Kinsey (2004)

R | 118 mins | Biography | 17 December 2004

THIS TITLE IS OUTSIDE THE AFI CATALOG OF FEATURE FILMS (1893-1993)
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Director:

Bill Condon

Writer:

Bill Condon

Producer:

Gail Mutrux

Cinematographer:

Frederick Elmes

Editor:

Virginia Katz

Production Designer:

Richard Sherman
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HISTORY

At the beginning of the film, black-and-white footage of “Alfred C. Kinsey,” played by Liam Neeson, training his three assistants on techniques for taking sex histories is interspersed with color footage of Kinsey’s early life as he answers their questions. Kinsey’s wife, “Clara ‘Mac’ McMillen,” played by Laura Linney, also appears in the interview footage, which continues for approximately the first twenty minutes of the film. The opening and ending cast credits vary slightly in order. As the end credits roll, black-and-white footage of animals mating, obtained from the Kinsey Institute, is shown.
       Among the individuals and groups thanked during the end credits are Indiana University, The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction and Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, the author of the book Sex, the Measure of All Things: A Life of Alfred C. Kinsey (Great Britain, 1998). According to the 2004 paperback edition of Gathorne-Hardy’s book, it was the “factual and intellectual backing” for the picture. Also thanked in the picture’s credits is documentary filmmaker Diane Ward, whose 1989 public television documentary, Sex and the Scientist , was used as source material for Kinsey . The film ends with a disclaimer noting that while it is “inspired by actual historical events,” “certain characters, events and dialogue” were fictionalized.
       As depicted in the film, Alfred C. Kinsey (23 Jun 1894—25 Aug 1956) first began his professional scientific career as a zoologist. At Indiana University (Bloomington), where he was a zoology professor, Kinsey met chemistry student and fellow nature enthusiast McMillen (Oct 1898—Apr 1982); the couple married in 1921. Known by colleagues as “Get a Million Kinsey” ... More Less

At the beginning of the film, black-and-white footage of “Alfred C. Kinsey,” played by Liam Neeson, training his three assistants on techniques for taking sex histories is interspersed with color footage of Kinsey’s early life as he answers their questions. Kinsey’s wife, “Clara ‘Mac’ McMillen,” played by Laura Linney, also appears in the interview footage, which continues for approximately the first twenty minutes of the film. The opening and ending cast credits vary slightly in order. As the end credits roll, black-and-white footage of animals mating, obtained from the Kinsey Institute, is shown.
       Among the individuals and groups thanked during the end credits are Indiana University, The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction and Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, the author of the book Sex, the Measure of All Things: A Life of Alfred C. Kinsey (Great Britain, 1998). According to the 2004 paperback edition of Gathorne-Hardy’s book, it was the “factual and intellectual backing” for the picture. Also thanked in the picture’s credits is documentary filmmaker Diane Ward, whose 1989 public television documentary, Sex and the Scientist , was used as source material for Kinsey . The film ends with a disclaimer noting that while it is “inspired by actual historical events,” “certain characters, events and dialogue” were fictionalized.
       As depicted in the film, Alfred C. Kinsey (23 Jun 1894—25 Aug 1956) first began his professional scientific career as a zoologist. At Indiana University (Bloomington), where he was a zoology professor, Kinsey met chemistry student and fellow nature enthusiast McMillen (Oct 1898—Apr 1982); the couple married in 1921. Known by colleagues as “Get a Million Kinsey” for his dedication to collecting gall wasp specimens, Kinsey, over twenty years of studying the insects, became one of the foremost entomologists and taxonomists in the country. Kinsey, nicknamed “Prok” by students at a summer camp at which he counseled, had four children with Mac. Their eldest child, Donald, died when he was four years old. [In a 17 Dec 2004 Entertainment Weekly article, writer-director Bill Condon stated that he did not include the death of Donald in the film in order to avoid making Kinsey appear “warmer and fuzzier.”] Although the picture presents a semi-reconciliation between Kinsey and his father when Kinsey takes his father’s sex history, in real life, Kinsey rarely saw his father after arguing with him over his decision to become a biologist instead of an engineer. After Kinsey, Sr. divorced his wife in order to marry another woman in 1930, Kinsey ceased all contact with him.
       In 1938, when students began demanding more informative sex education, Kinsey taught the biology portion of the first “marriage course” at Indiana University and became interested in studying human sexual behavior. Although it was not shown in the film, civic and religious groups, as well as jealous colleagues, protested when Kinsey began taking the sexual histories of the marriage class students. In 1940, Indiana University president Herman Wells, despite his support of Kinsey, was forced to ask the scientist to choose between teaching the course or taking histories. Kinsey stopped teaching the class, although it was continued by other professors.
       Kinsey developed a specialized interview technique to address an average of 300 questions about more than 200 different types of sexual behavior. Along with his three main assistants—Clyde Martin, Wardell Pomeroy and Paul Gebhard—Kinsey used an elaborate written code, the key to which was known only to themselves, to record the answers of the thousands of people whom they interviewed. Kinsey’s goal was to obtain 100,000 histories over the course of twenty years, which he intended to use in nine books detailing different aspects of human sexuality.
       Kinsey’s first volume, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male , was published in 1948 to enormous critical and popular acclaim. Kinsey’s second book about sex, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female , was published in 1953. Although it, too, initially received good reviews and was well-received by the public, a huge backlash, largely led by religious and conservative groups, enveloped Kinsey in a storm of controversy. As shown in the film, the Rockefeller Foundation, which had funded Kinsey for thirteen years through the National Research Council, withdrew its financial support, leaving Kinsey scrambling to keep afloat the Institute for Sex Research (ISR), which he had founded in 1947.
       Among the financial drains on the ISR was the lawsuit it was involved with against the U.S. Customs Department. The suit began in 1950 when the Customs Dept., declaring that the material was “grossly obscene,” seized a shipment of erotica that Kinsey had imported to add to the institute’s massive collection of erotic literature, art, photographs and artifacts. The case, which dragged on until after Kinsey’s death, was won by the institute in Jul 1957, when a federal district court judge ruled that explicit materials collected solely for scholarly research could not be considered pornographic.
       Although Kinsey's free thinking and sexual practices, which included having numerous affairs with both women and men, such as Martin and Pomeroy, have spurred ongoing controversy, he is also widely commended for his nonjudgmental attitude toward his subjects, his progressive scientific and interviewing methods and his urging of tolerance toward homosexuality, which his statistics attempted to show was a normal part of human sexuality. By the time of his death, Kinsey had laid the groundwork for several more volumes and numerous studies. From 1938 to 1963, when the interview project ceased, the institute gathered more than 18,000 histories, a third of which had been taken personally by Kinsey. The ISR was renamed the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction in 1982 and continues to use Kinsey’s huge reservoir of data.
       The idea of making a film about Kinsey first appealed to producer Gail Mutrux in late 1995, according to a 6 Dec 1995 HR news item. At that time, Mutrux intended to produce the project with partner Katie Jacobs and co-producer Amanda Nelligan at Fox 2000. Mutrux purchased a script about Kinsey from screenwriter David Ives in Dec 1995, although later news items reported that Ives’s work was not used in the final film. According to a 12 Jan 2005 LAT article, in 1996, Mutrux signed Tom Fontana, with whom she had worked on the television show Homicide: Life on the Street , to write a script for Kinsey . The article stated that Fontana dropped out of the project before "handing in a completed draft...because his TV responsibilities were too consuming."
       In Dec 1999, HR announced that Mutrux had signed Bill Condon to work on the project, which was to be based on Gathorne-Hardy’s biography of Kinsey as well as Ward’s documentary. The article stated that Fox 2000 vice-president Ashley Kramer was “overseeing the project for the studio” at that time. An Oct 2002 DV article noted that Condon “based his original screenplay on elements in the [Gathorne-Hardy] biography combined with his own original research on Kinsey,” and that he had spent more than a year working on the script. It was also stated that Myriad Pictures official Lucas Foster would serve as an executive producer along with Kirk D’Amico. Although D’Amico is credited onscreen, Foster’s contribution to the completed picture, if any, has not been determined.
       In Jan 2003, the website for the Indiana University student paper, www.idsnews.com, reported that Condon first approached George Clooney to play Kinsey, and after Clooney turned down the part, actors Ralph Fiennes, Jeff Bridges and Michael Douglas were considered before Liam Neeson was cast. The Oct 2002 DV article reported that actor Ian McKellen, who had worked with Condon on the 1998 Academy Award-winning film Gods and Monsters , was “in negotiations to play a composite of real characters as the film’s host.” On his personal website, McKellen noted in Jun 2004 that although he had wanted to appear in the film, the supporting character he was to play, based on Kinsey colleague Clarence A. Tripp, was dropped before filming began. According to studio press notes, Tripp was one of “scores of people who had known and worked with Kinsey” whom Condon interviewed while researching the picture.
       Several 2002 DV and HR news items reported that the film, which encountered funding difficulties, initially was to be distributed domestically by United Artists, which had a distribution deal with executive producer Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope company, one of Kinsey ’s financial backers. A 25 Feb 2002 HR article stated that the film’s budget was to be capped at ten million dollars in accordance with Zoetrope’s pact with UA. The deal for UA to distribute the picture eventually fell through, although Myriad Pictures, another financial backer, stayed on to distribute the picture internationally. Mutrux took the project to Fox Searchlight Pictures and the English company Qwerty Films to obtain domestic distribution and additional financing, according to a Jul 2003 DV report. The Jan 2005 LAT article adds that Mutrux and her husband, producer Tony Ganz, invested their own money in the project, which "was rejected by 87 studios and film companies" before Mutrux finalized the complicated financing.
       Many of the crew, such as editor Virginia Katz, music composer Carter Burwell, production designer Richard Sherman and costume designer Bruce Finlayson, had previously worked with Condon on Gods and Monsters . Actors Liam Neeson and Laura Linney had appeared together in a 2002 Broadway revival of the play The Crucible , and in several interviews, credited their previous close working relationship with their ease in filming Kinsey . According to studio press notes, as well as information on the Kinsey Institute website, Condon, Neeson and Sherman visited the Indiana University campus where they toured the institute’s collections and conducted more interviews of people who had known Kinsey and his colleagues.
       In studio press notes, Condon explained that he deliberately chose not to identify the film’s time periods overtly with “title cards or superimposed dates” in order to “achieve an almost timeless quality in the later parts of the film—to convey the idea that in some ways things haven’t changed at all.” According to the presskit, the picture was shot on location in New York and New Jersey. Among the key locations in New York were Fordham University, Bronx Community College and Columbia University’s historic Havemeyer lecture hall. New Jersey locations included a nineteenth-century house in Plainfield that served as the Kinsey family home and a building at Letchworth Village in Stony Point that was transformed into Kinsey’s laboratory. Due to the film’s tight budget, Burwell’s music score was recorded with only eleven musicians, according to the presskit.
       Much controversy engulfed the picture both during production and after its release. Numerous conservative and religious groups attempted to influence the filmmakers not to make the picture, according to trade and newspaper reports. New York public television station WNET refused to run an advertisement for the film upon its release, claiming that it could not “risk viewer complaints,” according to a 22 Nov 2004 DV news item. Some groups, such as Focus on the Family and the Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute, threatened to picket the film and also urged their members to boycott all Fox releases for one year.
       Despite the contentiousness surrounding the film, Kinsey garnered excellent reviews, with Time calling it “a smart social satire masquerading as a biopic,” and HR terming it a “lively, beautifully written and acted portrait.” Neeson and Linney were both highly praised for their acting. LAT asserted that the role represented Neeson’s “most fully realized performance,” and the NYT critic added that Linney played her role with “forthrightness, delicacy and a brisk sense of mischief.” Actress Lynn Redgrave, who is Neeson’s wife's aunt, also received excellent notices for her cameo as Kinsey’s final interview subject. Laura Linney’s father, playwright Romulus Linney, appears in the picture as “Rep. B. Carroll Reece.” While also lauding the film’s factual accuracy, a number of reviewers commented on its political and cultural timeliness, with the Village Voice calling it “one [of] the year’s most politically relevant movies.”
       In addition to being named one of the top ten films of the year by AFI, Kinsey was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture—Drama and an Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature. Other Independent Spirit nominations included Best Screenplay, Best Male Lead (Neeson) and Best Supporting Male (Peter Sarsgaard) Neeson and Linney also received Golden Globe nominations for their acting, with Linney being named Best Supporting Actress of the year by the National Board of Review and receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and a nomination for Female Actor in a Supporting Role by the Screen Actors Guild. Neeson was also cited as Best Actor of the year by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Bill Condon received a Best Original Screenplay nomination from the Writers Guild. Time , Newsweek and NYT were among the other organizations naming Kinsey one of the top ten films of 2004, and according to the 12 Jan 2005 LAT article, over 110 groups placed the film on their top ten lists. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Chicago Sun-Times
14 Nov 2004.
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Daily Variety
30 Oct 2002
p. 1, 42.
Daily Variety
10 Jul 2003.
---
Daily Variety
14 Jul 2003.
---
Daily Variety
8 Sep 2004
p. 3, 21.
Daily Variety
11 Nov 2004
p. 1, 14.
Daily Variety
15 Nov 2004
p. 1, 36.
Daily Variety
22 Nov 2004.
---
Entertainment Weekly
20/27 Aug 2004
p. 72.
Entertainment Weekly
12 Nov 2004
pp. 50-54.
Entertainment Weekly
26 Nov 2004
pp. 87-88.
Entertainment Weekly
17 Dec 2004
pp. 11-12.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Dec 1995
p. 3, 23.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 1999
p. 1, 18.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Feb 2002
p. 8, 34.
Hollywood Reporter
22-28 Jul 2003
p. 54.
Hollywood Reporter
7-13 Oct 2003
p. 36.
Hollywood Reporter
14-20 Oct 2003
p. 25.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 2004
p. 12, 16.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Nov 2004.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4-10 Jan 2005
p. 109.
Indiana Daily News
10 Jan 2003.
---
Los Angeles Times
6 Jun 2003.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 Nov 2004
Calendar, p. 1, 22.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jan 2005
Calendar, p. 1, 14.
Movieline
Nov 2004
pp. 102-103.
New York Times
3 Oct 2004
p. 1, 20.
New York Times
9 Nov 2004.
---
New York Times
12 Nov 2004
Arts, p. 1, 20.
New York Times
12 Dec 2004.
---
Newsweek
8 Nov 2004.
---
People
22 Nov 2004.
---
People
29 Nov 2004
p. 31.
The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KT)
5 Jun 2003.
---
The Sunday Times (London)
26 Sep 2004.
---
The Sunday Times (London)
10 Oct 2004.
---
Time
22 Nov 2004.
---
Variety
13 Sep 2004
p. 40, 51.
Variety
11 Oct 2004
p. 3, 15.
Variety
15 Nov 2004.
---
Village Voice
3-9 Nov 2004
p. 36.
Village Voice
10-16 Nov 2004
Section C, p. 53.
WSJ
12 Nov 2004.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Bill Condon Film
In Association with Qwerty Films a N1 European Film Produktions GmbH & Co. KG; A Bill Condon Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Prod exec for N1 and Qwerty Films
Prod exec for N1 and Qwerty Films
Prod exec for N1
Exec in charge of prod for N1
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Rigging gaffer
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Rigging grip
Company grip
Company grip
Company grip
Company grip
Company grip
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Steadicam op
Steadicam op
Cable person
Cable person
Video playback
Best boy elec
Company elec
Company elec
Company elec
Company elec
Rigging best boy
Rigging best boy
Genny op
Genny op
Anamorphic lenses provided by
Cameras and lighting provided by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept coord
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Editorial prod asst
Editorial prod asst
Film dailies by
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadman
Set dresser
Set dresser
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Const foreman
Greensperson
Scenic foreman
Scenic foreman
Set scenic
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Men's cost supv
Women's cost supv
MUSIC
Mus/Orch and cond
Mus supv
Mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
Score rec
Musician contractor
Mus prepared by
Score prod mgr
Musician
Musician
Musician
Musician
Musician
Musician
Musician
Musician
Musician
Musician
Musician
Mus clearances
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom person
Supv sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
1st asst sd ed
Apprentice ed
Sd des & editorial
Supv ADR & dial ed
Dial ed
Foley supv
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Foley ed
ADR ed--New York
ADR ed--New York
ADR mixer--Los Angeles
ADR mixer--New York
ADR rec--Los Angeles
ADR rec--New York
ADR stage--Los Angeles
ADR stage--New York
VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual eff supv
Visual eff prod
Graphic artist
Spec eff
Digital visual eff and titles by
Senior digital compositor
Digital compositor
Digital compositor
Digital ed
Digital ed
MAKEUP
Makeup for Mr. Neeson
Makeup for Ms. Linney
Key makeup artist
Addl makeup artist
Spec eff makeup artist
Key hairstylist
Key hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Casting asst
Casting asst
Voice casting
Unit prod mgr
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Post prod supv
Post prod supv
Prod coord
Prod coord
Prod coord, for Qwerty Films
Asst prod coord
Pre and post prod consultant on behalf of N1
Asst to Mr. Condon
Asst to Ms. Mutrux
Asst to Ms. Mutrux
Asst to Mr. Guay
Asst to Mr. Kuhn
Prod accountant
1st accountant
Payroll accountant
Post prod accountant
Head of commercial and bus affairs, for Qwerty Fil
Chief financial officer, for Qwerty Films
Collection account management
Prod secy
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Intern
Dialect coach
Unit pub
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Craft service
Film researcher
Film researcher
Animal footage courtesy of
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animals supplied by
Head of legal affairs, for Qwerty Films
Prod legal counsel
Prod legal counsel
Prod legal counsel
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
MUSIC
Etudes, Opus 25, written by Fryderyk Chopin, performed by Idil Biret, courtesy of Naxos of North American, Inc.
String Quartet in G Major, K.80 Allegro, written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Eder Quartet, courtesy of Naxos of North America, Inc.
"Top of the Plaza" and "I Love Penny Sue," written and performed by Daniel May, published by Revision West (BMI), courtesy of Marc Ferrari/Mastersource
+
MUSIC
Etudes, Opus 25, written by Fryderyk Chopin, performed by Idil Biret, courtesy of Naxos of North American, Inc.
String Quartet in G Major, K.80 Allegro, written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Eder Quartet, courtesy of Naxos of North America, Inc.
"Top of the Plaza" and "I Love Penny Sue," written and performed by Daniel May, published by Revision West (BMI), courtesy of Marc Ferrari/Mastersource
Violin Concerto in D Minor, Opus 47 Allegro Moderato, written by Jean Sibelius, performed by Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Leonidas Kavakos, Violin/Conducted by Osmo Vanska, published by Zimmerman Publishers, courtesy of Bis Records AB
Violin Concerto #3, D Minor, Opus 58, written by Max Bruch, performed by James Ehnes/Montreal Symphony, courtesy of CBC Records/Les Disques SRC
"Lindy Hop," written by Linda Martinez, courtesy of 5 Alarm Music.
+
SONGS
"Too Darn Hot," written by Cole Porter, performed by Ella Fitzgerald, published by Chappell & Co (ASCAP), courtesy of Polygram Records, Inc./Universal Music Enterprises
"Fever," written by John Davenport and Eddie Cooley, performed by Little Willie John, published by Fort Knox Music, Inc. and Windswept Pacific, courtesy of King Records
"Dixie Swing," written by Stephen Lang, Jamie Dunlap and Scott Nickoley, performed by Molly Pasutti, published by Revision West (BMI) and Red Engine Music (ASCAP), courtesy of Marc Ferrari/Mastersource
+
SONGS
"Too Darn Hot," written by Cole Porter, performed by Ella Fitzgerald, published by Chappell & Co (ASCAP), courtesy of Polygram Records, Inc./Universal Music Enterprises
"Fever," written by John Davenport and Eddie Cooley, performed by Little Willie John, published by Fort Knox Music, Inc. and Windswept Pacific, courtesy of King Records
"Dixie Swing," written by Stephen Lang, Jamie Dunlap and Scott Nickoley, performed by Molly Pasutti, published by Revision West (BMI) and Red Engine Music (ASCAP), courtesy of Marc Ferrari/Mastersource
"I'm Tired of You," written and performed by Martin Blasick, published by Lavish Music (BMI): "Better Things to Do," written by Stephen Lang, Jamie Dunlap and Scott Nickoley, performed by Kacee Clanton, published by Revision West (BMI) and Red Engine Music (ASCAP), courtesy of Marc Ferrari/Mastersource.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
17 December 2004
Premiere Information:
Telluride Film Festival: 4 September 2004
Toronto International Film Festival: 12 September 2004
Los Angeles and New York openings: 12 November 2004
Production Date:
28 July--mid October 2003
Copyright Claimants:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation N1 European Film Produktions, GmbH & Co. KG
Copyright Dates:
15 November 2004 15 November 2004
Copyright Numbers:
PA0001246114 PA0001246114
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby in selected theatres
Color
with b&w seq; Duart Color
Lenses/Prints
Kodak Motion Picture Film; color prints by Deluxe Laboratories
Duration(in mins):
118
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
40544
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

While Alfred C. Kinsey, a zoology professor at Indiana University, trains three assistants to interview people for a new study, their questions prompt him to recount his life: Throughout his childhood, Kinsey, his mother Sara, brother Robert and sister Mildred are dominated by his strict, bullying father, Alfred Seguine Kinsey. During his Sunday school lectures, the elder Kinsey, a devout Methodist and college professor, rails against any sort of immorality. As a boy Kinsey suffers from debilitating illnesses and it is not until a doctor prescribes walks in the woods that he recovers his health. Kinsey discovers a passionate love of biology on his hikes, which enable him to escape the stifling atmosphere at home. One day, the teenaged Kinsey, now an Eagle Scout, confesses to a friend that although he wants to study biology, his father has decreed that he become an engineer. Kinsey’s unhappiness is heightened by his sexual frustration, as his religious upbringing has made him feel ashamed of all sexual urges, including masturbation. Finally, unable to bear his father’s inflexible code of morality, Kinsey lashes out, announcing that he has quit the college at which his father teaches. Although his father pronounces him a disappointment, Kinsey thrives and becomes an assistant zoology professor at Indiana University, where over the years he amasses a huge collection of gall wasps and becomes a renowned entomologist. During one of his lectures, his enthusiasm for his subject piques the curiosity of student Clara “Mac” McMillen. Mac approaches the socially awkward Kinsey one afternoon, and later, as he fixes her a picnic, he shyly relates that his graduate students have nicknamed ... +


While Alfred C. Kinsey, a zoology professor at Indiana University, trains three assistants to interview people for a new study, their questions prompt him to recount his life: Throughout his childhood, Kinsey, his mother Sara, brother Robert and sister Mildred are dominated by his strict, bullying father, Alfred Seguine Kinsey. During his Sunday school lectures, the elder Kinsey, a devout Methodist and college professor, rails against any sort of immorality. As a boy Kinsey suffers from debilitating illnesses and it is not until a doctor prescribes walks in the woods that he recovers his health. Kinsey discovers a passionate love of biology on his hikes, which enable him to escape the stifling atmosphere at home. One day, the teenaged Kinsey, now an Eagle Scout, confesses to a friend that although he wants to study biology, his father has decreed that he become an engineer. Kinsey’s unhappiness is heightened by his sexual frustration, as his religious upbringing has made him feel ashamed of all sexual urges, including masturbation. Finally, unable to bear his father’s inflexible code of morality, Kinsey lashes out, announcing that he has quit the college at which his father teaches. Although his father pronounces him a disappointment, Kinsey thrives and becomes an assistant zoology professor at Indiana University, where over the years he amasses a huge collection of gall wasps and becomes a renowned entomologist. During one of his lectures, his enthusiasm for his subject piques the curiosity of student Clara “Mac” McMillen. Mac approaches the socially awkward Kinsey one afternoon, and later, as he fixes her a picnic, he shyly relates that his graduate students have nicknamed him “Prok,” an abbreviation of Professor Kinsey. Soon Kinsey falls in love with Mac, an intelligent “free-thinker” who enjoys nature and biology. Kinsey is crushed when Mac does not accept his marriage proposal, telling him that she finds him “too churchy,” but eventually Mac changes her mind and they are married. On their wedding night, the two virgins are so sexually unaware that their attempt to consummate their marriage is a dismal failure. The next evening, while they dine with Kinsey’s parents, Mac tries to defend her husband against his father’s belittling by revealing that his new biology textbook is used throughout the country. Later that night, Kinsey’s laughter over his father turns to tears, and Mac comforts him by telling him how much she loves him. Suddenly realizing that they can overcome their sexual difficulties by consulting an expert, Kinsey jumps out of bed and packs their suitcases. Soon after, a doctor explains that Mac’s thick hymen impeded their union, and after the problem is corrected, the couple enjoy an active, joyful sex life. Their first daughter, Anne, is born in 1923, and by the time their children Joan and Bruce are born, Kinsey and Mac have cemented their firm partnership. Kinsey becomes known throughout the university for offering advice about sex to married students, and one afternoon, is amazed by the ignorance of a couple who come to him for help. When Kinsey discusses the situation with Mac, he blames societal misconceptions about sex on the lack of scientific studies on the subject. That evening, the university’s new president, Herman Wells, hosts a party celebrating the publication of Kinsey’s new book about gall wasps and Kinsey grimly realizes from Herman’s inability to grasp the subject how overly specialized his work of twenty years has been. During the party, Kinsey upbraids his colleague, Dr. Thurman Rice, for the ineffectualness of his hygiene course and tells Herman that the university must offer a class on sexuality. Although Herman is cautious, after he attends one of Rice’s insipid lectures, he agrees to Kinsey’s suggestion. Soon Kinsey’s lecture hall is overflowing with students eager to take his “marriage course,” during which he offers basic biology instruction and frank information about sex. Especially impressed by Kinsey’s dynamic, nonjudgmental attitude is student Clyde Martin, who becomes Kinsey’s assistant. Kinsey asks his students to fill out questionaires in order to build statistical data about the sex lives of typical Americans, and Clyde, who is open about his past relationships with both men and women, suggests that people would be more willing to confide their secrets to him if he were to talk to them confidentially rather than ask them to commit their private lives to paper. Clyde’s suggestion inspires Kinsey to approach different groups in person, and one evening, after Clyde and Kinsey have visited a bar for homosexuals in Chicago as part of their study, Clyde asks Kinsey about his own feelings toward homosexuality. Kinsey admits that as he has gotten older, he realizes that he is bisexual, then responds passionately when Clyde kisses him. Kinsey, not wishing to keep anything from Mac, tells her of his affair with the younger man, and although Mac is hurt, she realizes that she has always been aware of Kinsey’s possible bisexuality. As their work progresses, Clyde becomes a member of the family as his affair with Kinsey continues until one day, he announces that he would like to sleep with Mac instead. Forced to prove his belief that sex does not have to involve love nor interfere with it, Kinsey accepts Mac’s new relationship with Clyde. In class, Kinsey continues to lecture that it is injurious to allow religious morality to dictate what is considered “normal.” In order to expand his studies, Kinsey seeks a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, and despite the initial reluctance of administrator Alan Gregg, the grant is secured and Kinsey hires two scientists, Wardell Pomeroy and Paul Gebhard. Kinsey trains them and Clyde in how to take sexual histories using a specialized code that only they can decipher. Using a nonjudgmental, friendly approach, they spend several years amassing thousands of sex histories throughout the United States, and in 1948, Kinsey’s groundbreaking book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male , is published. Kinsey is lauded for his enlightening work, although Alan cautions him when the scientist calls for the reformation of laws governing sex acts. Alan also expresses concern about Kinsey’s new studies into female sexuality, and Kinsey admits that he and his team have been using movie and still cameras to record sex acts. Unknown to Alan, Kinsey encourages his assistants and their wives to experiment with different partners, and Kinsey and Mac also participate in the movies recording sexual encounters. When the Rockefeller Foundation gives him another grant, Kinsey establishes the Institute for Sex Research at the university, but after his companion book about female sexuality is published, Kinsey is vilified by academics and the public. Baffled by the hypocrisy, Kinsey is further infuriated when U.S. Customs seizes a shipment of erotic images and artifacts that he has bought for the institute’s collection. As the government begins to investigate rumors that Kinsey is involved with Communists, he must battle the Customs department in an expensive court case. Desperate to distance the foundation from Kinsey, Alan discontinues his grant, while Herman is unable to obtain funding for Kinsey from the university’s board of trustees. Disillusioned and overworked, Kinsey suffers a heart attack. As Mac helps him recuperate, she continues to encourage him, although he laments that he cannot help the thousands of people who still write to him seeking advice. Kinsey and Mac travel to San Francisco to meet grocery store heir Huntington Hartford, but the eccentric millionaire refuses to fund Kinsey’s research for further volumes, declaring that it is too controversial. The next morning, Kinsey takes one last sex history before leaving, and the woman he interviews describes her despair upon realizing that she was attracted to another woman. After reading Kinsey’s book on female sexuality, however, she says, she realized that there were many women like her and consequently has been in a committed relationship with another woman for three years. When she thanks him for saving her life, Kinsey realizes how valuable his work has been. Kinsey and Mac then stop in a redwood forest on their way to the airport, and Kinsey, re-energized by the woman’s story, as well as by his love for nature and Mac, tells his wife that they have much work left to do. +

Legend
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Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award
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.