Longtime Companion (1990)

R | 93 mins | Drama | 11 May 1990

Director:

Norman René

Writer:

Craig Lucas

Producer:

Stan Wlodkowski

Cinematographer:

Tony Jannelli

Production Designer:

Andrew Jackness

Production Company:

American Playhouse
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HISTORY

       The actor credited onscreen as Pi Douglas is also known as “Pi Douglass.”
       An 18 Mar 1990 NYT article stated that writer Craig Lucas was commissioned by Lindsay Law, the executive producer of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) anthology television series, American Playhouse (12 Jan 1982 – 22 Dec 1993), to develop a screenplay about acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). However, the 13 May 1990 LAT reported that theatrical partners, Craig Lucas and director Norman René, brought the idea to Lindsay Law after working on an American Playhouse television adaptation of Lucas’ 1984 play, Blue Window. Law was initially unsure if a large-scale, feature film production about AIDS would entice investors, since there was no precedent at the time to demonstrate its marketability, and he reportedly waited several weeks before accepting the project. Although he and producer Stan Wlodkowski attempted to sell the picture by emphasizing its representation of common humanity, they were unable to raise money for the $1.5 million project. NYT noted that the film’s distributor, Samuel Goldwyn Company, was asked to produce the picture while it was still in development, but it turned down the deal due to the project’s lack of “name” actors. While a 31 Jan 1990 Var news item reported that the film was at one point planned as a television movie, Longtime Companion ultimately marked the first theatrically released feature film financed entirely by American Playhouse Theatrical Films, a subsidiary of American Playhouse.
       As stated in HR production charts on 11 Apr 1989, principal photography was ... More Less

       The actor credited onscreen as Pi Douglas is also known as “Pi Douglass.”
       An 18 Mar 1990 NYT article stated that writer Craig Lucas was commissioned by Lindsay Law, the executive producer of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) anthology television series, American Playhouse (12 Jan 1982 – 22 Dec 1993), to develop a screenplay about acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). However, the 13 May 1990 LAT reported that theatrical partners, Craig Lucas and director Norman René, brought the idea to Lindsay Law after working on an American Playhouse television adaptation of Lucas’ 1984 play, Blue Window. Law was initially unsure if a large-scale, feature film production about AIDS would entice investors, since there was no precedent at the time to demonstrate its marketability, and he reportedly waited several weeks before accepting the project. Although he and producer Stan Wlodkowski attempted to sell the picture by emphasizing its representation of common humanity, they were unable to raise money for the $1.5 million project. NYT noted that the film’s distributor, Samuel Goldwyn Company, was asked to produce the picture while it was still in development, but it turned down the deal due to the project’s lack of “name” actors. While a 31 Jan 1990 Var news item reported that the film was at one point planned as a television movie, Longtime Companion ultimately marked the first theatrically released feature film financed entirely by American Playhouse Theatrical Films, a subsidiary of American Playhouse.
       As stated in HR production charts on 11 Apr 1989, principal photography was set to begin 1 May 1989 in New York City. There, locations included Gouverneur Hospital; the Church of St. Luke in Greenwich Village; the Farrar, Straus and Giroux publishing company; several apartments and restaurants on the Upper West Side; and Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, according to production notes in AMPAS library files. Filming also took place at Fire Island, NY. The 18 Mar 1990 NYT stated that production was completed in six weeks, ending the week of 5 Jun 1989. Production notes reported that many of the picture’s top-tier actors prioritized the film over more lucrative offers due to the social relevance of the subject matter. In addition, companies including Panavision, Sound One, and Film Lab contributed their services at low or no cost to the filmmakers.
       Finding a distributor for the picture proved to be as difficult as securing a production company, according to various contemporary sources, including the 18 Mar 1990 NYT. Several days after postproduction was completed in fall 1989, the filmmakers screened the picture at the Mill Valley Film Festival in San Rafael, CA. Although it was received with a standing ovation, it was not picked up by a distributor at that time. Word of mouth spread within the film industry, and several companies expressed interest. However, producer Stan Wlodkowski noted that Hollywood studios expressed general malaise about “breaking new ground.”
       The Samuel Goldwyn Company was the first studio to be solicited for distribution when executive producer Lindsay Law sent a print to the company in Oct 1989, only two days after the film’s screening at the Mill Valley Film Festival. After ten days of deliberation, the company decided against the deal with the proviso that it would reconsider if the picture was still without a distributor in the months to come. Although the filmmakers did receive two offers, the companies in question were too small to support a wide release.
       With no future deals on the horizon during the 1989 Christmas season, Lindsay Law hired an advertising agency to initiate several campaigns directed at studios, demonstrating marketing schemes to attract audiences. In addition, Law considered accepting a “service deal,” where he and Wlodkowski would personally finance the cost of ads and prints. This proposal was met with a barrage of offers, confirming the filmmakers’ belief that studios were more uncertain about commercial gain than the picture’s content or artistry.
       Two days after a successful New York City industry screening in early Jan 1990, the Samuel Goldwyn Company acquired worldwide distribution rights, as announced in a 16 Jan 1990 DV news item. One week after the deal was confirmed, Longtime Companion was recognized with the “Audience Award, Dramatic” at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT. According to a 15 Apr 1990 LAT news item, Goldwyn’s marketing campaign did not shirk from the picture’s subject matter and paired trailers that referred to homosexuality and AIDS “in the first 20 seconds” with mainstream film releases. LAT reported that these previews were often received with applause.
       As noted in production files and a 16 May 1990 LAT brief, various premieres around the country were orchestrated as fund-raisers for AIDS-related organizations. The Los Angeles, CA, premiere on 14 May 1990 raised $60,000 for the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the AIDS Hospice Foundation, and the Los Angeles public television station KCET, as reported in the 16 May 1990 LAT. In addition, proceeds from the film’s release were donated to groups including AIDS FILMS and Gay Mens Health Crisis.
       While the picture was generally hailed by reviewers, it was moderately criticized by audiences for its failure to depict the diversity of people with AIDS, such as women, children, African Americans, and intravenous drug users. Although the characters in the film were uniformly white, male, and prosperous, many representatives of the homosexual community, including Vito Russo, author of The Celluloid Closet (1981), noted that the personalities were appropriate in context, since they were “exactly the population first identified with this disease.” Writer Craig Lucas also contended his screenplay never claimed to be “comprehensive,” but it still had an “onus on it to speak for everyone” because it was “the only movie” to date that portrayed the personal effects of AIDS.
       Eight months after the film’s 11 May 1990 U.S. release in New York City, the 11 Jan 1991 DV reported a $4.6 million box-office gross to date, and stated that the picture’s recent openings in various foreign territories were met with “exceptional box-office business.” On 24 Oct 1990, HR announced that Vidmark Entertainment, the film’s home video distributor, was contributing $100,000 to the 4 Nov 1990 Los Angeles “Eastside AIDS-Thon.” Vidmark also planned to raise $20,000 from its affiliates for the fund-raiser, and intended to establish a “Vidmark Longtime Companion Award” to honor “an outstanding individual in the AIDS-related community.” Nearly five years later, a 13 Jun 1995 HR news item described a cast reunion, planned for 29 Jun 1995 at the Virgin Megastore in Los Angeles, where the actors would bestow the Video Industry AIDS Action Committee’s (VIAAC) “Longtime Companion Award.” The Virgin Megastore agreed to donate a percentage of its Longtime Companion laserdisc sales in Jun 1995 to VIAAC, and Vidmark promised to match the funds. According to HR, VIAAC was responsible for generating $500,000 in contributions to date, and the money was disbursed among fifty domestic AIDS organizations.
       Longtime Companion marked Norman René’s debut as a feature film director. He died from AIDS at age forty-five, as stated in his 26 May 1996 NYT obituary.
       The film was nominated for one Academy Award in the category Actor in a Supporting Role (Bruce Davison). Davison was also nominated for a Golden Globe award in the same category, and was honored as Best Supporting Actor by the New York Film Critics Circle.

      End credits include: “The producers wish to thank the following organizations for their extraordinary help in getting this film made: A.T.&T. Foundation, DuArt Film Laboratories, Panavision, Sound One Corp., Sundance Institute.” End credits also acknowledge: “Adidas; Bally of Switzerland; Jhane Barnes; Basco; Bayland Pools; Broadway Video; Kenneth Cole Shoes; Devlin Video Services; Bill Dittfort Designs [sic]; Eaves-Brooks Costume Company; Editing Concepts; Andrew Fezza; Film Search; Furniture Consultants, Inc.; The Futon Shop; General Camera Corporation; Hirschl & Adler Modern; Paul Huntley, Ltd.; Island Properties Real Estate; JDH Sound; Johnson & Johnson; Journey Distributors; George Kovacs Lighting; Tony Lambert; Livingston Community Hospital; Magno Sound; Mars Club; Lawrence Michael Antiques; Nicole Miller; Mish Jewelry; Newmark & Co. Real Estate; Props for Today; Reebok; The Rockport Company; St. Martin’s Press; Santangelo, Santangelo & Cohen; Tapestry Recording; TFW/A division of Fishman-Tobin; Thunder and Light; Wallengren/USA; Waverly, a division of F. Schumacher & Company; Worth & Worth Ltd., The Complete Hatter.” In addition, the filmmakers state: “The support of the following individuals and organizations is gratefully acknowledged: Jeff Applegate; Benjamin Bergery; Elisha Birnbaum; Marty Blecman; Myron Blum; Connie Buck; Steve Carroll; Circle Repertory Company; Judy Claman; Louis D’Agostino, Local 644; Lynne Doherty; Richard Dunne, Gay Men’s Health Crisis; Peter Evans; Peter Franklin; Annette Grant; Jonathan Gries; Deborah Howes; Lynn Holst; William Katz; Debra Kletter; Janet Young Kogelschatz; Stephen Kopitko; Litke/Gale & Associates; Local 817, International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Rob Luttrell; Cheri Lyons; Milo Morrow; Bill Nisselson; Wessel O’Connor; People with AIDS Theater Workshop, Nick Pippin, Sylvia-Stein – Founding directors; Derek Power; Susan Rose, Screen Actors Guild; Church of St. Luke in the Fields; Michelle Satter; Serino Coyne, Inc.; Henry Wallengren; George Walden; Carole Weissman; Lowell Williams; Chris Woods; Irwin Young.” End credits note the following NY institutions and locations: “New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting, Patricia Reed Scott, director; New York State Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development, Pepper O’Brien, Deputy Commissioner; New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, Gouverneur Skilled Nursing Facility and Diagnostic Treatment Center; Towns of Hempstead and Lido Beach, New York.” End credits state the picture was: “Produced in association with American Playhouse, with funds from Public Television Stations, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.” This statement is followed by: “Soundtrack from Laverne & Shirley courtesy of Paramount Pictures Corporation.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
16 Jan 1990.
---
Daily Variety
30 Jan 1990
p. 12, 26.
Daily Variety
11 Jan 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jan 1990.
p. 4, 46.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jun 1995.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Apr 1990
Calendar, p. 27.
Los Angeles Times
13 May 1990
p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
16 May 1990
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
17 May 1990
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
30 Dec 1990.
---
New York Times
18 Mar 1990
Section A, p. 15.
New York Times
11 May 1990
p. 16.
New York Times
26 May 1996.
---
Variety
31 Jan 1990.
---
Variety
14 Feb 1990
p. 36.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
American Playhouse Theatrical Films presents
Produced in association with American Playhouse
with funds from Public Television stations
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
The National Endowment for the Arts
The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Still photog
Key grip
Cam prod asst
24 frame video services
Film processing
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept asst
Art dept asst
Art dept asst
Art dept asst
Art dept asst
FILM EDITORS
Assoc film ed
Asst film ed
Ed intern
Ed intern
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Asst set dec
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Prop master
Asst props
Area rugs courtesy of
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Asst to cost des
Ward assoc
Cost intern
Dress suits for Patrick Cassidy and Stephen Caffre
MUSIC
Mus supv
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Sd mixer
Boom op
Dial ed
Sd eff ed
Asst sd ed
Apprentice sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Scoring mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Main, end and date titles by
MAKEUP
Make-up des
Hair des
Addl make-up
Spec eff make-up consultant
Hair color by
of Gerard Bollei Salon, New York
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Unit mgr
Asst loc mgr
Scr supv
Extras casting dir
Extras casting asst
Teamster capt
Prod auditor
Prod office coord
Asst office coord
Asst to the prod
Asst to the dir
Asst to the dir
Dial coach
Medical consultant
Key prod asst
Loc scout
Loc asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Craft service
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Parking coord
Re-shoot U.P.M.
Prod attorney
Pryor, Cashman, Sherman & Flynn
SOURCES
MUSIC
“Bourée,” from Water Music Suite in F Major, written by Georg Frideric Handel, performed by Ars rediviva, courtesy of Supraphon.
SONGS
“The Tide Is High,” written by John Holt, performed by Blondie, published by Sparta Florida Music Group, courtesy of Chrysalis Records
“Dreamgirls,” written by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen, original Broadway cast, published by Warner/Chappell Music, courtesy of Geffen Records
“Walking On Sunshine,” written by Kimberly Rew, performed by Katrina and the Waves, published by EMI Music, courtesy of Capitol Records
+
SONGS
“The Tide Is High,” written by John Holt, performed by Blondie, published by Sparta Florida Music Group, courtesy of Chrysalis Records
“Dreamgirls,” written by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen, original Broadway cast, published by Warner/Chappell Music, courtesy of Geffen Records
“Walking On Sunshine,” written by Kimberly Rew, performed by Katrina and the Waves, published by EMI Music, courtesy of Capitol Records
“Things That Dreams Are Made Of,” written by Philip Oakey and Adrian Wright
performed by the Human League, published by Virgin Music, courtesy of A&M/Virgin Records
“Looking At My Secret Love,” performed by Stephen C. Cheng, published by Miro Music, courtesy of Monitor Records
“Casta Diva,” aria from the opera Norma, written by Vicenzo Bellini, performed by Jona Sova and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, courtesy of Supraphone
“Here Comes Grover,” written by Stuart Woods, published by Little Moose Music, performed by The Nuff Brothers
“Do You Wanna Funk,” written by Patrick Cowley and Sylvester, performed by Sylvester, published by Masculine Music & Sequins at Noon Music, courtesy of Megatone Records
“Y.M.C.A.,” written by H. Belolo, J. Morali, V. Willis, published by Can’t Stop The Music, performed by The Finger Lakes Trio
“Post-Mortem Bar,” written and performed by Zane Campbell.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 May 1990
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 11 May 1990
Los Angeles opening: 18 May 1990
Production Date:
1 May -- early June 1989 in New York City
Copyright Claimant:
Public Television Playhouse, Inc.
Copyright Date:
12 March 1990
Copyright Number:
PA466951
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision, New Filmmaker Program
Duration(in mins):
93
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On 3 July 1981, the New York Times reports an outbreak of a “rare cancer” that afflicts homosexual men in New York City and San Francisco, California. Although little is known about the disease and it is not considered contagious, doctors are alerting gay patients of the symptoms, which include bruises, lumps, and swollen lymph glands. It is also reported that those stricken with the illness have histories of promiscuity and drug use. However, homosexual men across New York City and at Fire Island, a nearby gay beach resort, dismiss the article as a hoax. At the time of the report, a wealthy, monogamous gay couple, David and Sean, entertain guests at their Fire Island home, where gay men cavort and enjoy indiscriminate sex. There, best friends Willy and John spot a bearded stranger, nicknamed “Fuzzy,” who strikes up an immediate bond with Willy. Meanwhile, in the city, an actor named Howard tells his live-in businessman lover, Paul, that he has just fulfilled his dream of becoming a regular character on a television soap opera. Nearly ten months later, on 30 April 1982, Howard learns he will be cast as a homosexual in a new soap opera called Other People, but insists on concealing his sexual identity for fear he will be typecast. At the same time, Willy’s friend John is admitted to an emergency room with symptoms similar to pneumonia. When Willy returns home from the hospital, he tells his now-boyfriend, Fuzzy, about the inadequate treatment John received. By 17 June 1983, ... +


On 3 July 1981, the New York Times reports an outbreak of a “rare cancer” that afflicts homosexual men in New York City and San Francisco, California. Although little is known about the disease and it is not considered contagious, doctors are alerting gay patients of the symptoms, which include bruises, lumps, and swollen lymph glands. It is also reported that those stricken with the illness have histories of promiscuity and drug use. However, homosexual men across New York City and at Fire Island, a nearby gay beach resort, dismiss the article as a hoax. At the time of the report, a wealthy, monogamous gay couple, David and Sean, entertain guests at their Fire Island home, where gay men cavort and enjoy indiscriminate sex. There, best friends Willy and John spot a bearded stranger, nicknamed “Fuzzy,” who strikes up an immediate bond with Willy. Meanwhile, in the city, an actor named Howard tells his live-in businessman lover, Paul, that he has just fulfilled his dream of becoming a regular character on a television soap opera. Nearly ten months later, on 30 April 1982, Howard learns he will be cast as a homosexual in a new soap opera called Other People, but insists on concealing his sexual identity for fear he will be typecast. At the same time, Willy’s friend John is admitted to an emergency room with symptoms similar to pneumonia. When Willy returns home from the hospital, he tells his now-boyfriend, Fuzzy, about the inadequate treatment John received. By 17 June 1983, John is dead. David entertains companions at his Fire Island estate, including Willy, Fuzzy, and his childhood friend, Lisa. When a skeletal man walks by the party from afar, stricken with the disease now known as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), a guest named Michael suggests the illness is restricted to homosexuals who are debaucherous and self-destructive, but Lisa argues the virus does not discriminate. Inside the house, the group gathers to watch Other People, written by David’s lover, Sean. When the guests convene in another room, Sean notices a mole on his neck and tells David he feels sickly. However, David insists Sean cannot have AIDS because they are monogamous. Just over one year later, on 7 September 1984, Sean is hospitalized with AIDS and is consoled by David and their friend, Michael, who believes the illness can be overcome with vitamins and self-love. Willy visits Sean, but becomes increasingly paranoid about contagion. At the same time, in another hospital room, Howard’s lover, Paul, is diagnosed with AIDS. On 22 March 1985, Sean is back at Fire Island with David, who is secretly writing episodes of Other People so Sean can keep his job. However, Sean is deteriorating and unable to speak coherently when his producer telephones to complain about his recent work. Meanwhile, in New York City, Fuzzy becomes Howard’s entertainment lawyer and dissolves his contract with Other People. As Howard pursues a career in film, a producer tells Fuzzy that the actor will never be hired because he is rumored to have AIDS. When Fuzzy telephones Howard with the news, the actor is at the hospital, sitting at Paul’s deathbed. That night, Fuzzy and Willy sleep side by side, afraid to make love. By 4 January 1986, Sean is emaciated and confined to a hospital bed at home, where David changes his lover’s incontinence pad with a male nurse named Henry. As Sean repeatedly mutters, “Let’s go,” David sees Henry to the door and asks him to delay his return. Returning to Sean’s bed, David tells his lover to embrace death instead of fighting it, and Sean slowly passes away. Shortly afterward, Lisa, Willy, and Fuzzy convene at David’s apartment and telephone the Gay Men’s Health Center (GMHC) to find a funeral home for victims of AIDS. At a Chinese restaurant, Fuzzy jots down David’s notes for Sean’s obituary, and Lisa chimes in that the announcement should include a passage indicating that Sean was survived by his “longtime companion.” Over one year later, David also dies of AIDS. At his 16 May 1987 memorial service, Willy remembers David’s bravery while taking care of Sean, despite the risk of contagion, and notes that his friend’s generosity was inspiring. By 10 September 1988, Willy, Fuzzy and Lisa are volunteering at GMHC, assisting dying AIDS patients and encouraging them to fight for their lives. The friends later attend a gala benefit performance called “Living with AIDS,” hosted by Howard. Although the actor admits to having the disease, he declares that the show demonstrates how AIDS patients are not victims. When another year goes by, Fuzzy, Willy, and Lisa walk along the beach at Fire Island on 19 July 1989. Fuzzy, now cleanly-shaven, announces his plan to perform civil disobedience at an upcoming political demonstration, protesting the government’s failure to respond to the AIDS crisis. When the friends wonder aloud about a future without AIDS, they imagine a group of deceased AIDS patients racing toward the beach and dancing in celebration. In the fantasy, Willy, Fuzzy, and Lisa are reunited with their friends, including David, Sean, and John. However, the apparition fades, and the companions continue along their path, hoping for a cure. +

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

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