The Sea Gull (1968)

G | 141 mins | Drama | 22 December 1968

Director:

Sidney Lumet

Producer:

Sidney Lumet

Cinematographer:

Gerry Fisher

Production Designer:

Tony Walton

Production Company:

Sidney Lumet Productions
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HISTORY

According to a 15 Oct 1967 NYT article, producer-director Sidney Lumet signed a three-picture deal with Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, Inc., after completing production on Bye Bye Braverman (1968, see entry) for the studio. The Sea Gull was set to be the first of the three films, all of which would be made “on a modest budget and with complete artistic freedom.” The cost of The Sea Gull was estimated at $750,000, although a 3 Dec 1968 LAT brief later stated that the picture was brought in for $830,000. Lumet was paid “virtually nothing,” while principal cast members James Mason, Vanessa Redgrave, Simone Signoret, and David Warner agreed to work for reduced salaries of $25,000 each. Initial plans were made to shoot in Sweden and England, but production ultimately took place entirely in Sweden.
       LAT stated that Lumet had read eleven different English translations of Anton Pavlovich Chekhov’s 1896 play, Chayka (a.k.a. The Sea Gull), but had found them all “either pedantic and stilted or terribly modern and full of colloquialisms.” He discussed a new translation with British playwright Peter Shaffer before commissioning Baroness Moura Budberg to write it, according to NYT. Budberg had previously adapted Chekhov’s Three Sisters for a production at the National Theater, which Lumet had seen and admired. She also served as the “word-and-technical advisor” on the set of The Sea Gull, the 3 Oct 1968 DV noted. Although Lumet claimed that the screen adaptation would strictly follow Chekhov’s original work, the 24 Dec 1968 NYT film review noted ... More Less

According to a 15 Oct 1967 NYT article, producer-director Sidney Lumet signed a three-picture deal with Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, Inc., after completing production on Bye Bye Braverman (1968, see entry) for the studio. The Sea Gull was set to be the first of the three films, all of which would be made “on a modest budget and with complete artistic freedom.” The cost of The Sea Gull was estimated at $750,000, although a 3 Dec 1968 LAT brief later stated that the picture was brought in for $830,000. Lumet was paid “virtually nothing,” while principal cast members James Mason, Vanessa Redgrave, Simone Signoret, and David Warner agreed to work for reduced salaries of $25,000 each. Initial plans were made to shoot in Sweden and England, but production ultimately took place entirely in Sweden.
       LAT stated that Lumet had read eleven different English translations of Anton Pavlovich Chekhov’s 1896 play, Chayka (a.k.a. The Sea Gull), but had found them all “either pedantic and stilted or terribly modern and full of colloquialisms.” He discussed a new translation with British playwright Peter Shaffer before commissioning Baroness Moura Budberg to write it, according to NYT. Budberg had previously adapted Chekhov’s Three Sisters for a production at the National Theater, which Lumet had seen and admired. She also served as the “word-and-technical advisor” on the set of The Sea Gull, the 3 Oct 1968 DV noted. Although Lumet claimed that the screen adaptation would strictly follow Chekhov’s original work, the 24 Dec 1968 NYT film review noted that the last line of the play, “in which the doctor tells Trigorin to get Arkadina out of the room,” was removed. Also, the scene of “Konstantin’s” suicide was moved “from the house to the lake,” and while the act took place entirely offstage in the play, Konstantin’s dead body was shown in the film.
       Following an “intense” rehearsal period, as described in LAT, principal photography began on 22 Aug 1968 in Stockholm, Sweden, according to a production chart in the next day’s DV. To make use of the “bright summer mornings,” shooting hours began at 7:30 a.m. and ended at 4:30 p.m., the 30 Aug 1968 DV reported. Filming was completed in twenty-nine days.
       A world premiere in New York City was scheduled to take place on 22 Dec 1968, just four months after the start of filming, which necessitated a sped-up post-production. Lumet took out an advertisement in the 12 Dec 1968 DV to thank those who helped deliver an answer print by 6 Dec 1968, naming sound mixer George Groves and his crew members Gordon Davis , Dan Willin, Francis Scheid , and Sam Goode, as well as editor Rudi Fehr, and Technicolor’s Earl Knettles and Norman Strifert.
       A special screening was arranged on 19 Dec 1968 for actors and actresses currently appearing in Broadway shows, as noted in the 25 Dec 1968 Var. Following the 22 Dec 1968 New York City opening, and subsequent release in Los Angeles, CA, on 25 Dec 1968, the picture received mixed reviews. In a positive critique, Var mentioned that the 141-minute running time was comprised of three acts “separated by long fades.” The first act was cited as sixty-nine minutes, the second act thirty minutes, and the third act forty-two minutes.
       The Sea Gull was named Seventeen magazine’s “Picture of the Month” for Jan 1969, according to the 23 Jan 1969 DV.
       Although Lumet was quoted in the 15 Oct 1967 NYT as saying that his film marked the first English-language screen adaptation of Chekhov’s play, the 1 Sep 1926 Var noted that Charlie Chaplin had financed an earlier version of The Sea Gull, directed by Joseph Von Sternberg and starring Edna Purviance. However, Chaplin was not satisfied with the final product. The 11 Apr 1984 DV obituary for Paul Ivano, who had made his debut as director of photography on the Von Sternberg picture, claimed that Chaplin had “shelved and reputedly destroyed it,” but noted that film critic John Grierson, one of few who to have viewed it, had “called it the most beautiful film ever made up until that time.”
       After signing a multiple-picture deal to appear in films directed by Lumet, Jill Townsend was reportedly cast, as noted in the 11 Dec 1967 DV. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
11 Dec 1967
p. 4.
Daily Variety
19 Jul 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
23 Aug 1968
p. 14.
Daily Variety
30 Aug 1968
p. 4.
Daily Variety
3 Oct 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Dec 1968
p. 26.
Daily Variety
12 Dec 1968
p. 7.
Daily Variety
23 Jan 1969
p. 24.
Los Angeles Times
11 Dec 1967
Section F, p. 32.
Los Angeles Times
10 Mar 1968
Section P, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
16 Jun 1968
Section C, p. 53.
Los Angeles Times
3 Dec 1968
Section G, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
24 Dec 1968
Section A, p. 5, 12.
New York Times
15 Oct 1967
p. 15, 21.
New York Times
22 Dec 1968
Section D, p. 29.
New York Times
24 Dec 1968
p. 14.
Variety
1 Sep 1926
p. 10.
Variety
25 Oct 1967
p. 7.
Variety
29 Nov 1967
p. 22.
Variety
8 May 1968
p. 11.
Variety
18 Dec 1968
p. 22.
Variety
25 Dec 1968
p. 6.
Variety
25 Dec 1968
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Trans & adapt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Scenic artist
Asst art dir
Des asst
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Set dresser
COSTUMES
Ward
SOUND
Boom op
MAKEUP
Makeup & hairstyles
Makeup & hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Title des
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Chayka by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (Saint Petersburg, 17 Oct 1896).
DETAILS
Release Date:
22 December 1968
Premiere Information:
World premiere and New York opening: 22 December 1968 at the Plaza Theatre
Los Angeles opening: 25 December 1968
Production Date:
22 August--mid or late September 1968
Copyright Claimant:
Sidney Lumet Productions
Copyright Date:
1 December 1968
Copyright Number:
LP37140
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
141
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
22041
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In late nineteenth-century Russia, Arkadina, a famous actress, visits the country estate where her brother Sorin, a retired official, is spending his remaining years. Self-centered and penurious, Arkadina pays only random attention to the needs of her son, Konstantin, and dismisses his playwriting attempts as absurdly experimental and "decadent." Already distressed by the realization that his vain mother does not care to be reminded that she has a son in his twenties, Konstantin is troubled further by the presence of her current lover, Trigorin, a successful novelist whose polished charm has completely captivated the naive and impressionable Nina, a young woman from a neighboring estate whom Konstantin has long loved. One afternoon, Konstantin lays a sea gull he has killed at Nina's feet and warns her that someday he too will be dead. Also present during the long weekend is Masha, the bailiff Shamraev's daughter, who, hopelessly in love with Konstantin, wears only black, drinks too much, and openly sniffs snuff. Nina decides to go to Moscow and arranges to meet Trigorin there. Two years pass, and Arkadina and Trigorin return to the estate when Sorin falls ill. During the interim Masha has married the schoolteacher Medvedenko, whom she does not love, and Konstantin has had some of his writings published. Nina became Trigorin's mistress, but he deserted her after she bore him a child, who died. Now an actress in a provincial theater, Nina has refused to see Konstantin. The same group, except for Nina, assembles at the estate, and the self-indulgent Arkadina casually remarks that she has not read any of her son's works. Then, while the others are involved in a card game, Konstantin encounters Nina ... +


In late nineteenth-century Russia, Arkadina, a famous actress, visits the country estate where her brother Sorin, a retired official, is spending his remaining years. Self-centered and penurious, Arkadina pays only random attention to the needs of her son, Konstantin, and dismisses his playwriting attempts as absurdly experimental and "decadent." Already distressed by the realization that his vain mother does not care to be reminded that she has a son in his twenties, Konstantin is troubled further by the presence of her current lover, Trigorin, a successful novelist whose polished charm has completely captivated the naive and impressionable Nina, a young woman from a neighboring estate whom Konstantin has long loved. One afternoon, Konstantin lays a sea gull he has killed at Nina's feet and warns her that someday he too will be dead. Also present during the long weekend is Masha, the bailiff Shamraev's daughter, who, hopelessly in love with Konstantin, wears only black, drinks too much, and openly sniffs snuff. Nina decides to go to Moscow and arranges to meet Trigorin there. Two years pass, and Arkadina and Trigorin return to the estate when Sorin falls ill. During the interim Masha has married the schoolteacher Medvedenko, whom she does not love, and Konstantin has had some of his writings published. Nina became Trigorin's mistress, but he deserted her after she bore him a child, who died. Now an actress in a provincial theater, Nina has refused to see Konstantin. The same group, except for Nina, assembles at the estate, and the self-indulgent Arkadina casually remarks that she has not read any of her son's works. Then, while the others are involved in a card game, Konstantin encounters Nina outside the house. He declares his undying love for her, but she replies that she still loves Trigorin. Despondent, Konstantin goes off and shoots himself. +

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

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