New York Times
28 Mar 1962
p. 34.
New York Times
29 Mar 1962
p. 28.
New York Times
12 Jun 1963
p. 38.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Col consultant
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus supv
Orch cond
SOUND
Rec supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
MAKEUP
Hairstyles
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Sweet Bird of Youth by Tennessee Williams (New York, 10 Mar 1959).
DETAILS
Release Date:
23 March 1962
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 23 March 1962
New York opening 28 March 1962
Production Date:
6 July--early October 1961
Copyright Claimant:
Roxbury Productions
Copyright Date:
31 December 1961
Copyright Number:
LP21774
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Color
Metrocolor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
120
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Chance Wayne has youth, good looks, virility, and complete self-confidence--four qualities he feels certain will make him a Hollywood star. After drifting for several years, he goes to Florida and picks up Alexandra Del Lago, an aging film star. Convinced that her comeback picture is a failure, Alexandra has taken to drinking vodka, smoking hashish, inhaling oxygen, and keeping young lovers. She promises to help Chance in Hollywood, and he drives her to the small southern town of his birth. Here he plans a reunion with his girl friend, Heavenly, the only daughter of a corrupt and powerful politician, "Boss" Finley. Chance quickly learns, however, that he is unwelcome. (He does not know that following his last visit Heavenly became pregnant and had an abortion.) While Finley and his hoodlum son, Tom Junior, consider their revenge, Heavenly's Aunt Nonnie arranges several meetings between the young lovers. In the meantime, Chance continues to nurture his relationship with Alexandra, and he records her drugged confessions with a view to future blackmail. Suddenly Alexandra learns from Walter Winchell that her comeback film is an unqualified triumph and that she is once more in demand. Her old self again, she rejects Chance, ignores her promises, and prepares to leave. As she does so a giant political rally is turned into a brawl when Finley's discarded mistress, Miss Lucy, exposes his ruthless tactics and reveals Heavenly's abortion. Sensing the impending violence, Alexandra offers to take Chance away, but he refuses to leave Heavenly. A group of thugs headed by Tom Junior beat Chance into senselessness and badly disfigure his face. Chance is finally able to face the truth about himself, and he leaves with ... +


Chance Wayne has youth, good looks, virility, and complete self-confidence--four qualities he feels certain will make him a Hollywood star. After drifting for several years, he goes to Florida and picks up Alexandra Del Lago, an aging film star. Convinced that her comeback picture is a failure, Alexandra has taken to drinking vodka, smoking hashish, inhaling oxygen, and keeping young lovers. She promises to help Chance in Hollywood, and he drives her to the small southern town of his birth. Here he plans a reunion with his girl friend, Heavenly, the only daughter of a corrupt and powerful politician, "Boss" Finley. Chance quickly learns, however, that he is unwelcome. (He does not know that following his last visit Heavenly became pregnant and had an abortion.) While Finley and his hoodlum son, Tom Junior, consider their revenge, Heavenly's Aunt Nonnie arranges several meetings between the young lovers. In the meantime, Chance continues to nurture his relationship with Alexandra, and he records her drugged confessions with a view to future blackmail. Suddenly Alexandra learns from Walter Winchell that her comeback film is an unqualified triumph and that she is once more in demand. Her old self again, she rejects Chance, ignores her promises, and prepares to leave. As she does so a giant political rally is turned into a brawl when Finley's discarded mistress, Miss Lucy, exposes his ruthless tactics and reveals Heavenly's abortion. Sensing the impending violence, Alexandra offers to take Chance away, but he refuses to leave Heavenly. A group of thugs headed by Tom Junior beat Chance into senselessness and badly disfigure his face. Chance is finally able to face the truth about himself, and he leaves with Heavenly. +

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

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