Stevie (1978)

PG | 102 mins | Biography | 1978

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HISTORY

Stevie is a film adaptation of the 1977 play by Hugh Whitemore based on the writings of English poetess and novelist Stevie Smith. Producer-director Robert Enders developed the project with actress Glenda Jackson attached. Jackson originated the role on the stage, as stated in a 10 Jan 1978 DV news item.
       As mentioned in a 19 Jul 1981 NYT article, Enders pitched the project to over twenty-four American production companies before First Artists Production Company, Ltd. agreed to finance it. An independent production company founded by several American actors, First Artists wanted to add international star Glenda Jackson to a roster that included Paul Newman and Barbra Streisand. They funded the entire project for $500,000, according to a 20 Jul 1981 Film Journal article. Jackson signed a three picture deal with First Artists with Stevie as the first picture under the agreement, as stated in a 7 Aug 1978 HR news item.
       Principal photography began 16 Jan 1978 at Elmstree Studios in Newry, England. The production lasted seventeen days according to a 10 Jan 1978 DV news item and a 19 Jul 1981 NYT article.
       Stevie premiered at the World Film Festival in Montreal, Canada on 30 Aug 1978 and Glenda Jackson received the festival’s Best Actress award, as stated in the 18 Sep 1978 Box.
       Before the film’s official release, First Artists appealed the “R (Restricted Audiences)” rating assigned by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) due to two “language violations.” After presenting letters of support from various critics, educators ... More Less

Stevie is a film adaptation of the 1977 play by Hugh Whitemore based on the writings of English poetess and novelist Stevie Smith. Producer-director Robert Enders developed the project with actress Glenda Jackson attached. Jackson originated the role on the stage, as stated in a 10 Jan 1978 DV news item.
       As mentioned in a 19 Jul 1981 NYT article, Enders pitched the project to over twenty-four American production companies before First Artists Production Company, Ltd. agreed to finance it. An independent production company founded by several American actors, First Artists wanted to add international star Glenda Jackson to a roster that included Paul Newman and Barbra Streisand. They funded the entire project for $500,000, according to a 20 Jul 1981 Film Journal article. Jackson signed a three picture deal with First Artists with Stevie as the first picture under the agreement, as stated in a 7 Aug 1978 HR news item.
       Principal photography began 16 Jan 1978 at Elmstree Studios in Newry, England. The production lasted seventeen days according to a 10 Jan 1978 DV news item and a 19 Jul 1981 NYT article.
       Stevie premiered at the World Film Festival in Montreal, Canada on 30 Aug 1978 and Glenda Jackson received the festival’s Best Actress award, as stated in the 18 Sep 1978 Box.
       Before the film’s official release, First Artists appealed the “R (Restricted Audiences)” rating assigned by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) due to two “language violations.” After presenting letters of support from various critics, educators and religious leaders, the film’s rating was changed to “PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)” according to an 18 Oct 1978 DV.
       Despite excellent reviews, First Artists did not support the film beyond its initial three week run at The Royal Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, during Sep 1978, according to various contemporary sources including the 18 Sep 1978 Box and 20 Jul 1981 Film Journal.
       First Artists eventually waived their rights to the film and in 1981, Samuel Goldwyn Companypany picked up distribution rights. Larry Jackson, Goldwyn Company sales manager, arranged a screening at the Thalia Repertory Theatre in New York City. After being lauded by New York Times film critic Vincent Canby, the film’s run was sold out, as stated in the 20 Jul 1981 Film Journal. This prompted the 68th Street Playhouse, a first-run theatre in New York City, to book the picture. The venue owner, Meyer Ackerman, took the unprecedented step of paying for an advertising campaign to promote the film. As a result, Stevie’s box office receipts exceeded the expectations of both the Goldwyn Company and the 68th Street playhouse, according to a 24 Jul 1981 HR article, giving the film a second chance at success.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
18 Sep 1978.
---
Daily Variety
10 Jan 1978.
---
Daily Variety
1 Feb 1978.
---
Daily Variety
3 Oct 1978.
---
Daily Variety
18 Oct 1978.
---
Film Journal, The
20 Jul 1981
p. 12, 13.
Films and Filming
Jan 1979.
p. 33.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Aug 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 1978
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Sep 1978
Pt. IV, p. G1.
Monthly Film Bulletin
Dec 1978.
---
New Republic
8 Sep 1981.
---
New York Times
19 Jun 1981
p. 8.
New York Times
19 Jul 1981
p. 17, 18.
Variety
2 Aug 1978.
---
Variety
17 Aug 1978.
---
Variety
6 Sep 1978
p. 22.
Variety
18 Oct 1978.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Bowden Production
A presentation of First Artists/Grand Metropolitan
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Gaffer
Cam grip
Stills
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
MUSIC
Mus comp
Conducted by
Guitar soloist
With
Double bass, Gabrieli String Quartet
SOUND
Sd mixer
Dubbing mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Continuity
Prod secy
Prod accountant
Secy to prod
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Stevie by Hugh Whitemore (production date undetermined) and the works of Stevie Smith.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1978
Premiere Information:
World premiere: 30 August 1978 at World Film Festival in Montreal
Los Angeles opening: 13 September 1978
New York opening: 19 June 1981
Production Date:
16 January--1 February 1978 at Elmstree Studios, England
Copyright Claimant:
First Artists Production Company, Ltd. & Grand Metropolitan (Finance) Ltd.
Copyright Date:
3 August 1979
Copyright Number:
PA41624
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
102
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In London, England, Stevie Smith, a British poet, takes the train home from her job as a private secretary at Newnes Publishing Company. Since the age of three, Stevie has lived at 1 Avondale Road in Palmers Green with her aunt who she nicknamed “The Lion of Hull.” As she spends time in the family drawing room, Stevie recounts her life history through conversations with her aunt, personal monologues and recitations of her poetry. Stevie lives alone with her aunt, and even though she realizes this arrangement does not make her very “chic,” she does not care. They love each other and that is all that matters. She recalls moving to Avondale Road with her mother, aunt, and older sister Mollie after her father abandoned them. Stevie believes her mother made an unsuitable marriage, never liked her father, and thus didn’t care when he left. As a child, Stevie came down with tuberculosis and spent long periods of time in the hospital. She was eight years old when she first contemplated suicide and claimed the thought of death cheered her up “enormously” because one could always count on death. As she reminisces about her childhood, Stevie recites poetry she wrote as a child, recalling how much her mother suffered in life and that she died while Stevie was young. She chuckles with her aunt over stories of her adolescence. Stevie recalls one of her teachers who obsessed over sex, pregnancy and childbirth. As a result, Stevie became totally opposed to having children. Finding a suitable mate always confounded her, but her aunt reminds her that she ... +


In London, England, Stevie Smith, a British poet, takes the train home from her job as a private secretary at Newnes Publishing Company. Since the age of three, Stevie has lived at 1 Avondale Road in Palmers Green with her aunt who she nicknamed “The Lion of Hull.” As she spends time in the family drawing room, Stevie recounts her life history through conversations with her aunt, personal monologues and recitations of her poetry. Stevie lives alone with her aunt, and even though she realizes this arrangement does not make her very “chic,” she does not care. They love each other and that is all that matters. She recalls moving to Avondale Road with her mother, aunt, and older sister Mollie after her father abandoned them. Stevie believes her mother made an unsuitable marriage, never liked her father, and thus didn’t care when he left. As a child, Stevie came down with tuberculosis and spent long periods of time in the hospital. She was eight years old when she first contemplated suicide and claimed the thought of death cheered her up “enormously” because one could always count on death. As she reminisces about her childhood, Stevie recites poetry she wrote as a child, recalling how much her mother suffered in life and that she died while Stevie was young. She chuckles with her aunt over stories of her adolescence. Stevie recalls one of her teachers who obsessed over sex, pregnancy and childbirth. As a result, Stevie became totally opposed to having children. Finding a suitable mate always confounded her, but her aunt reminds her that she was engaged to a man named Freddy. Her aunt does not understand why Stevie never married Freddy as they were in love. Stevie insists she was just not the marrying kind, and never had enough energy to handle marriage. Stevie remembers the day after she and Freddy had their first sexual encounter; Freddy talks of marriage, but she tells him she is frightened of the concept and does not believe she can be a good wife. Stevie fears if she marries she will lose her identity and independence, but Freddy demands she “grow up” and insists her aunt has coddled her to the point of being spoiled. Freddy warns that if she does not change she will end up alone. Stevie says she does not like change, and tells Freddy to “go to hell”. Steve recalls feeling bitter, resentful and lonely after Freddy left, and believes that most people feel this way on a daily basis but never let on. She recites her most famous poem on the subject: “Not Waving, but Drowning”. Now, Stevie talks of how her aunt is old, forgetful and never leaves the house. As her sickly aunt rattles around the house, Stevie takes care of her. Stevie retires from her job not long after attempting suicide at work, but she claims to be happier now, as she was never cut out for business. Later, she mournfully watches over her dying aunt and talks about her feelings regarding Christianity. Even though she was raised Anglican and still enjoys the traditions of the church, she no longer believes in God, but rather that man invented God out of inherent loneliness. She claims that man should accept loneliness instead of creating a religion to avoid it. After her aunt passes away, Stevie says people think she knows nothing of love because she never married, but she insists she loved her aunt deeply. Years later, “The Man” talks about how he met Stevie at a cocktail party and became friends with her after he gave her a ride home. He soon found out that Stevie expected friends to chauffeur her around constantly. Since her aunt passed away, Stevie has become popular in literary and poetry circles and travels often. Stevie and The Man argue because he thinks she takes him for granted. The Man says he feels Stevie is like a child afraid of the world that needs to be taken care of by others. Late in life, Stevie is a bit of a celebrity in Britain. Queen Elizabeth II has awarded her the gold medal for poetry, and she recounts the day she met the Queen and received her award, noting that the Queen did not know much about poetry. Stevie felt awkward, particularly when the Queen asked her about her work and Stevie mentioned she was obsessed with murder. Stevie laments her old age and finds comfort in her impending death. Later The Man stands alone in the empty house at 1 Avondale Road after Stevie leaves to take care of her sister after the woman suffered a stroke. Stevie fell ill herself and was diagnosed with a brain tumor, losing her ability to speak. At age sixty-nine, Stevie wrote her final poem – begging death to take her quickly. The Man looks at Stevie’s empty chair, turns the lights off and walks out. +

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

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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.