Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970)

R | 95 mins | Drama | 10 August 1970

Director:

Frank Perry

Writer:

Eleanor Perry

Producer:

Frank Perry

Cinematographer:

Gerald Hirschfeld

Editor:

Sidney Katz

Production Designer:

Peter Dohanos

Production Company:

Frank Perry Films
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HISTORY

According to a 19 Mar 1970 NYT article, director-producer Frank Perry and wife Eleanor Perry first discovered Sue Kaufman’s novel Diary of a Mad Housewife around the time of its release in 1967, when Life magazine asked Mrs. Perry to write a literary review for an upcoming edition. Their acquisition of the property was officially announced in the 2 Oct 1967 LAT, and Perry spent that summer writing the screenplay in their home in East Hampton, NY.
       Although production was initially scheduled to begin in early 1968, Diary of a Mad Housewife was shelved while the husband-and-wife team completed work on Last Summer and Trilogy (1969, see entries). Their plans resumed more than two years later, when the 19 Oct 1969 NYT reported the involvement of co-producer David Susskind, and actors Richard Benjamin and George C. Scott. Only Benjamin remained with the project. The 18 Nov 1969 LAT revealed that both he and the Perrys accepted small upfront salaries in exchange for a percentage of the backend. Although Susskind expressed interest in casting Jane Fonda as “Tina Balser,” Carrie Snodgress was ultimately selected for the leading role.
       Around this time, the pair also secured funding from Universal Pictures’ parent company, MCA, which provided a guaranteed bank loan to their production company in exchange for a modest budget of just over $1 million. A 25 Nov 1969 DV article noted that the sale was indicative of the company’s shift toward independent “[pictures] with personal statements,” as Frank Perry was granted complete autonomy over the production and final ... More Less

According to a 19 Mar 1970 NYT article, director-producer Frank Perry and wife Eleanor Perry first discovered Sue Kaufman’s novel Diary of a Mad Housewife around the time of its release in 1967, when Life magazine asked Mrs. Perry to write a literary review for an upcoming edition. Their acquisition of the property was officially announced in the 2 Oct 1967 LAT, and Perry spent that summer writing the screenplay in their home in East Hampton, NY.
       Although production was initially scheduled to begin in early 1968, Diary of a Mad Housewife was shelved while the husband-and-wife team completed work on Last Summer and Trilogy (1969, see entries). Their plans resumed more than two years later, when the 19 Oct 1969 NYT reported the involvement of co-producer David Susskind, and actors Richard Benjamin and George C. Scott. Only Benjamin remained with the project. The 18 Nov 1969 LAT revealed that both he and the Perrys accepted small upfront salaries in exchange for a percentage of the backend. Although Susskind expressed interest in casting Jane Fonda as “Tina Balser,” Carrie Snodgress was ultimately selected for the leading role.
       Around this time, the pair also secured funding from Universal Pictures’ parent company, MCA, which provided a guaranteed bank loan to their production company in exchange for a modest budget of just over $1 million. A 25 Nov 1969 DV article noted that the sale was indicative of the company’s shift toward independent “[pictures] with personal statements,” as Frank Perry was granted complete autonomy over the production and final cut. According to a 23 Jan 1970 DV production chart, principal photography began 19 Jan 1970 in New York City, although an earlier article in the 30 Dec 1969 edition stated that Perry had already completed some second unit photography of Christmastime shoppers in the city. Exterior locations included Central Park and the Museum of Modern Art. However, most filming consisted of interiors completed at a studio facility on West 61st Street, which the NYT and a 4 Mar 1970 Var article alternately referred to as “TV Graphics Studios” and “TV Gothics Studios.” Director of photography Gerald Hirschfeld reportedly constructed a custom lightweight dolly that replaced the 400-pound stand normally required for the 35mm BNC camera, allowing the device to move smoothly through the nine-room apartment set while attached to his person by a belt. Production concluded two days ahead of schedule on 30 Mar 1970, as stated in a DV item published the following day.
       Items in the 6 May 1970 and 15 Jul 1970 Var noted the involvement of extras casting director Sylvia Fay and casting consultant Shirley Rich. An obituary for actor Eugene R. Wood published in the 23 Jan 1971 NYT revealed he had a featured role in the film.
       A 30 Jun 1970 NYT brief announced plans for an upcoming benefit screening at the Guild Hall in East Hampton on 3 Jul 1970. This event preceded the 10 Aug 1970 New York City release at the Beekman Theatre, where, according to the 19 Aug 1970 Var, it collected a record-breaking first-week gross of $46,572. The Los Angeles, CA, engagement began 11 Oct 1970 at Laemmle’s Regent Theatre. Approximately fifteen to twenty prints were presented with full stereo sound.
       For her first credited film performance, Carrie Snodgrass earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, and dual Golden Globe Awards for Actress in a Leading Role – Musical or Comedy, and New Star of the Year – Actress. The film also received Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Richard Benjamin), Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and New Star of the Year – Actor (Frank Langella). Diary of a Mad Housewife marked Langella’s theatrical feature film debut. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
10 Nov 1969
p. 1.
Daily Variety
25 Nov 1969
p. 15.
Daily Variety
30 Dec 1969
p. 1, 17.
Daily Variety
23 Jan 1970
p. 18.
Daily Variety
31 Mar 1970
p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
2 Oct 1967
Section D, p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
18 Nov 1969
Section E, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
10 Oct 1970
Section A, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
11 Oct 1970
p. 1, 28.
New York Times
19 Oct 1969
Section D, p. 17, 34.
New York Times
19 Mar 1970
p. 56.
New York Times
30 Jun 1970
p. 44.
New York Times
11 Aug 1970
p. 27.
New York Times
23 Jan 1971
p. 32.
Variety
4 Mar 1970
p. 26.
Variety
6 May 1970
p. 32.
Variety
15 Jul 1970
p. 22.
Variety
19 Aug 1970
p. 9.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
Women's ward
Men's ward
SOUND
Sd ed
MAKEUP
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Asst to the prod
Gallery seq
Paintings from the exhibition of
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Diary of a Mad Housewife by Sue Kaufman (New York, 1967).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
10 August 1970
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 10 August 1970
Los Angeles opening: 11 October 1970
Production Date:
19 January--30 March 1970
Copyright Claimant:
Frank Perry Films
Copyright Date:
10 August 1970
Copyright Number:
LP38194
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
95
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

New York housewife Tina Balser resents the manipulation of her nagging husband, Jonathan, a status-seeking attorney, and the complaints of her spoiled daughters, Sylvie and Liz. At a gallery opening egocentric author George Prager propositions her, and she subsequently becomes his mistress. During an afternoon rendezvous, however, Tina's aggressive lover reveals certain affinities with her abusive husband. As the affair disintegrates, one of Jonathan's pet projects, a fabulous party, aborts. In its aftermath he confesses to Tina that he has mismanaged the couple's savings, endangered his position in the firm, and committed adultery. Tina responds by leaving George, whom she labels a latent homosexual, and participating in group ... +


New York housewife Tina Balser resents the manipulation of her nagging husband, Jonathan, a status-seeking attorney, and the complaints of her spoiled daughters, Sylvie and Liz. At a gallery opening egocentric author George Prager propositions her, and she subsequently becomes his mistress. During an afternoon rendezvous, however, Tina's aggressive lover reveals certain affinities with her abusive husband. As the affair disintegrates, one of Jonathan's pet projects, a fabulous party, aborts. In its aftermath he confesses to Tina that he has mismanaged the couple's savings, endangered his position in the firm, and committed adultery. Tina responds by leaving George, whom she labels a latent homosexual, and participating in group therapy. +

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.