Girlfriends (1978)

PG | 90 mins | Drama | 1978

Director:

Claudia Weill

Producer:

Claudia Weill

Cinematographer:

Fred Murphy

Editor:

Suzanne Pettit

Production Designer:

Patrizia Von Brandenstein

Production Company:

Cyclops Films
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HISTORY


       Production notes at the AMPAS library explained that the story, credited to director and producer Claudia Weill and screenwriter Vicki Polon, was originally intended as a short film about roommates “Susan Weinblatt” and “Anne Munroe.” The narrative evolved into a feature when the collaborators decided to explore what happens to Susan after Anne moves out and gets married. In a 4 Aug 1978 NYT article, Weill said the idea was inspired by a Katherine Mansfield short story titled “Bliss.” Weill’s previous experience was in non-fiction filmmaking. Her resume included numerous segments for the television series, Sesame Street, and the Academy Award nominated documentary The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir (1975, see entry), featuring Shirley MacLaine.
       Over the three-year period it took to complete the film, financing was ongoing, as indicated in production notes and various contemporary sources. According to the 4 Aug 1978 NYT article, the American Film Institute awarded an initial grant of $10,000 for a thirty-minute short. The 11 Aug 1978 DV noted that additional contributions from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Arts Council brought the total to $90,000 and the rest of the $500,000 budget was raised through private investors. Production notes pointed out that the actors were all paid the same salary.
       In a 6 Aug 1978 interview for NYT, Weill remembered the first day on set as being in Nov 1975, near the intersection of Broadway and 80th Street in New York City. As a documentary filmmaker, she was not familiar ... More Less


       Production notes at the AMPAS library explained that the story, credited to director and producer Claudia Weill and screenwriter Vicki Polon, was originally intended as a short film about roommates “Susan Weinblatt” and “Anne Munroe.” The narrative evolved into a feature when the collaborators decided to explore what happens to Susan after Anne moves out and gets married. In a 4 Aug 1978 NYT article, Weill said the idea was inspired by a Katherine Mansfield short story titled “Bliss.” Weill’s previous experience was in non-fiction filmmaking. Her resume included numerous segments for the television series, Sesame Street, and the Academy Award nominated documentary The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir (1975, see entry), featuring Shirley MacLaine.
       Over the three-year period it took to complete the film, financing was ongoing, as indicated in production notes and various contemporary sources. According to the 4 Aug 1978 NYT article, the American Film Institute awarded an initial grant of $10,000 for a thirty-minute short. The 11 Aug 1978 DV noted that additional contributions from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Arts Council brought the total to $90,000 and the rest of the $500,000 budget was raised through private investors. Production notes pointed out that the actors were all paid the same salary.
       In a 6 Aug 1978 interview for NYT, Weill remembered the first day on set as being in Nov 1975, near the intersection of Broadway and 80th Street in New York City. As a documentary filmmaker, she was not familiar with the protocols for feature production. Fred Murray, the director of photography, instructed her to announce “‘Sound–Camera–Action’” after she asked why the cast and crew were waiting to start. Production notes reported that shooting began Dec 1975, with an apartment on the West Side of New York City as the primary location. Filming was interrupted when additional funds needed to be raised for the feature-length version. A year later, production resumed in the SoHo [South of Houston] neighborhood of New York City. The total duration of principal photography was around six weeks, according to articles in the 11 Aug 1978 DV and the 6 Aug 1978 NYT. By the end of 1977, the filmmakers had accumulated enough money to finalize editing.
       Upon completion, Weill had offers from respected independent distributors, as mentioned in a 9 Aug 1978 Var article. However, she was surprised when the film attracted the attention of major studios during a visit to Los Angeles, CA in Mar 1978. Weill stated that within two weeks of screening Girlfriends for executives, Warner Bros. Pictures bought the worldwide distribution rights. 24 Apr 1978 briefs in DV and HR announced that in addition to the purchase, the studio signed her to a two-picture development deal.
       According to the 11 Aug 1978 DV article, the most encouraging aspect of the acquisition for Weill was that Warner Bros. recognized the “‘small but commercial’” appeal of the film and believed the potential audience to be broader than the female demographic or the art-house circuit. According to a 3 May 1978 article from LAT, Weill thought that the success of Annie Hall (1977, see entry) was a possible reason why the studios were more responsive to stories about relationships. She also divulged that Warner Bros. requested a catchy song to accompany the end credits. They were inspired by the low-budget hit, You Light Up My Life (1977, see entry), whose popularity was aided by a memorable theme song. However, in the print viewed, the same classical score that appears under the opening credits is used for the end credits.
       The film was selected for several major festivals during 1978, including Filmex on 6 May and the noncompetitive Directors’ Fortnight, which coincided with the Cannes Film Festival. It won the People’s Choice Award at Toronto’s Festival of Festivals as noted in a 16 Jul 1979 DV article.
       A 21 Jul 1978 Warner Bros. press release announced that the world premiere would be held 11 Aug 1978 at New York City’s Cinema I Theatre. News items in the 15 Aug 1978 DV and the 1 Sep 1978 LAHExam reported that due to a newspaper strike in New York City, Weill, along with actors Eli Wallach and Melanie Mayron promoted, the film on the street by distributing hand bills outside of the Cinema I Theatre. After seventeen days at the Cinema I, the film had earned $135,079, as noted in a 29 Aug 1978 HR brief.
       In several reviews and articles, Girlfriends was examined in the context of other contemporary films about women and relationships, including An Unmarried Woman (1978, see entry), Julia (1977, see entry), and The Turning Point (1977, see entry). For the Aug 1978 issue of MS magazine, Susan Dworkin wrote that “after all the other ‘women’s films’ have slipped away…this one will linger, precise and painful, in the gut.” The opening of Girlfriends also encouraged discussions about current, active female directors. In a 6 Aug 1978 NYT article, Kirk Honeycutt considered Girlfriends as part of a reemergence of features directed by women, including Jane Wagner’s Moment by Moment (1978, see entry), Joan Micklin Silver’s Hester Street (1975, see entry), Joan Rivers’ Rabbit Test (1978, see entry), Joan Tewkesbury’s Old Boyfriends (1979, see entry) and Joan Darling’s First Love (1977, see entry). Honeycutt was concerned with whether this opportunity for women directors in Hollywood would continue if the recent films did not thrive in the commercial market. In the 28 May 1978 LAT, Charles Champlin devoted an article to the 1978 Cannes Film Festival and why it could be considered “The Year of the Women,” highlighting the “stunning success” of Girlfriends within a group of more prestigious films whose stories also centered around women.
       According to an 18 Dec 1978 article in DV, the film was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the ten best English-language pictures of 1978.
       Girlfriends represented the first leading role in a feature film for actress Melanie Mayron and marked the debut feature film for actress Anita Skinner and director Claudia Weill.
      The end credits include "Special thanks” to: Artists Space; Atelier International Ltd.; Aucoin Management, Inc.; Barbara Haspiel; Barnet Kellman; Bernard Schwartz; Bill and Margo Fenhagen of Phoenix Hill Farm; Caroline Thompson; Cis Corman; David Hendricks; Design Research International, Inc.; Ethical Culture Society; Good Rush, Inc.; Jack Hofsis; Juliet Taylor; Katherine Wenning; Kathryn Traverna; Michael Hausman; Mrs. Herbst Bakery; Naomi Foner; O.K. Harris Works of Art; Olivetti Corporation of American; Susan Meiselas; St. Moritz Florist; St. Moritz for the “Sky Garden”; and Venable Herndon. Following this list, a written statement appears: "The filmmaker received production grants and public funds from the New York State Council on The Arts; the National Endowment for The Arts; the Creative Artist Public Service Program and the American Film Institute."

              The two songs used in the film, “My Spanish Doll” and “You and I Were Meant for Love,” are described in the end credits as “Songs from party.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
22 May 1978.
---
Box Office
3 Jul 1978.
---
Box Office
14 Aug 1978.
---
Box Office
15 Jan 1979.
---
Cue
8 Jul 1978.
---
Daily Variety
24 Apr 1978.
---
Daily Variety
5 May 1978.
---
Daily Variety
11 Aug 1978.
---
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1978.
---
Daily Variety
23 Aug 1978.
---
Daily Variety
18 Dec 1978
p. 1, 18.
Daily Variety
16 Jul 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 1978
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
23 May 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Aug 1978.
---
LAHExam
1 Sep 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 May 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
28 May 1978
p. 30.
Los Angeles Times
20 Aug 1978
p. 1, 40, 42-43.
Motion Picture Product Digest
26 Jul 1978
p. 14.
Ms.
Aug 1978
p. 34.
New York Times
4 Aug 1978
p. 12.
New York Times
6 Aug 1978
p. 1, 11, 14.
New York Times
19 Aug 1978.
---
Variety
22 Mar 1978.
---
Variety
10 May 1978
p. 23.
Variety
9 Aug 1978.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT

PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Cyclops Films presents
a film by Claudia Weill
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
Chief elec
Best boy
Gaffer
Gaffer
Gaffer
Grip
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Props
COSTUMES
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles
MAKEUP
Susan's hair
of Reaper's
Anne's hair
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prods
Prod coord
Scr supv
Casting
Casting
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Anne's poem "I Have a War with My Mother"
Susan's photographs
Photographs of Anne's wedding
Photographs of Anne's wedding
Photographs of Anne's wedding
SOURCES
SONGS
"My Spanish Doll," written by Tom Griffith, courtesy of Martha Coolidge
"You and I Were Meant for Love," written by Tom Griffith, courtesy of Martha Coolidge.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Girl Friends
Release Date:
1978
Premiere Information:
Filmex screening: 6 May 1978
New York opening: 11 August 1978
Los Angeles opening: 23 August 1978
Production Date:
began late 1975
Copyright Claimant:
Claudia Weill
Copyright Date:
7 March 1979
Copyright Number:
PA28186
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
90
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Susan Weinblatt and Anne Munroe are recent college graduates and best friends who share an apartment in New York City. Susan, an aspiring photographer, takes pictures of her sleeping roommate in the morning light. As she gets ready for work, she listens to Anne, an amateur writer, read her latest poem. At Rabbi Gold’s office, Susan photographs a young boy for his bar mitzvah. While discussing decorations for their new apartment, Anne tells Susan she may be in love with her boyfriend, Martin, but later she wonders if perhaps she just likes him a lot. Susan reminds Anne that she does not need a boyfriend to take care of her, but Anne seems less confident. Sometime later, Anne is at the laundromat when Susan rushes in with news that she just sold three photographs, including the one of Anne sleeping. Susan is exhilarated by the possibility of not having to rely on income from bar mitzvahs and weddings. At the mention of weddings, Anne announces that she and Martin are getting married. Although Susan says it is great, she quickly reveals her true feelings of disappointment. On the day of Anne’s wedding, Susan remains busy behind-the-scenes as the photographer. Now living on her own, Susan paints the apartment that she intended to share with Anne. One evening, she attends a party hosted by her friend Terry, who introduces her to Eric. Intrigued with his sense of humor, Susan impulsively invites herself to his place. They sleep together, but in the middle of the night, Susan leaves, explaining that she just wants to go home. ... +


Susan Weinblatt and Anne Munroe are recent college graduates and best friends who share an apartment in New York City. Susan, an aspiring photographer, takes pictures of her sleeping roommate in the morning light. As she gets ready for work, she listens to Anne, an amateur writer, read her latest poem. At Rabbi Gold’s office, Susan photographs a young boy for his bar mitzvah. While discussing decorations for their new apartment, Anne tells Susan she may be in love with her boyfriend, Martin, but later she wonders if perhaps she just likes him a lot. Susan reminds Anne that she does not need a boyfriend to take care of her, but Anne seems less confident. Sometime later, Anne is at the laundromat when Susan rushes in with news that she just sold three photographs, including the one of Anne sleeping. Susan is exhilarated by the possibility of not having to rely on income from bar mitzvahs and weddings. At the mention of weddings, Anne announces that she and Martin are getting married. Although Susan says it is great, she quickly reveals her true feelings of disappointment. On the day of Anne’s wedding, Susan remains busy behind-the-scenes as the photographer. Now living on her own, Susan paints the apartment that she intended to share with Anne. One evening, she attends a party hosted by her friend Terry, who introduces her to Eric. Intrigued with his sense of humor, Susan impulsively invites herself to his place. They sleep together, but in the middle of the night, Susan leaves, explaining that she just wants to go home. At Anne and Martin’s apartment, Susan listens patiently while the couple shows slides and artifacts from their honeymoon in Morocco. Later, Susan breaks into tears watching television programs about relationships and dating. After getting a new haircut to boost her confidence, Susan attempts to follow up with a photo editor for a possible job, but is unsuccessful. At the elevator, she runs into her friend Julie, a fellow photographer, who mentions that she has too much work and encourages Susan to be more assertive about networking. Julie also shares that she split up with her partner and is enjoying living alone. Before going their separate ways, she tells Susan that she will be in touch if she needs an assistant. Taking Julie’s advice, Susan shows her portfolio to the magazine editor who recently bought three of her photographs, but he is not interested in her latest project. While playing chess with Rabbi Gold, Susan complains that her photographs have been rejected by at least fifty people recently, despite the fact that many of them think she has a “good eye.” Rabbi Gold advises her to quit feeling sorry for herself. Lonely and bored one evening, Susan tries inviting a friend to a movie. She then calls and leaves a humorous message for someone else. When the electricity suddenly goes out because she is too broke to pay the utility bill, she screams in frustration. Anne suggests to Martin that they invite Susan to the country house for the weekend. Martin agrees, but thinks that Susan does not like him. During the weekend, Martin cooks for the three of them, but as soon as they sit down, he begins sneezing. Playfully, Susan takes a photograph of him. In response, Martin canoodles with Anne, joking that she is a helpless, blond woman. Anne becomes annoyed and leaves the room. When Martin follows her, Susan is left alone at the table. Later that day, Anne seeks Susan’s opinion about whether she should go back to school, but Susan appears apathetic. When Anne wonders how it is to live alone, Susan matter-of-factly replies that she likes it. After photographing a wedding, Susan chats with Rabbi Gold in his office. She speaks to him about her grandparents who were orthodox Jews; as a little girl, she was envious when they spoke to God, and the experience made her want to be a rabbi. He then confesses that he wanted to be an actor growing up. Later that evening, she and Rabbi Gold kiss each other goodnight, and agree to a lunch date. While hanging out with Susan, Anne notices her good mood and asks about the new romantic interest. Being slightly secretive, Susan describes him as attractive and fiftyish, but feels that it is too early to worry about the fact that he is married. Then, Anne reveals that she is pregnant. Susan wonders how she will manage a baby and school. After Anne leaves, Susan describes her as impetuous to another friend. When Susan arrives for their lunch date, Rabbi Gold regrets that he must cancel because of a last-minute appointment with his wife and son. As soon as she arrives home, Susan begins decorating, a process that she has neglected since moving into the apartment. She manages to show her portfolio to Mr. Carpel, the purveyor of a distinguished art gallery. Carpel says her work is not the right fit for his business, but he recognizes her talent, and refers her to Beatrice, an emerging gallery owner. That evening, Eric comes to Susan’s for dinner. On another day, Susan informs Julie that she can no longer work as an assistant due to her upcoming gallery show. Julie congratulates Susan, but admits that she is jealous. During a meeting with Beatrice, Susan says she is not particular about the arrangement of the images at the gallery. Beatrice suggests that she stop by on Monday, just in case she wants to make any changes before the opening. One evening, Anne and Martin wait for Eric and Susan to arrive for dinner. Irritable from the pressures of her first child, writing and marriage, Anne yells at Susan for being late, and they begin to quarrel about who has more free time. Susan admits that she felt “betrayed” after Anne got married, and Anne calls her “selfish.” On another evening at Eric’s apartment, he questions why Susan will not move in with him to save money, and Susan says that she prefers having her own place. With the upcoming gallery opening, she is anxious about the reaction to her work. Additionally, it bothers her that Eric continues to display the paintings of his ex-girlfriend in his apartment. While making dinner, their bickering continues and Susan walks out. That evening, Julie is staying over and tries to console her. Disheartened, Susan feels that she has ruined her relationship with Eric and her friendship with Anne. Susan realizes that she forgot to stop by the gallery to approve the display and rushes out. While she is out, Anne telephones to wish Susan good luck for the show and apologize for their fight. As the gallery opening begins, Susan complains that Beatrice left out an important photograph. Beatrice replies that it is unprofessional for her to raise the issue now, when was she given the opportunity earlier. Many family and friends are present, but Martin informs Susan that Anne is unable to attend. He appears somewhat confused by his wife’s behavior, but relays a message from Anne that she is at the country house and thought Susan might understand. After the show, Susan drives to the house to surprise Anne. Feeling like a coward, Anne reveals that she was pregnant with her second child and had an abortion that morning, but is afraid to tell Martin. Susan tries to reassure her about the decision. While preparing tequila shots, Susan admits to insecurities in her relationship with Eric. During the evening, the two friends rediscover their connection. +

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

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