The World According to Garp (1982)

R | 137 mins | Comedy-drama | 1982

Director:

George Roy Hill

Writer:

Steve Tesich

Cinematographer:

Miroslav Ondricek

Production Designer:

Henry Bumstead

Production Companies:

Warner Bros., Inc., Pan Arts
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HISTORY


       According to a 7 Nov 1979 LAT news item, Warner Bros., Inc. purchased the film rights to John Irving’s novel in May 1978, as “one of the first pieces of material” acquired by Mark Rosenberg, vice president of production at the studio. A 5 Nov 1979 HR report announced that George Roy Hill would direct The World According to Garp as part of a “three-picture deal between Warner Bros., Inc., and Hill’s Pan Arts Productions company.” James Bridges, previously slated to direct, had written a screenplay for the film, but only Bridges and his agent read it. Writer Steve Tesich was hired after both Nora Ephron and William Goldman were approached to adapt the novel, as reported in a 7 Apr 1980 Village Voice brief. Rosenberg stated that three other writers approached Warner Bros., hoping to work on the film, but the studio passed, wary that the adaptation of a “very literary, very dark book” might prove unsuccessful if the wrong person were hired.
       Actor William Hurt allegedly made it known that he wanted to play “Roberta Muldoon” despite the fact that his ex-wife, Mary-Beth Hurt, had already been cast in the film, according to a 27 Jan 1981 LAHExam news item. According to an 11 May 1981 LAHExam brief, 9-year-old actor Justin Henry was cast as “Duncan” and began filming on set, but rumors circulated that Henry might not be working out. Nathan Babcock eventually replaced Henry in the role.
       As stated in production notes from AMPAS library, actors rehearsed at a lecture hall at New York’s Columbia University for two weeks prior to filming. ... More Less


       According to a 7 Nov 1979 LAT news item, Warner Bros., Inc. purchased the film rights to John Irving’s novel in May 1978, as “one of the first pieces of material” acquired by Mark Rosenberg, vice president of production at the studio. A 5 Nov 1979 HR report announced that George Roy Hill would direct The World According to Garp as part of a “three-picture deal between Warner Bros., Inc., and Hill’s Pan Arts Productions company.” James Bridges, previously slated to direct, had written a screenplay for the film, but only Bridges and his agent read it. Writer Steve Tesich was hired after both Nora Ephron and William Goldman were approached to adapt the novel, as reported in a 7 Apr 1980 Village Voice brief. Rosenberg stated that three other writers approached Warner Bros., hoping to work on the film, but the studio passed, wary that the adaptation of a “very literary, very dark book” might prove unsuccessful if the wrong person were hired.
       Actor William Hurt allegedly made it known that he wanted to play “Roberta Muldoon” despite the fact that his ex-wife, Mary-Beth Hurt, had already been cast in the film, according to a 27 Jan 1981 LAHExam news item. According to an 11 May 1981 LAHExam brief, 9-year-old actor Justin Henry was cast as “Duncan” and began filming on set, but rumors circulated that Henry might not be working out. Nathan Babcock eventually replaced Henry in the role.
       As stated in production notes from AMPAS library, actors rehearsed at a lecture hall at New York’s Columbia University for two weeks prior to filming. On the first night of shooting in New York City’s Lower East Side, Robin Williams, known as a comedy actor and stand-up comedian, attempted improvisation but quickly learned that Hill was not interested in going off the script. Williams stated, “I’m used to working at a high energy level…But George helped me go for subtler nuances that are vital to the character.” Having briefly competed as a wrestler in high school before sustaining an injury, Williams came to set with some knowledge but trained throughout the production with John Irving, the author of the novel and a seasoned wrestler, who sparred with the actor and collaborated with stunt coordinator Vic Magnotta. Actor John Lithgow stated that he tapped into his inner femininity and wore “form-fitting latex hips and breasts” to play the transsexual character, “Roberta Muldoon.”
       Production remained in New York City for five weeks, then moved to Fisher’s Island, NY, a “little-known summer resort” with fewer than 250 residents, only accessible by an unpredictable ferry service. The cast and crew stayed on the island for three weeks, and a helicopter airlift shuttled actresses Swoosie Kurtz and Jessica Tandy back and forth to New York City, as they were simultaneously performing in Broadway shows at night. Island locals took part as extras, and played a softball game against the cast and crew on the final Sunday of their stay. The Millbrook High School in Millbrook, NY, served as the location for the “Steering School.” Other locations included Eastchester, NY; Astoria Studios in Long Island City, NY; and New Brunswick, NJ. A 19 Aug 1981 Var brief announced that filming had recently completed.
       The Wilmerding Estate on Fisher’s Island, which doubled as Jenny Fields’ halfway house, was mentioned in publicity notes, causing the owner, David Wilmerding, to threaten legal action, according to a 30 Aug 1982 news item in New York . Wilmerding claimed that neither he, nor the house, should have received any publicity, and he now felt he was “a target.” Hill did not remember agreeing to keep the location a secret, but stated that he would “call Mr. Wilmerding and apologize.” Hill clarified that a set designer on The World According to Garp had first scouted the Wilmerding Estate in a 1978 book by Brendan Gill and Dudley Witney called Summer Places , and therefore it had received similar publicity in the past.
       According to an 18 Aug 1982 Var news item, Warner Bros. reported that the film’s “direct” negative cost was $14 million, and an additional $3,183,000 was spent toward overhead and interest.
       According to a 2 Jun 1982 LAHExam article, Warner Bros. set up free screenings at the University of California, Berkeley, and 49 other college campuses to publicize the film. According to Rob Friedman, Warner Bros.’ marketing vice president, the studio wanted to “penetrate the college market before summer vacation” and build word-of-mouth. The screenings at Berkeley were so popular that roughly 800 people were turned away after students filled the 750-seat auditorium. In addition to the screenings, Warner Bros. distributed posters around the campuses and placed stories in college newspapers with material “written in a style to appeal to a college audience.” Although they risked alienating college students if the adaptation of the book wasn’t to their liking, Friedman stated that Warner Bros. was confident because regular sneak previews had already been successful.
       Having previously sold 3.5 million copies, Irving’s novel was released mid-Jun 1982, one month prior to the film’s opening, with a picture of Robin Williams as “Garp” on the cover. The book’s movie tie-in version was expected to sell at least 1.5 million copies, as stated by Peter Minichiellio, an advertising and publicity executive for Pocket Books, in a 2 Aug 1982 NYT article.
       Critical reception for the film was mixed. Several reviewers praised Williams’ performance, although the 7 Jul 1982 Var review deemed it “hit-and-miss.” Cast members were generally lauded, with special notice going to Close and Lithgow, whose portrayal of a transsexual was the “most sympathetic” to ever appear onscreen according to the 2 Jul 1982 HR review. On 23 Jul 1982, Sheila Benson of LAT described the film as “deeply and meaningfully satisfying” and claimed that fans of Irving’s novel as well as those who had not read it would love the film version. Reviewers from LAT and NYT agreed that the novel was inherently difficult to adapt, and praised Hill and Tesich for managing to create an economical narrative out of Irving’s dense story.
       Glenn Close made her feature motion picture acting debut in the film. According to production notes, Hill first spotted the actress in the Broadway musical, Barnum , and felt instinctively that she was right for the part.
       The film received two Academy Award nominations: “Actor in a Supporting Role” – John Lithgow; and “Actress in a Supporting Role” – Glenn Close. Lithgow won the “Best Supporting Actor” prize from the New York Film Critics Circle, and Close was awarded “Best Supporting Actress” by the National Board of Review. The Los Angeles Film Critics awarded both Close and Lithgow with supporting actor accolades as well.

              End credits include a “Special Thanks” to the following organizations and individuals: The Mayor’s Office of Film, New York City; Astoria Production Center, New York; and staff and students of The Millbrook School, Millbrook, New York. Also appearing in the end credits is the following acknowledgement: “Original American Paintings courtesy The Kennedy Galleries, New York.”


The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Will Kuhn, a student at Oregon State University, with Jon Lewis as academic advisor.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 1982
p. 3, 20.
LAHExam
27 Jan 1981.
---
LAHExam
11 May 1981.
---
LAHExam
2 Jun 1982.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Nov 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Jul 1982
Section G, p. 1, 11.
New York
30 Aug 1982.
---
New York Times
14 Feb 1981.
---
New York Times
23 Jul 1982
p. 13.
New York Times
2 Aug 1982.
---
Variety
19 Aug 1981.
---
Variety
7 Jul 1982
p. 16.
Variety
18 Aug 1982.
---
Village Voice
7 Apr 1980.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Appears as a courtesy to The MacDowell Colony
Appears as a courtesy to The MacDowell Colony
+

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Appears as a courtesy to The MacDowell Colony
Appears as a courtesy to The MacDowell Colony
Steering School:
Dog's Head Mansion:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A George Roy Hill Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Gaffer
Key grip
Dolly grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Assoc film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Set dresser
Prop master
Const grip
Const carpenter
Scenic chargeman
Scenic artist
MUSIC
Mus adpt
Mus ed
Mus scoring mixer
SOUND
Rerec supv
Rerec supv
Supv sd ed
HSE Inc.
Sd ed
Sd ed
Looping ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Main & end titles/Opt eff des and prod by
New York City
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting asst
Scr supv
Asst to Ann Roth
Asst to George Roy Hill
Prod office coord
Loc auditor
Asst auditor
Bookkeeper
Loc mgr
DGA trainee
Teamster capt
Unit pub
Loc coord
Loc coord
Loc coord
Loc coord
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Helicopter pilot
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Roof stunt
Roof stunt
Car stunt
Stunt with dog
Piano stunt
ANIMATION
Animation seq
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The World According to Garp by John Irving (New York, 1978).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"When I'm Sixty-Four," written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, by The Beatles, courtesy of EMI Records, Limited
"There Will Never Be Another You," written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, by Nat 'King' Cole, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc.
"A Long Way to Go," by Alice Cooper, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1982
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 23 July 1982
Production Date:
10 April--early August 1981
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros., Inc.
Copyright Date:
5 October 1982
Copyright Number:
PA152973
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex® camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
137
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26660
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1944, at Dog’s Head Harbor, a small island in New Hampshire, Jenny Fields introduces her baby son to her affluent parents. She explains that the baby is named Garp after his father, Technical Sergeant Garp, whom she nursed on his deathbed during the war. Jenny tells Mr. and Mrs. Fields that she had sex only once with Garp, while he was unconscious, so that she could become pregnant. Upon hearing the news, Mrs. Fields faints. Several years later, Jenny works as a nurse at Everett Steering Academy, the private school that Garp attends. Garp asks questions about his dead father, who was a tail gunner, and dreams of flying with him. One day, Cushie Percy, a young girl who lives nearby, explains sex to Garp and invites him to take off her clothes. However, Cushie’s dog, Bonkers, interrupts and bites Garp’s ear. Soon after, Jenny encourages Garp to join the basketball team, but he becomes interested in wrestling, partly because wrestlers’ helmets remind him of pilots’ helmets. Several years later, Garp, now a high school student, becomes infatuated with Helen Holm, the daughter of his wrestling coach, Ernie Holm. During a wrestling match, Jenny notices that Garp is distracted by Helen, and later warns Ernie that Garp is full of lust for his daughter. When Garp and Helen discuss what types of people they might marry, Helen says she will marry a writer, if she marries at all. One night, Jenny wakes to the sound of typing, and later finds that Garp is writing about her life. She scolds him for it, and tells him he can only write about his own life, as she may want to ... +


In 1944, at Dog’s Head Harbor, a small island in New Hampshire, Jenny Fields introduces her baby son to her affluent parents. She explains that the baby is named Garp after his father, Technical Sergeant Garp, whom she nursed on his deathbed during the war. Jenny tells Mr. and Mrs. Fields that she had sex only once with Garp, while he was unconscious, so that she could become pregnant. Upon hearing the news, Mrs. Fields faints. Several years later, Jenny works as a nurse at Everett Steering Academy, the private school that Garp attends. Garp asks questions about his dead father, who was a tail gunner, and dreams of flying with him. One day, Cushie Percy, a young girl who lives nearby, explains sex to Garp and invites him to take off her clothes. However, Cushie’s dog, Bonkers, interrupts and bites Garp’s ear. Soon after, Jenny encourages Garp to join the basketball team, but he becomes interested in wrestling, partly because wrestlers’ helmets remind him of pilots’ helmets. Several years later, Garp, now a high school student, becomes infatuated with Helen Holm, the daughter of his wrestling coach, Ernie Holm. During a wrestling match, Jenny notices that Garp is distracted by Helen, and later warns Ernie that Garp is full of lust for his daughter. When Garp and Helen discuss what types of people they might marry, Helen says she will marry a writer, if she marries at all. One night, Jenny wakes to the sound of typing, and later finds that Garp is writing about her life. She scolds him for it, and tells him he can only write about his own life, as she may want to write about herself someday. Garp encounters Cushie, who is home from her boarding school, and she performs fellatio on him. Pooh, Cushie’s younger sister, spots them and calls Helen over to watch. Later, when Garp delivers his first short story to Helen, she reprimands him for his interaction with Cushie and throws the pages of his story into the wind. As Garp tracks down the pages, he runs into Bonkers, Cushie’s dog, and bites off part of Bonkers’s ear after the dog tries to attack him. When he finishes school, Garp moves with Jenny to New York City to pursue his writing career. Walking on the street one day, Jenny notices a hooker and convinces her to have coffee and talk about her job. Garp joins them, and when Jenny is done with the conversation, she pays the hooker to have sex with her son. Jenny returns home and begins writing her memoir, “Sexual Suspect.” Meanwhile, Garp finds inspiration for a new short story, and when Jenny completes her manuscript, Garp has finished his story, “The Magic Gloves.” Together they go to John Wolfe, a book publisher, who agrees to publish “Sexual Suspect” as well as Garp’s first novel. After Jenny’s book becomes a best-seller and feminist manifesto, Wolfe consoles Garp, assuring him that he is a very good writer; however, Wolfe admits that Jenny’s book is a phenomenon because it has a timely, political message. At a feminist rally, a lone gunman attempts to assassinate Jenny but fails. Sometime later, a real estate agent leads Garp and Helen around a house. After a biplane runs into the side of the house, Garp agrees to buy it on the spot, convinced that the odds of another disaster happening there are slim. Garp and Helen have a child named Duncan, and Garp stays home with him while Helen teaches at a nearby college. One day, Garp takes his family to visit Jenny, who has inherited her parents’ house at Dog’s Head Harbor. Numerous followers of Jenny’s have taken up residency there, including Roberta Muldoon, a postoperative transsexual who was formerly a professional football player, and several Ellen Jamesians, women who cut off their tongues to protest the rape and mutilation of a young girl named Ellen James. Garp finds the Ellen Jamesians’ self-mutilation disturbing, and a rift between him and the Ellen Jamesians develops. A few months later, Helen gives birth to another child, Walt. After Garp’s new novel achieves commercial success, one of Helen’s students, Michael Milton, begins to make sexual advances toward her. One night, Garp and Helen go to the movie theater, and Helen sees Michael with his girlfriend, Marge Tallworth. Afterward, Garp takes the teenage babysitter home, and they have sex in his car. Later, when Helen suggests that he seduced the babysitter, Garp denies it. Helen eventually agrees to have an affair with Michael, but swears him to secrecy. At Jenny’s house, Garp learns that Ellen James has written to the Ellen Jamesians, asking that they disband. Returning home, Garp runs into Marge Tallworth outside his house, who delivers a letter stating that Helen is having an affair. Garp takes the children out for dinner and a movie, and calls Helen from a pay phone, ordering her to end the affair with Michael. Though Helen follows his orders, Michael refuses to break up without seeing her one more time and insists on coming to her house. When he arrives, Helen talks with Michael inside his car, and he coerces her to perform fellatio. In the meantime, Garp leaves the movie early and drives the kids home. When he peforms a trick for the kids, turning off the headlights and coasting into their driveway, Garp crashes into Michael’s car. Walt dies from the impact, Duncan loses an eye, and Garp and Helen are both injured. At Jenny’s house, Garp and his family rehabilitate, and over time, Garp is able to forgive Helen with Jenny’s help. After the reconciliation, they agree to have another child and Garp writes a critique of the Ellen Jamesians, entitled “Ellen.” Jenny helps deliver Helen’s baby girl, whom they name after Jenny. Directly after the baby is born, Jenny attends a political rally, where she is assassinated. Following Jenny’s private funeral, Garp sneaks into her memorial funeral dressed as a woman, as only females are allowed to attend. In the pews, Pooh recognizes Garp and identifies him to the crowd. The real Ellen James helps Garp escape the angry mob of women, and identifies herself in the hall by pointing to a copy of his book, “Ellen,” and pointing to herself. Later, Garp takes over Ernie’s job as the wrestling coach at Everett Steering Academy. One day, during wrestling practice, Pooh arrives, dressed like a nurse, and shoots Garp several times. As the emergency helicopter flies Garp to the nearest hospital with Helen beside him, Garp tells her to remember everything and smiles as he says, “I’m flying.” +

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

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