An Enemy of the People (1981)

G | 103 mins | Drama | 11 August 1981

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HISTORY

The following written epilogue appears onscreen: “This play was first performed on the stage in Oslo, Norway, in 1883, written by Henrik Ibsen.”
       According to a 25 May 1976 HR news item, An Enemy of the People was set to mark the second film produced in The First Artists Production Company, Ltd.’s contract with actor-executive producer Steve McQueen, and the arrangement allowed McQueen to choose his own projects. He told HR that he was taking the risk of performing in a screen adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play because he was previously “somewhat of a coward as an actor,” afraid to take on projects that might be unsuccessful. As of 1976, however, he was at a point in his career where he could “afford to fail.” In addition, McQueen reportedly retained the “final cut” of the film, as noted in a 20 Jul 1978 DV article.
       The picture’s 28 Aug 1978 HR review stated that screenwriter Alexander Jacobs’s adaptation remained true to the spirit of Ibsen’s 1882 play, En folkefiende, as well as to Arthur Miller’s 1950 version of the drama, but the ending was changed for the film. While Miller concluded the play with “Dr. Thomas Stockmann” relocating his family to the home of “Captain Forster,” where he started a school for impoverished children, the film ends with Stockmann defiantly staying in his home, despite getting an eviction notice and having stones hurled through his window by a vengeful crowd.
       Although the 25 May 1976 HR stated that principal photography was scheduled to begin 1 Aug 1976 for a five-week shoot, ... More Less

The following written epilogue appears onscreen: “This play was first performed on the stage in Oslo, Norway, in 1883, written by Henrik Ibsen.”
       According to a 25 May 1976 HR news item, An Enemy of the People was set to mark the second film produced in The First Artists Production Company, Ltd.’s contract with actor-executive producer Steve McQueen, and the arrangement allowed McQueen to choose his own projects. He told HR that he was taking the risk of performing in a screen adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play because he was previously “somewhat of a coward as an actor,” afraid to take on projects that might be unsuccessful. As of 1976, however, he was at a point in his career where he could “afford to fail.” In addition, McQueen reportedly retained the “final cut” of the film, as noted in a 20 Jul 1978 DV article.
       The picture’s 28 Aug 1978 HR review stated that screenwriter Alexander Jacobs’s adaptation remained true to the spirit of Ibsen’s 1882 play, En folkefiende, as well as to Arthur Miller’s 1950 version of the drama, but the ending was changed for the film. While Miller concluded the play with “Dr. Thomas Stockmann” relocating his family to the home of “Captain Forster,” where he started a school for impoverished children, the film ends with Stockmann defiantly staying in his home, despite getting an eviction notice and having stones hurled through his window by a vengeful crowd.
       Although the 25 May 1976 HR stated that principal photography was scheduled to begin 1 Aug 1976 for a five-week shoot, a 2 Aug 1976 HR brief revealed that filming had been delayed to 30 Aug 1976, with Bibi Andersson and Nicol Williamson in starring roles. Two days after HR’s initial casting announcement, the 4 Aug 1976 HR disclosed that Williamson had been replaced by Charles Durning, and a 23 Aug 1976 Newsweek item reported that McQueen was still preparing for the role, gaining thirty pounds and growing a beard. On 7 Sep 1976, HR announced that filming would begin that day in Hollywood, CA, following three weeks of rehearsals that started on 13 Aug 1976. One week into production, a 14 Sep 1976 HR brief noted that actor Michael Cristofer was cast in his first feature film role as “Hovstad.” However, he had performed an uncredited voiceover role three years earlier, in The Exorcist (1973, see entry). On 7 Oct 1976, DV reported that Ernest A. Lindner, a well-known printer and collector of antique printing equipment, was cast in his feature film debut, but he is not credited onscreen. While a 31 Aug 1978 HR article listed a budget of $2.5 million, the 20—26 May 1981 edition of Village Voice stated that the picture was made for $3 million.
       Production was complete in Nov 1976, but distributor Warner Bros. Pictures withdrew the film from public exhibition after audiences responded negatively at several test screenings. In Mar 1978 and Apr 1978, the studio resumed its market research with test audiences in Denver, CO, Minneapolis, MN, Cincinnati, OH, St. Louis, MO, Tyler, TX, Seattle, WA, and San Diego and Santa Barbara, CA. Despite poor audience reception, a general release was planned for Oct 1978, with an official world premiere at the Montreal, Canada, Film Festival. On 28 Aug 1978, HR and DV reviews reported conflicting festival opening dates, citing Friday, 25 Aug 1978, and Saturday, 26 Aug 1978, respectively.
       The picture’s release remained in limbo for the next year. On 22 Oct 1979, Village Voice announced that Arc Film Enterprises, a new, independent film company known for purchasing distribution rights to shelved or abandoned films, had attempted to acquire An Enemy of the People, but Warner Bros. was demanding a $1 million advance. A 15 Jul 1980 LAHExam article stated that the picture was scheduled to air on SelecTV in Los Angeles, CA, on 5 Aug 1980 and 18 Aug 1980, but one year later, Warner Bros. Classics released he film theatrically, with an opening date of 11 Aug 1981 at the Joseph Papp Public Theater.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
7 Oct 1976.
---
Daily Variety
8 Oct 1976.
---
Daily Variety
20 Jul 1978
p. 1, 6.
Daily Variety
28 Aug 1978
pp. 3-4.
Hollywood Reporter
25 May 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Aug 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Sep 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 1978
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Aug 1978.
---
LAHExam
15 Jul 1980
Section B, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
20 Oct 1981
p. 2.
New York Times
11 Aug 1981
p. 9.
Newsweek
23 Aug 1976.
---
Variety
30 Aug 1978
p. 28.
Village Voice
22 Oct 1979.
---
Village Voice
20-26 May 1981.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Solar Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Still photog
Key grip
Elec gaffer
Best boy
Best boy
2d grip
Dolly grip
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Const coord
Prop master
Const foreman
Paint foreman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Prod mixer/Re-rec eng
Sd eff ed
Re-rec eng
Re-rec eng
Boom man
Cable man
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Title des
Title des
MAKEUP
Head make-up artist
Make-up artist
Hair stylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Asst to prod
Scr supv
Unit pub
Prod accountant
Prod secy
Prod asst
Dial coach
Prod secy
Craft serviceman
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Dial coach
Prod asst
Driver
Driver
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play An Enemy of the People by Arthur Miller (New York, 28 Dec 1950), which was adapted from the play En folkefiende by Henrik Ibsen (Copenhagen, 1882).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People
Release Date:
11 August 1981
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 11 August 1981
Los Angeles opening: 21 October 1981
Production Date:
began 7 September 1976 in Hollywood, CA
Copyright Claimants:
Solar Productions, Inc., The First Artists Production Company, Ltd.
Copyright Dates:
7 March 1979 7 March 1979
Copyright Numbers:
PA28976 PA28976
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Metrocolor
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed with Panavision® equipment
Duration(in mins):
103
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In a small Norwegian town, Catherine Stockmann, the wife of Dr. Thomas “Tom” Stockmann, prepares to entertain prominent members of the community, including the People’s Daily Messenger newspaper editors, Hovstad and Billing. Tom returns home with his two young sons, Morten and Ejlif, as well as his friend, Captain Forster, who is included among the dinner guests. Before the event begins, Tom’s brother, Peter Stockmann, arrives for a routine medical examination. As the town’s judge and mayor, Peter also serves as chairman of Kirsten Springs, the community’s new tourist destination and the foundation of its economy. Tom, who is the Springs’ medical examiner, has recently conducted a study of the water and is awaiting its results; Peter is pleased to learn that Hovstad and Billing will publish Tom’s findings before the summer season to promote tourism. Hovstad credits Tom with originating the plan to capitalize on the town’s natural resources, but Peter claims that he alone had the wherewithal to establish the business and leaves the house in anger. As guests sit down to dinner, the Stockmann’s eldest child, Petra, runs to the table with mail for her father. After reviewing the letter’s report in his office, Tom returns to his family and friends with terrible news: Kirsten Springs is polluted with bacteria from a nearby tannery owned by his eccentric father-in-law, Morten Kiil. Before construction began, Tom warned that it was unsafe to build a pipeline so close to a mill that dumps waste into a nearby river, but Peter prioritized cost reduction and expediency. Although the town’s water is ... +


In a small Norwegian town, Catherine Stockmann, the wife of Dr. Thomas “Tom” Stockmann, prepares to entertain prominent members of the community, including the People’s Daily Messenger newspaper editors, Hovstad and Billing. Tom returns home with his two young sons, Morten and Ejlif, as well as his friend, Captain Forster, who is included among the dinner guests. Before the event begins, Tom’s brother, Peter Stockmann, arrives for a routine medical examination. As the town’s judge and mayor, Peter also serves as chairman of Kirsten Springs, the community’s new tourist destination and the foundation of its economy. Tom, who is the Springs’ medical examiner, has recently conducted a study of the water and is awaiting its results; Peter is pleased to learn that Hovstad and Billing will publish Tom’s findings before the summer season to promote tourism. Hovstad credits Tom with originating the plan to capitalize on the town’s natural resources, but Peter claims that he alone had the wherewithal to establish the business and leaves the house in anger. As guests sit down to dinner, the Stockmann’s eldest child, Petra, runs to the table with mail for her father. After reviewing the letter’s report in his office, Tom returns to his family and friends with terrible news: Kirsten Springs is polluted with bacteria from a nearby tannery owned by his eccentric father-in-law, Morten Kiil. Before construction began, Tom warned that it was unsafe to build a pipeline so close to a mill that dumps waste into a nearby river, but Peter prioritized cost reduction and expediency. Although the town’s water is now contaminated, Tom is convinced that conditions can change for the better with a new waterworks system. Placing the report and his article in an envelope, Tom has his maid, Randine, deliver the findings to Peter. Meanwhile, Hovstad and Billing insist on including the story in the following day’s newspaper, even though the official report is in Peter’s possession. Later that evening, Tom receives a reply from Peter, but tucks the report away before Catherine can see it. In the morning, her father, Morten Kiil, visits the Stockmann home, skeptical about Tom’s findings. Later that day at a tavern, Tom meets Hovstad, who intends to portray the story as a scandal invovling the town’s corrupt bureaucrats. Just then, the People’s Daily Messenger publisher, Mr. Aslaksen, joins the table and promises to galvanize the community with a public demonstration, but Hovstad suspects Peter Stockmann will try to cover up his brother’s findings and turn the town against him. Upholding Peter’s integrity, Tom gives Hovstad the report in good faith, promising that it is fit for print once he has discussed the data with his brother. Back at the Stockmann home, Peter antagonizes Tom and declares that the decontamination plan will cost 300,000 kroner. Peter appeals for Tom’s “discretion” in revealing his findings, but Tom warns that the danger to human life could reach epic proportions if the truth is suppressed. He also reveals that Hovstad and Billing are preparing to print the report. Threatening Tom’s career and family, Peter orders his brother to publicly denounce the article and endorse the Kirsten Springs board. Tom later visits the People’s Daily Messenger and consents to the publication of his report. When he leaves, publisher Aslaksen suggests a moderate approach toward the article, since it could create a backlash against the newspaper. Shortly thereafter, Peter arrives at the office, claiming he will tax poor and middle-class townspeople to pay for the new waterworks, even though Kirsten Springs is a privately owned corporation. Peter claims that his brother fabricated the report to defy authority, and Aslaksen fears the town’s economy will collapse under the new taxation. As Peter procures an alternate “report,” the publisher agrees to cover up Tom’s findings to save the town from financial ruin. Just then, Tom returns to the office and Peter hides to conceal his arrangement with the newspaper. When Tom sees his brother’s walking stick, he realizes his allies have been swayed. He retrieves his report and insists on leading a town meeting the next day. By the time of the gathering, however, the townspeople have already been biased in favor of Peter’s false report. The mayor declares that his brother is a threat to democracy, and promises that the springs will bring prosperity to rich and poor members of the community. When Peter argues that his brother should not have the right to read his report, Aslaksen calls for a vote. Realizing the town has turned against him, Tom declines to present his data. Instead, he warns that democracy is not foolproof, since the decisions of the majority can ultimately be wrong. As the crowd responds with rage, Aslaksen reads a motion to proclaim Tom an “Enemy of the People.” With the exception of Captain Forster, all citizens agree to deny the doctor’s civil rights. Upon returning home in a snowstorm, the Stockmanns are greeted with stones thrown through their windows and an eviction notice. Tom plans to move his family to the U.S. on Forster’s ship, but Catherine does not want to leave. Meanwhile, Petra is dismissed from school for being a “radical.” Just then, Peter arrives with news that Tom has lost his job, but he can re-establish his career by retracting the report. Tom also learns that his father-in-law, Morten Kiil, has spent the day amassing Kirsten Springs stock for half its original value. Noting that Morten is capitalizing on the repercussions of Tom’s report, Peter threatens to punish his brother as a conspirator, but Tom refuses to give in. Sometime later, Morten visits his son-in-law with a fist full of Kirsten Springs bonds. Reminding Tom that the Kiil family has owned the polluting tannery for generations, Morten declares that he used Catherine’s inheritance to purchase Kirsten Springs shares. In Morten’s blackmail scheme, Tom must accept the bonds to retain his family’s wealth. In doing so, however, he will own an enormous stake in Kirsten Springs, and is therefore obligated to recant his report to protect his investment. As Morten leaves, Hovstad and Aslaksen arrive to suggest a new approach to the crisis. Since Morten bought the Kirsten Springs bonds in the Stockmann family name, the People’s Daily Messenger can publish articles that convey Tom as a hero, showing townspeople that he purchased the stock to implement his changes. In return, Hovstad requests payment from Tom to cover the newspaper’s financial loses. Realizing that the only way to clear his name is to become corrupt, Tom declares that the community is as poisoned as its water. After chasing Hovstad and Aslaksen from his home, Tom announces that the family will stay put and fight for the truth. While the Stockmanns cover their broken windows, a barrage of rocks are hurled through the windows of Tom’s office. +

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

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