Charly (1968)

106 mins | Drama | 23 September 1968

Director:

Ralph Nelson

Producer:

Ralph Nelson

Cinematographer:

Arthur J. Ornitz

Production Designer:

Charles Rosen

Production Companies:

Selmur Pictures, Inc., Robertson & Associates
Full page view
HISTORY

Cliff Robertson originated the role of “Charlie Gordon” (later spelled “Charly Gordon”) in the made-for-television production “The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon,” which aired on 22 Feb 1961 as part of the dramatic anthology series The U.S. Steel Hour (ABC/CBS, 27 Oct 1953—12 Jun 1963), and resulted in Robertson’s nomination for an Emmy for Outstanding Single Lead Actor Performance. On 21 Apr 1961, DV announced the actor had acquired film rights to “The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon,” written by Daniel Keyes and based on Keyes’s short story, “Flowers for Algernon,” first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in Apr 1959. Robertson, who planned to reprise the titular role, was motivated by the fact that he had originated several other roles in productions that had gone on to become feature films starring other actors (i.e. his turn in “Days of Wine and Roses” on Playhouse 90 [CBS, 4 Oct 1956—19 Sep 1961], which was recreated by Jack Lemmon in the film version [1962, see entry], and his portrayal of “Sam Lawson” in a stage version of James Lee’s Career, played by Anthony Franciosa in the 1959 film [see entry]).
       The 6 Oct 1963 NYT announced director Ralph Nelson’s involvement in the picture, then titled Flowers for Algernon, and noted that Nelson’s Rainbow Productions would produce. Daniel Keyes was said to be at work on the screenplay and also planning to adapt his story into a novel. Robertson, who spent $50,000 of his own money on development, later enlisted William Goldman to adapt the script, as stated in the 9 Apr 1964 ... More Less

Cliff Robertson originated the role of “Charlie Gordon” (later spelled “Charly Gordon”) in the made-for-television production “The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon,” which aired on 22 Feb 1961 as part of the dramatic anthology series The U.S. Steel Hour (ABC/CBS, 27 Oct 1953—12 Jun 1963), and resulted in Robertson’s nomination for an Emmy for Outstanding Single Lead Actor Performance. On 21 Apr 1961, DV announced the actor had acquired film rights to “The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon,” written by Daniel Keyes and based on Keyes’s short story, “Flowers for Algernon,” first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in Apr 1959. Robertson, who planned to reprise the titular role, was motivated by the fact that he had originated several other roles in productions that had gone on to become feature films starring other actors (i.e. his turn in “Days of Wine and Roses” on Playhouse 90 [CBS, 4 Oct 1956—19 Sep 1961], which was recreated by Jack Lemmon in the film version [1962, see entry], and his portrayal of “Sam Lawson” in a stage version of James Lee’s Career, played by Anthony Franciosa in the 1959 film [see entry]).
       The 6 Oct 1963 NYT announced director Ralph Nelson’s involvement in the picture, then titled Flowers for Algernon, and noted that Nelson’s Rainbow Productions would produce. Daniel Keyes was said to be at work on the screenplay and also planning to adapt his story into a novel. Robertson, who spent $50,000 of his own money on development, later enlisted William Goldman to adapt the script, as stated in the 9 Apr 1964 DV. An article in the 24 Sep 1967 NYT claimed that early attempts at the screenplay didn’t “jell,” and Goldman was eventually replaced by Stirling Silliphant, as reported in the 28 Sep 1966 DV. Although a 25 May 1967 DV item listed James Yaffe as the screenwriter, Jaffe received no onscreen credit in the final film.
       Funding was difficult to come by due to Charly’s theme of mental disability, as noted in various contemporary sources including the 12 Jun 1968 Var. Ralph Nelson claimed that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) had briefly been interested, and that United Artists had rejected the picture due to the recent failure of its 1963 film about mentally disabled children, A Child Is Waiting (see entry).
       British actress Anne Heywood was cast in the role of “Alice Kinian,” as reported in the 9 Aug 1967 LAT. However, as noted in the 27 Sep 1967 Var, she dropped out around the time principal photography began on 25 Sep 1967 in Boston, MA. A representative of Selmur Pictures, Inc. blamed the actress’s departure on a “disagreement over major changes in concept and [her] role in the final screenplay.” Claire Bloom was hired to take her place, the 4 Oct 1967 Var reported. After several weeks of shooting, cast and crew moved from Boston to Los Angeles, CA, in early Dec 1967. The 14 Dec 1967 DV stated that shooting was scheduled to take place that day and the following day at a Pacific Palisades home being leased by Robertson, and final scenes were scheduled be shot on Monday, 18 Dec 1967, at MGM studios in Culver City, CA.
       Selmur Pictures, whose involvement was announced in the 25 May 1967 DV, had recently been formed as a subsidiary of American Broadcasting Company (ABC). At the time, seventy-five percent of ABC subsidiaries’ output was slated to be released by Cinerama Releasing Corp., including Charly. A world premiere took place on 28 Jun 1968 at the Berlin Film Festival. A New York City opening followed on 23 Sep 1968 at the Baronet Theatre, and the Los Angeles opening occurred one month later at the Beverly Hills Music Hall Theatre.
       As quoted in the 12 Jun 1968 Var, Stirling Silliphant was excited about the film’s use of “innovative visual effects” such as “multi-screen montages” and the employment of a split-screen in place of cross-cutting in certain dialogue scenes. Silliphant acknowledged that the “visual tools” had been used by foreign filmmakers like François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, but lamented that Hollywood had failed to embrace the techniques.
       Reviews in the 3 Jul 1968 Var, 24 Sep 1968 NYT, and 25 Oct 1968 LAT were largely negative. However, a slow release plan devised by Cinerama allowed the film to gain traction due to positive word-of-mouth and active involvement from Robertson, who spent months promoting the picture. On 25 Apr 1969, an article in LAT projected that Charly, which cost an estimated $1.3-1.5 million, would gross between $9 and $10 million. Robertson, who had received a “token salary of $25,000,” had initially owned fifty percent of the picture, but had given Nelson twenty-five percent. Nevertheless, he was due to earn an estimated $2.25 million, as stated in the 14 May 1969 Var.
       Robertson was named Best Actor by the National Board of Review, and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. Robertson was unable to accept the Academy Award – the only one he would win in his lifetime – because he was busy filming Too Late the Hero (1970, see entry) in the Philippines. Stirling Silliphant won a Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, and the film was nominated for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture Drama (Robertson). According to a 23 Oct 1968 DV item, Charly also won a “Bell Ringer” award from Scholastic magazine.
       An 18 Mar 1968 DV brief noted that Buddy Kaye would write lyrics for the picture’s theme song, with music by Ravi Shankar. According to the 24 Sep 1967 NYT, Charly marked Shankar’s first American feature film score.
       A sequel, titled Charly II, was shot in Boston in the fall of 1980, according to items in the 1 Oct 1980 and 29 Oct 1980 Var. Robertson directed and starred in the picture, which was jettisoned before release, as noted in the 21 Jul 1982 Var. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
21 Apr 1961
p. 9.
Daily Variety
2 May 1961
p. 8.
Daily Variety
26 Mar 1964
p. 8.
Daily Variety
9 Apr 1964
p. 10.
Daily Variety
28 Sep 1966
p. 6.
Daily Variety
25 May 1967
p. 8.
Daily Variety
30 Aug 1967
p. 10.
Daily Variety
12 Dec 1967
p. 8.
Daily Variety
14 Dec 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
14 Dec 1967
p. 3.
Daily Variety
18 Mar 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
29 Apr 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
20 Aug 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Jan 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
24 Apr 1969
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
9 Aug 1967
Section E, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jan 1968
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
21 Sep 1968
Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
25 Oct 1968
Section G, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
11 Mar 1969
Section G, p. 1, 7, 9.
Los Angeles Times
25 Apr 1969
Section I, p. 10.
New York Times
6 Oct 1963.
---
New York Times
24 Sep 1967
p. 15, 20.
New York Times
28 Apr 1968.
---
New York Times
24 Sep 1968.
---
Variety
27 Sep 1967
p. 20.
Variety
4 Oct 1967
p. 14.
Variety
18 Oct 1967
p. 22.
Variety
8 Nov 1967
p. 29.
Variety
12 Jun 1968
p. 5, 28.
Variety
26 Jun 1968
p. 25.
Variety
3 Jul 1968
p. 6.
Variety
23 Apr 1969
p. 17.
Variety
14 May 1969
p. 36.
Variety
1 Oct 1980
p. 7.
Variety
29 Oct 1980
p. 34.
Variety
21 Jul 1982
p. 5, 29.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Ralph Nelson Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward
SOUND
Sd dir
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod asst
Prod asst
Asst to the prod
Scr supv
Prod mgr
Prop master
Gaffer
Key grip
Title & montage
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (New York, 1966).
AUTHOR
SONGS
Selected songs, words and music by Ravi Shankar, performed by Ravi Shankar.
PERFORMER
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon
The Two Worlds of Charly Gordon
Flowers for Algernon
Release Date:
23 September 1968
Premiere Information:
World premiere at the Berlin Film Festival: 28 June 1968
New York opening: 23 September 1968
Los Angeles premiere: 23 October 1968
Production Date:
25 September--mid December 1967
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
gauge
35mm
Widescreen/ratio
Techniscope
Duration(in mins):
106
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
21702
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Charly Gordon, a mentally disabled thirty-year-old with the mind of a child, works as a sweeper in a Boston, Massachusetts, bakery, where he is often the victim of cruel jokes made by co-workers whom he considers his best friends. In a fruitless attempt to better himself, he diligently attends evening classes taught by Alice Kinian. Touched and impressed by Charly's intense desire to learn, Alice arranges to have him examined by Dr. Richard Nemur, a neurosurgeon, and Dr. Anna Straus, a psychiatrist. The two doctors have surgically cured mentally defective mice and are looking for a human subject. In his initial tests, Charly scores lower than Algernon, a mouse; but after experimental surgery, Charley rapidly improves, and his operation is considered a success. He quits the bakery job to devote all of his time to his studies, and his mental capacity soon reaches genius proportions. Charly develops slower emotionally, however; and, misinterpreting Alice's attentions, he tries forcibly to make love to her. Shamed by the rebuff, Charly runs away and briefly assumes a hippie lifestyle. When he returns to resume his studies, he has clearly become a mature adult. Charly and Alice then realize that they are in love, and they spend an idyllic holiday together before Charly is scheduled to speak to a gathering of distinguished scientists. Before going on stage, however, Charly discovers that Algernon is dead, and the other experimental mice have begun to revert to their former mental states. Aware that he probably faces a similar fate, Charly startles the assembly with a bitter attack on modern civilization. Although Dr. Nemur and Dr. Straus desperately attempt to prevent his regression, it soon becomes apparent that ... +


Charly Gordon, a mentally disabled thirty-year-old with the mind of a child, works as a sweeper in a Boston, Massachusetts, bakery, where he is often the victim of cruel jokes made by co-workers whom he considers his best friends. In a fruitless attempt to better himself, he diligently attends evening classes taught by Alice Kinian. Touched and impressed by Charly's intense desire to learn, Alice arranges to have him examined by Dr. Richard Nemur, a neurosurgeon, and Dr. Anna Straus, a psychiatrist. The two doctors have surgically cured mentally defective mice and are looking for a human subject. In his initial tests, Charly scores lower than Algernon, a mouse; but after experimental surgery, Charley rapidly improves, and his operation is considered a success. He quits the bakery job to devote all of his time to his studies, and his mental capacity soon reaches genius proportions. Charly develops slower emotionally, however; and, misinterpreting Alice's attentions, he tries forcibly to make love to her. Shamed by the rebuff, Charly runs away and briefly assumes a hippie lifestyle. When he returns to resume his studies, he has clearly become a mature adult. Charly and Alice then realize that they are in love, and they spend an idyllic holiday together before Charly is scheduled to speak to a gathering of distinguished scientists. Before going on stage, however, Charly discovers that Algernon is dead, and the other experimental mice have begun to revert to their former mental states. Aware that he probably faces a similar fate, Charly startles the assembly with a bitter attack on modern civilization. Although Dr. Nemur and Dr. Straus desperately attempt to prevent his regression, it soon becomes apparent that their efforts are in vain. Finally recognizing defeat, Charly returns to his room to face it alone, despite Alice's pleas that she be allowed to remain with him. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.