The Iceman Cometh (1973)

PG | 239 mins | Drama | October 1973

Director:

John Frankenheimer

Producer:

Ely Landau

Cinematographer:

Ralph Woolsey

Editor:

Harold F. Kress

Production Designer:

Jack Martin Smith

Production Companies:

American Express Films, Inc., The Ely Landau Organization, Inc., Cinevision Ltee. (Canada)
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HISTORY

Following the principal cast names in the opening credits, a title card reads; “in Eugene O’Neill’s,” after which another title card reads The Iceman Cometh .” The end credits state: “ The Iceman Cometh has been a presentation of American Express Films, Inc. and The Ely Landau Organization, Inc. in association with Cinevision Ltee. (Canada).” Within the film, each act are preceded by a black screen, then a written title announcing the general time period. “The iceman” of the title refers to "Hickey's" running joke about catching his wife in bed with the iceman. The name is repeated throughout the play and takes on different levels of meaning, including a metaphor for death.
       The film adaptation of The Iceman Cometh took over a decade to come to the screen. According to a 31 Jul 1961 DV news item, producer Ely Landau (1920—1993) had “recently acquired options to all the O’Neill properties controlled by playwright’s widow, Mrs. Carlotta Monterey O’Neill, for both films and TV.” The properties acquired included The Iceman Cometh and six other plays written by O’Neill. At that time Landau was well-known as the former National Telefilm Associates board chairman and creator of the noted television series The Play of the Week (1959—1961), which produced a version of The Iceman Cometh , directed by Sidney Lumet. The television starred Jason Robards and Farrell Pelly, was broadcast in two parts on 14 Nov and 21 Nov 1960. Landau made his motion-picture producing debut with the screen version of O’Neill play Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962, ... More Less

Following the principal cast names in the opening credits, a title card reads; “in Eugene O’Neill’s,” after which another title card reads The Iceman Cometh .” The end credits state: “ The Iceman Cometh has been a presentation of American Express Films, Inc. and The Ely Landau Organization, Inc. in association with Cinevision Ltee. (Canada).” Within the film, each act are preceded by a black screen, then a written title announcing the general time period. “The iceman” of the title refers to "Hickey's" running joke about catching his wife in bed with the iceman. The name is repeated throughout the play and takes on different levels of meaning, including a metaphor for death.
       The film adaptation of The Iceman Cometh took over a decade to come to the screen. According to a 31 Jul 1961 DV news item, producer Ely Landau (1920—1993) had “recently acquired options to all the O’Neill properties controlled by playwright’s widow, Mrs. Carlotta Monterey O’Neill, for both films and TV.” The properties acquired included The Iceman Cometh and six other plays written by O’Neill. At that time Landau was well-known as the former National Telefilm Associates board chairman and creator of the noted television series The Play of the Week (1959—1961), which produced a version of The Iceman Cometh , directed by Sidney Lumet. The television starred Jason Robards and Farrell Pelly, was broadcast in two parts on 14 Nov and 21 Nov 1960. Landau made his motion-picture producing debut with the screen version of O’Neill play Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962, see below), which was directed by Lumet and starred Katharine Hepburn.
       In Feb 1966, HR announced that Landau would be re-teaming with Lumet and Rod Steiger, the director and star of The Pawnbroker (1965, see below), to make The Iceman Cometh . In Nov 1967, however, when Var reported on Landau’s intention to film The Iceman Cometh as a “fully scripted” film rather than following the play “word-for-word,” no mention was made of Lumet or Steiger. At that time, the production company was to be Commonwealth United Corp., which had recently merged with Landau-Unger Corp., and of which Landau was president and CEO.
       By Apr 1972, it was confirmed in trade newspapers that John Frankenheimer would be directing the project. In an undated, but circa Jun 1972 NYT news item, contained in the film’s file at the AMPAS Library, Frankenheimer confirmed that there would be “no new script” for the film, and that it would instead be “strictly O’Neill’s play.” Frankenheimer was at that time working with Thomas Quinn Curtiss, an O’Neill scholar who is credited onscreen as “Text editor,” were hoping to trim at least forty-five minutes from the over four-hour play. According to an Oct 1973 LAT article, the pair originally succeeded in cutting seventy-five minutes from the play, but in modern interviews, Frankenheimer has related that during rehearsals, he was compelled to reinstate the majority of the edited material. One of the cuts from the play was the minor character of “Ed Mosher,” although many of his lines were given to other characters.
       Although a 26 Dec 1972 DV news item reported that Allen Garfield had withdrawn from the cast due to “major artistic differences” with Frankenheimer and executive producer Edward Lewis, it has not been determined which role he was to play. According to modern sources, Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman were considered for the role of Hickey. Tom Pedi, who played “Rocky Pioggi” in the film, had originated the role in the 1946 New York stage production and also played it in the 1960 television version. Sorrell Booke, who played “Hugo” in the film, also appeared in that role in the 1960 television broadcast. Actress Evans Evans was the wife of director John Frankenheimer. According to an Oct 1973 LAT article, it was Frankenheimer who coaxed legendary actor Fredric March out of retirement to play “Harry Hope.” March noted in a May 1973 NYT article that he had retired after shooting the 1970 M-G-M production ...Tick… Tick… Tick… (see below), and thought that he would not be able to participate in The Iceman Cometh after being hospitalized for prostate surgery, but Frankenheimer decided to wait to begin filming until March recovered. The Iceman Cometh was the last film of Academy Award-winning actor March (1897—1975), well known for his starring roles in films of the 1930s and 1940s.
       As noted onscreen, The Iceman Cometh was shot at the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Studios in Hollywood. In the 21 Oct 1973 LAT article, Frankenheimer related that he relied upon his extensive experience directing live television shows while conducting rehearsals for the film in order to establish “depth” to the camera shots, and that the entire film was shot in continuity.
       Reviewers noted that unlike many filmed plays, The Iceman Cometh was not “opened up” for the screen and instead takes place only in the setting of Harry’s bar, as it does onstage. The ending of the play, in which Hickey agrees that he is insane, was changed from the traditional stage interpretation of Hickey insisting on his own insanity as a way to evade his feelings of guilt, to the film’s emphasis on Hickey allowing his friends to discount all of his previous actions, thereby providing them with a sense of peace. According to the film’s Cinebill , which was distributed to viewers at movie theaters, the picture was shown with two intermissions, and its soundtrack was available on Caedmon Records.
       The Iceman Cometh received mostly glowing reviews, with many critic praising Frankenheimer’s direction. While some reviewers took issue with Lee Marvin in the role of Hickey, stating that Robards, who was long associated with the play, would have been a better choice, most gave outstanding notices to the rest of the cast, particularly March and Ryan. Jay Cocks of Time declared Ryan’s performance “magnificent” and LAT ’s Charles Champlin called the film “his monument, his finest hours as a superb craftsman who had too often been forced to make do with inferior material.” Dan Sullivan, LAT ’s theater critic, described March’s performance as “quite simply, perfect” and further stated: “his Harry is now suddenly the one to beat—reason enough for us to be grateful for this screen Iceman .”
       The Iceman Cometh was the first in a series of thirteen plays distributed by The American Film Theatre (AFT), which was conceived by Landau and his wife, Edythe “Edie” Landau. In the Cinebill for The Iceman Cometh , Landau explained that he had proposed the “National Theater-on-Film” because he felt that the American motion picture industry did not encourage production of “more discriminating and thoughtful types of films,” and also because it was becoming more difficult for the average American to be exposed to theater. Landau established a partnership with the Canadian company Cinevision, Ltee. and American Express Films, Inc., a subsidiary of the American Express credit card company, to raise funds for the venture.
       Although Mar 1972 articles reported that Columbia Pictures was to be involved in the production of the series, a 23 Mar 1972 NYTR article stated that Columbia was prohibited from joining the venture by the U.S. Justice Department. The opposition sprang from the 1940s anti-trust consent degree legislations, with the Justice Department declaring that Columbia would be in violation of the bill, which prevented studios from engaging in block-booking, the practice of requiring an exhibitor to purchase additional films in order to obtain the rights to exhibit a single film.
       According to the Nov 1973 review of The Iceman Cometh , New Republic critic Stanley Kauffmann agreed to testify at the court hearing on behalf of AFT, which was pleaded for an exemption from the decree, because of the quality of the projects the company was going to produce. Although the review and a 15 Jan 1975 Var article noted that the exemption was granted in May 1972, giving AFT and Columbia the right to proceed, Columbia eventually dropped out of the project and was replaced by Cinevision.
       The series was intended to bring plays to moviegoers on an advance subscription basis, similar to that of purchasing season tickets to a theater company. Landau established a network of over 500 movie theaters in selected cities throughout North America, with each film playing matinee and evening performances on successive Mondays and Tuesdays. For the first series, the theaters participating in the program were scheduled to exhibit one film per month for eight months, beginning in Oct 1973 and ending in May 1974. According to contemporary sources, the Landaus partially based AFT’s distribution program on their experiences with distributing the 1970 documentary King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis (see below), which was shown simultaneously in over 500 movie theaters on one night as a charity benefit before going on to receive a standard nationwide release.
       The first season of AFT consisted of eight plays, three of which were released in 1973: The Iceman Cometh , Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming and Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance (see above for both). The rest of the first series consisted of five films that were released in 1974: Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros , John Osborne’s Luther , Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters , Simon Gray’s Butley , and Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars . In the case of Three Sisters , the picture was filmed by the British National Theater in 1970 and was acquired for distribution by AFT after production had been completed.
       Contemporary articles about the productions noted that in order to keep the budgets low, the high-profile stars—including Marvin, Hepburn, Zero Mostel and Alan Bates—were asked to work for scale and accept salaries far less than what they normally got. In a 7 Jul 1973 LAT article, Marvin asserted that for playing Hickey, he was paid “about $750,000” less than he usually received. In a 1 Oct 1973 New Yorker article about the series, Landau was quoted as saying that the actors, writers and directors of each film accepted less than their usual salary in exchange for “various percentages of the gross from the first dollar” and Edie Landau revealed in a 2002 interview that the main stars of the films were paid $25,000, while the directors received $30,000. In the New Yorker article, it was stated that the budget for the first season was approximately $11,500,000, and that The Iceman Cometh was the most expensive film of the first series, with a budget of $1,100,000.
       A 29 Aug 1973 DV news item announced that the first three films in the series would “play off nationally on an alternating basis in the first three months of the subscription film series experiment.” Nov 1973 reviews for The Homecoming disclosed that prorated subscription tickets were available for the rest of the series in Los Angeles, and that single admission tickets were also available for purchase after subscribers had been seated. According to the 9 Nov 1973 HR review, although The Iceman Cometh was the first AFT film shown in New York City and Los Angeles, The Homecoming was the inaugural entry in Chicago. The New Republic review noted that the eight pictures were shown in different sequences around the circuit in order “to obviate making 500 prints of each film.”
       As with some other films in the series, The Iceman Cometh played an initial two-day engagement in Los Angeles, then returned for a seven-day run for Academy Awards qualification. Its initial Los Angeles engagement took place in various theaters on 29 and 30 Oct 1973, and then in one theater for seven days beginning on 12 Dec 1973. According to a 23 Nov 1973 HR article, AMPAS refused Landau’s request to waive the seven-day exhibition rule, thus prompting the move to exhibit The Iceman Cometh , The Homecoming and A Delicate Balance for seven days each in Dec 1973 in Los Angeles. The article also reported that Landau had promised subscribers that none of the films in the series would go into “general release until the project’s third year,” in order to maintain its exclusivity. The repeat Los Angeles screenings were offered only to new subscribers, who would then be eligible to see the remaining films programmed for the first season.
       Tickets to the AFT productions were sold largely through the mail via American Express, which included information about the films within bills sent to its customers starting in Jul 1973, according to an Aug 1973 NYT article. As noted by contemporary sources, ticket prices for the first series were to be thirty dollars for the evening performances, twenty-four dollars for the matinee performances and a special student matinee price of sixteen dollars, and in a 24 Feb 1974 letter to the editor, published in NYT , Landau asserted that “some 4,000,000 tickets” had been sold in advance for the series. Later contemporary sources reported that the first season had approximately 500,000 subscribers, and a 20 May 1974 Box article stated that the scheme represented “the largest advance sale for any entertainment form ever.”
       Many contemporary articles reported on the difficulties encountered because of the mail-order system, with many customers not receiving their tickets on time for the first season. A 31 Oct 1973 LAT article revealed that a large number of orders for tickets in the Los Angeles area were made through the Robinson’s department store, and that due to the “overwhelming number of ticket orders ($100,000 in one day last week from Robinson’s alone),” the New York-based computer system handling the process “broke down.” The article also noted that because a number of the Los Angeles theaters playing The Iceman Cometh were sold out, some ticket holders could not be admitted, and the New York City run of The Iceman Cometh had been sold out so far in advance that additional screenings had to be added. According to a 31 May 1975 NYT news item, the first season’s films were due to be released “on a continuous-run, popular-price policy” beginning 19 Sep 1975.
       For the second season, different companies handled the ticketing process, with credit cards other than American Express being accepted. A 9 Apr 1975 DV article reported that American Express filed a thirty-million dollar suit against Control Data Corp. and its subsidiary, Ticketron, Inc., claiming that they were culpable for the computer-related problems with the first season. The article noted that Ticketron was responsible for the nationwide subscription fulfillment, and that “poor planning” on the companies’ part resulted in American Express and AFT becoming “the objects of adverse publicity.” The outcome of the suit has not been confirmed.
       AFT’s second season consisted of Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo , Robert Shaw and Edward Anhalt’s The Man in the Glass Booth , David Storey’s In Celebration , Jean Genet’s The Maids and Eric Blau’s Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris , the latter two of which were pick-ups produced by other companies and distributed in North America through AFT. The entirety of the second season was released during 1975, with a season ticket for all five shows costing twenty dollars for the evening performances. By the end of the season, The Man in the Glass Booth was released into general release rather than the initial two-day showing.
       Although the 1975 Irish film Philadelphia, Here I Come! , based on a play by Brian Friel, is included in the series by some modern sources, it was not acquired by AFT for distribution until after the second season was over. An Apr 1975 DV news item announced that AFT would not be acquiring the property “because of certain claims recently asserted which would impinge AFT’s free and clear use of the film,” but by Apr 1979, news items announcing the sale of AFT’s two seasons of films to television including Philadelphia, Here I Come! in the roster.
       In the Cinebill for the second season, Landau appraised the financial performance of the first AFT series as “not as well as we’d hoped—but a lot better than the cynics predicted,” and an Oct 1974 LAT article reported that the series had a seventy percent renewal rate from subscribers of the first season. In Jun 1975, DV reported that Landau was planning a “hiatus” for AFT, with distribution to return in Jan 1977. Eventually, however, the Landau organization was forced to abandon the program completely. According to a Jan 1980 publicity release described the then-current production slate undertaken by the Landaus, they discontinued AFT due to “the economics of producing such special films for a limited marketplace and the logistical problems in servicing” the nationwide subscriber base.
       In a 16 May 2003 LAT interview, Edie Landau related that part of the problem the producers had to overcome was interference from major film studios, which resented the fact that theaters interrupted the exhibition of their films in order to play AFT pictures. Her claim was substantiated by a 12 Oct 1973 LAT article, in which several Chicago-based theater owners complained that major distributors were “threatening to withhold their movies from bookings in theaters” that were participating in AFT. The article quoted one exhibitor as noting that the Landaus had hired an attorney to look into the matter, and that he himself was considering filing an “antitrust suit against these guys if they don’t back down.”
       On 6 Jan 1975, AFT filed a federal anti-trust suit against six major studios, including Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros., charging them with “coercing exhibitors into canceling scheduled AFT playdates or transferring them to theatres different from those designated to subscribers when they signed up for the AFT series,” according to a 7 Jan 1975 HR article. That article and others also revealed that exhibitors were sometimes required by the studios to pay potential box-office receipts that would have been made by their own films when AFT films were shown instead. Contemporary sources noted that the Landau organization had deliberately set Mondays and Tuesdays as AFT exhibition dates because they were traditionally the slowest box-office days of the week for ordinary films. According to articles about the lawsuit, in which Landau was asking for a “declaratory judgment and injunction prohibiting further alleged coercive and anti-trust practices,” due to the interference from the major studios, many theaters reduced their participation in the second season so that the films were shown only on Tuesdays.
       A 15 Jan 1975 Var article about the lawsuit reported that the case was considered “a landmark since a decision in Landau’s favor could upset traditional major distribution patterns, established since the 1950 consent decrees.” The article further disclosed that Columbia, Landau’s original producing partner, was not included in the suit, and that although the Justice Department had given Columbia the “okay” to participate in AFT, the studio had demurred because it “had determined it could not buck the opposition from the other major distribs against subscription tickets.” The disposition of the suit has not been determined, although in a May 2003 LAT interview, Edie Landau stated that because of the suit, the major studios “backed off.”
       As reported by various contemporary sources, the Landaus planned to supplement AFT with a separate series of children’s films to be screened at Saturday and Sunday matinees. 1974 news items noted that A. A. Milne and Beverly Cross were among the playwrights whose properties had been acquired. Eight to ten films were planned for The Children’s Film Theatre, but the only one that was actually produced was the 1975 South African picture E’ Lollipop , the distribution rights to which were returned by the Landaus to its producer, André Pieterse.
       Several sources throughout the 1970s and 1980s reported that different companies had purchased the television rights to the series, and that the films would be broadcast on various channels. In modern interviews, Edie Landau related that the rights bounced between Warner Bros. and other studios before eventually returning to her. In Oct 2002, DV announced that New York-based Lorber Media and U.K.-based 3DD Entertainment had acquired the TV rights to AFT from Edie Landau, although the Landau estate would retain the theatrical and video rights. Edie Landau intended to re-release digitally re-mastered prints of the films in movie theaters, while Lorber would sell the collection on pay TV for broadcast in the summer of 2003 before offering the films to a basic cable network. Box DVD sets of the fourteen films were released by Kino in 2003, and in addition to a theatrical re-release, retrospectives of the series were held at museums in New York and Los Angeles, beginning in 2002. More Less

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---
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CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A John Frankenheimer Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Prod
WRITERS
AFT story consultant
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
Gaffer
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Dolly grip
Best boy
Lamp op
Lamp op
Stills
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Prop asst
Const coord
Leadman
COSTUMES
Cost consultant
Men's cost
Women's cost
SOUND
Sd mixer
Re-rec mixer
Boom man
Cable man
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
For The American Film Theatre
AFT vice president
Casting
Scr supv
Prod assoc
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Auditor
Asst to auditor
Prod's secy
Dir's secy
Receptionist
Messenger
Craft service
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Iceman Cometh by Eugene O'Neill (New York, 9 Oct 1946).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh
Release Date:
October 1973
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 29 October 1973
Production Date:
8 January--early March 1973 at Twentieth Century-Fox Film Studios, Hollywood
Copyright Claimant:
AFT Distributing Corp.
Copyright Date:
29 October 1973
Copyright Number:
LP42935
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastman Color
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed with Panavision equipment
Duration(in mins):
239
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
Canada, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the early hours of a summer morning in 1912, the roomers at Harry Hope’s New York City bar are in various stages of unconsciousness, having drunk themselves into their customary stupors. The regulars include Harry himself, an Irishman who has not stepped left the bar since his wife died twenty years earlier; Larry Slade and Hugo, former anarchists; Willie Oban, a lawyer who drank away his education and erudition; Jimmy Tomorrow, a kindly veteran; British Capt. Cecil Lewis and Dutch Gen. Piet Wetjoen, great friends since meeting at the St. Louis Fair's World War I spectacle; Pat McGloin, a former crooked policeman; and Joe Mott, an African-American who cleans the bar. The men remain in the bar night and day, drinking the free rotgut whiskey that Harry allows them to drown their various regrets. That morning, Larry, again informs the rough but kindly bartender Rocky Pioggi about his cynical approach toward life which he labels the “grandstand of philosophical detachment,” and, despising mankind as greedy and self-interested, longs for death. Rocky, who employs two prostitutes but refuses to be labeled a “pimp,” plans that night’s party celebrating Harry’s sixtieth birthday. Rocky is as eager as the patrons for the arrival of their friend Hickey, a traveling salesman who visits a few times each year, bringing a rare infusion of joy and energy to the bar. Just then, Don Parritt, who is looking for Larry, a former boyfriend of his mother’s, comes down from his room. Defiant yet ingratiating, the young man explains that Larry was the only friend of his mother’s who ever paid attention to him. He now hopes that Larry can help ... +


In the early hours of a summer morning in 1912, the roomers at Harry Hope’s New York City bar are in various stages of unconsciousness, having drunk themselves into their customary stupors. The regulars include Harry himself, an Irishman who has not stepped left the bar since his wife died twenty years earlier; Larry Slade and Hugo, former anarchists; Willie Oban, a lawyer who drank away his education and erudition; Jimmy Tomorrow, a kindly veteran; British Capt. Cecil Lewis and Dutch Gen. Piet Wetjoen, great friends since meeting at the St. Louis Fair's World War I spectacle; Pat McGloin, a former crooked policeman; and Joe Mott, an African-American who cleans the bar. The men remain in the bar night and day, drinking the free rotgut whiskey that Harry allows them to drown their various regrets. That morning, Larry, again informs the rough but kindly bartender Rocky Pioggi about his cynical approach toward life which he labels the “grandstand of philosophical detachment,” and, despising mankind as greedy and self-interested, longs for death. Rocky, who employs two prostitutes but refuses to be labeled a “pimp,” plans that night’s party celebrating Harry’s sixtieth birthday. Rocky is as eager as the patrons for the arrival of their friend Hickey, a traveling salesman who visits a few times each year, bringing a rare infusion of joy and energy to the bar. Just then, Don Parritt, who is looking for Larry, a former boyfriend of his mother’s, comes down from his room. Defiant yet ingratiating, the young man explains that Larry was the only friend of his mother’s who ever paid attention to him. He now hopes that Larry can help him in his flight from the political anarchist movement after his mother and all her comrades were arrested on the tip-off of a traitor. When Parritt asks why Larry left the movement, he replies that he was cursed to always see all sides of a question, rather than being able to commit blindly to an ideal. Although Larry warns Parritt that he has no interest in him, the young man is nevertheless impelled to confess his anger at his mother. After Parritt observes how pathetic the bar’s patrons are, Larry suggests that he not pity them, as they have their dreams and alcohol to sustain them. As the men settle into the bar, they go through their daily ritual of pretending that this is the day they will rejoin life: Jimmy plans to ask for his old job as a publicity man; Joe wants to save enough money to reopen a gambling house; Willie intends to regain his position at the district attorney’s office; and Harry wants to walk around the ward, greeting his old friends. As the sun rises, however, they merely spit insults at one another and await Hickey. When Harry tries to banish Willie to his room upstairs for singing too loudly, Willie begs forgiveness, for like the others, he is terrified of being alone. They are soon joined by bartender Chuck Morelo and his girl friend, prostitute Cora, as well as Rocky’s girls, Pearl and Margie, who refuse to admit that they are prostitutes, preferring to call themselves “tarts.” Chuck and Cora plan to marry and move to a farm, a dream widely mocked by all around them. Just then, Hickey arrives full of good humor and charm. When the eager group offers him a drink, however, they are horrified to hear that he has stopped drinking. Hickey tells the shocked group that he is a changed man who has risen above his pipe dreams and feels completely freed because of it. Hoping to imbue them with the same sense of freedom that he now enjoys, Hickey confronts each man, including Larry, whom he accuses of pretending not to care about life when he actually is hanging on to it dearly. Noting Parritt, who he has never seen before, Hickey thinks he recognizes him. Toward midnight of the same day, the employees set up for the birthday party. They complain about the now absent Hickey, who has instilled fear into each of them, including Rocky and his girls, who are furious at having to face the reality of their occupations, and Chuck and Cora, who plan to marry the following morning to prove to Hickey that they are not mere dreamers. As tempers flare, Larry wonders what happened to convert Hickey, and as he remarks that Hickey seems scared, the salesman barges in, exhorting Larry to think of his own peace. Hickey has brought armloads of food, presents and champagne, but keeps an unrelenting pressure on each person to confront his or her demons. When Larry tells him to leave them with their dreams, Hickey chides him for his attitude, which is antithetical to Larry’s usual claim of detachment. Hickey points out that if Larry really wanted to die he could have done so by now. Hickey then wonders again about Parritt, with whom he feels a comradeship, and suggests that the boy will force Larry to face himself. Soon after, Willie arrives, shaking with D.T.s, but claiming to be readying himself to visit the D.A.’s office the next morning, as Hickey has demanded. An uneasy Parritt, meanwhile, urges Larry to get Hickey away from him. In his desperation to talk about his mother, Parritt repeatedly reveals his hatred of her and resentment of how she valued the political movement above him. Finally, despite Larry’s clear indifference, Parritt admits that he turned in his mother, explaining that he felt a duty to his country. Larry is briefly roused to anger before sinking back into apathy. Meanwhile, Cecil and Piet argue, prodded into anger by Hickey’s insinuations that they will never leave the bar, while McGloin worries that Harry’s old friends outside the bar will turn Harry against him. Harry joins them, in a foul mood, and as they all struggle to rouse themselves for the party, Hickey blithely points out each man’s self-deception. To Jimmy, he suggests that although he blames his alcoholism on a straying wife, it was more likely Jimmy used her behavior as an excuse to drink. Ignoring Larry’s taunts that Evelyn must have been cheating on him, Hickey toasts Harry, then abruptly reveals that Evelyn is dead. Larry apologizes, but Hickey replies that he is happy that she has found peace at last. The next morning, Larry, who suspects Hickey had a hand in Evelyn’s death, is again assailed by Parritt, who now admits that he turned in his mother for the reward money, after falling in love with a prostitute. An unhappy Chuck returns, insisting that he will get married, stop drinking and treat Cora kindly. When Rocky sneers, they quarrel and are joined by Joe, who is furious over a racist remark. Larry calms them, after which Joe stalks out, swearing to raise money for his casino. A quaking Willie then arrives, determined to ask for his job back. Following him is Cecil and Piet, no longer speaking, but both adamant that they will get jobs and earn money for passage home. McGloin, Harry and Jimmy, each dressed in his finest, join the others and admit to fearfully anticipating leaving the security of the bar. When Jimmy reaches for a drink for courage, Hickey attempts to stop him, prompting Jimmy to throw the drink in his face. Undaunted, Hickey expresses his empathy for Jimmy, then turns to goad Harry into walking out. Rocky is excited to see his boss stride out, but within minutes Harry is back, falsely claiming that he was nearly run over by a car. Hickey exclaims that Harry is finally rid of his nagging dream of leaving and will soon be suffused with happiness, but instead Harry seems broken. Larry turns on Hickey, insisting that Hickey will never induce him to say he is afraid to die, but Hickey points out that Larry just admitted it. Soon, though, Hickey admits that he is puzzled that Harry is not enjoying the tranquility of being free. By that night, the men have all returned to the bar, defeated and despondent: During the day, Chuck has decided to become Cora’s pimp rather than her husband; Joe has stolen a gun but failed to use it; and Rocky has accepted his station as a pimp and now urges Parritt and Larry to follow in his footsteps. Larry, who has failed to spend the evening alone in his room, tries to ignore Parritt, who with increasing desperation begs Larry to absolve him of his guilt. He now admits it was not money but rather hatred of his mother that drove him, then chastises Larry for pretending not to care. Larry observes that Hickey has lost confidence in his mission, and arriving just then, Hickey admits he is worried that they are all near death, rather than free. Anxious to leave the men with something before he leaves, Hickey reveals that he killed Evelyn. Larry urges him not to incriminate himself, but Hickey insists that he welcomes death. When Parritt admits that he too longs for death to release him from his guilt over his mother, Hickey reproaches him, insisting that, unlike Parritt, Hickey acted out of love. Despite the group’s attempts to stop Hickey from talking, he describes his life with Evelyn: Hickey was a wayward youth whom no one trusted but Evelyn, who vowed to wait for him, stating that only death could stop her from loving him. They married and Hickey continued his reprobate ways, but Evelyn always trusted and forgave him. Eventually her faith in him became a kind of reproach, and he was filled with self-loathing for continually letting her down. Unable to break her heart by leaving her, Hickey shot her, believing it was the only way to give them both peace. Describing her death, however, Hickey loses his studied self-control and calls Evelyn a “damn bitch.” As he has been speaking, a policeman has entered the bar, called earlier by Hickey himself, and overheard the entire confession. He now arrests Hickey, who begs Harry, his oldest friend, to agree that Hickey killed Evelyn rationally and out of kindness. When Harry refuses, calling him crazy, Hickey realizes that an admittance of insanity is the only thing that will give his friends back their pipe dreams and their will to live. As the police lead him out, he calmly repeats his desire for death. As soon as he is gone, the regulars, led by Harry, agree that Hickey was insane, and each clings to this self-deception. Drinking freely, they finally laugh and sing, while Parritt quietly confesses to Larry that he cannot live with the fact that his mother is suffering. When Parritt curses the notion of a freedom pipe dream, Larry, unable to listen anymore, demands that Parritt put himself out of his misery, and Parritt gratefully agrees. While the others drink and laugh, Larry watches the window and when Parritt’s body drops from the fire escape, he freezes in horror. Disgusted by his pity, and acknowledging that he will never achieve his “grandstand of philosophical detachment,” Larry realizes that Hickey has succeeded, if nothing else, in making him truly welcome death. +

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

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