Ash Wednesday (1973)

R | 95 or 99-100 mins | Drama | November 1973

Director:

Larry Peerce

Producer:

Dominick Dunne

Cinematographer:

Ennio Guarnieri

Editor:

Marion Rothman

Production Designer:

Philip Abramson

Production Company:

Sagittarius Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

The opening credits feature a montage of sepia-toned photographs that chronicle the marriage of "Barbara" and "Mark Sawyer." Many of the photos were actual photographs of Elizabeth Taylor with her various real-life husbands, with a young Henry Fonda’s image superimposed over theirs. The photos blur the twenty-seven-year age difference between the stars, making them appear as contemporaries. The following written acknowledgement appears in the closing credits: "A special acknowledgement to: Valentino Men's Boutique; Valentino Più; Carlo Palazzi; Soxil, S.P.A. for Medical Equipment; El Bestiario for Art Objects; Annamode for Mardi-Gras Costumes.”
       Sep 1972 DV and HR news items indicated that the film would be a Rastar Production, but there is no further indication of Rastar’s involvement. According to a Mar 1973 HR item, actor John Van Dreelen withdrew from the production due to scheduling conflicts. Ash Wednesday marked the only feature film appearance of Kathy Van Lypps. A May 1973 HR item noted that screenwriter Jean-Claude Tramont would be the associate producer, but he was not credited as such onscreen.
       The first portion of Ash Wednesday features graphic surgical footage that many reviews remarked was likely to upset audiences and led to the film's R rating. The NYT review noted that the surgery, performed by the film's technical advisor, Dr. Rodolphe Troques, demonstrated the removal of subcutaneous tissue, but the removed tissue shown onscreen was actually chicken fat. HR production charts added Jack Repp and Eva Maria Meinecke to the cast. According to a Sep 1972 DV news item, Ash ... More Less

The opening credits feature a montage of sepia-toned photographs that chronicle the marriage of "Barbara" and "Mark Sawyer." Many of the photos were actual photographs of Elizabeth Taylor with her various real-life husbands, with a young Henry Fonda’s image superimposed over theirs. The photos blur the twenty-seven-year age difference between the stars, making them appear as contemporaries. The following written acknowledgement appears in the closing credits: "A special acknowledgement to: Valentino Men's Boutique; Valentino Più; Carlo Palazzi; Soxil, S.P.A. for Medical Equipment; El Bestiario for Art Objects; Annamode for Mardi-Gras Costumes.”
       Sep 1972 DV and HR news items indicated that the film would be a Rastar Production, but there is no further indication of Rastar’s involvement. According to a Mar 1973 HR item, actor John Van Dreelen withdrew from the production due to scheduling conflicts. Ash Wednesday marked the only feature film appearance of Kathy Van Lypps. A May 1973 HR item noted that screenwriter Jean-Claude Tramont would be the associate producer, but he was not credited as such onscreen.
       The first portion of Ash Wednesday features graphic surgical footage that many reviews remarked was likely to upset audiences and led to the film's R rating. The NYT review noted that the surgery, performed by the film's technical advisor, Dr. Rodolphe Troques, demonstrated the removal of subcutaneous tissue, but the removed tissue shown onscreen was actually chicken fat. HR production charts added Jack Repp and Eva Maria Meinecke to the cast. According to a Sep 1972 DV news item, Ash Wednesday was shot on location in the Italian Alps, Cortina and Rome. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Dec 1973
p. 4646.
Daily Variety
25 Sep 1972.
---
Daily Variety
28 Feb 1973.
---
Daily Variety
14 Mar 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 1973
p. 40.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Mar 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1973
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Nov 1973.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
21 Nov 1973.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Nov 1973
Section IV, p. 1, 12.
New York Times
22 Nov 1973
p. 50.
Variety
21 Nov 1973
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Larry Peerce-Dominick Dunne Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Italian asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Key grip
Stillman
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
COSTUMES
Elizabeth Taylor's cost
Miss Taylor's Mardi Gras cost
Furs by
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des
MAKEUP
Miss Taylor's makeup
Miss Taylor's coiffures by
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Casting
Scr supv
Prod's asst
Prod asst
Auditor
Tech adv on plastic surgery
Centre Chiruagical de Vincennes, Paris
SOURCES
SONGS
"Ruby," words and music by Heinz Roemheld and Mitchell Parrish, sung by Ray Charles
"The Nearness of You," words by Ned Washington, music by Hoagy Carmichael, sung by Jerry Wright
"Moonlight Becomes You," words by Johnny Burke, music by James Van Heusen
+
SONGS
"Ruby," words and music by Heinz Roemheld and Mitchell Parrish, sung by Ray Charles
"The Nearness of You," words by Ned Washington, music by Hoagy Carmichael, sung by Jerry Wright
"Moonlight Becomes You," words by Johnny Burke, music by James Van Heusen
"Samba De Orfeu," words by Luis Bonfa, music by Maria Antonio
"How Can I Tell Her" and "Almost in Your Arms," words and music by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
"Snow Rock," words and music by David Shire.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
November 1973
Premiere Information:
New York and Los Angeles openings: 21 November 1973
Production Date:
12 March--early June 1973 in Italy
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corp. and Sagittarius Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 November 1973
Copyright Number:
LP42937
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
95 or 99-100
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
Italy, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
23783
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At a private Swiss medical clinic, middle-aged Barbara Sawyer briefly reconsiders her decision to have plastic surgery to smooth out her puffy, wrinkled features and restore her trim figure. Considering her husband of thirty years, Mark, Barbara proceeds with the excruciating procedures. During the long recovery period, Barbara grows friendly with fellow patient David Carrington, a fashion photographer who admits that he has had numerous procedures over the years to maintain the ageless appearance necessary in his field. Although Barbara confesses she does not believe she could endure the experience again, David assures her she will return regularly. As Barbara begins healing, she tells David about Mark and expresses concern that she is unable to contact him at their home just outside of Detroit. When David asks where Mark believes she is, Barbara admits she told him she needed a rest cure, and frets about her dishonesty. As the six-week recovery period ends, Barbara agrees to undertake a regimen of cell treatments and commits to a healthier lifestyle in order to allow the treatments the best possibility of working. Awed by Barbara’s restored beauty, David laughs at her matronly wardrobe and gives it to the delighted nurse before taking Barbara shopping. On David’s advice, she makes plans to meet Mark at a resort in Cortina, Italy. On the drive to the resort, Barbara picks up two young, stranded Italian men going to the same resort and is pleased when they compliment her looks. With Mark scheduled to arrive on the following weekend, Barbara spends the first days at the resort alone. While walking around the hotel ... +


At a private Swiss medical clinic, middle-aged Barbara Sawyer briefly reconsiders her decision to have plastic surgery to smooth out her puffy, wrinkled features and restore her trim figure. Considering her husband of thirty years, Mark, Barbara proceeds with the excruciating procedures. During the long recovery period, Barbara grows friendly with fellow patient David Carrington, a fashion photographer who admits that he has had numerous procedures over the years to maintain the ageless appearance necessary in his field. Although Barbara confesses she does not believe she could endure the experience again, David assures her she will return regularly. As Barbara begins healing, she tells David about Mark and expresses concern that she is unable to contact him at their home just outside of Detroit. When David asks where Mark believes she is, Barbara admits she told him she needed a rest cure, and frets about her dishonesty. As the six-week recovery period ends, Barbara agrees to undertake a regimen of cell treatments and commits to a healthier lifestyle in order to allow the treatments the best possibility of working. Awed by Barbara’s restored beauty, David laughs at her matronly wardrobe and gives it to the delighted nurse before taking Barbara shopping. On David’s advice, she makes plans to meet Mark at a resort in Cortina, Italy. On the drive to the resort, Barbara picks up two young, stranded Italian men going to the same resort and is pleased when they compliment her looks. With Mark scheduled to arrive on the following weekend, Barbara spends the first days at the resort alone. While walking around the hotel and shopping in the village, Barbara is continually taken aback upon seeing her own reflection in windows and mirrors, then gradually grows accustomed to the return of her beauty. At dinner one evening, a handsome young man looks admiringly at Barbara as she sits alone. Later, when the young man and his date quarrel and the woman walks out, he and Barbara exchange a brief laugh. The next day, Barbara receives a telephone call from Mark, explaining that business has delayed him in Washington, D.C. With a poor long-distance connection, Barbara is unable to learn exactly when Mark will be arriving. Disappointed, Barbara continues her solitary holiday, then telephones her daughter Kate, who lives in Paris, to invite her to join her in Cortina. Kate declines and encourages her mother to enjoy her trip. The next night at dinner, the handsome young man, Erich, introduces himself and asks to join Barbara. Initially hesitant, Barbara agrees and the couple enjoys a long, amiable meal. When the check arrives, however, Barbara is offended when Erich pointedly ignores it, and after signing for the bill, she departs, irritated. The following day, while departing a church service, Barbara runs into David, who is on a fashion-shoot. Determined to lift Barbara’s spirits, David takes her to a dance club that evening and the next day photographs her using a ski race as the background. At a private party the next night, Barbara notices Erich, whom David describes as a failed competitive skier. Abruptly annoyed by David’s catty observations, Barbara approaches Erich and the two spend the evening dancing and talking. Later, they kiss passionately outside under a gazebo, but Barbara refuses to allow Erich to come to her room. The next morning, as David teases Barbara for refusing Erich, she receives a telegram from Kate announcing her change of plans and intention to join her mother. Advising Barbara that an adult daughter will ruin her holiday, David sends Barbara to the airport to intercept Kate. At the airport, Barbara welcomes Kate, who responds enthusiastically to her mother’s rejuvenated looks. At lunch, Barbara reassures Kate that she is not depressed and has made friends at the resort. Applauding her mother’s uncharacteristic display of independence, Kate then reveals she learned from Mark about a longtime affair he has had with a younger woman, whom he wishes to marry. Unhappy that Mark has revealed this to Kate, Barbara admits she has never loved anyone but Mark and although she thought of sleeping with Erich, she felt nothing for him. Kate encourages Barbara to make herself happy and, realizing that her company might interfere with her mother’s burgeoning new life, Kate decides on her own to return to Paris. Back at the resort, Barbara attends another party with David and again, spends the evening with Erich, this time allowing him to spend the night in her room. The next morning, Barbara shyly admits she has not had sex in a very long time, which amazes Erich. When Barbara asks if he cares for her, Erich tells her that she is married and clearly still in love with her husband. Having received notice from Mark of his arrival at last, Barbara eagerly meets him at the train station. Revealing that she was uncertain if he would ever return to her, Barbara welcomes him warmly and asks for his reaction to her surgery. Although complimentary and flattered when, at dinner, Barbara presents him with a platinum watch, Mark remains polite and distant. The next night at a party at the resort, Barbara and Mark dance together affectionately. Later, after chatting briefly with Erich, Barbara asks Mark if he would believe she had slept with Erich, and he laughs and admits he would not. Walking back to their room, Barbara asks Mark to join her singing, and he reluctantly agrees. At the hotel, Mark takes a phone call from work, but does not provide Barbara much detail. When she observes that he has always been uncommunicative, he abruptly states that they cannot live in the past. Mark then calls everything in his current life a charade and reveals his law firm has lost a large account and he does not care. He declares that after working for thirty years he wants to live and asks Barbara if she believes he deserves that. Confessing she only wants his happiness, Barbara is distressed when Mark says that they have changed and no longer fulfill each other’s needs and asks for a divorce. Deeply hurt, Barbara accuses him of only wanting a younger woman and points out her surgical scars, insisting that she only underwent the experience for him. Assuring her that she is always beautiful to him, Mark tells Barbara that she is strong enough to build a new life without him and he will always be there for her. Devastated to realize she has genuinely lost Mark, Barbara weeps. The next day, Barbara bids Mark farewell at the train station and, after wishing him happiness, turns and walks away. +

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

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