Torch Song Trilogy (1988)

R | 117,120 or 126 mins | Comedy-drama | 14 December 1988

Director:

Paul Bogart

Producer:

Howard Gottfried

Cinematographer:

Mikael Salomon

Production Designer:

Richard Hoover

Production Company:

New Line Cinema
Full page view
HISTORY

Preceding opening credits, actor Harvey Fierstien, as the character of “Arnold,” addresses the audience: “I think my biggest problem is being young and beautiful. It’s my biggest problem ‘cause I’ve never been young and beautiful. Oh, I’ve been Beautiful. God knows I’ve been young. But never the twain have met. Not so’s anyone would notice anyway. You know, a shrink acquaintance of mine, believes this to be the root of my attraction to a class of men most subtly described as old and ugly. I think he’s underestimating my wheedles. See, an ugly person who goes after a pretty person gets nothing but trouble. But a pretty person who goes after a ugly person gets at least cab fare. Now I ain’t saying I never fell for a pretty face. But when les jeux sont faits--give me a toad with a pot of gold and I'll give you three meals a day. ‘Cause honeys, ain’t no such thing as a toad when the lights go down. It’s either feast or famine. It’s the daylight you got to watch out for. Well, face it. A thing of beauty is a joy till sunrise …”
       The picture is based on writer-actor Harvey Fierstein’s play, Torch Song Trilogy, comprising of three one-act plays: The International Stud, Fugue in a Nursery, and Widows and Children First. The International Stud premiered off-off-Broadway in 1976 at the Theater for the New City in New York City, and was later produced in 1978 at La MaMa Experimental ...

More Less

Preceding opening credits, actor Harvey Fierstien, as the character of “Arnold,” addresses the audience: “I think my biggest problem is being young and beautiful. It’s my biggest problem ‘cause I’ve never been young and beautiful. Oh, I’ve been Beautiful. God knows I’ve been young. But never the twain have met. Not so’s anyone would notice anyway. You know, a shrink acquaintance of mine, believes this to be the root of my attraction to a class of men most subtly described as old and ugly. I think he’s underestimating my wheedles. See, an ugly person who goes after a pretty person gets nothing but trouble. But a pretty person who goes after a ugly person gets at least cab fare. Now I ain’t saying I never fell for a pretty face. But when les jeux sont faits--give me a toad with a pot of gold and I'll give you three meals a day. ‘Cause honeys, ain’t no such thing as a toad when the lights go down. It’s either feast or famine. It’s the daylight you got to watch out for. Well, face it. A thing of beauty is a joy till sunrise …”
       The picture is based on writer-actor Harvey Fierstein’s play, Torch Song Trilogy, comprising of three one-act plays: The International Stud, Fugue in a Nursery, and Widows and Children First. The International Stud premiered off-off-Broadway in 1976 at the Theater for the New City in New York City, and was later produced in 1978 at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, another off-off-Broadway theater on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The following year, La MaMa staged productions of Fugue in a Nursery, and Widows and Children First. On 16 Oct 1981, Torch Song Trilogy opened off-off-Broadway at the Richard Allen Center. The play was first performed on Broadway on 10 Jun 1982 at the Little Theatre in New York City, and closed 19 May 1985. Torch Song Trilogy received two 1983 Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play (Harvey Fierstein).
       The 28 May 1988 NYT reported that Fierstein had “rejected earlier Hollywood interest” in his play, because producers were only concerned with the third act, Widows and Children First. An article in the 17 Jul 1988 LAT revealed that in 1984, producer Howard Gottfried assisted Fierstein in writing a screenplay featuring all three acts. Gottfried revealed that there had been interest in the project from Twentieth Century Fox and Columbia Pictures. However, there was no interest in having Fierstein reprise his stage role as “Arnold,” and actors Richard Dreyfuss and Dustin Hoffman were reportedly suggested for the film.
       According to the 28 Jun 1988 HR production chart, principal photography began on 17 May 1988, with locations in New York City and Los Angeles, CA. A 28 May 1988 NYT article noted that filming also took place in New Jersey. The production chart noted that Torch Song Productions was associated with the picture. However, Torch Song Productions is not credited onscreen. The 18 May 1988 Var reported that actor Brian Kerwin, who played the character of “Ed” on statge in Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA, was cast as well. Actor Matthew Broderick had appeared in the 1981 production of Torch Song Trilogy in the role of “David,” but for the picture, he was cast in the role of “Alan.” A brief in the 10 Apr 1988 LAT noted that the production would remain set in the 1970s, “to free it from the specter of AIDS,” prevalent in the 1980s. Reports varied on the picture’s budget, ranging from $4--$7 million, with some sources citing additional costs for prints and advertising.
       As reported in the 30 Nov 1988 Var, the world premiere was scheduled for 5 Dec 1988 at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in New York City as a benefit for the Hetrick-Martin Institute, and sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and New Line Cinema. The 7 Dec 1988 HR reported that the picture premiered in Los Angeles, CA, on 7 Dec 1988 to benefit the charity Hollywood Helps.
       The 23 Jan 1989 DV stated the film opened in limited release on 14 Dec 1988 in Los Angeles and New York City, followed by additional openings on 23 Dec 1988 in eight key markets. Six weeks from the film’s release, the 24 Jan 1989 LAT reported that Torch Song Trilogy had expanded to forty-four screens, and had a $1.6 million box-office gross.
       Four years after the picture’s release, the 11 May 1992 Var reported that Fierstein, executive producer Ronald K. Fierstein, and Harvey Entertainment had filed a lawsuit in New York Federal Court against New Line Cinema and Worldvision. The suited alleged that although Fierstein rejected New Line Cinema’s removal of twenty percent of the film to make a television version, Worldvision broadcast the edited version in Los Angeles and New York. The outcome of the suit has not been determined.
       The picture marked the last feature film directed by Paul Bogart.
       End credits state: “The Glines production of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy was presented on Broadway by Kenneth Waissman, Martin Markinson, Lawrence Lane and John Glines with BetMar and Donald Trick.” End credits also state: “This film is dedicated to all people involved in the struggle against AIDS.”
       Music credits misspell the name of artist Martin Quittenton as "Martin Quinttenton."

Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
23 Jan 1989
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1988
p. 1, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 1988
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Dec 1988
p. 4, 77.
Los Angeles Times
10 Apr 1988
Calendar, p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jul 1988
Calendar, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
14 Dec 1988
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
24 Jan 1989
Calendar, p. 2.
New York Times
28 May 1988
Section 1, p. 14.
New York Times
14 Dec 1988
Section C, p. 19.
New York Times
13 Jul 1989
Section C, p. 17.
Variety
18 May 1988
p. 18.
Variety
30 Nov 1988
p. 7.
Variety
7 Dec 1988
p. 22.
Variety
11 May 1992
p. 143.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
New Line Cinema presents
a Howard Gottfried / Ronald K. Fierstein production
a Paul Bogart film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Prod mgr, New York
2d asst dir, New York
2d 2d asst dir, New York
DGA trainee, New York
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Scr
based on his play
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Best boy elec
Elec
Elec
Key grip
Dolly grip
Best boy grip
Still photog
Cam op, New York
1st asst cam, New York
2d asst cam, New York
Rigging gaffer, New York
Best boy elec, New York
Elec, New York
Elec, New York
Key grip, New York
Best boy grip, New York
Grip, New York
Grip, New York
Still photog, New York
Cam and lenses supplied by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Post-prod supv
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadman
Set dresser
Set dresser
Swing gang
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Const foreman
Scenic artist
Set dec, New York
Asst set dec, New York
Leadman, New York
Set dresser, New York
Prop master, New York
Asst prop master, New York
Const coord, New York
Key set builder, New York
Asst set builder, New York
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Key costumer
Ward supv, New York
Ward asst, New York
MUSIC
Mus adpt and cond/Addl mus comp
Supv mus ed
Mus consultant
Mus rec
Mus rec
Mus rec at
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Cableman
Digital audio post-prod by
Post sd supv
Digital sd eff des
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Mixing asst
Dial ed
Asst dial ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff asst
Foley rec
Foley rec
Foley artist
Foley artist
Digital systems integrator
Sd mixer, New York
Boom op, New York
2d boom op, New York
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Title des
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Supv makeup artist
Supv hair stylist
Asst makeup
Asst hair
Makeup, New York
Hair, New York
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Prod supv
Asst prod supv
Scr supv
Asst prod coord
Asst to Paul Bogart
Asst loc mgr
Prod auditor
Asst prod auditor
Post-prod auditor
Promotions coord
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Unit pub
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Video playback
Craft services provided by
Extras casting (L.A.)
Security services
Prod coord, New York
Asst prod coord, New York
Loc, New York
Loc asst, New York
Asst auditor, New York
Asst auditor, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Prod asst, New York
Transportation capt, New York
Craft services, New York
Extras casting, New York
Extras casting, New York
Loc equipped by
Videotape post-prod
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Torch Song Trilogy by Harvey Fierstein (New York, 1978).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
SONGS
“Dames,” by Harry Warren & Al Dubin, © 1934 (Renewed) Warner Bros. Inc. (ASCAP)
“Love For Sale,” by Cole Porter, © 1930 (Renewed) Warner Bros. Inc. (ASCAP)
“As Time Goes By,” by Herman Hupfeld, © 1931 (Renewed) Warner Bros. Inc. (ASCAP)
+
SONGS
“Dames,” by Harry Warren & Al Dubin, © 1934 (Renewed) Warner Bros. Inc. (ASCAP)
“Love For Sale,” by Cole Porter, © 1930 (Renewed) Warner Bros. Inc. (ASCAP)
“As Time Goes By,” by Herman Hupfeld, © 1931 (Renewed) Warner Bros. Inc. (ASCAP)
“Svelte,” by Joseph Renard & Steve Cohen, © 1988 Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI)
“Brandenburg Concerto No. 3,” by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by The Academy of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood, conductor, courtesy of London Records, a division of PolyGram Classics
“Hot Pants,” by James Brown & Fred Wesley, performed by James Brown, © 1972 Unichappell Music Inc. (BMI), courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects: a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
“I Love You, Porgy,” by George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin and DuBois Heyward, performed by Bill Evans, © 1935 (Renewed) Chappell & Co. (ASCAP), courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects: a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
“Maggie May,” by Rod Stewart & Martin Quinttenton, performed by Rod Stewart, © 1971 Rod Stewart/Rightsong Music (BMI)/H.G. Music Inc. (ASCAP), courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects: a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
“This Time The Dream’s On Me,” by Johnny Mercer & Harold Arlen, performed by Ella Fitzgerald, © 1941 (Renewed) Warner Bros. Inc. (ASCAP), courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects: a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
“Skylark,” by Johnny Mercer & Hoagy Carmichael, performed by Marilyn Scott, © 1942 (Renewed) WB Music Corp. (ASCAP), Frank Music Corp. (ASCAP), courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects: a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
“I Want To Be Happy,” by Vincent Youmans & Irving Caesar, performed by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, © 1924 (Renewed) WB Music Corp. (ASCAP), courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects: a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
“‘S Wonderful,” by George Gershwin & Ira Gershwin, performed by Joe Williams with Count Basie and his Orchestra, © 1927 (Renewed) WB Music Corp. (ASCAP), courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects: a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
“What’s New?,” by Bob Haggart & Johnny Burke, performed by Billie Holiday, © 1939 (Renewed) Warner Bros. Inc. (ASCAP)/Limerick Music Corp./Marke Music Pub./Reganesque Music/Timo-Co. Music (ASCAP), courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects: a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
“Can’t We Be Friends,” by Kay Swift & Paul James, performed by Anita O’Day, © 1929 (Renewed) WB Music Corp. (ASCAP), courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects: a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
“Body And Soul,” by John Green, Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton, performed by Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, © 1930 (Renewed) Warner Bros. Inc. (ASCAP), courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects: a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
“But Not For Me,” by George Gershwin & Ira Gershwin, performed by Billie Holiday, © 1930 (Renewed) WB Music Corp. (ASCAP), courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects: a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
“Body And Soul,” by John Green, Edward Heyman, Robert Sour and Frank Eyton, performed by The Charlie Haden Quartet West, © 1930 (Renewed) Warner Bros. Inc. (ASCAP), courtesy of PolyGram Special Projects: a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
+
SONGWRITERS/COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 December 1988
Premiere Information:
World benefit premiere in New York City: 5 Dec 1988; Los Angeles benefit premiere: 7 Dec 1988; Los Angeles and New York openings: 14 Dec 1988
Production Date:
began 17 May 1988
Copyright Info
Claimant
DATE
CopyrightNumber
New Line Cinema Corporation
21 February 1989
PA420542
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Duration(in mins):
117,120 or 126
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1971 New York City, Arnold Beckoff, a gay man and female impersonator, performs at the Club East Fourth as “Virginia Hamn.” After a show, he goes to Stud Bar, a local homosexual hangout, and meets Ed Reese, a bisexual teacher. Arnold and Ed begin dating, with Arnold falling in love. However, Ed sees the relationship as casual and starts dating a woman named Laurel. When Arnold finds out, he accuses Ed of being ashamed of their relationship and breaks up with him. In 1973 as Arnold performs onstage, he is heckled by a trio of drunken young men. Gregory, a cabaret regular, threatens to hurt Alan, one of the three, but Alan faints. Arnold brings Alan to his apartment to recuperate. The following morning, Alan thanks Arnold for taking care of him and asks him out to dinner. Arnold is reluctant, because Alan is much younger, but he accepts the dinner invitation. They fall in love and move in together. Three years later, while filling out adoption applications, Arnold’s mother, whom he calls "Ma," telephones with news that Arnold’s father has died. After the funeral, Ma shows Arnold and his brother, Phil, their family cemetery plots. Later at the wake, Ma announces that she moving to Florida. In the summer of 1977, Arnold receives a telephone call from Ed’s lover, Laurel, inviting him to visit them at their weekend home upstate. At first, Arnold refuses, but Alan wants to meet Arnold’s former partner. During the visit, Ed seduces Alan and sleeps with him. Laurel finds out and tells Arnold. Although upset ...

More Less

In 1971 New York City, Arnold Beckoff, a gay man and female impersonator, performs at the Club East Fourth as “Virginia Hamn.” After a show, he goes to Stud Bar, a local homosexual hangout, and meets Ed Reese, a bisexual teacher. Arnold and Ed begin dating, with Arnold falling in love. However, Ed sees the relationship as casual and starts dating a woman named Laurel. When Arnold finds out, he accuses Ed of being ashamed of their relationship and breaks up with him. In 1973 as Arnold performs onstage, he is heckled by a trio of drunken young men. Gregory, a cabaret regular, threatens to hurt Alan, one of the three, but Alan faints. Arnold brings Alan to his apartment to recuperate. The following morning, Alan thanks Arnold for taking care of him and asks him out to dinner. Arnold is reluctant, because Alan is much younger, but he accepts the dinner invitation. They fall in love and move in together. Three years later, while filling out adoption applications, Arnold’s mother, whom he calls "Ma," telephones with news that Arnold’s father has died. After the funeral, Ma shows Arnold and his brother, Phil, their family cemetery plots. Later at the wake, Ma announces that she moving to Florida. In the summer of 1977, Arnold receives a telephone call from Ed’s lover, Laurel, inviting him to visit them at their weekend home upstate. At first, Arnold refuses, but Alan wants to meet Arnold’s former partner. During the visit, Ed seduces Alan and sleeps with him. Laurel finds out and tells Arnold. Although upset with Alan for cheating on him, Arnold forgives him. Two years later, Arnold receives a letter from Laurel announcing she and Ed are getting married. Alan insists they also get married, since their adoption application was approved. Excited, Arnold and Alan learn they will be getting David, a fifteen-year-old gay teenager. To prepare for David’s arrival, Arnold and Alan move into a new apartment. While Alan is out buying food, he sees a gang attack an older man, thinking he is gay. Alan runs to stop them, but is hit in the head with a baseball bat and killed. A year later, Arnold starts writing and directing plays, raising David on his own. Ed, separated from Laurel, sleeps on the living room couch. Learning that his Ma is coming for a visit, Arnold is worried, because he never told her about adopting David. Although he orders David and Ed not to be in the apartment during her stay, Ma arrives early. Arnold takes Ma to the cemetery to visit the graves of Arnold’s father and Alan. Ma is ashamed of Arnold for burying Alan in the family plot. Frustrated, Arnold tells her that Alan was the love of his life, and he was murdered in a homophobic attack. Returning to the apartment, Ma admits she was always ashamed of Arnold’s sexuality. Arnold insists he is living his life the way he wants. However, if she cannot give him love and respect, he does not want her to be in his or David’s lives. Unable to accept Arnold’s lifestyle, Ma makes plans to leave in the morning. Upset, Arnold goes to Stud Bar to get drunk. Ed finds him, and on the way home, asks Arnold to give him another chance, but Arnold believes Ed will never be open about their relationship. As Ma prepares to leave, she tells Arnold she wishes she knew about Alan’s death, because she went through the same thing when Arnold’s father died. After Ma leaves, Arnold realizes that for the first time in their lives he and his mother understand each another.

Less

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.