3 Women (1977)

PG | 116 mins | Drama | 29 April 1977

Director:

Robert Altman

Writer:

Robert Altman

Producer:

Robert Altman

Cinematographer:

Chuck Rosher

Editor:

Dennis Hill

Production Designer:

James D. Vance

Production Company:

Lion's Gate Films
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HISTORY

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Jeremy Carr, Visiting Research Fellow with the Arizona State University Center for Film, Media and Popular Culture.

According to an 8 Sep 1976 LAT article, director Robert Altman had a dream about the story for 3 Women in mid-July of 1976. At the time, Altman was directing Sissy Spacek in the film Welcome to L.A. (1977, see entry), and believed that watching Spacek in the dailies inspired the dream. LAT also stated that Spacek, who was cast as “Pinky,” and Shelley Duvall, who was cast as “Millie,” appeared in Altman’s dream as the characters they eventually portrayed in the film.
       Soon after Altman had the dream, according to a 24 Apr 1977 NYT article, he was intrigued by a “drawing of simian grotesques” at a friend’s house, and contacted the 26-year-old artist Bodhi Wind. At the time, Wind was supporting himself by “designing album covers and sets and costumes for rock shows.” Altman, who also painted, commissioned Wind to produce the murals done by Janice Rule’s character, “Willie.” Wind reportedly received a treatment from Altman that was very different from the final film: for instance, in the treatment, “Pinky” and “Millie” worked in a film editing studio instead of a physical rehabilitation facility. Altman’s only direction to Wind was to “make his figures less frightening.” Wind worked for a month, starting three weeks in advance of the shoot, in the “120 degree weather” of the film’s location, Palm Springs, CA. The 24 Apr ... More Less

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Jeremy Carr, Visiting Research Fellow with the Arizona State University Center for Film, Media and Popular Culture.

According to an 8 Sep 1976 LAT article, director Robert Altman had a dream about the story for 3 Women in mid-July of 1976. At the time, Altman was directing Sissy Spacek in the film Welcome to L.A. (1977, see entry), and believed that watching Spacek in the dailies inspired the dream. LAT also stated that Spacek, who was cast as “Pinky,” and Shelley Duvall, who was cast as “Millie,” appeared in Altman’s dream as the characters they eventually portrayed in the film.
       Soon after Altman had the dream, according to a 24 Apr 1977 NYT article, he was intrigued by a “drawing of simian grotesques” at a friend’s house, and contacted the 26-year-old artist Bodhi Wind. At the time, Wind was supporting himself by “designing album covers and sets and costumes for rock shows.” Altman, who also painted, commissioned Wind to produce the murals done by Janice Rule’s character, “Willie.” Wind reportedly received a treatment from Altman that was very different from the final film: for instance, in the treatment, “Pinky” and “Millie” worked in a film editing studio instead of a physical rehabilitation facility. Altman’s only direction to Wind was to “make his figures less frightening.” Wind worked for a month, starting three weeks in advance of the shoot, in the “120 degree weather” of the film’s location, Palm Springs, CA. The 24 Apr 1977 NYT article stated that the film resulted in new commissions for Wind’s work, including a request from Altman for “colored etched glass doors and another swimming pool painting.”
       An 8 Sep 1976 LAT article stated that Altman and the cast used only a “detailed outline” during the six-week shoot. Altman explained, “The movie will be scripted as the individual scenes are put together. The final script won’t be finished until the picture is finished.” To ensure creative control over the product, Altman financed the $1.7 million budget himself.
       According to an 18 Apr 1977 LAT news item, DV rejected the film’s initial print advertisements, which depicted the three female leads in a distinctly phallic formation. Altman agreed to redesign the material. However, the film’s posters, which also contained the phallic image, remained untouched.
       The film opened to mostly positive reviews. Vincent Canby of NYT commended the film’s dreamlike approach, saying that, “like a dream, it is most mysterious and allusive when it appears to be most precise and direct.” A mixed HR review referred to 3 Women as a “poor man’s Persona ” and, despite great performances, insisted that the characters were “ill-defined, ill-matched, and supremely noncompetitive when it comes to commanding an audience’s attention.” The 13 Apr 1977 Var review suggested that the “absorbing, moody and often compelling story about psychological dependence and transference” would require a “slow marketing approach.”

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
18 Oct 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Apr 1977
p. 3, 7.
Los Angeles Times
8 Sep 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Apr 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 Apr 1977
p. 1.
New York Times
11 Apr 1977
p. 40.
New York Times
24 Apr 1977.
---
Variety
13 Apr 1977
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st cam asst
2d cam asst
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Murals
Visual consultant
FILM EDITORS
Post prod
Post prod supv
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Prop asst
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Flute soloist
Mus ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Prod accountant
Prod asst
DETAILS
Release Date:
29 April 1977
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 29 April 1977
Production Date:
began 13 September 1977
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Copyright Date:
10 April 1977
Copyright Number:
LP47342
Physical Properties:
Sound
Lion's Gate 8 Track Sound
Color
DeLuxe®
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
116
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24854
SYNOPSIS

At a Southern California physical rehabilitation center for the aged, Pinky Rose, a new employee from Texas, watches Millie Lammoreaux assist elderly patients in and out of a swimming pool. Ms. Bunweill, the head nurse, orders Millie to train Pinky. After giving her a tour of the facilities, Millie demonstrates for Pinky how to assist the elderly in the swimming pool. When Pinky playfully drops below the surface, Millie scolds her. Pinky discovers that Millie is also from Texas and hugs her when they are assigned adjacent lockers. Although their co-workers ignore Millie’s attempts to talk to them, Pinky watches Millie from a distance, spellbound. After Pinky clocks in for work the next day, she looks for Millie. When she hears Millie’s voice, she excuses herself from her patient, mimicking the exact words she hears Millie use. At lunchtime, Millie eats at a nearby hospital cafeteria, and Pinky follows at a distance. Millie tries to make conversation with the doctors and nurses, but they pay no attention to her. As Millie leaves the hospital, Pinky sees her post an ad for a roommate on a bulletin board. Pinky removes the ad and later, having arranged to move in with Millie, rides home with her after work. On the drive home, Millie first stops at the Dodge City, an isolated saloon in the desert. Outside, Pinky acts like an excited child when she sees a disused miniature golf area and life-size Indian teepee. In open land behind the building, men ride dirt bikes, Willie Hart, wife of Edgar Hart and co-owner of the bar, paints murals of human-like sea creatures. Millie beckons to Willie through ... +


At a Southern California physical rehabilitation center for the aged, Pinky Rose, a new employee from Texas, watches Millie Lammoreaux assist elderly patients in and out of a swimming pool. Ms. Bunweill, the head nurse, orders Millie to train Pinky. After giving her a tour of the facilities, Millie demonstrates for Pinky how to assist the elderly in the swimming pool. When Pinky playfully drops below the surface, Millie scolds her. Pinky discovers that Millie is also from Texas and hugs her when they are assigned adjacent lockers. Although their co-workers ignore Millie’s attempts to talk to them, Pinky watches Millie from a distance, spellbound. After Pinky clocks in for work the next day, she looks for Millie. When she hears Millie’s voice, she excuses herself from her patient, mimicking the exact words she hears Millie use. At lunchtime, Millie eats at a nearby hospital cafeteria, and Pinky follows at a distance. Millie tries to make conversation with the doctors and nurses, but they pay no attention to her. As Millie leaves the hospital, Pinky sees her post an ad for a roommate on a bulletin board. Pinky removes the ad and later, having arranged to move in with Millie, rides home with her after work. On the drive home, Millie first stops at the Dodge City, an isolated saloon in the desert. Outside, Pinky acts like an excited child when she sees a disused miniature golf area and life-size Indian teepee. In open land behind the building, men ride dirt bikes, Willie Hart, wife of Edgar Hart and co-owner of the bar, paints murals of human-like sea creatures. Millie beckons to Willie through a window and orders glasses of beer, one of which Pinky downs in one long swig. As Millie and Pinky leave, they encounter Edgar, a retired cowboy stuntman. Showing off for the women, Edgar pulls a gun out of a holster and lifts a large, fake boulder. Back in the car, Pinky expresses dislike for her real name, which she reveals is Mildred, but then is ashamed when she realizes it is also Millie’s given name. At the apartment complex where Millie lives, Pinky notices Willie’s murals in the swimming pool and learns that the Harts own the buildings. Passing through to her apartment, Millie tries to make small talk with her neighbors, but they, like her co-workers, ignore her and talk about her behind her back. Inside, Pinky gushes about Millie’s second-floor, one-bedroom apartment and confides that she thinks Millie is the “most perfect person” she knows. As they eat dinner, Pinky claims to dislike tomatoes, because she overheard Millie saying the same thing at lunch. Before going to bed, Millie writes in her diary, while Pinky secretly copies down Millie’s social security information. Later, as Millie sleeps in one of the twin beds, Pinky tries to read the diary but finds it locked. On a night when Millie is out, she picks the lock and reads. When Millie returns early from her date in an unhappy mood, she scolds Pinky for leaving her shoes in the middle of the floor and a milk carton in the bathroom. Annoyed, Millie leaves Pinky to join the neighbors at the pool, but the neighbors exclude her from their socializing. After work the next day, Millie is angry when Pinky delays their departure by accidentally punching Millie’s timecard instead of her own. However, the two again drive out to Dodge City and, along the way, Pinky wonders aloud what it’s like to be a twin. At the bar, Millie flirts with men gathered at a shooting range behind the building, while Pinky, who claims to dislike guns, watches Willie paint a mural on the inside of a drained pool. The next morning, Millie makes plans to have her former roommate, Deidre, and some male friends for dinner that evening. She goes grocery shopping, leaving Pinky to clean the apartment. While preparing food, Pinky spills the contents of a jar on her shirt. As she takes out the trash, Deidre and her friends drive up and cancel dinner, saying they are going to Dodge City instead. When Pinky tells Millie, she blames Pinky’s sloppy appearance and leaves her behind to follow her friends. Later, she returns with a drunken Edgar in tow and instructs Pinky to sleep on a rollaway bed in the living room. Troubled, Pinky asks about Mrs. Hart, but Millie responds sharply that Pinky is not someone one wants “hanging around,” that she does not smoke or drink, and suggests that Pinky can move out. While Millie is in the bedroom with Edgar, Pinky, who is hurt by Millie’s emotional outburst, jumps into the pool from the second floor landing and is knocked unconscious. When Millie comes out to check on the commotion, Willie sees Edgar leave the apartment. The remorseful Millie locates Pinky’s parents, who live in Texas and are much older than she expected. The Roses travel by bus to be with Pinky, but when she gains consciousness, she claims not to recognize them. When she works herself into a tantrum, insisting they are not her parents, the doctor diagnoses temporary amnesia and suggests that Pinky return to Millie’s apartment. At work, Millie asks her co-workers to sign a get-well card, but they show no concern. The center’s doctor claims not to recall Pinky, and he and Bunweill refuse to consider rehiring Pinky after she is released from the hospital. At Dodge City, Willie spends time at the shooting range behind the saloon, consistently hitting the center of the target. Meanwhile, Millie finds that Pinky’s meek demeanor has changed. Now she is curt, easily irritated and cruel, and she implies that her doctor may have sexually abused her while she was unconscious. She also manipulates Millie into sleeping in the living room on the rollaway bed, claiming the bedroom for herself. One day, Millie calls Pinky from work and discovers that Edgar is there. Bunweill tells Millie that Pinky used her social security information on an employee form, but Millie impulsively defends her, calling it an accident and quits her job in anger. In the parking lot, she discovers her car is missing and finds it parked at Dodge City, driven there by Pinky, who is shooting targets in the back with Edgar. One day, while cleaning up after Pinky, Millie notices that her diary has been opened and sees that Pinky has been writing in it, as if it were her own. Later, Millie asks Pinky about her past and growing up in Texas, but Pinky is reluctant to speak. Millie questions her about forging her social security number, but Pinky denies it and demands that she be called Mildred. As Pinky goes into the bathroom, Millie continues to read the diary and discovers that Pinky is referring to herself by Millie’s last name. In the evening, Pinky awakens from a bad dream and asks to sleep in the rollaway bed with Millie. As the two sleep, Edgar, drunk, quietly unlocks their door and enters their apartment. He is unnoticed until he opens a bottle of beer and then, frightened, the women reproach him and order him out. In his drunken ramblings, Edgar reveals that Willie is giving birth, causing Pinky and Millie to race to her aid. Millie stays with Willie to assist with the delivery and orders Pinky to get a doctor. Instead, Pinky watches from the parking lot as Willie gives birth to a stillborn baby boy. Millie, covered with blood, sees that Pinky has not left and scolds her, slapping her hard across the face. Days later, at Dodge City, a Coca-Cola delivery truck pulls up and two men unload soda. When the deliverymen ask for someone to sign for the shipment, Pinky, who is sitting behind the counter, says she will get her mother. She knocks on the window at the back of the saloon and beckons Millie, who is busy outside and dressed like Willie, to come in. The uncharacteristically calm Millie listens as the men express their surprise at Edgar’s death from a gun accident, remarking that he was a trained marksman. After they leave, Millie asks Pinky, who she calls Millie, to help with dinner and they walk to a house at the back of the saloon where Willie, looking older, sits on a porch. Willie says that she just had a “wonderful” dream, but cannot remember it. +

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

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