Ordinary People (1980)

R | 124 mins | Melodrama | 19 September 1980

Director:

Robert Redford

Writer:

Alvin Sargent

Producer:

Ronald L. Schwary

Cinematographer:

John Bailey

Editor:

Jeff Kanew

Production Designers:

Phillip Bennett, J. Michael Riva

Production Company:

Wildwood Enterprises
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HISTORY

       A 24 Oct 1979 Var article stated that director Robert Redford bought film rights before Judith Guest’s novel was published in 1976. A 27 Jul 1980 NYT interview reported that a staff member suggested he read the galleys of the unpublished novel. Redford described how he identified with teenager "Conrad Jarrett’s" sense of loneliness, of not having a voice, and his persona as an outsider. Production notes in AMPAS library files stated that Redford summed up the film as Jarrett’s effort at communicating “through the fog of the social structure in which he was raised.”
       The 24 Oct 1979 Var reported that Redford and screenwriter Alvin Sargent worked closely on the script for three years with feedback from Guest. In the first year of their collaboration, Redford originally thought he would only be involved in the adaptation from book to screen, and produce it through his production company, according to a 16 Nov 1979 HR article. However, his identification with the material was such that Redford later expanded his role to become director. The 24 Oct 1979 Var stated that the actor cited that his influences included directors Howard Hawks and John Ford for their “straight-ahead” storytelling. A 26 Nov 1979 LAHExam article and the 24 Oct 1979 Var reported that Redford would be paid the Director’s Guild minimum salary of $75,000 for his theatrical directorial debut.
       According to a 27 Aug 1979 DV news item, actor-director Tony Bill was planning to film My Bodyguard (1980, see entry), in the Chicago, ... More Less

       A 24 Oct 1979 Var article stated that director Robert Redford bought film rights before Judith Guest’s novel was published in 1976. A 27 Jul 1980 NYT interview reported that a staff member suggested he read the galleys of the unpublished novel. Redford described how he identified with teenager "Conrad Jarrett’s" sense of loneliness, of not having a voice, and his persona as an outsider. Production notes in AMPAS library files stated that Redford summed up the film as Jarrett’s effort at communicating “through the fog of the social structure in which he was raised.”
       The 24 Oct 1979 Var reported that Redford and screenwriter Alvin Sargent worked closely on the script for three years with feedback from Guest. In the first year of their collaboration, Redford originally thought he would only be involved in the adaptation from book to screen, and produce it through his production company, according to a 16 Nov 1979 HR article. However, his identification with the material was such that Redford later expanded his role to become director. The 24 Oct 1979 Var stated that the actor cited that his influences included directors Howard Hawks and John Ford for their “straight-ahead” storytelling. A 26 Nov 1979 LAHExam article and the 24 Oct 1979 Var reported that Redford would be paid the Director’s Guild minimum salary of $75,000 for his theatrical directorial debut.
       According to a 27 Aug 1979 DV news item, actor-director Tony Bill was planning to film My Bodyguard (1980, see entry), in the Chicago, IL, area, and assisted Redford with casting although he did not receive onscreen credit. Bill also recommended that Redford work with director of photography John Bailey.
       The 27 Jul 1980 NYT reported that actor Timothy Hutton was hired to make his theatrical film debut after a nationwide search. As part of his research, Hutton spent a week as an outpatient at a Chicago-based “private psychiatric hospital” for teenagers. Reportedly, actor Gene Hackman turned down the role of Conrad’s psychiatrist when a financial arrangement could not be reached. Instead, the part went to actor Judd Hirsch, on hiatus for ten days from his starring role on the television show Taxi (ABC, 1978-83), according to the 26 Nov 1979 LAHExam.
       7 Nov 1979 Var production charts stated that principal photography began on 9 Oct 1979 in Lake Forest, IL, while a 3 Aug 1979 HR article and the 26 Nov 1979 LAHExam reported that the production was on a ten-week schedule with a budget of $6 million. A 15 Jan 1980 HR news item announced that principal photography was completed on that day.
       According to the 16 Nov 1979 HR, Redford received many invitations from the Lake Forest community, but the only one he accepted was to ride on a float during the Lake Forest High School homecoming parade so that his crew and their hidden cameras could record crowd shots used as inserts in the movie.
       The 27 Jul 1980 NYT and the 16 Nov 1979 HR reported that bureaucratic red tape was circumvented so that the filmmakers could build a sound stage inside an abandoned laundry building on the grounds of an army base known as Fort Sheridan. There, a set of a fourteen-room residence with marble fireplaces and an operational garbage disposal was built at a cost of $200,000. Production notes stated that scenes involving Dr. Berger’s office were also filmed on the sound stage.
       The 16 Nov 1979 HR and production notes reported that other Illinois locations included the fur salon at the Neiman-Marcus department store in Northbrook, Lake Forest High School, the exterior of the Sun-Times building in Chicago, Marshall Field department store in Lake Forest, local bars, streets and parks, Lake Forest College, and aboard Northwestern and Chicago commuter trains. The company spent a week in California on an Apple Valley golf course, and filmed storm sequences in a tank at Paramount Pictures Studios in Hollywood.
       A 13 Mar 1981 HR news item reported that the picture earned close to $38 million after six months in domestic release.
       A 22 Dec 1980 LAT article announced that the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures selected the film as the best movie of 1980. A 8 Jan 1981 LAT article stated that the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) also chose the movie for their best picture award, while the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) awarded Hutton for best supporting actor. According to a 26 Mar 1981 LAHExam article, the Writers Guild of America honored screenwriter Alvin Sargent with best drama adapted from another medium, and Redford received the Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures. A 28 Dec 1980 LAT brief reported that the film made reviewer Charles Champlin’s “Top Ten” list, as well as appearing on more than one hundred “ten-best” lists around the country, according to a news item in the 26 Jan 1981 HR.
       The film received four Academy Awards: Actor in a Supporting Role (Timothy Hutton), Writing – Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Directing, and Best Picture. It also received the following Academy Award nominations: Actress in a Leading Role (Mary Tyler Moore), and Actor in a Supporting Role (Judd Hirsch) The film received five Golden Globe Awards: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama (Mary Tyler Moore), Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture and New Star Of The Year (Timothy Hutton), Best Director – Motion Picture, and Best Motion Picture - Drama. The movie also received two Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Donald Sutherland), and Best Screenplay - Motion Picture.

      The following acknowledgment appears in end credits: “Wildwood Enterprises would like to thank the citizens of Lake Forest, Illinois and the surrounding communities for their cooperation and assistance in the filming of this picture.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
27 Aug 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Aug 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Nov 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jan 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Sep 1980
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 1981.
---
LAHExam
26 Nov 1979.
---
LAHExam
26 Mar 1981
Section B, p.1, 8.
Los Angeles Times
21 Sep 1980
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
22 Dec 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
28 Dec 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Jan 1981
Part IV, p. 2.
New York Times
27 Jul 1980
Section D, pp. 17-18.
New York Times
19 Sep 1980
p. 6.
Variety
24 Oct 1979
pp. 2, 104.
Variety
7 Nov 1979.
---
Variety
17 Sep 1980
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Paramount Pictures Presents
A Wildwood Enterprises Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Stills
Key grip
Chicago gaffer
Chicago key grip
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Const coord
Const foreman
Const painter
Head carpenter
Greensman
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men`s ward
Women's ward
MUSIC
Mus adpt
Asst mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
Orch
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Asst sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd mixer
Boom man
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Ms. Moore's hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Unit pub
Pub consultant
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Prod coord
Secy to Mr. Redford
Secy to Mr. Schwary
Wildwood assoc
Asst to Mr. Sutherland
Craft service
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Chicago co-capt
Caterers
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Ordinary People by Judith Guest (New York, 1976).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Canon In D," by Johann Pachelbel, arranged for mixed voices by Noel Goemanne, additional arrangement by Jean-Francois Paillard.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 September 1980
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 19 September 1980
Los Angeles opening: 26 September 1980
Production Date:
9 October 1979--15 January 1980 in Illinois and California
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
17 December 1980
Copyright Number:
PA88908
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex Camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
124
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26107
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Lake Forest, Illinois, eighteen-year-old Conrad “Connie” Jarrett wakes up after a nightmare. When his parents, Beth and Calvin, return from an evening at the theater, Calvin notices the light on in Connie’s room, and asks if he is unable to sleep. Connie denies any problems, but his father suggests he call the doctor. Connie sees no need, and his father drops the subject. In the morning, Connie is too anxious to join his parents at the breakfast table. When he does appear, he is not hungry, so his mother stuffs his favorite meal of French toast down the garbage disposal despite Calvin’s protests. At school, Connie is distracted, and at lunchtime, he eats alone. Later, he calls Dr. Tyrone C. Berger, a psychiatrist, who is with a patient and unable to talk. Connie answers that he will call again. At swim team practice, the coach signals Connie to improve his lap time. At night, Connie has a nightmare about being in a capsized sailboat during a storm. The next day, he has his first session with Dr. Berger. He feels okay after spending four months in a psychiatric hospital, recovering from a suicide attempt, but he wants his family to stop worrying. He has been home for almost two months, and wants the doctor’s help to regain control. Dr. Berger asks how he felt at the hospital, describing his brother Buck’s death from a boating accident. Connie replies that talking did not change anything. However, Dr. Berger suggests they meet for two sessions a week. At dinner, Calvin is pleased Connie has seen the doctor, and tells him not to worry about the expense. However, Beth becomes ... +


In Lake Forest, Illinois, eighteen-year-old Conrad “Connie” Jarrett wakes up after a nightmare. When his parents, Beth and Calvin, return from an evening at the theater, Calvin notices the light on in Connie’s room, and asks if he is unable to sleep. Connie denies any problems, but his father suggests he call the doctor. Connie sees no need, and his father drops the subject. In the morning, Connie is too anxious to join his parents at the breakfast table. When he does appear, he is not hungry, so his mother stuffs his favorite meal of French toast down the garbage disposal despite Calvin’s protests. At school, Connie is distracted, and at lunchtime, he eats alone. Later, he calls Dr. Tyrone C. Berger, a psychiatrist, who is with a patient and unable to talk. Connie answers that he will call again. At swim team practice, the coach signals Connie to improve his lap time. At night, Connie has a nightmare about being in a capsized sailboat during a storm. The next day, he has his first session with Dr. Berger. He feels okay after spending four months in a psychiatric hospital, recovering from a suicide attempt, but he wants his family to stop worrying. He has been home for almost two months, and wants the doctor’s help to regain control. Dr. Berger asks how he felt at the hospital, describing his brother Buck’s death from a boating accident. Connie replies that talking did not change anything. However, Dr. Berger suggests they meet for two sessions a week. At dinner, Calvin is pleased Connie has seen the doctor, and tells him not to worry about the expense. However, Beth becomes tense at the mention of a psychiatrist. At swim practice, the coach notices Connie is lethargic, and asks about his previous hospital treatment. At home, Beth suggests to her husband they plan a trip to London during the Christmas holiday. Calvin responds that Connie has just begun treatment with Dr. Berger, and it would not make sense to interrupt the sessions. One day, Connie startles Beth as she sits in Buck’s former bedroom, gazing at Buck’s photographs and sports trophies, and he apologizes. Their subsequent conversation is awkward. On the drive home from a friend’s birthday party, Beth accuses her husband of drinking too much, and revealing details about Connie’s treatment to acquaintances. She feels that her privacy has been violated, and people will have a negative view of their family. At Connie’s next session with Dr. Berger, he appears anxious and has lost interest in competitive swimming and his athletic-minded friends. He tells the doctor he liked being at the hospital because no one hid anything, and he made friends. Later, he arranges to meet Karen, one of his hospital friends, at a coffee shop. As they sip soft drinks, he reveals that he is seeing a psychiatrist. She says she also saw a doctor, but did not think it helped her, and stopped treatment. When he tells her that he misses the hospital, Karen becomes uncomfortable, but as she leaves, she suggests they have the best year ever, and they agree to meet again. One day, Connie reminisces about how Buck tried unsuccessfully to convince his mother to buy a small dog, but Beth drowns out her son with small talk. Later, he tells Dr. Berger that he and his mother cannot communicate, and he is unable to express his sorrow over Buck’s death. Connie quits the swim team, and the coach warns him that his decision is irrevocable. When his friend, Lazenby, wants to know why he quit, Connie says swimming is boring. At another session with Dr. Berger, Connie complains that getting angry takes too much energy, but the doctor pushes through the boy’s reserve. Afterward, Connie looks relieved. After chorus practice, fellow singer, Jeannine Pratt, tells Connie that he has a wonderful tenor voice, and he walks her to her bus. Then, he sings all the way home. Soon, he calls Karen to share his positive feelings, but she is not home and he leaves a message. He then calls Jeannine, and asks her out on a date. One day, Beth is angry when a friend’s mother informs her that Connie quit the swim team a month earlier. She criticizes her son for embarrassing her, and he accuses her of not caring. She tells him that he must have learned his unacceptable behavior at the hospital. When Connie comments that his mother never visited him at the hospital, Calvin reminds him that Beth had the flu. However, Connie says that if Buck were in the hospital she would have found a way. She snaps that Buck would have never ended up in psychiatric care. Connie retreats to his room, and his father follows. Connie believes that his mother hates him, and suggests her feelings existed long before Buck’s death. At Connie’s next session, he does not think that his mother is ever going to forgive him, but Dr. Berger suggests that he stop blaming himself for his mother’s limitations. One day, Calvin schedules a session with Dr. Berger on the pretext of discussing Connie, but the conversation turns to his marriage and feelings. Later, Calvin and Beth lunch, and he suggests the whole family have a session with Dr. Berger, but Beth has no interest in speaking to a psychiatrist. She suggests they spend New Year’s with her brother and his family in Houston, Texas. They can leave Connie with his grandparents, and Calvin agrees. Later, Connie watches his former teammates lose their swim meet. After the competition, the swimmers complain that the coach never stops talking about how Buck was the best swimmer on the team. When Connie approaches them, Sloan, a teammate, asks if he has slept with Jeannine yet. Connie starts a fistfight, and the other boys break them apart. At Connie’s car, Lazenby returns Connie’s hat, and says he misses Buck. They all used to be best friends, but Connie admits being around Lazenby is too painful. At home, Connie calls Karen only to learn that she succeeded in killing herself. He turns on the faucet in the bathroom, and remembers being tossed in the water during the storm, and how Buck promised not to let go of his hand. However, Buck lost his grip, and disappeared beneath the waves. Connie calls Dr. Berger from a pay phone, and the doctor instructs him to meet at his office. There, Connie is agitated, and tries to explain why the boat accident was his fault. The brothers were fooling around when they should have returned to shore, and Buck neglected to secure a piece of equipment that later jammed. Connie cannot understand why Buck lost his grip, but Dr. Berger suggests that Connie was the stronger person. As Connie weeps for his dead brother, he tells the doctor that Karen killed herself. Connie thinks he could have helped Karen, but the doctor reminds him that it is tough to save someone that he only saw once after leaving the hospital. When Dr. Berger asks about the mistake he made during the storm, Connie replies that he hung on and stayed with the boat. When Connie admits that he is scared, the doctor tells him that if he cannot feel pain, he will never feel anything else in life. Early on a Sunday morning, Connie visits Jeannine, apologizes for an awkward date, and asks her out again. She invites him inside for breakfast. In Texas, Beth and Calvin have a fight on the golf course when she suggests another vacation without Connie. Beth wants all of her husband’s attention, but he wants to keep the family together. She admits to finding Connie’s emotional needs suffocating, but she does not hate him. Back home, Beth seems shocked when Connie hugs her, and tells her that he is glad to see her. Later, Beth wakes and finds Calvin weeping in the dining room. He tells her that their lives would have been normal but Beth cannot handle anything messy, only situations that are neat and easy. He accuses her of burying all her love with Buck, then admits that he does not know if he loves her anymore, and feels lost. Without a word, Beth returns to her bedroom, and pulls a suitcase from the closet. The action cracks her brittle exterior, and she contorts in pain. Connie wakes up and sees a taxicab leave the driveway. He finds his father in the backyard, and Calvin tells him that his mother has left for Houston. Connie takes the blame, but his father retorts that life is complicated. Connie says he would appreciate some parental discipline the way his father handled Buck. Calvin says he never needed discipline because he was always so tough on himself. Still, Connie admires his father for giving him a wonderful childhood. Connie tells Calvin that he loves him, and they embrace. +

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

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