An Unmarried Woman (1978)

R | 124 mins | Comedy-drama | 1978

Director:

Paul Mazursky

Writer:

Paul Mazursky

Producers:

Paul Mazursky, Tony Ray

Cinematographer:

Arthur Ornitz

Production Designer:

Pato Guzman
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HISTORY


       The following two songs are not acknowledged in the screen credits: “I’m Yours,” written by John W. Green and E.Y. Harburg, performed by Billie Holiday and “Maybe I’m Amazed,” written by Paul McCartney, performed by Jill Clayburgh and Lisa Lucas.
       The article from Cleveland Plain Dealer, as well as an article from the 18 Apr 1978 issue of Us magazine, provided information on the origins of the project. Mazursky remembered conceiving the story idea sometime between 1974 and 1975, after one of his wife’s girlfriends, who was divorced, bought a house. On the deed, the woman was instructed to sign “an unmarried woman” next to her name. Mazursky felt that the phrase would make a strong title for a film, while realizing it also indicated a stigma for the single woman. Within his circle of friends, Mazursky interviewed other women who had experienced unforeseen upheavals in their long-term marriages, which eventually led them to greater self-awareness. From this research, Mazursky developed the script. However, he claimed that he did not want to create a guide to women’s liberation, believing that men could also identify with the story. He also emphasized that the cheating spouse was not essential to the plot. In an interview for the 5 Mar 1978 NYT, he said the film was “about wives finding out that there are more choices and more alternatives in heaven and earth than they dreamed of, and that acting on those choices can be painful.”
       In a 16 May 1978 HR article, Mazursky explained that during the writing process he did not have Jill ... More Less


       The following two songs are not acknowledged in the screen credits: “I’m Yours,” written by John W. Green and E.Y. Harburg, performed by Billie Holiday and “Maybe I’m Amazed,” written by Paul McCartney, performed by Jill Clayburgh and Lisa Lucas.
       The article from Cleveland Plain Dealer, as well as an article from the 18 Apr 1978 issue of Us magazine, provided information on the origins of the project. Mazursky remembered conceiving the story idea sometime between 1974 and 1975, after one of his wife’s girlfriends, who was divorced, bought a house. On the deed, the woman was instructed to sign “an unmarried woman” next to her name. Mazursky felt that the phrase would make a strong title for a film, while realizing it also indicated a stigma for the single woman. Within his circle of friends, Mazursky interviewed other women who had experienced unforeseen upheavals in their long-term marriages, which eventually led them to greater self-awareness. From this research, Mazursky developed the script. However, he claimed that he did not want to create a guide to women’s liberation, believing that men could also identify with the story. He also emphasized that the cheating spouse was not essential to the plot. In an interview for the 5 Mar 1978 NYT, he said the film was “about wives finding out that there are more choices and more alternatives in heaven and earth than they dreamed of, and that acting on those choices can be painful.”
       In a 16 May 1978 HR article, Mazursky explained that during the writing process he did not have Jill Clayburgh in mind for the role of “Erica.” However, he claimed that she was the only actress he interviewed, and he cast her on instinct, having known her from previous auditions. In a 13 Sep 1976 LAT article, Mazursky said his decision was based on Clayburgh’s discernible intelligence and the fact that she was someone with whom the audience could identify because she was not a celebrity actress. In the commentary track for the 2006 DVD edition, Mazursky mentioned that he initially offered the role to Jane Fonda, but she turned it down, because the part was not political enough. He also approached Anthony Hopkins and Alan Arkin for the role of “Saul” prior to Alan Bates accepting it.
       According to production notes from AMPAS library files, Mazursky researched the art community in the SoHo [South of Houston] neighborhood of New York City in preparation for writing the screenplay. During this time, he met Paul Jenkins, an abstract expressionist painter, and was inspired to use his artwork throughout the film. The character of “Saul” was based on Jenkins. For one week, Jenkins coached Bates on his technique of using acrylics, which involved pouring paint on a canvas and guiding it with an ivory knife or long brush. In a 16 Apr 1978 NYT article, Bates said Jenkins provided advice on how to stand and methods for achieving flow and movement with the paint, but the final choice of color and style was Bates’s decision. Jenkins’ SoHo loft was used as the location for Saul’s studio, and the painter appeared in the film as a “guest” during a party scene.
       Dr. Penelope Russianoff, a practicing psychologist, was cast as Erica’s therapist, “Tanya,” which is discussed in a 31 Jul 1978 NYT article. Claudia Weill, the director of Girlfriends (1978, see entry), had recommended Russianoff to Mazursky. The doctor said she was paid $2,500 for two and a half days of shooting and improvised much of her dialogue, which was similar to the advice she would have given an actual patient. The production filmed at Russianoff’s penthouse office. After the film’s release, Russianoff was recognized on the street, signed autographs and gained dozens of new clients, but she was disturbed by the negative feedback she received from colleagues in the psychology profession. As a 5 Mar 1978 NYT article pointed out, Mazursky had also used a real therapist in previous films, casting his own psychiatrist, Donald Muhich, in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969, see entry) and Blume in Love (1973, see entry).
       Production notes stated that the filmmakers shot for nine to ten weeks on location throughout New York City. Briefs from the 6 Apr HR 1977 and the 30 May 1977 Box stated that principal photography began on 5 Apr 1977.
       In the 5 Mar 1978 NYT article, Mazursky said the film’s budget was $2.25 million. A Var article dated 25 Oct 1978 listed the cost as $1.8 million. The article also stated that the film’s domestic rentals were $12 million.
       As noted in a studio press release, the film was screened in competition at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival. Clayburgh received the festival’s best actress award.
       According to a 15 Jan 1979 item in Box, the film was number seven on the National Board of Review’s top ten list of the best English-language pictures from 1978. The film also received three Academy Award nominations: Actress In a Leading Role for Jill Clayburgh, Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen) and Best Picture.
       As mentioned in the 16 Apr 1978 NYT article, An Unmarried Woman was the first American feature film for British actor Alan Bates. The film also represented the screen debut for actress Kelly Bishop.
      In the end credits, film acknowledges the following "Contributing Painters and Sculptors”: Robert Bechtle; Frank Bramblett; John Chamberlain; John Clem Clarke; Colette; Robert Cottingham; John Deandrea; Porfirio Didonna; Marilynn Gelfman Pereira; Ralph Goings; H. N. Han; Yan Hsia; Paul Jenkins; John Kacere; Lila Katzen; Tony King; P. J. Kresnar; Marsha Liberty; Toshio Odate; Peter Saari; John Salt; and Andy Warhol. Following this list of names is a written statement, "With Special Thanks to Paul Jenkins."

              The end credits also contain the dedication, "For Betsy." According to an article in the 12 May 1978 Cleveland Plain Dealer, the tribute was in honor of director Paul Mazursky’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with his wife, Betsy. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
30 May 1977.
---
Box Office
15 Jan 1979.
---
Cleveland Plain Dealer
12 May 1978
p. 10.
Daily Variety
7 Apr 1977.
---
Daily Variety
18 Dec 1978
p. 1, 18.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Apr 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 1978
p. 3, 19.
Hollywood Reporter
16 May 1978
p. S-20, S-32.
Los Angeles Times
13 Sep 1976
Section D, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
27 Feb 1978
Section E, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
8 Mar 1978
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
9 Jul 1978
Section O, p. 58.
Los Angeles Times
23 Jul 1978
Section V, p. 25.
New York Times
5 Mar 1978
Section D, p. 1, 13.
New York Times
16 Apr 1978
p. 15, 19.
New York Times
31 Jul 1978
Section D, p. 9.
New York Times
17 Jun 2012.
---
Us
18 Apr 1978.
---
Variety
15 Feb 1978
p. 19.
Variety
25 Oct 1978.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
a film by Paul Mazursky
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr/Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Key grip
Photographic equip
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Men`s ward
Women's ward
MUSIC
SOUND
Rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to prods
Prod auditor
Extras casting
Scr supv
SOURCES
SONGS
"I'm Yours," written by John W. Green and E.Y. Harburg, performed by Billie Holiday, published by Sony ATV Harmony
"Maybe I'm Amazed," written by Paul McCartney, performed by Jill Clayburgh and Lisa Lucas, published by Northern Songs LTD c/o Sony/ATV Tunes LLC.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1978
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 5 March 1978
Los Angeles opening: 8 March 1978
Production Date:
began 5 April 1977 in New York City
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
6 March 1978
Copyright Number:
PA647
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Movielab
Prints
Prints by Deluxe®
Duration(in mins):
124
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24977
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After a morning jog, Erica Benton and her husband Martin, who have been married for sixteen years, return to their Manhattan East Side apartment in New York City and make love. As soon as Martin, a stockbroker, leaves for work and their teenage daughter, Patti, departs for school, Erica prances through the rooms pretending to be a ballet star. For dinner, she meets her girlfriends, Elaine Liebowitz, Sue Miller and Jeannette Lewin at a restaurant, as part of their weekly get-together. After Jeannette reveals that she is dating a nineteen year-old man, Elaine raises the topic of male honesty. Erica says she does not think about Martin’s honesty. In bed that night, Erica complains that Martin should not make her feel like sex is an obligation. He apologizes and shares that he has been anxious lately, but tells Erica that he still loves her. At the Rowan Art Gallery in SoHo [South of Houston] a neighborhood of Manhattan, Erica works part-time. When Charlie, a local artist, stops by her desk and flirts, Erica ridicules him. That afternoon, she meets her husband at a restaurant for lunch and asks about their summer vacation, but Martin appears preoccupied. As they leave, he begins sobbing and blurts out that he is in love with someone else. Through the tears, he confesses he has been seeing a younger woman named Marcia and wants to live with her. After telling him to save the apology for their daughter, Erica walks away, stopping at a corner to vomit. At a bar, Erica’s girlfriends offer advice, but feeling despondent, she decides to go. ... +


After a morning jog, Erica Benton and her husband Martin, who have been married for sixteen years, return to their Manhattan East Side apartment in New York City and make love. As soon as Martin, a stockbroker, leaves for work and their teenage daughter, Patti, departs for school, Erica prances through the rooms pretending to be a ballet star. For dinner, she meets her girlfriends, Elaine Liebowitz, Sue Miller and Jeannette Lewin at a restaurant, as part of their weekly get-together. After Jeannette reveals that she is dating a nineteen year-old man, Elaine raises the topic of male honesty. Erica says she does not think about Martin’s honesty. In bed that night, Erica complains that Martin should not make her feel like sex is an obligation. He apologizes and shares that he has been anxious lately, but tells Erica that he still loves her. At the Rowan Art Gallery in SoHo [South of Houston] a neighborhood of Manhattan, Erica works part-time. When Charlie, a local artist, stops by her desk and flirts, Erica ridicules him. That afternoon, she meets her husband at a restaurant for lunch and asks about their summer vacation, but Martin appears preoccupied. As they leave, he begins sobbing and blurts out that he is in love with someone else. Through the tears, he confesses he has been seeing a younger woman named Marcia and wants to live with her. After telling him to save the apology for their daughter, Erica walks away, stopping at a corner to vomit. At a bar, Erica’s girlfriends offer advice, but feeling despondent, she decides to go. When Erica arrives home, Patti states that she hates her father, but also wonders whether her mother would ever forgive him. Erica tells her daughter that the marriage is really over and she will have to adjust. Following an examination, her physician, Dr. Arthur Jacobs, assures Erica that she is in excellent health and thinks her fatigue is caused by the stress from the divorce. When he invites her for a drink, she accuses him of making a pass and walks out annoyed. Unable to sleep one night, she collects Martin’s belongings throughout the apartment and throws them in a pile, along with her wedding ring. One afternoon, Elaine and her boyfriend Hal arrange for Erica to meet Bob, a press agent, during a double date at a Chinese restaurant. During the cab ride home, Bob makes a sudden move to kiss her, and Erica orders Bob to get out of the taxi. At home, she finds Patti necking on the bed with her boyfriend, Phil. Erica pushes Phil out the door and yells at Patti, but soon apologizes for losing her temper, grumbling about her lunch date. On another day, Erica has her first appointment with psychiatrist Tanya Berkel. She tells Tanya that she is frightened and recalls a similar feeling when she got her first menstrual period. Later, Erica meets with Martin to express concern about Patti, believing she would benefit from joint therapy with Tanya, and Martin agrees to pay for the sessions. As the conversation turns into an argument, Martin announces he is going to wed Marcia. At her next therapy session, Tanya suggests that Erica take a chance and meet new men. Following the advice, Erica enters a bar alone one evening and orders a drink. By chance, her artist acquaintance, Charlie arrives, and Erica tells him about the divorce. As soon as Charlie brings her another glass of wine, Erica asks him to take her to his loft. Despite Erica’s nervousness, they have sex. Afterwards, he invites her to return the next night, but feeling more self-assured, she declines. Sometime later, Saul Kaplan, an established artist, is preparing for an exhibition of his paintings at the gallery. After asking for Erica’s advice, he invites her out to lunch. During the afternoon, they wind up at Saul’s loft and have sex. As Erica dresses, she is nonchalant about their encounter, explaining that she is just experimenting with relationships at the moment. In SoHo, Erica and her girlfriends arrive at a party hosted by Erica’s friend, artist Jean Starret. Erica is happy to see Saul there, and he amuses her with gossip about the other guests. They encounter a drunken Charlie who humiliates Erica in front of Saul and her girlfriends. Saul suggests that Charlie go home, which results in a fight between the two men. Leaving the party with Saul, Erica confesses that she slept with Charlie. Saul is not disappointed, as long as she does not do it again and embraces her tightly. While they stroll through the late-night streets, he tells Erica about his ex-wife’s infidelity and his kids, whom he sees every summer at his place in Vermont. Saul also makes clear his desire for a relationship with Erica. Although she is tentative about moving too fast, she is also captivated by his charm and goes home with him that evening. One day, while Saul is painting and Erica is cooking eggs, she announces that she is happy. She also declares that she is ready for a more challenging job. Saul suggests that they live together, but she reiterates that she wants to focus on her career. Saul also wants to meet her daughter, so Erica invites him to the apartment for dinner the following night. During the evening, Patti is nervous and displays some hostility about her mother’s new relationship. In front of Saul, she says it would be easier if her father could visit her at home, to which Erica agrees. Patti then apologizes to Saul for acting like a fifteen-year-old. On her morning jog, Erica meets with Martin to inform him about the new visitation arrangement. He reveals that Marcia broke up with him and was hoping that Erica might reconsider their relationship, but she says it is not possible. Later, Saul suggests that Erica and Patti spend the summer with him in Vermont; however Erica reminds him that she cannot leave her job at the gallery for that long. Furthermore, after being tied to the needs of a couple for sixteen years, she wants to explore her individuality. Saul states that their relationship will be different from her marriage and reassures her that he does not want to see other women. While showing Elaine her new apartment in Greenwich Village, Erica admits that she is indecisive about going to Vermont. Elaine advises her to join Saul, regarding him as a rare find. Soon after, Saul waits for Erica at his loft with his bags packed. She arrives to tell him that she will travel to Vermont, but not the entire summer. Outside the building, Saul holds a rope while one of his murals is lowered from the loft window to the sidewalk, and Erica helps hold it upright. Afterward, Saul gets in the car to drive away, declaring that the painting is a gift for her. She wonders how she will get it home and begins walking down the sidewalk with it awkwardly, maneuvering the canvas in the wind. +

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

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