A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

R | 147 or 155 mins | Drama | November 1974

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HISTORY

       A Woman Under the Influence was personally financed, as were most of Cassavetes’ films. Some articles that appeared after the film’s initial release reported that star Peter Falk also contributed to the film’s financing. In a later interview, Cassavetes stated that A Woman Under the Influence took thirteen weeks to shoot, but that pre-production and post-production financial challenges kept the picture from completion for nearly two years. The film premiered at the New York Film Festival in Oct 1974, and despite strong critical and public reception, Cassavetes did not receive any distribution offers, prompting him to distribute the film himself in the Los Angeles and New York markets through his company, Faces International, Inc. A Jan 1975 Box news item notes that A Woman Under the Influence had strong boxoffice receipts in its special Los Angeles run. A Feb 1975 DV article stated that, despite Cassavetes' continued efforts to secure a distributor, the film was continually rejected because, as distributors told the director, "Nobody's interested in women's problems." Faces International, Inc. continued distribution of the film throughout 1975. Rowlands won a Golden Globe award for Best Actress in her role as "Mabel Longhetti." She also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, and Cassavetes was nominated for Best Director.
       Although the film went on to become one of the best known and influential of Cassavetes’ works, he and, after his death in 1989, Rowlands, guarded the film’s rights, only allowing it to be screened at museums or approved retrospectives. The film’s reputation had a resurgence since ... More Less

       A Woman Under the Influence was personally financed, as were most of Cassavetes’ films. Some articles that appeared after the film’s initial release reported that star Peter Falk also contributed to the film’s financing. In a later interview, Cassavetes stated that A Woman Under the Influence took thirteen weeks to shoot, but that pre-production and post-production financial challenges kept the picture from completion for nearly two years. The film premiered at the New York Film Festival in Oct 1974, and despite strong critical and public reception, Cassavetes did not receive any distribution offers, prompting him to distribute the film himself in the Los Angeles and New York markets through his company, Faces International, Inc. A Jan 1975 Box news item notes that A Woman Under the Influence had strong boxoffice receipts in its special Los Angeles run. A Feb 1975 DV article stated that, despite Cassavetes' continued efforts to secure a distributor, the film was continually rejected because, as distributors told the director, "Nobody's interested in women's problems." Faces International, Inc. continued distribution of the film throughout 1975. Rowlands won a Golden Globe award for Best Actress in her role as "Mabel Longhetti." She also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, and Cassavetes was nominated for Best Director.
       Although the film went on to become one of the best known and influential of Cassavetes’ works, he and, after his death in 1989, Rowlands, guarded the film’s rights, only allowing it to be screened at museums or approved retrospectives. The film’s reputation had a resurgence since the special DVD version was released in the early 2000’s.
      John Cassavetes' onscreen credit reads "Written and directed by." Carole Smith's onscreen credit reads "Production secretary/Wardrobe." The end credits thank the American Film Institute. Contemporary reviews of the film list the running time as 155 minutes. However, the viewed print, which was a DVD release, ran 147 minutes. Although there is an onscreen copyright statement for Faces International Films, Inc., it was not registered until 14 Nov 1991 under number PA545088. A Woman Under the Influence marked the fourth feature film project between Cassavetes and Gena Rowland, who were husband and wife. As in earlier films, including the 1971 Universal release, Minnie and Moskowitz (see below), Cassavetes cast friends and family members, including his mother, Katherine Cassavetes, who portrayed "Mama Margaret Longhetti." Cassavetes' and Rowland's children, Nick, billed as "N.J." onscreen, and Alexandra, billed as "Xan" onscreen, also appeared in the film. Rowland's mother, Lady Rowlands, who also appeared in Minnie and Moskowitz , played "Mabel's" mother, "Martha Mortensen," in A Woman Under the Influence .
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
2 Dec 1974
p. 4739.
Box Office
27 Jan 1975.
---
Daily Variety
17 Oct 1974.
---
Daily Variety
4 Feb 1975
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
24 May 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 1974
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 1975.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
11 Dec 1974
Section B, pp.1-2.
Los Angeles Times
8 Dec 1974
Calendar, p. 1.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
30 Oct 1974
p. 44.
New York Times
14 Oct 1974
p. 39.
New York Times
19 Nov 1974.
---
New York Times
6 Apr 1975
Section II, p. 15.
Newsweek
9 Dec 1974
pp. 112-14.
Time
21 Oct 1974.
---
Variety
16 Oct 1974
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
Prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
In charge of lighting
Lighting crew
Lighting crew
Lighting crew
Addl photog
Cam op
Cam op
Addl cam
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Gaffer
Key grip
ART DIRECTORS
Graphics
SET DECORATOR
Props
COSTUMES
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod secy
Script cont
in charge of post-prod
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
MUSIC
Excerpt from Swan Lake by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
DETAILS
Release Date:
November 1974
Premiere Information:
New York Film Festival screening: 12 October 1974
New York and Los Angeles openings: 12 November 1974
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
147 or 155
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Los Angeles, city construction worker Nick Longhetti, frets about telling his wife Mabel that he has been forced to work an additional late shift when the couple had planned to spend the weekend together. Meanwhile, Mabel excitedly prepares their young children, Tony, Angelo and Maria, to spend the weekend with her mother, Martha Mortensen. Later, Mabel dresses and waits for Nick at home, while he confides in one of his fellow workers, that he worries about his delicate and unusual wife and is frequently unsure how she will behave. Finally gathering the nerve to telephone Mabel several hours after he was expected home, Nick apologizes profusely and insists they will have the next day to themselves. Disappointed and a little high from having had a drink, Mabel wanders to a nearby bar where she flirts with smalltime businessman Garson Cross. After another strong drink, the dazed Mabel agrees to take Garson home. However, once there, Mabel grows agitated by Garson’s attempts at intimacy and knocks him down. Eventually, though, she allows him to spend the night. The next morning, Garson amiably attempts to chat with Mabel, but now anxious and short tempered, she sends him away. Soon after, Nick arrives home with his entire work crew and invites them to a meal of spaghetti. Despite Mabel having met several of the men before, she politely asks each his name as if they were strangers. When one of the men begins singing a bit of opera and another takes it up, Mabel is delighted and wants to dance, embarrassing Nick, who shouts at her in anger. ... +


In Los Angeles, city construction worker Nick Longhetti, frets about telling his wife Mabel that he has been forced to work an additional late shift when the couple had planned to spend the weekend together. Meanwhile, Mabel excitedly prepares their young children, Tony, Angelo and Maria, to spend the weekend with her mother, Martha Mortensen. Later, Mabel dresses and waits for Nick at home, while he confides in one of his fellow workers, that he worries about his delicate and unusual wife and is frequently unsure how she will behave. Finally gathering the nerve to telephone Mabel several hours after he was expected home, Nick apologizes profusely and insists they will have the next day to themselves. Disappointed and a little high from having had a drink, Mabel wanders to a nearby bar where she flirts with smalltime businessman Garson Cross. After another strong drink, the dazed Mabel agrees to take Garson home. However, once there, Mabel grows agitated by Garson’s attempts at intimacy and knocks him down. Eventually, though, she allows him to spend the night. The next morning, Garson amiably attempts to chat with Mabel, but now anxious and short tempered, she sends him away. Soon after, Nick arrives home with his entire work crew and invites them to a meal of spaghetti. Despite Mabel having met several of the men before, she politely asks each his name as if they were strangers. When one of the men begins singing a bit of opera and another takes it up, Mabel is delighted and wants to dance, embarrassing Nick, who shouts at her in anger. Later, a phone call from Nick’s mother Margaret interrupts, prompting the men to leave. Afterward, Mabel tells Nick that she only wanted to make his friends feel welcome and comfortable. Although Nick remains angry, he assures Mabel that she did nothing wrong. When Mabel pleads with Nick to tell her what and how she should be, he offers no response. The following morning, Martha brings the children home, and Nick insists on teaching them to whistle before they leave for school. Afterward, Mabel grows increasingly annoyed as Nick repeatedly asks her if she will be all right while he is at work and demands to know if he thinks she is “wacko.” Mabel then spends the day anxiously waiting for the children to return from school. After walking them home from the bus stop, Mabel sits on the porch with them, saying earnestly that the only thing she has ever done with her life is to create them. When she tentatively asks if they consider her to be weird or “dopey,” Tony assures her that she is smart, pretty and nervous. Spotting some of the children’s friends approaching with their father, Mabel makes a game of darting into the house with her children and hiding. The man, Harold Jensen, brings his children to play with the Longhetti children, but when Mabel insists that he stay, then encourages the children to dance to Swan Lake which is on the radio, Jensen grows uncomfortable. After Nick telephones and hears Mabel’s effusive description of the impromptu party, he hangs up. Deciding the children should dress up in costume, Mabel helps them change into various disguises, then returns to the yard to continue dancing with them. Discomfited by Mabel’s insistence that he join her, Jensen admits he is uneasy about leaving his children with her and orders them to change out of their costumes just as Nick arrives with his mother. Shocked when Maria dashes by naked, Nick immediately turns on the hapless Jensen. When Mabel defends Jensen, Nick slaps her and attacks Jensen until Margaret intervenes. After Jensen and his children depart, Margaret puts her grandchildren to bed, while Nick heatedly tells Mabel that she is going to be committed until she gets better. Disregarding this, Mabel forgives him for slapping her and says she understands that Nick was only embarrassed and unsure how to respond. Annoyed, Nick declares that he does not know who she is any more, which dismays, then angers Mabel. Moments later, the family physician, Dr. Zepp, arrives, further alarming Mabel. As Margaret blames her for drinking and being irrational, Mabel accuses Nick of a conspiracy, but he insists that Zepp is only making a social call. When Nick declares that he loves Mabel, Margaret shrilly accuses her daughter-in-law of being an unfit mother and wife. After Nick orders Margaret upstairs, the stunned Mabel says that she has several good points, but when she realizes Zepp is planning to give her a tranquilizing shot she grows hysterical, begging not to be hospitalized before rushing upstairs to the children. Zepp and Nick follow, and Zepp announces that he has the paperwork to have Mabel committed. Over the next six months, while Mabel is hospitalized, Nick remains tense and belligerent at work, refusing to discuss his situation, even when his friends offer sympathy. Feeling guilty about his children, who miss their mother, Nick abruptly takes them out of school one afternoon to go to the beach, where he orders them to have fun. On the way home, while allowing each to have small sips of beer, Nick apologizes to them for sending Mabel away. The day of Mabel’s return, Nick excitedly rounds up dozens of his and Mabel’s friends and family to welcome her back, but when one of Mabel’s friends suggests that the party is excessive and might distress her, Nick abruptly orders everyone to depart except his mother and Dr. Zepp. Mabel’s parents, Martha and George, bring her home, where she greets the children and, after some awkwardness, settles down quietly. Disturbed, Nick pulls Mabel aside to the stairwell to privately assure her that she must be herself and insist that she resume her free-spirited manner. Urging everyone to sit at the dinner table, Nick then asks Mabel to describe her hospital experience, but she demurs, prompting Nick to agree that the only thing that matters is having a good time in the present. When Mabel thanks everyone for coming, then abruptly asks them to leave as she and Nick want to go to bed, her parents become anxious. After Mabel tells a silly joke, however, the ill-tempered Nick demands that only serious conversation be allowed at the table and insists that Mabel relate her experience. Mabel complies, but when she relates undergoing electro-shock therapy and the family recoils, Nick orders her to continue. Mabel turns to her father and quietly asks him to stand up for her against Nick’s callousness. Misunderstanding, George stands up from his chair, then admits that he does not understand his daughter. When Mabel retreats to the living room in tears, a confused Nick follows, but reacts furiously when she begins singing softly. After the distressed family members leave, Nick orders Mabel off the sofa and she flees to the bathroom, followed by her husband and anxious children. Frightened when Mabel grabs a razor blade and badly cuts her hand, the children begin crying and screaming, further agitating Nick, who drags them upstairs, only to have them break away from him and run back to their mother. Outraged, Nick follows, vowing to kill Mabel and the children, but when he again takes the hysterical children upstairs, they rush back to Mabel. Abruptly calm, Nick tells Mabel that the children need to know that she is all right. Mabel hugs her children and calmly guides them upstairs to bed where she has a private word with each. Nick and Mabel then return downstairs, and as Nick bathes and bandages her hand, Mabel wonders if she is crazy and how the situation got so far out of control. The couple then begins tidying up the dining room together. +

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

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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.