I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977)

R | 94 mins | Drama | 14 July 1977

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HISTORY

       Actress Pamela Seamon is credited onscreen as Pamela “Seaman.” Danny Elfman is credited as “Dan” Elfman. The first name of sound mixer Arthur A. Names is misspelled “Authur.”
       Three years after the 1964 publication of I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, a novel by Joanna Greenberg written under the pseudonym “Hannah Green,” a 15 Jun 1967 LAT news item announced that Columbia Pictures was developing a screen adaptation to be written by David Rayfiel. Actress Natalie Wood was cast and production was scheduled to begin in early 1968, with Al Wasserman as producer and Sydney Pollack directing. Nearly one year after the projected start date, a 15 Nov 1968 Var brief stated that the film, which had yet to begin principal photography, would mark Wood’s debut as a producer, as she had been hired to collaborate with Wasserman. Mark Rydell had replaced Pollack as director earlier that year, as announced in the 6 Jul 1968 LAT. However, the project remained in limbo, until a 21 Aug 1970 Var brief announced that principal photography was scheduled to begin 21 Sep 1970 in New York, with Liza Minnelli and Estelle Parsons in starring roles. Wood was no longer listed as star or co-producer, and Rydell had been supplanted by director Ján Kadár. On 11 Sep 1970, DV reported that filming was postponed until spring 1971.
       The project was resurrected three years later, when Columbia negotiated a multi-picture deal with Lawrence Gordon, former vice-president of American International Pictures, as announced in a 10 Oct 1973 Var news item. ... More Less

       Actress Pamela Seamon is credited onscreen as Pamela “Seaman.” Danny Elfman is credited as “Dan” Elfman. The first name of sound mixer Arthur A. Names is misspelled “Authur.”
       Three years after the 1964 publication of I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, a novel by Joanna Greenberg written under the pseudonym “Hannah Green,” a 15 Jun 1967 LAT news item announced that Columbia Pictures was developing a screen adaptation to be written by David Rayfiel. Actress Natalie Wood was cast and production was scheduled to begin in early 1968, with Al Wasserman as producer and Sydney Pollack directing. Nearly one year after the projected start date, a 15 Nov 1968 Var brief stated that the film, which had yet to begin principal photography, would mark Wood’s debut as a producer, as she had been hired to collaborate with Wasserman. Mark Rydell had replaced Pollack as director earlier that year, as announced in the 6 Jul 1968 LAT. However, the project remained in limbo, until a 21 Aug 1970 Var brief announced that principal photography was scheduled to begin 21 Sep 1970 in New York, with Liza Minnelli and Estelle Parsons in starring roles. Wood was no longer listed as star or co-producer, and Rydell had been supplanted by director Ján Kadár. On 11 Sep 1970, DV reported that filming was postponed until spring 1971.
       The project was resurrected three years later, when Columbia negotiated a multi-picture deal with Lawrence Gordon, former vice-president of American International Pictures, as announced in a 10 Oct 1973 Var news item. At that time, producer Edgar J. Scherick had acquired the screen rights to the novel. Mia Farrow was cast in the role of “Deborah” one month later, according to a 16 Nov 1973 DV report. More than a year passed before the 18 Mar 1975 Var noted that Charlotte Rampling had been cast as Deborah. Now listed as a Palomar Pictures production, the film was scheduled to begin production 3 May 1975 with Gerald Green as producer and Peter Medak directing. However, the project remained in limbo for yet another year. A 9 Jun 1976 Var news item announced that executive producer Roger Corman was “preparing to embark on his most expensive film yet,” as his New World Pictures had reportedly purchased domestic distribution rights by investing “an unspecified share” of the film’s $3 million budget. While Gerald Green was still listed as producer, a 12 Nov 1976 Var brief later that year announced Kathleen Quinlan’s casting in the Edgar J. Scherick production, which was now set to be directed by Anthony Page; Green is not credited onscreen, nor is Palomar Pictures. Although specific dates of principal photography cannot be verified, filming likely took place between Dec 1976 and early 1977, as a 1 Feb 1977 Var stated that New World was planning an “exclusive” New York City test run in Apr 1977.
       After the film opened on 14 Jul 1977 at New York City’s Cinema I and on 18 Aug 1977 in Los Angeles, CA, to successful box-office grosses, New World appealed the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) R-rating, hoping a PG-rating would further boost revenues, according to a 23 Aug 1977 DV article. Although the rating was not changed, the picture continued to fare well at the box-office; the 12 Oct 1977 Var listed the picture a “September hit” and reported high grosses even though it had been in release over a month.
       As noted in the 19 Sep 1977 Var, the novel was reprinted in paperback as part of New World’s promotional campaign. A 20 Jul 1977 Var article noted that the New American Library, Inc. (NAL), 8,000-copy special edition Signet paperback, which included eight pages of film scenes and a photograph of Kathleen Quinlan on the cover, marked one of the NAL’s largest printings to that time.
       The picture received mixed reviews, with the 15 Jul 1977 NYT hailing the believability of the fantasy world Yr and the 20 Jul 1977 Var complaining that the “sensationalistic aspects” were “confusing or repulsive, sometimes both.” However, Kathleen Quinlan was generally singled out for praise. A 31 Oct 1977 Off Our Backs review pointed out that the film eliminated key elements of the novel that provided background for Deborah’s mental illness, including her family’s Judaism (Deborah’s last name was changed from “Blau” to “Blake” in the movie) and the antagonism of the anti-Semitic neighborhood in which she was raised; as noted in the Var review, “not much light is shed on the root of the problem.” According to Off Our Backs, the picture’s failure to expose Deborah’s religious subjugation and cultural ostracism “left out much understanding of why Deborah would have created a world like Yr for herself when the ‘real’ world became too much to live in.” Additionally, the novel’s Yr “had friends for Deborah, not just punishers” as depicted in the film, thereby giving the reader a better picture of Deborah’s motives to retreat. Off Our Backs also criticized the filmmakers for infusing the movie with “a liberal sprinkling of sex,” adding scenes depicting “violence against women” that were not sourced from the novel, including “rape fantasies” and “the ‘lesbian’ attack on Deborah by another patient.
       The film was nominated for two Golden Globe awards in the categories Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Motion Picture Actress – Drama, for Kathleen Quinlan. It was nominated for an Academy Award in the category Writing (Screenplay based on material from another medium) for Gavin Lambert and Lewis John Carlino.
       As noted in a 28 Nov 1977 HR brief, Edgar J. Scherick planned a theatrical Broadway version of the film, starring Kathleen Quinlan and Norman Alden, to premiere at New York City’s Uris Theatre, but no such production can be confirmed. However, the novel was adapted into a play by Walter L. Newton, which premiered 1 Oct 2004 at the Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden, CO.



The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and Note were written by participant Sue Tyson, a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, with Jonathan Furner as academic advisor.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1970.
---
Daily Variety
16 Nov 1973.
---
Daily Variety
23 Aug 1977
p. 3, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 1977
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Jun 1967
Section E, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
6 Jul 1968
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
14 Aug 1977
p. 1.
New York Times
15 Jul 1977.
---
Off Our Backs
31 Oct 1977
p. 19.
Variety
15 Nov 1968.
---
Variety
21 Aug 1970.
---
Variety
10 Oct 1973.
---
Variety
18 Mar 1975.
---
Variety
9 Jun 1976.
---
Variety
12 Nov 1976.
---
Variety
1 Feb 1977.
---
Variety
20 Jul 1977.
---
Variety
20 Jul 1977
p. 18.
Variety
19 Sep 1977.
---
Variety
12 Oct 1977.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Roger Corman presents
A New World Picture
An Edgar J. Scherick/Daniel H. Blatt production
A Fadsin Cinema Associates Film
A Rose Garden Company production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Gaffer
Key grip
2d unit photog
Still photog
Laboratory services by
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATOR
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost
Yri cost des by
Shadow
Yri cost made by
Yri cost, Asst to des
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
SOUND
Spec sd eff
Sd eff
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles & opt by
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec in charge of prod
Creative consultant
Loc mgr
Scr supv
Prod secy
Admin coord
Psychiatric consultant
Psychiatric consultant
Psychiatric consultant
Psychiatric consultant
Psychiatric consultant
Asst to dir
Asst to dir
Extras coord
Prod asst
Prod asst
Collect staged by
Collect staged by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Hannah Green (New York, 1964).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Singing The Greens," used by permission of Susan Tyrrell and George Michalski
Excerpts form Ketjak Dance, "Music From The Morning Of The World (The Balinese Gamelan)," recorded in Bali by David Lewiston, used by permission of Nonesuch Records.
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 July 1977
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 14 July 1977
Los Angeles opening: 18 August 1977
Production Date:
December 1976--early 1977
Copyright Claimant:
Rose Garden Company
Copyright Date:
3 July 1977
Copyright Number:
PA156852
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lense and Panaflex camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
94
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Jay and Ester Blake drive their suicidal, schizophrenic teenage daughter, Deborah, to a sanitarium. As the couple meets psychiatrist Dr. Fried, Deborah envisions a native warrior named Anterrabae, who warns her not to reveal her secret world, the Kingdom of Yr. A nurse brings Deborah to her quarters and introduces the girl to her roommate, Carla, who assures Deborah that things can improve and offers her a cigarette. During her first meeting with Dr. Fried, Deborah is reluctant to engage in therapy, but she reveals that she once endured a painful surgery to remove a urethral tumor. The doctors promised that she would be safe from pain in an anaesthetized state called “Dreamland,” but Deborah was subjected to great agony nevertheless. As Dr. Fried denounces the doctors and questions if Deborah saw the tumor as punishment, Deborah momentarily lets down her guard and mentions the name of a punishing figure in Yr, permitting the doctor a glimpse into her secret world. Just then, Deborah visualizes a metal grate fall between herself and Dr. Fried; voices from Yr decry her a traitor. Haunted into the night, Deborah fantasizes about her departure from the hospital into Yr. There, she is given a primitive spear to sacrifice her life, but she awakens to find herself slicing her forearm with Carla’s metal ashtray. Later, Deborah awakens again in Ward D, a section of the hospital for severely disturbed patients. One woman, who refers to herself as the secret wife of Henry VIII, warns that she is raped nightly, and Lee, another female patient who claims she was once a nurse at the hospital before ... +


Jay and Ester Blake drive their suicidal, schizophrenic teenage daughter, Deborah, to a sanitarium. As the couple meets psychiatrist Dr. Fried, Deborah envisions a native warrior named Anterrabae, who warns her not to reveal her secret world, the Kingdom of Yr. A nurse brings Deborah to her quarters and introduces the girl to her roommate, Carla, who assures Deborah that things can improve and offers her a cigarette. During her first meeting with Dr. Fried, Deborah is reluctant to engage in therapy, but she reveals that she once endured a painful surgery to remove a urethral tumor. The doctors promised that she would be safe from pain in an anaesthetized state called “Dreamland,” but Deborah was subjected to great agony nevertheless. As Dr. Fried denounces the doctors and questions if Deborah saw the tumor as punishment, Deborah momentarily lets down her guard and mentions the name of a punishing figure in Yr, permitting the doctor a glimpse into her secret world. Just then, Deborah visualizes a metal grate fall between herself and Dr. Fried; voices from Yr decry her a traitor. Haunted into the night, Deborah fantasizes about her departure from the hospital into Yr. There, she is given a primitive spear to sacrifice her life, but she awakens to find herself slicing her forearm with Carla’s metal ashtray. Later, Deborah awakens again in Ward D, a section of the hospital for severely disturbed patients. One woman, who refers to herself as the secret wife of Henry VIII, warns that she is raped nightly, and Lee, another female patient who claims she was once a nurse at the hospital before her psychosis set in. Soon, Carla is also transferred to Ward D after she attempts to hang herself. During Deborah’s ensuing treatment with Dr. Fried, she announces that she is poisonous to others. When Deborah confesses that she tried to kill her baby sister by throwing her out a window, Fried helps the girl realize that she only imagined this scenario. Deborah’s insight into reality is overwhelmed by angry protests from Yr and she retreats into her tribal fantasy. Deborah awakens in restraints and provokes the animosity of a sadistic warden named Hobbs. A kindly male nurse, McPherson, warns the girl to stay clear of his colleague. During therapy, Dr. Fried encourages Deborah to trust her feelings and reflects that Deborah’s mother left home after a miscarriage early in Deborah’s life. As Deborah remembers feeling abandoned, Dr. Fried suggests that the girl protected herself from the brutal realities of life by psychologically disappearing into a fantasy world. However, angry voices from Yr cloud Deborah’s ability to hold faith in Dr. Fried’s assessment. On another occasion, Dr. Fried recounts the events of Deborah’s first suicide attempt and suggests that it was a cry for help. Back in the day room of Ward D, Lee alludes to a former patient and schoolteacher, Miss Coral, who had been discharged from the hospital, and the women become enraged at the impossibility of their own release. On Christmas day, Deborah awakens in restraints and sees warden Dobbs slap Helene, a patient in an adjacent bed. When Dobbs runs his hand across Deborah’s chest, the voices from Yr grow louder, ordering the girl to “poison” the warden. In her next therapy session, Deborah reports Dobbs to Dr. Fried, who is sympathetic but unable to promise immediate changes in the ward. Enraged, Deborah demands to know what makes Dr. Fried’s “reality” better than the fantasy worlds of herself and her fellow patients, and the doctor replies, “I never promised you a rose garden.” Sometime later, Miss Coral is readmitted to Ward D and causes a stir with her defiance. One morning, Deborah witnesses Hobbs abusing Miss Coral and is besieged by voices from Yr. Although Deborah guides kindly nurse McPherson to Miss Coral’s room, she retreats into her fantasy world, where she makes love with a warrior named Lactameaon. The girl remains in a
stupor and the ladies of Ward D soon learn that Hobbs has been fired, based on complaints by McPherson. Sometime later, the women hear that Hobbs committed suicide and Deborah is overwhelmed by punishing hallucinations of Yr. She bangs her head against the bathroom floor and writes a Yri word on the wall in her own blood. In therapy, Dr. Fried declares that Deborah’s Yri gods display unwarranted cruelty and assures the girl that she is not deserving of such torture. When Deborah learns that her parents want to visit her, she denounces her father for being overprotective, but Dr. Fried suggests that he endures complex human emotions and Deborah cries, revealing a new empathy toward the external world. Dr. Fried assures Deborah that she has the autonomy to choose between Yr and reality, sanity and insanity. If she wants to stay in Yr, it is her decision. After a pleasant visit with her parents, Deborah learns that Dr. Fried is going away for five weeks. The girl is dismayed to be paired with Dr. Royson, who is only interested in Yri linguistics, and faces further setbacks when her friend Carla is transferred to Ward B, on her way to outpatient status. Deborah burns herself with cigarettes she steals from Dr. Royson and imagines that the Yri tribe has killed Dr. Fried. Deborah awakens in restraints yet again, this time to Dr. Fried’s voice. When Deborah declares that she hates herself, the doctor assures her that one day she will experience love with the same passion. In therapy, Deborah reverses roles with Dr. Fried and inquires about the doctor’s personal life. The girl threatens to give up her struggle against schizophrenia, but she is startled by Dr. Fried’s reminder that she has been hospitalized for two years. Compelled by the doctor’s argument that Deborah has the power to destroy Yr if she has the strength to create it, the girl tests her transition into the real world by burning herself; she is delighted to discover that she can feel “simple, ordinary pain.” That night, Deborah is tempted by her former Yri companions, who do not wish to leave her, but she bids them farewell and calls for Dr. Fried. Sometime later, at a New Year party, Dr. Fried and Deborah toast the girl’s victory and the doctor announces that Deborah will soon be transferred to Ward B. The girl aspires to be a writer and gives the doctor a poem. Deborah is reunited with Carla on a visit outside the hospital and despite Carla’s warning, Deborah insists on joining a baseball game; she surprises the boys by hitting a home run. Carla invites Deborah to share an apartment with her upon her discharge and the girls bid each other farewell. Ignoring voices from Yr, Deborah kicks off her shoes and performs cartwheels through the grass.
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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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