The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979)

R | 107 mins | Drama | 1979

Director:

Jerry Schatzberg

Writer:

Alan Alda

Producer:

Martin Bregman

Cinematographer:

Adam Holender

Editor:

Evan Lottman

Production Designer:

David Chapman

Production Company:

Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

During production, the film was titled, The Senator. A Public Affair was another working title that appeared in briefs from the 7 Apr 1978 DV and the 26 Apr 1978 Var. The 18 Jun 1979 DV announced that the title had changed to The Seduction of Joe Tynan.
       According to the production notes at the AMPAS library, Alan Alda wrote the screenplay over a period of three years, his first for a feature film. He described the main conflict for the character “Joe Tynan” as the difficulty of managing work and family obligations, a struggle that was prevalent in many professions not just politics and therefore hoped that the film would encourage some people to contemplate their values in relation to how they organized their lives. In preparation for playing “Ellie Tynan,” actress Barbara Harris read The Power Lovers: An Intimate Look at Politics and Marriage by Myra MacPherson, a collection of interviews with political wives that caused a sensation in Washington D.C. society when it was published in 1975. Actor Melvyn Douglas (“Senator Birnie”) was astonished by the “‘sexual shenanigans’” in the story, to which he claimed to have been oblivious when he and his wife, former Congresswoman Helen Gahagan, lived in Washington D.C. After quizzing Alda and conducting his own research, Douglas was satisfied with film’s representation of politicians.
       Articles in the 29 Mar 1978 Var and the 12 Jun 1978 DV reported that the production was Maryland’s most expensive film project to date, with a budget of $5 million. ... More Less

During production, the film was titled, The Senator. A Public Affair was another working title that appeared in briefs from the 7 Apr 1978 DV and the 26 Apr 1978 Var. The 18 Jun 1979 DV announced that the title had changed to The Seduction of Joe Tynan.
       According to the production notes at the AMPAS library, Alan Alda wrote the screenplay over a period of three years, his first for a feature film. He described the main conflict for the character “Joe Tynan” as the difficulty of managing work and family obligations, a struggle that was prevalent in many professions not just politics and therefore hoped that the film would encourage some people to contemplate their values in relation to how they organized their lives. In preparation for playing “Ellie Tynan,” actress Barbara Harris read The Power Lovers: An Intimate Look at Politics and Marriage by Myra MacPherson, a collection of interviews with political wives that caused a sensation in Washington D.C. society when it was published in 1975. Actor Melvyn Douglas (“Senator Birnie”) was astonished by the “‘sexual shenanigans’” in the story, to which he claimed to have been oblivious when he and his wife, former Congresswoman Helen Gahagan, lived in Washington D.C. After quizzing Alda and conducting his own research, Douglas was satisfied with film’s representation of politicians.
       Articles in the 29 Mar 1978 Var and the 12 Jun 1978 DV reported that the production was Maryland’s most expensive film project to date, with a budget of $5 million. Location filming took place in the state for ten weeks. The 18 Apr 1978 HR specified the start date as 18 Apr 1978, while an item in the 29 Aug 1978 Box cited it as 17 Apr 1978. According to the production notes, the countryside as well as residential and office buildings throughout Maryland stood for Louisiana, Washington D.C. and Westchester, New York. The Maryland State Capitol in Annapolis and the Baltimore Court House were used for government interiors while certain exteriors were shot in Washington, D.C.
       Robert Stein, editor of the publication McCall’s, was interviewed for a 14 Aug 1979 LAT article about the reference to his magazine in the film, specifically how the aide “Francis” is able to “fix” a story by withdrawing Ellie’s potentially harmful admission about having psychotherapy. Stein was annoyed by the representation, stating that it was not an acceptable procedure at the publication, but the mention was not serious enough to take any action against the filmmakers. Alda claimed he merely chose McCall’s because of its recognition as a national magazine that featured profile articles of well-known people.
       The film’s second weekend box-office made headlines in a Var article dated 5 Sep 1979. After eleven days, domestic gross was $2,558,337, but the surprising figure was the fact that the earnings from the second weekend were 101% of the earnings from the opening weekend. Universal executives, who did not predict such favorable results for a political drama, attributed the improvement to “strong word-of-mouth” aided by positive reviews. In assessing the summer box-office, a column in the 24 Sep 1979 Village Voice predicted that the film’s earnings would achieve somewhere between $10 and $15 million, qualifying it as a moderate success.
       An article in the 17 Dec 1979 LAT reported that The Los Angeles Film Critics Association awarded Meryl Streep best supporting actress for three films, Seduction of Joe Tynan, Kramer vs. Kramer (see entry) and Manhattan (see entry), all released in 1979. A 20 Dec 1979 LAT brief announced that the New York Film Critics Circle recognized Streep for best supporting actress in Seduction of Joe Tynan and Kramer vs. Kramer. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
29 Aug 1978.
---
Box Office
8 Dec 1979.
---
California Good Life
Nov/Dec 1979.
---
Daily Variety
7 Apr 1978.
---
Daily Variety
12 Jun 1978.
---
Daily Variety
24 Aug 1978.
---
Daily Variety
18 Jun 1979.
---
Daily Variety
27 Jun 1979.
---
Daily Variety
21 Aug 1979.
---
Films in Review
Oct 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Apr 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Apr 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 1979
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 1979.
---
LAHExam
31 Jan 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Apr 1978.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Aug 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Aug 1979
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1979
Section IV, p. 32.
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 1979.
---
New West
10 Sep 1979.
---
New York Times
17 Aug 1979
p. 6.
New York Times
31 Jan 1980.
---
Time
9 Jul 1979.
---
Variety
29 Mar 1978.
---
Variety
26 Apr 1978.
---
Variety
17 May 1978.
---
Variety
25 Jul 1979.
---
Variety
15 Aug 1979
p. 25.
Variety
5 Sep 1979.
---
Village Voice
24 Sep 1979.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Martin Bregman Production
A Film by Jerry Schatzberg
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
Wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Key grip
Cam op
2d asst cam
Stillman
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
1st asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
Prop master
Scenic chargeman
Propman
Carpenter
COSTUMES
Ward
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd ed
Sd re-rec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Prod secy
Transportation capt
Consultant
Cinemobile driver
Loc auditor
DGA trainee
STAND INS
Stunt coord
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Senator
A Public Affair
Release Date:
1979
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 17 August 1979
Production Date:
mid April--late Junee 1978
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
24 August 1979
Copyright Number:
PA43513
Physical Properties:
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
107
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25510
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Washington D.C., Joe Tynan, a promising Democratic Senator from New York State, argues for a jobs bill in front of inattentive Congressmen. At home in Westchester, New York, Joe is proud of finally getting the bill passed, which will help put a million people to work, as Ellie, his wife of nineteen years, tries to distract him from talking politics. Back in Washington, elderly Senator Birney from Louisiana speaks to Joe about the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation for Southerner, Edward Anderson. Because Anderson made some regrettable remarks twenty years ago, Birney can understand if Joe votes against him, but he wants to make sure that Joe doesn’t campaign against the confirmation. To clarify, Birney explains that if Anderson loses his Supreme Court bid, he will run for Birney’s Senate seat in the next election and would very likely win since there’s a strong contingent that think Birney is becoming too frail for the job. Joe understands and agrees not to organize an opposition against Anderson. But later, Joe’s administrative aide, Francis, warns him that Anderson is a racist who favored segregated schools. Joe is adamant that he will not support such a controversial candidate, but is concerned about opposing the President and breaking his promise to Birney, a powerful figure in Congress as well as a friend and mentor. During a meeting at Joe’s office, Arthur Briggs, a prominent civil rights activist, states that if Joe does not publicly challenge this nomination, he will release Anderson’s comments about “never accepting integration” to the press, at which point Joe will be forced to respond. Karen Traynor, a liberal ... +


In Washington D.C., Joe Tynan, a promising Democratic Senator from New York State, argues for a jobs bill in front of inattentive Congressmen. At home in Westchester, New York, Joe is proud of finally getting the bill passed, which will help put a million people to work, as Ellie, his wife of nineteen years, tries to distract him from talking politics. Back in Washington, elderly Senator Birney from Louisiana speaks to Joe about the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation for Southerner, Edward Anderson. Because Anderson made some regrettable remarks twenty years ago, Birney can understand if Joe votes against him, but he wants to make sure that Joe doesn’t campaign against the confirmation. To clarify, Birney explains that if Anderson loses his Supreme Court bid, he will run for Birney’s Senate seat in the next election and would very likely win since there’s a strong contingent that think Birney is becoming too frail for the job. Joe understands and agrees not to organize an opposition against Anderson. But later, Joe’s administrative aide, Francis, warns him that Anderson is a racist who favored segregated schools. Joe is adamant that he will not support such a controversial candidate, but is concerned about opposing the President and breaking his promise to Birney, a powerful figure in Congress as well as a friend and mentor. During a meeting at Joe’s office, Arthur Briggs, a prominent civil rights activist, states that if Joe does not publicly challenge this nomination, he will release Anderson’s comments about “never accepting integration” to the press, at which point Joe will be forced to respond. Karen Traynor, a liberal attorney for Briggs in Louisiana, claims there is actual footage of Anderson making this statement. Joe agrees to take on the cause, as soon as the physical evidence against Anderson is in place. Sometime later, Karen admits to Joe and Francis that she is having trouble obtaining the film. She has learned that a copy is in the possession of Carla Willis, an African-American woman from Louisiana who is running for Congress, and she suspects that Carla has made a deal to keep the film out of sight. Once Karen flatters Joe as being the most exciting politician in the country, he decides to meet with Carla in an effort to obtain the footage. In New Orleans, Louisiana, Joe and Karen convince Carla to give them the film clip, owing to Joe’s persuasion as a rising Senator who will not forget the favor. At home in Westchester, Ellie and Joe are interviewed for a magazine article in McCall’s. While Joe steps away to answer a telephone call, Ellie tells the reporter that she was in therapy at one time, but is not embarrassed since her profession is psychology. But that evening, Joe is bothered by Ellie’s lack of restraint during the interview, and she argues back that she is tired of living under the microscope of political life. In Washington, as Karen provides Joe with additional evidence against Anderson, he notices her competitive desire to win as well as their attraction to each other. He admits to being infatuated, and they kiss. When they are interrupted by a telephone call from his family, Karen becomes envious of Joe’s attention to his wife and leaves. At her house in New Orleans, Karen has said goodbye to her husband who is departing for a business trip when she receives a call from Joe, asking her to Washington to help prepare questioning for Anderson’s confirmation hearing in three weeks. Although hesitant, she consents with Joe’s reassurance that her presence will be work-related. But, as soon as he arrives at Karen’s hotel room, they begin kissing. That afternoon, they make love and while in bed, Karen suggests that the Anderson hearing could launch Joe to the White House. At a Washington party, Democratic Senator Kittner from Louisiana explains to Joe that Anderson’s appointment is important in terms of representing the South on the Supreme Court, which is why he is eager to know Joe’s stance, but Joe gives no hint of his opposition plan. After consorting with Francis, Kittner’s aide alerts his boss that Joe is going to spearhead the fight against Anderson. In an attempt to cajole Joe, Kittner invites him to a casual meal with other Congressmen, including Birney, but Joe resists their influence. In Westchester, Ellie is at a gas station when she notices her daughter, Janet, hitchhiking. She confronts her and during the argument reveals that they are moving to Washington in an effort to live together as a family, which angers Janet further. Over dinner, Joe has a difficult time communicating with his son and daughter. Back in Washington, Joe and his staff watch a television report about Anderson’s recent meeting with Joe. When asked if he will lead the opposition, Joe merely says that he will assist his colleagues in any way he can. Following the telecast, Birney summons Joe to his office and threatens to hinder his future legislation if he goes through with the fight against Anderson. Despite Birney’s warning, Joe prepares his attack as planned. At the hearing, Joe challenges Anderson on segregation and receives a round of applause from the spectators when he makes a convincing point. Birney calls for order, but begins to ramble in Cajun French, giving the impression that he is mentally unstable. Meanwhile at home, Ellie is watching the proceedings on television and notices the friendly interaction between her husband and Karen between questioning. Following the hearing, the staff celebrates the victory over Anderson while the media gathers around Joe, inquiring about his ambitions for higher office. Straightaway, Joe instructs his staff to set up interviews and donation contacts, and he begins working with a speech coach. During this new direction in his political career, he and Karen continue their affair. From Westchester, Ellie calls to inform Joe that Janet contracted hepatitis from a tattoo she received. Once home, Joe tries to talk to his daughter, but is unable to overcome the misunderstandings in their relationship. Ellie suggests that, instead of attending the upcoming fundraiser gala, he and Janet should spend the weekend together, reconnecting. But after telephoning Francis, Joe learns that the fundraiser is an essential step towards giving the nominating speech at the Democratic National Convention. Ellie is disappointed when he explains that he has no choice in the matter. On the night of the fundraiser, Karen arrives with her father, and Joe awkwardly introduces her as a business acquaintance to Ellie, who knows that Joe is lying about the relationship. As the event draws to a close, Francis advises Ellie to be careful about what she says to the media since they are working on creating a national image for Joe. He criticizes her for admitting to therapy in the McCall’s interview and adds that he was fortunately able to retract the comment. Angry, Ellie departs without waiting for her husband. As soon as Joe gets home, they fight, and she smashes his things, furious over the affair and his plans to run for President without telling her. After they have both calmed down, Joe reassures her that he still loves her and will end the affair. Using his daughter as an excuse, Joe later explains to Karen that he cannot meet her at the hotel. She does not believe him, recognizing that he still has feelings for his wife, and hangs up the phone. Joe meets her at the airport to clarify that he has neglected his family. They say goodbye, and Karen boards the plane for Louisiana. At the Democratic National Convention, Joe is about to give the nominating speech, but before going into the hall, he begs Ellie to give him another chance, promising to make more time for the family. She seems doubtful. As the crowd shouts, “We want Joe!” he makes his way to the podium. Joe looks up to find Ellie in the audience and she gives him a little smile. +

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

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