The Pursuit of Happiness (1971)

GP | 92-93 mins | Drama | February 1971

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HISTORY

In Jul 1968, according to news items, the Thomas Rogers novel The Pursuit of Happiness was purchased by Talent Associates president and producer David Susskind, for Columbia distribution with Sidney Carroll announced as the screenwriter. Filmfacts adds the following information on the production: Comedian David Steinberg was reportedly interested in adapting Rogers' novel. George L. Sherman was brought in to revise Carroll's script, angering Carroll, who requested to be credited under the pseudonym Jon Boothe. Actress Ruth Gordon was originally cast in the role of "Mrs. Popper," but a disagreement with director Robert Mulligan led to her withdrawal from the film. The film's production was then temporarily suspended until Ruth White was brought in as Gordon's replacement.
       Although Filmfacts lists the film as produced by Paman Productions, all other sources and copyright informatin indicate the film was produced by T.A. Films and Norton Simon Productions. The failure of other "youth oriented" films caused The Pursuit of Happiness to be shelved for over a year when it was released "considerably altered." The extent of those changes is unknown. The Pursuit of Happiness was released two months prior the opening of Mulligan's highly successful Summer of '42 (see entry), which also featured youthful central characters. The film was shot on location in New York and New Jersey. ...

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In Jul 1968, according to news items, the Thomas Rogers novel The Pursuit of Happiness was purchased by Talent Associates president and producer David Susskind, for Columbia distribution with Sidney Carroll announced as the screenwriter. Filmfacts adds the following information on the production: Comedian David Steinberg was reportedly interested in adapting Rogers' novel. George L. Sherman was brought in to revise Carroll's script, angering Carroll, who requested to be credited under the pseudonym Jon Boothe. Actress Ruth Gordon was originally cast in the role of "Mrs. Popper," but a disagreement with director Robert Mulligan led to her withdrawal from the film. The film's production was then temporarily suspended until Ruth White was brought in as Gordon's replacement.
       Although Filmfacts lists the film as produced by Paman Productions, all other sources and copyright informatin indicate the film was produced by T.A. Films and Norton Simon Productions. The failure of other "youth oriented" films caused The Pursuit of Happiness to be shelved for over a year when it was released "considerably altered." The extent of those changes is unknown. The Pursuit of Happiness was released two months prior the opening of Mulligan's highly successful Summer of '42 (see entry), which also featured youthful central characters. The film was shot on location in New York and New Jersey.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
PERSONAL & COMPANY INDEX CREDITS
HISTORY CREDITS
CREDIT TYPE
CREDIT
Corporate note credit:
General (mod):
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
11 Jul 1968
---
Daily Variety
13 Aug 1969
---
Filmfacts
1971
pp.115-18
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jul 1968
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Nov 1968
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 1969,
p. 10
Hollywood Reporter
14 Nov 1969,
p. 11
Hollywood Reporter
23 Feb 1971
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Mar 1969
---
New York Times
24 Feb 1971
p. 37
Variety
24 Feb 1971
p. 26
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A David Susskind--Robert Mulligan Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Jon Boothe
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Chief elec
Key grip
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITOR
Folmar Blangsted
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Head carpenter
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Master scenic artist
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Unit prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Pursuit of Happiness by Thomas Rogers (New York, 1968).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
SONGS
"Let Me Go," music and lyrics by Randy Newman, sung by Randy Newman.
PERFORMED BY
SONGWRITER/COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
February 1971
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 23 Feb 1971
Production Date:
mid Aug--mid Nov 1969 at Filmways Studio, New York
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
T.A. Films--Norton Simon, Inc.
1 February 1971
LP38783
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastman Color
Duration(in mins):
92-93
MPAA Rating:
GP
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

New York City College senior William Popper, formerly an enthusiastic political activist, finds himself strangely uninterested in attending the latest campus rally with his girl friend, Jane Kaufmann. When his father’s sister, Ruth Lawrence, pays an unexpected visit, William admits he has no distinct plans after graduation, as he will likely be summoned for military service by the draft. Although somewhat dismayed by William’s indifferent response, Ruth changes the subject, encouraging William to visit his father John, whom she worries is becoming a recluse in his Darien, Connecticut home. Surprised to discover that Jane lives with William, Ruth soon leaves. Disappointed that William still refuses to attend the rally, Jane agrees he should visit his father and the two plan to meet back at their apartment later that night. Blocks away from his home, driving through the dark and rain, William fails to see an elderly woman stepping into the street and, to his horror, hits her. After examining the woman, William runs into a nearby bar to report the accident and when the old woman is pronounced dead, is taken into custody for vehicular manslaughter. At the police station, a detective repeatedly questions William about drugs and whether he has any criminal past. When the detective comes upon William’s twenty-two parking tickets, expired driver’s license and lack of insurance coverage, he advises the young man to contact a lawyer. Later, William is joined by his father John and Ruth’s attorney husband, Daniel Lawrence, who berates William for not showing the proper amount of remorse over the incident. After bailing William out of custody, Lawrence continues to ...

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New York City College senior William Popper, formerly an enthusiastic political activist, finds himself strangely uninterested in attending the latest campus rally with his girl friend, Jane Kaufmann. When his father’s sister, Ruth Lawrence, pays an unexpected visit, William admits he has no distinct plans after graduation, as he will likely be summoned for military service by the draft. Although somewhat dismayed by William’s indifferent response, Ruth changes the subject, encouraging William to visit his father John, whom she worries is becoming a recluse in his Darien, Connecticut home. Surprised to discover that Jane lives with William, Ruth soon leaves. Disappointed that William still refuses to attend the rally, Jane agrees he should visit his father and the two plan to meet back at their apartment later that night. Blocks away from his home, driving through the dark and rain, William fails to see an elderly woman stepping into the street and, to his horror, hits her. After examining the woman, William runs into a nearby bar to report the accident and when the old woman is pronounced dead, is taken into custody for vehicular manslaughter. At the police station, a detective repeatedly questions William about drugs and whether he has any criminal past. When the detective comes upon William’s twenty-two parking tickets, expired driver’s license and lack of insurance coverage, he advises the young man to contact a lawyer. Later, William is joined by his father John and Ruth’s attorney husband, Daniel Lawrence, who berates William for not showing the proper amount of remorse over the incident. After bailing William out of custody, Lawrence continues to criticize the youth for his casual attire and blithe attitude. John accompanies William back to his son’s apartment where he meets William’s close friend, Melvin Lasher, and Jane. In a private conversation, Jane tells John that it was William who politicized her, but admits that he has gradually moved away from his activitism, which puzzles her. After John’s departure, William tells Jane about the accident, calling the event senseless and sad. The next day, William takes a cab to the house of the victim, but the woman’s daughter angrily refuses the flowers he proffers and accuses him of carelessness. Later, hearing of the exchange, Lawrence castigates William for visiting the family on his own and perhaps ruining his image for the upcoming trial. Lawrence then informs William that his son, Terence, will handle the case, which will be presented directly to a judge without a jury. Believing that William still does not appreciate the seriousness of his situation, Lawrence demands that he follow his precise directions on behavior and attitude, then disparages William as a hypocrite who is seeking help from the very establishment he despises. After agreeing to Lawrence’s terms, William visits his wealthy, cantankerous and racist grandmother who warns him against the wicked intentions of the Catholics, Jews and blacks and threatens to cut him out of her will. When William appears a few days later at his trial dressed in the formal suit recommended by Lawrence, the judge finds that William’s numerous parking tickets, expired license and the accident itself suggest negligence and a disrespect for authority, and sentences him to one year of hard labor. Before going to prison, William spends an idyllic week with Jane at his family’s cottage. Arriving at the state penitentiary, William is placed in a cell with Senator James J. Moran, convicted of embezzling state funds. A few days later while working at a large dirt pile, black prisoner George Wilson, befriends William and offers him advice on how to ease the strain on his back. While resting a little later, George asks William for help in writing a love letter, which he shyly acknowledges is to another man, and William agrees. That evening, Moran warns William not to get involved with George, as relationships in prison can quickly become dangerous. The next day in the prison showers, George thanks William for his help writing the letter, but is interrupted by another prisoner, McArdle, who objects to George writing to the man who is his lover. McArdle brandishes a knife, angering George and in the ensuing scuffle, George slips and falls against the knife. When George dies, William is called to testify at an inquest. Infuriated by William’s refusal to admit that his questionable fraternization may have jeopardized his upcoming appeal, Lawrence sternly advises him to answer only the questions put to him during the inquiry. During the examination, however, William is angered when the district attorney continually implies that there was more to his relationship with George. In an outburst, William declares the knifing an accident, but the judge orders him to remain silent or risk a contempt fine. Incredulous, William lapses into silence. While being escorted back to the police van, William asks to use the restroom and finding a window ajar, flees the building. He then walks to the college campus where he locates Melvin and later, Jane, who has already been warned by the police of William’s escape. Jane worriedly pleads with him to turn himself in, but Melvin says it is too dangerous and recommends that William leave the country. William agrees, then visits his grandmother to ask for money. His grandmother tries to dissuade him by revealing that she intends to leave all her money and property to him, but William confesses he does not want any of it. Disappointed, his grandmother nevertheless gives him three thousand dollars. With the money, William has Melvin purchase a used car in which he intends to drive to Canada with Jane. Going to bid farewell to John, William finds Lawrence and Terence waiting, but when they insist he turn himself in, he rages at how the initial accident has led to misunderstandings, false accusations, distortions and the complete denial of truth. Refusing John’s offer of money, William promises to write and departs. When the used car abruptly dies, however, William and Jane are forced to contact Melvin for help. Melvin takes the couple to a small airfield where a private pilot agrees to take them to Canada in two days for a thousand dollars. William insists he must leave immediately, but the pilot says he has a scheduled flight to Mexico the next morning. Consulting with Jane, William agrees to go to Mexico. After spending the night in the aircraft's hangar, William and Jane board the small plane and after flying over New York City head off to an unknown future in Mexico.

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

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