Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? (1971)

GP | 108 mins | Comedy-drama, Fantasy | 15 June 1971

Director:

Ulu Grosbard

Writer:

Herb Gardner

Cinematographer:

Victor J. Kemper

Editor:

Barry Malkin

Production Designer:

Harry Horner

Production Company:

Cinema Center Films
Full page view
HISTORY

The action in Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? moves back and forth seamlessly between reality and various fantasies and nightmares suffered by “Georgie Soloway.” The opening sequence, in which Georgie plans his suicide, ends with him falling peacefully through the air while the credits roll. When the credits end, Georgie falls onto the couch of “Dr. Solomon F. Moses.” The psychiatrist character reappears throughout the film, in different guises and with varied accents. In some scenes of Georgie as a teenager, actor Dustin Hoffman is offscreen and heard in voice-over only.
       Herb Gardner wrote the story on which the film was based as an assignment for SEP . He noted in a Jun 1999 LAT interview that although he wrote it quickly and without much forethought, the story was considered by critics to be one of the year's best and has since been included in numerous short story anthologies. When adapting the story into a screenplay, according to a Sep 1970 LAT article, Gardner wrote the character of "Allison Densmore" with Barbara Harris in mind. Gardner, Harris, Hoffman and Grosbard were friends and had worked together for years before the inception of Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? . In 1965, Harris had starred in the film version of A Thousand Clowns , which Gardner produced and adapted from his stage play.
       Hoffman stated in press materials that he was hesitant about taking the role, but agreed after conferring with makeup artist Dick Smith about his ability to make the character ... More Less

The action in Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? moves back and forth seamlessly between reality and various fantasies and nightmares suffered by “Georgie Soloway.” The opening sequence, in which Georgie plans his suicide, ends with him falling peacefully through the air while the credits roll. When the credits end, Georgie falls onto the couch of “Dr. Solomon F. Moses.” The psychiatrist character reappears throughout the film, in different guises and with varied accents. In some scenes of Georgie as a teenager, actor Dustin Hoffman is offscreen and heard in voice-over only.
       Herb Gardner wrote the story on which the film was based as an assignment for SEP . He noted in a Jun 1999 LAT interview that although he wrote it quickly and without much forethought, the story was considered by critics to be one of the year's best and has since been included in numerous short story anthologies. When adapting the story into a screenplay, according to a Sep 1970 LAT article, Gardner wrote the character of "Allison Densmore" with Barbara Harris in mind. Gardner, Harris, Hoffman and Grosbard were friends and had worked together for years before the inception of Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? . In 1965, Harris had starred in the film version of A Thousand Clowns , which Gardner produced and adapted from his stage play.
       Hoffman stated in press materials that he was hesitant about taking the role, but agreed after conferring with makeup artist Dick Smith about his ability to make the character of Georgie age convincingly from eighteen to forty-two years old. Hoffman later called the role the most personal he had ever played and the best film work he had to done to date. The character of Georgie Soloway was compared in contemporary sources to both singer/songwriter Bob Dylan and famed music producer Phil Spector.
       As noted in contemporary sources, the film was shot on location in New York City. Locations included the General Motors Building, Coney Island and the Lincoln Tunnel. As noted onscreen and in press materials, the concert sequence was shot in front of a live audience before a Grateful Dead appearance at Bill Graham's Fillmore East. Shel Silverstein, who wrote the songs credited to Georgie, appears as the lead singer of the pop group in the concert scenes.
       Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? marked the last role for David Burns, who died just before the film's release, on 12 Mar 1971. The film played at the 1971 Venice Film Festival before its North American release. Barbara Harris was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her performance. Although most reviews considered the film a failed experiment, the entire cast was lauded, especially Harris and Hoffman, and HR called the picture "a classic of sorts, and one of the best American films of the year."
       Months after the release of Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? , Cinema Center Films closed down. Gardner stated in a Jun 1999 LAT article that the negative for the picture subsequently was misplaced, after which he searched for it for over eighteen years, finally locating it in the CBS archives. It played at the New York Film Forum in 1998 and was released by Twentieth Century-Fox Home Video in 1999.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
28 Jun 1971.
---
Daily Variety
16 Jun 1971.
---
Filmfacts
1971
pp. 256-59.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jul 1970
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Oct 1970
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 1971
p. 3, 8.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
21 Jun 1971.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
11 Jul 1971
Section F, p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
6 Sep 1970
Calendar, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jun 1971
View, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
2 Jun 2002.
---
New York Times
16 Jun 1971
p. 40.
New York Times
20 Jun 1971
p. 1.
New York Times
21 May 1999.
---
New Yorker
10 Jul 1971.
---
Newsweek
28 Jun 1971.
---
Time
19 Jul 1971.
---
Variety
25 Mar 1970.
---
Variety
16 Jun 1971
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Key grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Scenic artist
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Assoc film ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Head carpenter
Const grip
Set dresser
Carpeting and tile supplied by
COSTUMES
Ward supv
MUSIC
Mus dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Prod mgr
Transportation capt
Loc coord
Prod accountant
Loc auditor
Prod asst
Prod secy
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?" by Herb Gardner ( The Saturday Evening Post , 11 Mar 1967).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Bunky and Lucille" and "Last Morning," music and lyrics by Shel Silverstein, performed by Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show
"Don't Tell Me Your Troubles," music and lyrics by Shel Silverstein, performed by Ray Charles
“The Sweet Forever Song” and “Ricky Ticky Song,” music and lyrics by Shel Silverstein.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 June 1971
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 15 June 1971
Los Angeles opening: 18 June 1971
Production Date:
6 July--early October 1970 at F&B Cace Studios, New York City
Copyright Claimants:
Cinema Center Films, Gardner Productions, Inc. Ulu Grosbard Enterprises, Inc. and Jaykabina Motion Picture Corporation
Copyright Dates:
16 June 1971 16 June 1971
Copyright Numbers:
LP40228 LP40228
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
DeLuxe
Duration(in mins):
108
MPAA Rating:
GP
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Wildly successful songwriter Georgie Soloway perches on the ledge of his opulent Manhattan penthouse, composing his suicide note. After tuning his beloved guitar, he prepares to jump, but then rethinks his note. As he is rewriting, the paper floats off in the wind and as Georgie reaches for it, he falls off the ledge, landing on the couch of his psychiatrist, Dr. Solomon F. Moses. Georgie’s suicide and visit to Moses have been a fantasy inspired by his existential despair and loneliness, which Moses habitually tries to treat with medication and dispassionate advice. Georgie has not slept for six nights and now insists on seeing Moses, but as he walks the streets to reach the doctor’s office, the crowds disorient him. At a magazine stand, he spots himself on the cover of the latest issue of Time , but as he never carries cash, is forced to steal the magazine. At Moses’, Georgie, who wants to consider his doctor a friend, announces that although he is finally ready to love himself, someone is now trying to kill him: A man named Harry Kellerman has been calling all of Georgie’s friends and coworkers and spreading vicious lies about him. In Georgie’s paranoid mind, he sees Moses sing in response a song exhorting him to leave him alone. Moses prescribes sleeping pills, but Georgie refuses them and returns home, where a former girl friend calls to inform him that Kellerman told her Georgie is violent and diseased. That night, Georgie attends the rock concert of a band that plays his songs merely to profit financially from them, and is invited ... +


Wildly successful songwriter Georgie Soloway perches on the ledge of his opulent Manhattan penthouse, composing his suicide note. After tuning his beloved guitar, he prepares to jump, but then rethinks his note. As he is rewriting, the paper floats off in the wind and as Georgie reaches for it, he falls off the ledge, landing on the couch of his psychiatrist, Dr. Solomon F. Moses. Georgie’s suicide and visit to Moses have been a fantasy inspired by his existential despair and loneliness, which Moses habitually tries to treat with medication and dispassionate advice. Georgie has not slept for six nights and now insists on seeing Moses, but as he walks the streets to reach the doctor’s office, the crowds disorient him. At a magazine stand, he spots himself on the cover of the latest issue of Time , but as he never carries cash, is forced to steal the magazine. At Moses’, Georgie, who wants to consider his doctor a friend, announces that although he is finally ready to love himself, someone is now trying to kill him: A man named Harry Kellerman has been calling all of Georgie’s friends and coworkers and spreading vicious lies about him. In Georgie’s paranoid mind, he sees Moses sing in response a song exhorting him to leave him alone. Moses prescribes sleeping pills, but Georgie refuses them and returns home, where a former girl friend calls to inform him that Kellerman told her Georgie is violent and diseased. That night, Georgie attends the rock concert of a band that plays his songs merely to profit financially from them, and is invited onstage to play with them. At home, sometime lover Susan is waiting, but after admitting that Kellerman called to tell her Georgie considers her dumb, she leaves angrily. Upstairs in his apartment, he enters a series of memories: his wedding to Gloria, his mother teaching him piano as a child, and scenes with Ruthie Tresh, his teenage girl friend. When they first make love, Georgie hides under the foldout couch, insisting that he is merely trying to fix it. As pieces of the ceiling begin to fall around them, Ruthie informs him that she is a nervous virgin, and he admits the same. As she joins him under the couch, they declare their mutual love while the ceiling continues to fall. Soon after, Ruthie announces that she is pregnant, and although Georgie is willing to quit school and marry her, his parents convince him to obtain an abortion for her in order to preserve his freedom. Although Ruthie is crushed, she agrees to go to the doctor alone, then tells him, “I think you never got out from under that couch.” Georgie is roused from his reverie by coworker Marty at the door, invited over by Kellerman. When Georgie throws him out, Marty retorts that he is as crazy as Kellerman said. Georgie then remembers living with Gloria and their two sons. After twelve years of marriage, she informs him that she knows he has been cheating on her. When he blames his problems on a fear of time passing and says his children “tick at him like clocks,” she asks for a divorce. After his Mexican divorce, his lawyer exults at Georgie’s new freedom. In the present, Georgie hears a telephone message from Kellerman wishing him a happy 4th of July. He then imagines Moses as Santa who refuses Georgie’s request for a new life and a day without fear. Outside the apartment, Georgie finds his colleague Sidney Gill, an inveterate womanizer who recommends sex as a cure for Georgie’s ills. After Sid leaves for yet another date, Georgie calls his accountant, Irwin Marcy, for the fourth middle-of-the-night appointment in the past week. Irwin, though exasperated and exhausted, kindly humors Georgie, assures him that they are friends, and reads his quarterly earnings report to help him sleep. Georgie, who knows the report by heart, dozes, dreaming that Gloria is trying to leap from the same building as he is. As a crowd cheers them on, Georgie accidentally prods Gloria off the ledge to her death. When he falls onto Moses’ couch, the doctor, speaking in a Rastafarian accent, tells him to try voodoo. Awakening, Georgie, determined to track down Kellerman, calls his driver, Chomsky. In the car, he recalls the previous week: Allison Densmore auditions for his latest play, sings weakly and is too fearful to leave the stage. Entranced by her vulnerability and warmth, Georgie talks to her until she is calm enough to leave with him. Like Georgie, Allison wonders how her life has passed so quickly and with so few accomplishments. Georgie takes her on his private plane, after which she brings him home, where she jokes about her loneliness to hide her pain. As they make love, Allison thanks Georgie for the love she feels from him. In the present, Georgie is driving through the Lincoln Tunnel when he realizes that he loves Allison, and imagines that he is running through the empty tunnel but cannot find the end. He drives to his father Leon’s restaurant, where Leon, proud but dismissive of his son, admits that he is dying. Although Leon states that he feels cheated, he reassures Georgie that he is resigned to his death. Georgie flies his plane over Manhattan to locate the cemetery where Leon has asked to be buried. He then calls Ruthie’s house, but upon awakening her, cries incoherently and hangs up, whispering that the sky is falling. As Georgie pilots his plane, he imagines Moses appearing beside him in the cockpit dressed as an Alpine skier. After Georgie, who is really Kellerman, calls Allison to warn her away from himself, Moses encourages Georgie to dive, and as he steers the plane directly into the ground, he sees his own face in a crowd cheering him on to his death. After the plane crashes, Georgie and Moses ski down a snowy mountain together. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.