Terms of Endearment (1983)

PG | 129 mins | Comedy-drama, Romance | 23 November 1983

Director:

James L. Brooks

Writer:

James L. Brooks

Producer:

James L. Brooks

Cinematographer:

Andrzej Bartkowiak

Editor:

Richard Marks

Production Designer:

Polly Platt
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HISTORY

On 24 Oct 1979, HR announced that actress Jennifer Jones had come out of retirement to produce a screen adaptation of Larry McMurty’s novel, Terms of Endearment (New York, 1975). An 11 Nov 1979 HR news item added that Jones was also expected to star in the picture with Al Pacino. Although Jones renewed her option for a second year, the film rights were transferred to Paramount Pictures in 1980, and James L. Brooks was hired to write the screenplay, as noted in a 10 Apr 1981 Publishers Weekly brief. At that time, Brooks was best known for his work on television shows including The Mary Tyler Moore Show (CBS, 4 Mar 1979—10 Jun 1979) and Taxi (ABC, Sep 1978—Jun 1982, NBC, Sep 1983—Jul 1983). Brooks had one previous feature film credit, as a writer-producer for Paramount’s Starting Over (1979, see entry), another screen adaptation of a novel.
       According to a 4 Nov 1982 DV article, Brooks spent three months researching the project in TX, and completed the screenplay in the six months following his trip. Brooks had a longstanding desire to make a film about a mother-daughter relationship after noticing the cultural impact of Nancy Friday’s psychological research in My Mother/My Self: The Daughter’s Search for Identity (New York, 1977), as stated in a 20 Nov 1983 NYT preview. Although Paramount was committed to the project, and renewed its option on the McMurty novel before Brooks was finished with the script, the studio refused to extend the film’s budget beyond ... More Less

On 24 Oct 1979, HR announced that actress Jennifer Jones had come out of retirement to produce a screen adaptation of Larry McMurty’s novel, Terms of Endearment (New York, 1975). An 11 Nov 1979 HR news item added that Jones was also expected to star in the picture with Al Pacino. Although Jones renewed her option for a second year, the film rights were transferred to Paramount Pictures in 1980, and James L. Brooks was hired to write the screenplay, as noted in a 10 Apr 1981 Publishers Weekly brief. At that time, Brooks was best known for his work on television shows including The Mary Tyler Moore Show (CBS, 4 Mar 1979—10 Jun 1979) and Taxi (ABC, Sep 1978—Jun 1982, NBC, Sep 1983—Jul 1983). Brooks had one previous feature film credit, as a writer-producer for Paramount’s Starting Over (1979, see entry), another screen adaptation of a novel.
       According to a 4 Nov 1982 DV article, Brooks spent three months researching the project in TX, and completed the screenplay in the six months following his trip. Brooks had a longstanding desire to make a film about a mother-daughter relationship after noticing the cultural impact of Nancy Friday’s psychological research in My Mother/My Self: The Daughter’s Search for Identity (New York, 1977), as stated in a 20 Nov 1983 NYT preview. Although Paramount was committed to the project, and renewed its option on the McMurty novel before Brooks was finished with the script, the studio refused to extend the film’s budget beyond $7.5 million. NYT noted that executives were reticent about investing in the picture because it could not be categorized in a single genre, and the marketability of its female-driven narrative was untested at the box office. When Brooks completed the screenplay, however, he realized the picture would require a budget higher than $7.5 million and gained control of the property to market it to other studios. United Artists (UA) agreed to back the production, but the studio dropped the film when new executives came into power. Brooks returned to Paramount, which eventually increased its financial commitment to approximately $9 million, and Brooks’s former employers at The Mary Tyler Moore Show, MTM Productions, added an additional $1 million. As stated in a 19 Feb 1983 LAHExam casting announcement, $1 million went to Jack Nicholson in the supporting role of “Garret Breedlove.”
       Principal photography began 14 Mar 1983 in the River Oaks section of Houston, TX. Filming also took place in Kearny and Lincoln, NE, which stood in for scenes in Des Moines, IA. Lincoln locations included Key’s Restaurant, the Piedmont Shopping Mall, Leon’s Food Mart, the Holiday Inn, Lincoln General Hospital, the Lincoln Airport, and the University of Nebraska campus. After a ten-week shoot, the production moved to New York City, where scenes were filmed at the River Café and Sweetwater Restaurant, the week of 23 May 1983.
       The film was nominated for six Academy Awards in the following categories: Actor in a Supporting Role (John Lithgow), Actress in a Leading Role (Debra Winger), Art Direction, Film Editing, Music (Original Score), and Sound. It won five Academy Awards for: Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Nicholson), Actress in a Leading Role (Shirley MacLaine), Directing, Best Picture, and Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium).
       End credits include: “The producers would like to thank the following for their contributions to the making of ‘Terms of Endearment’: Richard Sakai; Mr. & Mrs. Guy Serwin; Timothy S. Gee, M.D.; Sheila Exstrom, R.N., CNAA; the City of Lincoln, Nebraska and the Nebraska Film Office, Department of Economic Development; Lincoln General Hospital; the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors’ Council; New York City Mayor’s Office of Film and Television Broadcasting,” and, “Special thanks to: Holly Brooks.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
4 Nov 1982
p. 1, 10.
Daily Variety
18 Nov 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 1983
p. 3, 28.
LAHExam
19 Feb 1983.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Nov 1983
Section G, p. 1.
New York Times
20 Nov 1983.
---
New York Times
23 Nov 1983
p. 18.
Publishers Weekly
10 Apr 1981.
---
Variety
23 Nov 1983
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Paramount Pictures presents
A film by James L. Brooks
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
D.G.A. trainee
PRODUCERS
Co-prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Key grip
Still photog
Gaffer
Dolly grip
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Cam op-New York
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Storyboard illustrator
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Addl film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Set dec
Set dec
Prop master
Asst props
Const coord
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
Women's costumer
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus ed
Mus orchestrated and cond by
Mus rec mixer
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd mixer-New York
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Dial looping ed
Dial looping ed
Sd asst
Sd asst
Sd apprentice
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des by
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Makeup artist
Body makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Spec adv
Casting
Casting
Loc casting-Texas
Loc casting-Texas
Loc casting-Texas
Loc casting-Nebraska
Casting assoc
Asst to James L. Brooks
Loc mgr-Texas
Loc mgr-Nebraska
Scr supv
Scr supv
Loc auditor
Tech adv
Secy to Austen Jewell
First aid
Transportation coord
Support personnel
Support personnel
Support personnel
Unit pub
Unit prod supv-New York
Bits and extras-New York
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurtry (New York, 1975).
SONGS
“Anything Goes,” by Cole Porter, performed by Ethel Merman, courtesy of National Broadcasting Company
“Gee, Officer Krupke” from "West Side Story," lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, music by Leonard Bernstein, courtesy of Amberson Enterprises, Inc.
“I Feel the Earth Move,” written by Carole King, published by Colgems-EMI Music, Inc.
+
SONGS
“Anything Goes,” by Cole Porter, performed by Ethel Merman, courtesy of National Broadcasting Company
“Gee, Officer Krupke” from "West Side Story," lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, music by Leonard Bernstein, courtesy of Amberson Enterprises, Inc.
“I Feel the Earth Move,” written by Carole King, published by Colgems-EMI Music, Inc.
“For Me and My Gal,” by Edgar Leslie, E. Ray Goetz, & George W. Meyer, performed by Judy Garland, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc.
“Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody,” by Sam M. Lewis, Joe Young, and Jean Schwartz, performed by Judy Garland, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
23 November 1983
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 23 November 1983
Production Date:
14 March--week of 23 May 1983
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
7 February 1984
Copyright Number:
PA201305
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® Cameras by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
129
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Houston, Texas, an eccentric widow named Aurora Greenway reveres genteel decorum while her daughter, Emma, is a free spirit with no interest in her mother’s aristocratic social conventions. However, Emma learns to find humor in Aurora’s rigidity. As Emma grows into adulthood, Aurora is distressed by her daughter’s decision to marry young, and begs Emma not to go through with the wedding. Aurora believes Emma is doomed to an unhappy life with her fiancé, Flap Horton, who has little imagination and few aspirations, but Emma defies her mother and leaves their elegant estate for a makeshift home with Flap. Although Aurora boycotts the wedding in protest, she later invites the newlyweds to her home for reconciliation. There, Emma announces her pregnancy and Aurora alienates her daughter yet again, claiming that she is not happy about becoming a grandmother. Time passes, and Aurora grudgingly embraces the generational shift in her family with the birth of her grandson, Tommy. However, she and Emma are separated when Flap accepts an associate professorship at a college in Des Moines, Iowa. Bidding Aurora a tearful farewell, Emma relocates to Des Moines, where she has a second child, Teddy, but she and Aurora remain in close contact by telephone. When Emma learns she is pregnant again, she hesitantly asks her mother for a loan, but Aurora declines and encourages Emma to get an abortion, so she can join the work force. Emma is not opposed to becoming financially independent, but she is dedicated to her role as a mother and wife. However, her loyalty is strained when Flap stays out all night, and she ... +


In Houston, Texas, an eccentric widow named Aurora Greenway reveres genteel decorum while her daughter, Emma, is a free spirit with no interest in her mother’s aristocratic social conventions. However, Emma learns to find humor in Aurora’s rigidity. As Emma grows into adulthood, Aurora is distressed by her daughter’s decision to marry young, and begs Emma not to go through with the wedding. Aurora believes Emma is doomed to an unhappy life with her fiancé, Flap Horton, who has little imagination and few aspirations, but Emma defies her mother and leaves their elegant estate for a makeshift home with Flap. Although Aurora boycotts the wedding in protest, she later invites the newlyweds to her home for reconciliation. There, Emma announces her pregnancy and Aurora alienates her daughter yet again, claiming that she is not happy about becoming a grandmother. Time passes, and Aurora grudgingly embraces the generational shift in her family with the birth of her grandson, Tommy. However, she and Emma are separated when Flap accepts an associate professorship at a college in Des Moines, Iowa. Bidding Aurora a tearful farewell, Emma relocates to Des Moines, where she has a second child, Teddy, but she and Aurora remain in close contact by telephone. When Emma learns she is pregnant again, she hesitantly asks her mother for a loan, but Aurora declines and encourages Emma to get an abortion, so she can join the work force. Emma is not opposed to becoming financially independent, but she is dedicated to her role as a mother and wife. However, her loyalty is strained when Flap stays out all night, and she suspects he is having an affair. Their marriage becomes increasingly difficult with the birth of their third child, Melanie, and Flap is challenged to support the family on his meager income. One day, Emma is unable to settle her bill at the grocery store and a stranger named Sam Burns pays the difference. Emma is flattered by the gentleman’s courteousness and the two spark a flirtatious friendship. When Sam confides that his wife is asexual, Emma agrees to be his lover, even though she remains committed to Flap. Back in Houston, Aurora hosts a celebration of her “fiftieth” birthday, and is irked when a guest announces she is lying about her age. Aurora, who has been chaste since her husband’s death, longs to feel young again and leaves the party to visit her crass, alcoholic neighbor, Garrett Breedlove. The retired astronaut pursued her for a date years earlier, but Aurora declined the invitation, insulted by Garrett’s vulgar humor and his propensity to prowl after young women. At Garrett’s doorstep, Aurora reminds her neighbor of his past interest and they agree to meet the next day, but the date goes poorly, with Garrett’s unapologetic wantonness bucking Aurora’s propriety. When Aurora later telephones Emma to complain about the ill-fated rendezvous, Emma encourages her mother to let down her guard once and for all, and succumb to her sexual desires. Following her daughter’s advice, Aurora initiates a sexual affair with Garrett, and they begin to fall in love. Meanwhile, in Des Moines, Emma finds Flap flirting with a graduate student and drives their three children to Aurora’s house in Houston. As Emma returns home and jumps into her mother’s arms, Garrett is uncomfortable by the introduction of family life into his affair with Aurora, and slinks back to his house. Garrett later confesses to Aurora that the added responsibility of being a family man feels like an imposition, and ends their romance. Meanwhile, Flap accepts a university job in Nebraska and Emma returns to Iowa for the move. Shortly after relocating to Nebraska, Emma makes a surprise visit to Flap’s office, sees his female graduate student from Iowa, and realizes Flap switched jobs to pursue the young woman. Devastated and bewildered, Emma goes to the doctor with her daughter, Melanie, and the physician discovers two bumps in Emma’s armpit. A biopsy reveals the tumors are malignant, and she has advanced-stage cancer. Still, Emma is optimistic and indefatigable, and travels to New York City to visit her childhood friend, Patsy Clark. At a luncheon with Patsy’s wealthy friends, Emma shocks the ladies by admitting she never pursued a career outside motherhood. Returning to Nebraska, Emma’s condition worsens and Aurora holds court at the hospital, demanding the best care for her daughter. One day, Aurora receives a surprise visit from Garrett, who has overcome his fear of commitment to stand by her side. When Aurora takes Garrett back to the airport, she declares her love for him and demands a response. Garrett admits he loves her, too. Back at the hospital, Aurora recounts her excitement about the rekindled romance, but Emma is unable to share her mother’s joy. Her medications have failed, and she must make plans for her children’s future. Although Flap is a dedicated father, Emma decides to place them in her mother’s care, and Flap agrees. With the children’s living arrangements determined, Emma invites her two young sons to her bedside and bids them farewell. The oldest, Tommy, is angry with his mother and spurns her affection, but Emma is not intimidated by Tommy’s resentment and assures him that her maternal love will live on forever. As Flap sleeps in a chair beside Emma’s bed, she opens her eyes for the last time, waves goodbye to Aurora, and dies. Back in Houston, Aurora hosts a memorial in her garden and Garrett brings light to the solemn occasion. Embracing his new role as family man, Garrett escorts toddler Melanie through the flowerbed and invites Tommy next door to see his astronaut memorabilia. +

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

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