Reuben, Reuben (1983)

R | 101 mins | Comedy-drama, Satire | 16 December 1983

Producer:

Walter Shenson

Cinematographer:

Peter Stein

Editor:

Skip Lusk

Production Designer:

Peter Larkin

Production Company:

Taft Entertainment Company
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HISTORY

The 1 Dec 1983 DV reported that Julius J. Epstein’s screenplay was “loosely inspired” by the final years of poets Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan, and the character “Gowan McGland” was a composite of “several characters” from the source. Producer Walter Shenson acquired Epstein’s script in 1979, and selected British actor Tom Conti for the lead role after seeing his performance in the play, Whose Life Is It Anyway? In the summer of 1982, Taft Entertainment Company (TEC) supplied the $3.5 million budget, and bidding from prospective distributors began the following autumn. Among the bidders were Orion Pictures, Universal Pictures, Embassy Films, and Columbia Pictures, before the producers chose Twentieth Century-Fox International Classics in Nov 1983. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Conti shared Shenson’s enthusiasm for the screenplay, and agreed to the role whenever financing could be arranged. Principal photography began in late Nov 1982 at the Earl Owensby Studios in Shelby, NC. Shenson chose the location for its accommodating weather, low production costs, and access to nearby Charlotte, NC, which substituted on screen for New York City. The supporting cast was comprised of Broadway stage actors, with the exception of female lead Kelly McGillis, who was completing her final year at the Juilliard School in New York City. Due to her class schedule, McGillis was only available on weekends and “during an elaborately planned leave of absence.” The thirty-five-day production schedule was completed 23 Dec 1982, as reported in the 17 Dec 1982 HR. Sy Fischer, president of TEC, told the 7 Mar 1983 DV that, due ... More Less

The 1 Dec 1983 DV reported that Julius J. Epstein’s screenplay was “loosely inspired” by the final years of poets Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan, and the character “Gowan McGland” was a composite of “several characters” from the source. Producer Walter Shenson acquired Epstein’s script in 1979, and selected British actor Tom Conti for the lead role after seeing his performance in the play, Whose Life Is It Anyway? In the summer of 1982, Taft Entertainment Company (TEC) supplied the $3.5 million budget, and bidding from prospective distributors began the following autumn. Among the bidders were Orion Pictures, Universal Pictures, Embassy Films, and Columbia Pictures, before the producers chose Twentieth Century-Fox International Classics in Nov 1983. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Conti shared Shenson’s enthusiasm for the screenplay, and agreed to the role whenever financing could be arranged. Principal photography began in late Nov 1982 at the Earl Owensby Studios in Shelby, NC. Shenson chose the location for its accommodating weather, low production costs, and access to nearby Charlotte, NC, which substituted on screen for New York City. The supporting cast was comprised of Broadway stage actors, with the exception of female lead Kelly McGillis, who was completing her final year at the Juilliard School in New York City. Due to her class schedule, McGillis was only available on weekends and “during an elaborately planned leave of absence.” The thirty-five-day production schedule was completed 23 Dec 1982, as reported in the 17 Dec 1982 HR. Sy Fischer, president of TEC, told the 7 Mar 1983 DV that, due to the picture’s “small nature,” it would need to garner favorable reviews on the film festival circuit to attract a distributor. The 1 Sep 1983 HR announced the picture’s premiere as the opening screening of the Deauville Festival of American Cinema later that month. As noted in the 1 Dec 1983 DV, TEC increased the film’s “media awareness” through a series of screenings at the company’s offices, with Shenson and director Robert Ellis Miller in attendance.
       Reuben, Reuben opened to positive reviews on 16 Dec 1983 at the UA Coronet Theater in Los Angeles, CA, and 19 Dec 1983 at the Sutton Theater in New York City. The Mar 1984 Box reported gross earnings of $24,000 over three weeks in Los Angeles, and $40,000 in New York City. The 14 Dec 1983 LAHExam lamented the film’s “R” rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), claiming its only obscenity was “mouthed, not spoken,” as compared to Scarface (1983, see entry), which received the same rating but included more than 180 spoken obscenities.
       According to the 4 Feb 1984 DV, Twentieth Century-Fox arranged test engagements in Toronto, Canada, and the California cities of San Diego and San Francisco, to determine if the picture would succeed in mainstream venues. During Jan 1983, the film earned $30,620 in its first two weeks in San Diego, and more than $33,000 over the same period in Toronto. The studio spent $50,000 on television and newspaper advertising in San Diego, and a smaller amount in Toronto, limiting promotion to newspapers. Testing was planned for another two weeks, including the 4 Feb 1984 San Francisco opening, before the studio could decide on a broad release.
       Reuben, Reuben marked Tom Conti’s American feature film debut. He received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and Julius J. Epstein was nominated for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. Conti was voted Best Actor by the National Board of Review, and Epstein won an award for Best Adapted Screenplay from the Writers Guild of America. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Mar 1984
Section R, p. 31.
Daily Variety
24 Nov 1982.
---
Daily Variety
7 Mar 1983
p. 1, 12.
Daily Variety
1 Dec 1983
p. 6, 14.
Daily Variety
4 Feb 1984.
---
Daily Variety
21 Feb 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 1982
p. 1, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Oct 1983
p. 3, 24.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Nov 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 1983
p. 3, 5.
LAHExam
14 Dec 1983.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Dec 1983
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
19 Dec 1983
p. 23.
Variety
7 Dec 1983
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
The Taft Entertainment Company presents
A Walter Shenson Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
Cam op
2d asst cam
2d cam op
Rigging gaffer
Best boy
Elec
Key grip
Grip
Dolly grip
Equip grip/Generator op
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
1st asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Dailies
Dailies
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Utility art dept
Prop master
Asst props
Const coord
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus ed for LaDa Productions
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd editing for Echo Film Services
Sd editing for Echo Film Services
Sd editing for Echo Film Services
Sd editing for Echo Film Services
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Makeup/Hair stylist
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec in charge of prod
Casting dir
New York casting
Scr supv
Prod coord
Prod liaison
Prod auditor
Prod secy
Prod's secy
Loc mgr
Extras coord
Transportation
Transportation
Transportation
Transportation
Transportation
Asst to Mr. Miller
Craft service
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
Animals provided by
Facilities provided by
Shelby, N.C.
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Reuben, Reuben by Peter De Vries (Boston, 1964) and the play Spofford by Herman Shumlin (New York, 14 Dec 1967).
DETAILS
Release Date:
16 December 1983
Premiere Information:
Deauville Festival of American Cinema premiere: September 1983
Los Angeles opening: 16 December 1983
New York opening: 19 December 1983
Production Date:
late November--23 December 1982
Copyright Claimant:
Saltair Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 January 1984
Copyright Number:
PA199595
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
101
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27055
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Woodsmoke, Connecticut, Scottish poet Gowan Evans McGland reads his work to a women’s literary group as the members sit in rapt attention. He follows with a question-and-answer period, during which he gives flippant answers regarding the meaning of his poems and his affairs with women. “Chairperson” Bobby Springer concludes the meeting and follows Gowan to his hotel for a tryst. When he expresses an interest in her sister-in-law, Lucille Haxby, Bobby warns that Dr. Jack Haxby, a prominent dentist, would “destroy” Gowan for sleeping with Lucille. Later, Gowan stands on a chair with his neck in a harness suspended from the ceiling to relieve his arthritis. He receives a telephone call from his estranged wife, Edith, inviting him to have lunch with her in New York City. Afterward, Gowan meets Frank Spofford, a poultry farmer, whose English sheepdog, Reuben, has taken a liking to the poet. Frank bemoans the rapid influx of affluent New Yorkers to his community, causing him to feel like “a native surrounded by strangers.” The next evening, Gowan joins the Haxbys, along with Bobby and her husband, C. B. Springer, at a restaurant. Gowan mentions his impending trip to New York City and asks to see Dr. Haxby concerning a toothache. As the group leaves the restaurant, Gowan steals the waiter’s tip money. The following day, Edith informs Gowan that she has been commissioned to write his biography, and she chides him on the fact that he has written nothing in the last five years. Gowan defends his aversion to work, then propositions Edith, but she declines, preferring her new lover, a ... +


In Woodsmoke, Connecticut, Scottish poet Gowan Evans McGland reads his work to a women’s literary group as the members sit in rapt attention. He follows with a question-and-answer period, during which he gives flippant answers regarding the meaning of his poems and his affairs with women. “Chairperson” Bobby Springer concludes the meeting and follows Gowan to his hotel for a tryst. When he expresses an interest in her sister-in-law, Lucille Haxby, Bobby warns that Dr. Jack Haxby, a prominent dentist, would “destroy” Gowan for sleeping with Lucille. Later, Gowan stands on a chair with his neck in a harness suspended from the ceiling to relieve his arthritis. He receives a telephone call from his estranged wife, Edith, inviting him to have lunch with her in New York City. Afterward, Gowan meets Frank Spofford, a poultry farmer, whose English sheepdog, Reuben, has taken a liking to the poet. Frank bemoans the rapid influx of affluent New Yorkers to his community, causing him to feel like “a native surrounded by strangers.” The next evening, Gowan joins the Haxbys, along with Bobby and her husband, C. B. Springer, at a restaurant. Gowan mentions his impending trip to New York City and asks to see Dr. Haxby concerning a toothache. As the group leaves the restaurant, Gowan steals the waiter’s tip money. The following day, Edith informs Gowan that she has been commissioned to write his biography, and she chides him on the fact that he has written nothing in the last five years. Gowan defends his aversion to work, then propositions Edith, but she declines, preferring her new lover, a handsome young actor. He telephones Dr. Haxby, only to learn that the dentist is unavailable, due to an emergency. Edith gives him a miniature tape recorder, with which he can dictate additional information for the biography. Although the idea offends Gowan, Edith says he owes her the favor, as she was miserable throughout their six-year marriage. Gowan drinks heavily to numb his toothache and staggers onto a commuter train without a ticket. A young woman offers to pay his fare, explaining that she enjoyed his lecture when he visited her college. Gowan visits Frank Spofford’s farm the next day, and Frank introduces that young woman as his granddaughter, Geneva. She and Gowan walk to the post office, where they encounter Geneva’s boyfriend, Tad Springer. Tad mentions a party his parents, Bobby and C. B., are throwing for Gowan on Saturday, and the poet invites Geneva as his guest. Saturday night, while Geneva dances with Tad, Lucille Haxby focuses her attention on Gowan. Afterward, Gowan walks Geneva home and asks to see her the next day. She plans to attend church with Tad, but agrees to Gowan’s request to walk her home afterward. Upon returning to his hotel, Gowan tape-records a message to Edith, saying he is in love with Geneva. Lucille appears at his door, expecting to make love. Aware they both lack self-respect, Lucille cries on Gowan’s shoulder, asking him to dedicate a poem to her, guaranteeing her “a kind of immortality.” Walking home from church, Geneva informs Gowan she is studying psychology, and suggests that womanizers, such as himself, are latent homosexuals. While sitting in a bar, Gowan points to an affectionate couple, indicating the male partner is heterosexual. The man misunderstands the statement and punches Gowan in the stomach. Geneva breaks the man’s nose and helps Gowan out the door. Although Gowan is humiliated, he kisses Geneva and declares his love for her, but she does not reciprocate. Gowan returns to his hotel and his neck harness. Geneva enters the room, assumes Gowan is committing suicide, and realizes that she loves him. Two weeks later, Geneva’s mother, Mare Spofford, voices her disapproval of Gowan, believing her daughter is seduced by his fame. Mare is further outraged upon seeing Edith McGland discuss her failed marriage on television. Late one night, Gowan telephones Dr. Haxby, asking for an appointment in the morning. Afterward, Lucille admits to sleeping with Gowan, prompting the dentist to seek revenge. In the morning, the dentist removes a healthy tooth and leaves Gowan’s abscessed tooth intact. That evening, Gowan joins Geneva at a restaurant and has an altercation with a waiter who recognizes him as “the clown who steals tips.” Geneva is embarrassed and leaves the restaurant, refusing to speak to the poet. In the morning, another dentist, Dr. William Ormsby, advises Gowan to be fitted for dentures, as the poet’s diseased gums can no longer support his remaining teeth. Later, Geneva informs Gowan that she is pregnant, but is reluctant to share the news with her family, for fear of being forced to marry him. Gowan assures Geneva that he loves her too much to marry her. She has decided to have an abortion, adding that she and Gowan should never see each other again. He returns to his hotel, climbs onto a chair, fashions his harness into a noose, and tape-records his final thoughts for his biography. He prefers death over the loss of Geneva and his remaining teeth, but regrets never completing his last poem. He then improvises a final verse and regains his will to live. Meanwhile, Frank Spofford arrives outside with Reuben, and allows the dog to run into the Gowan’s room. Reuben inadvertently knocks the chair from under Gowan and he chokes to death. +

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

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