The Ballad Of The Sad Cafe


1h 40m 1991

Brief Synopsis

A small-town eccentric opens a café in her decaying home.

Film Details

Also Known As
Ballad of the Sad Cafe
MPAA Rating
PG-13
Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
1991
Location
Austin, Texas, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m

Synopsis

A tale of unrequited love involving a domineering Southern woman, her former ex-convict husband, and a dwarf.

Crew

Edward Albee

Play As Source Material

Christena Alcorn

Script Supervisor

Aaron Anawalt

Grip

David Anderson

Rerecording

Steve Belsky

Electrician

Dan Best

Assistant

Paul Bradley

Executive Producer

Don Breneman

Production

Stuart Brown

Assistant Director

Robert K Burns

Dialect Coach

Jim Chandler

Other

Mary Church

Production Manager

Joe Cooper

Other

Tivice Davenport

Hairdresser

Ryan Davis

Swing Gang

Joe Dial

Special Thanks To

Tom Dreesen

Construction Coordinator

Joe Dujka

Assistant

Marianna Elliott

Costume Designer

Charles Elson

Carpenter

Jody Fischer

Special Thanks To

John Foster

Sound Editor

Lisa Germany

Production Coordinator

Mark Ginsberg

Color Timer

Marcos Gonzalez

Assistant Camera Operator

Carlos Guerra

Assistant Camera Operator

Nayeem Hafizka

Assistant Director

Scott Hale

Set Decorator

John Hayward

Rerecording

Jim Hensz

Assistant

Patty Herring

Assistant

Sylvie Herrou

Makeup Assistant

Robert Hicks

Other

Michael Hirst

Screenplay

Lauri Hoese

Assistant

Kim Horridge

Other

Trula Hossier

Assistant Director

Michelle Houston

Assistant

Janice Janecek

Property Master

Virginia Jenkins

Assistant

Richard Lee Jones

Special Effects

David Kaplan

Assistant

Sunil Kirparam

Production Auditor

Burton Knight

Swing Gang

John Knight

Key Grip

David A Knott

Location Manager

Randy Kovitz

Segment Director

Drew Kunin

Sound Mixer

John Lacy

Electrician

David Lane

Apprentice

Walter Lassally

Director Of Photography

Tom Lemman

Assistant

Richard C Lewis

Other

Mary M. Lively

Assistant

Karen Luzius

Scenic Artist

Andrew Marcus

Editor

Gary Marcus

Assistant Director

James Marsh

Music Editor

Kathryn Martin

Post-Production Assistant

Lance Mathis

Assistant

Tony Mathis

Assistant

Drew Mayer-oakes

Assistant

Elizabeth Mcbee

Assistant

Shisha Mcbee

Assistant

Carson Mccullers

From Story

Bucky Meadows

Special Thanks To

Ismail Merchant

Producer

Jesse Miranda

Special Effects

Jeff Mitchell

Special Thanks To

Craig Mooney

Swing Gang

Randy E Moore

Special Effects

Sarah Morton

Dialogue Editor

Kelly Nelson

Assistant

Lana Nelson

Special Thanks To

Lonnie Nelson

Production

Willie Nelson

Special Thanks To

Kate O'neill

Assistant Sound Editor

Julie O'rourke

Wardrobe Supervisor

Briggs Palmer

Assistant Camera Operator

Briggs Palmer

Camera

John Paterson

Carpenter

D R Patrick

Other

Eric Paul

Special Thanks To

Michael Peal

Storyboard Artist

Kari Perkins

Wardrobe Supervisor

Turk Pipkin

Special Thanks To

David Platt

Boom Operator

Jackie Powell-coffey

Extras Agent/Coordinator

Harry Rabinowitz

Music Conductor

Scott Ramsey

Gaffer

Shirley Rich

Casting

Richard Robbins

Music

Michael T Roberts

Art Director

John Rogers

Special Thanks To

Donald Rosenfeld

Associate Producer

Kate Mcdonald Roth

Assistant Editor

Nicole Ruffine

Dailies

Tom San Martin

Negative Cutting

Bruno Santini

Production Designer

Derrick Santini

Photography

Kaya Schlagintweit

Assistant Art Director

Arnold Schuster

Negative Cutting

Debbie Sharp

Assistant

Bill Sommerville-large

Other

Robert Stewart

Music

Angelo L. Suasnovar

Best Boy Grip

Sol Sussman

Assistant

Mike Swenson

Best Boy

Kevin Tayler

Rerecording

Cory Van Dyke

Assistant

Amelia Villero

Assistant Director

Joe Violante

Dailies

Jenny Walker

Sound Editor

Sheila Walker

Makeup

Ralph Watson

Steadicam Operator

Gaylene West

Production Auditor

Walt Wilkins

Special Thanks To

Margaret Winters

Production Coordinator

Andrew Wood

Carpenter

Christopher Woods

Assistant Costume Designer

Film Details

Also Known As
Ballad of the Sad Cafe
MPAA Rating
PG-13
Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
1991
Location
Austin, Texas, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m

Articles

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe


The Ballad of the Sad Café (1991) was based on Carson McCullers' 1951 novella of a Southern woman whose husband returns from prison and disrupts the brief happiness she has found with her small café and her hunchbacked cousin. Edward Albee adapted the novella into a play, which debuted at the Martin Beck Theater in New York City on October 30, 1963. It starred Colleen Dewhurst as Miss Amelia and Michael Dunn as the diminutive and hunchbacked Lymon. The play won the 1964 Tony Award and Dunn would be nominated for Supporting Actor. This play was the basis for Michael Hirst's screenplay for the Merchant-Ivory film, directed by actor/author Simon Callow, who had worked as an actor in several Merchant-Ivory productions (most famously as The Rev. Mr. Beebe in A Room with a View, 1986); the cast includes Vanessa Redgrave, Keith Carradine, Cork Hubbert and Rod Steiger.

The plot of the film is pure Southern Gothic. Georgian woman Amelia falls in love with her hunchbacked 4'11" cousin, Lymon, and opens a café while her husband of 10 days Marvin Macy (who she refused to sleep with) is in prison. When Macy returns, Lymon turns his affection to him and the two turn on Amelia, culminating in a bare-knuckled fist fight between Macy and Amelia. Carradine later said, "I haven't felt any inhibitions at all about fighting a woman. Perhaps it's because Vanessa is such a towering in terms of accomplishments; not to mention her physical stature. She's all woman."

Callow found the play "too talkative" and worked to cut dialogue as well as the role of the Narrator (played by Roscoe Lee Browne in the original stage production). Albee, while not directly involved in the production, did advise James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, "For the film to succeed to McCullers' intentions it must bring a mythic quality to the relationship. It is not the story of a shy, sexually repressed, mannish woman set on by a brutish punk. It is the story of two people who however unclearly to themselves they may comprehend it, are engaged in a bizarre 'grand passion' - the one real chance in their lives for something very special - the one opportunity for them both to fully realize themselves. It is this quality, this awareness which reaches toward the mythic, and makes what happens when Marvin Macy comes back so poignant, so inevitable, and the stuff of true tragedy. It is this which is missing from the screenplay. As it is now, a punk gets rejected and comes back and does his dirty work. That is not what McCullers intended, is not what I intended, and is not what the screenplay should be offering us."

Vanessa Redgrave proceeded to mold her own interpretation of the main character based on her instincts as an actress. "I thought I should make very simple, clear choices about how to play Miss Amelia," she wrote in her autobiography. "I discussed each choice with Simon Callow, our director. I had to make a choice about her appearance, and I am still not sure I made the right one. Carson McCullers specifically writes that Miss Amelia has dark hair, but I thought I should have as little disguise as possible in the part. Given the fact that I am blonde and basically fair, with blue eyes, I decided to go for looking like a real straw-headed Southerner...I thought that Miss Amelia should be presented like a cartoon image, looking the same way until something very significant happens in the story. When it does, she changes out of her dungarees and wears a red dress to mark the fact that she has become a woman. I wanted her to appear to have remained rather like a twelve- or thirteen-year-old boy emotionally."

The Ballad of the Sad Café was filmed in and around Austin and Seguin, Texas and Redgrave recalled that producer Ismail Merchant was actively involved in the production, going to great lengths to find the most talented and knowledgeable people to work on the film. "For instance," Redgrave said, "George Burns, who lectured in the English department at Austin University, coached me for the Southern dialect and accent of Miss Amelia. Not only that, he knew how to wiggle and flap his ears, and he made an electrical device that, placed behind Cork Hubbert's ears, produced a wiggle for the camera that convinced all spectators that Cousin Lymon could flap his ears."

When The Ballad of the Sad Café was released in theatres, the critical reception was decidedly mixed, just as McCuller's original novella had divided reviewers over its reception. Vincent Canby of The New York Times was unenthusiastic. "From the moment Miss Amelia is discovered shelling peas, or doing some such down-home thing, and singing "Jimmy Crack Corn" in the accents of Ruritania's Deep South, The Ballad of the Sad Café is a seriously misguided hoot. Miss Redgrave was, is and will always remain one of the greatest actresses in what's generally referred to as the English-speaking theater. She is so great, in fact, that when she goes off the track, as she does here, she continues to barrel forward with the momentum of a transcontinental express train that will not be stopped. The spectacle takes the breath away. The Ballad of the Sad Café is that kind of movie. It's not silly as much as it's majestically wrongheaded. It's a movie in which all options have been considered at length before the worst possible choices have been made. But then The Ballad of the Sad Café is a heartless literary work."

The New Yorker reviewer of the film was less critical but still had reservations. "There are skillful and impressive moments in The Ballad of the Sad Café, but the movie [...] is awkward and puzzling, and given the nature of McCullers' material, I doubt whether any kind of treatment would have worked. [...] In his first film, Simon Callow, distinguished British actor and stage director, shows some talent with the camera but much of the movie has that frozen portentousness of a weightily unprofitable night in the theater." But there were positive responses as well. Joe Brown of The Washington Post called it "an exceedingly odd little film, but haunting in its way," and added that the film "is certainly beautiful in the Merchant-Ivory manner; the film can be seen as a painterly tableau vivant of the Deep South. And vivid images of Redgrave abound -- Miss Amelia wading through the midnight swamp to her still; the first shy almost-smile crossing her face as she watches Lymon charm the rubes." Roger Ebert also found it praiseworthy, noting "I suppose there was once a time when "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" was thought to contain truths about life as lived. I can no longer relate to it that way. It now plays more like a prose opera, in which jealousy and passion inflame the characters, who are trapped in the sins of the past. To see the movie for its story is an exercise in futility. But it works well as gesture and flamboyance, a stage for outsize tragic figures." Clearly this is a movie where you will need to decide for yourself.

Producer: Ismail Merchant
Director: Simon Callow
Screenplay: Carson McCullers (novel); Edward Albee (play); Michael Hirst (writer)
Cinematography: Walter Lassally
Art Direction: Michael T. Roberts
Music: Richard Robbins
Film Editing: Andrew Marcus
Cast: Vanessa Redgrave (Miss Amelia), Keith Carradine (Marvin Macy), Cork Hubbert (Cousin Lymon), Rod Steiger (Rev. Willin), Austin Pendleton (Lawyer Taylor), Beth Dixon (Mary Hale), Lanny Flaherty (Merlie Ryan), Mert Hatfield (Stumpy McPhail), Earl Hindman (Henry Macy), Anne Pitoniak (Mrs. McPhail).
C-101m.

by Lorraine LoBianco

SOURCES:
Canby, Vincent "Review/Film Festival; Vanessa Redgrave in a Cursed Triangle of Love and Hate", The New York Times 28 Mar 91
Vanessa Redgrave: An Autobiography (Random House)
Erskine, Thomas L., Welsch, James Michael, Tibbetts, John C. and Video Versions: Film Adaptations of Plays on Video
Gussow, Mel Edward Albee: A Singular Journey: A Biography
The Internet Movie Database
The New Yorker 27 May 91
The Ballad Of The Sad Cafe

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe

The Ballad of the Sad Café (1991) was based on Carson McCullers' 1951 novella of a Southern woman whose husband returns from prison and disrupts the brief happiness she has found with her small café and her hunchbacked cousin. Edward Albee adapted the novella into a play, which debuted at the Martin Beck Theater in New York City on October 30, 1963. It starred Colleen Dewhurst as Miss Amelia and Michael Dunn as the diminutive and hunchbacked Lymon. The play won the 1964 Tony Award and Dunn would be nominated for Supporting Actor. This play was the basis for Michael Hirst's screenplay for the Merchant-Ivory film, directed by actor/author Simon Callow, who had worked as an actor in several Merchant-Ivory productions (most famously as The Rev. Mr. Beebe in A Room with a View, 1986); the cast includes Vanessa Redgrave, Keith Carradine, Cork Hubbert and Rod Steiger. The plot of the film is pure Southern Gothic. Georgian woman Amelia falls in love with her hunchbacked 4'11" cousin, Lymon, and opens a café while her husband of 10 days Marvin Macy (who she refused to sleep with) is in prison. When Macy returns, Lymon turns his affection to him and the two turn on Amelia, culminating in a bare-knuckled fist fight between Macy and Amelia. Carradine later said, "I haven't felt any inhibitions at all about fighting a woman. Perhaps it's because Vanessa is such a towering in terms of accomplishments; not to mention her physical stature. She's all woman." Callow found the play "too talkative" and worked to cut dialogue as well as the role of the Narrator (played by Roscoe Lee Browne in the original stage production). Albee, while not directly involved in the production, did advise James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, "For the film to succeed to McCullers' intentions it must bring a mythic quality to the relationship. It is not the story of a shy, sexually repressed, mannish woman set on by a brutish punk. It is the story of two people who however unclearly to themselves they may comprehend it, are engaged in a bizarre 'grand passion' - the one real chance in their lives for something very special - the one opportunity for them both to fully realize themselves. It is this quality, this awareness which reaches toward the mythic, and makes what happens when Marvin Macy comes back so poignant, so inevitable, and the stuff of true tragedy. It is this which is missing from the screenplay. As it is now, a punk gets rejected and comes back and does his dirty work. That is not what McCullers intended, is not what I intended, and is not what the screenplay should be offering us." Vanessa Redgrave proceeded to mold her own interpretation of the main character based on her instincts as an actress. "I thought I should make very simple, clear choices about how to play Miss Amelia," she wrote in her autobiography. "I discussed each choice with Simon Callow, our director. I had to make a choice about her appearance, and I am still not sure I made the right one. Carson McCullers specifically writes that Miss Amelia has dark hair, but I thought I should have as little disguise as possible in the part. Given the fact that I am blonde and basically fair, with blue eyes, I decided to go for looking like a real straw-headed Southerner...I thought that Miss Amelia should be presented like a cartoon image, looking the same way until something very significant happens in the story. When it does, she changes out of her dungarees and wears a red dress to mark the fact that she has become a woman. I wanted her to appear to have remained rather like a twelve- or thirteen-year-old boy emotionally." The Ballad of the Sad Café was filmed in and around Austin and Seguin, Texas and Redgrave recalled that producer Ismail Merchant was actively involved in the production, going to great lengths to find the most talented and knowledgeable people to work on the film. "For instance," Redgrave said, "George Burns, who lectured in the English department at Austin University, coached me for the Southern dialect and accent of Miss Amelia. Not only that, he knew how to wiggle and flap his ears, and he made an electrical device that, placed behind Cork Hubbert's ears, produced a wiggle for the camera that convinced all spectators that Cousin Lymon could flap his ears." When The Ballad of the Sad Café was released in theatres, the critical reception was decidedly mixed, just as McCuller's original novella had divided reviewers over its reception. Vincent Canby of The New York Times was unenthusiastic. "From the moment Miss Amelia is discovered shelling peas, or doing some such down-home thing, and singing "Jimmy Crack Corn" in the accents of Ruritania's Deep South, The Ballad of the Sad Café is a seriously misguided hoot. Miss Redgrave was, is and will always remain one of the greatest actresses in what's generally referred to as the English-speaking theater. She is so great, in fact, that when she goes off the track, as she does here, she continues to barrel forward with the momentum of a transcontinental express train that will not be stopped. The spectacle takes the breath away. The Ballad of the Sad Café is that kind of movie. It's not silly as much as it's majestically wrongheaded. It's a movie in which all options have been considered at length before the worst possible choices have been made. But then The Ballad of the Sad Café is a heartless literary work." The New Yorker reviewer of the film was less critical but still had reservations. "There are skillful and impressive moments in The Ballad of the Sad Café, but the movie [...] is awkward and puzzling, and given the nature of McCullers' material, I doubt whether any kind of treatment would have worked. [...] In his first film, Simon Callow, distinguished British actor and stage director, shows some talent with the camera but much of the movie has that frozen portentousness of a weightily unprofitable night in the theater." But there were positive responses as well. Joe Brown of The Washington Post called it "an exceedingly odd little film, but haunting in its way," and added that the film "is certainly beautiful in the Merchant-Ivory manner; the film can be seen as a painterly tableau vivant of the Deep South. And vivid images of Redgrave abound -- Miss Amelia wading through the midnight swamp to her still; the first shy almost-smile crossing her face as she watches Lymon charm the rubes." Roger Ebert also found it praiseworthy, noting "I suppose there was once a time when "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" was thought to contain truths about life as lived. I can no longer relate to it that way. It now plays more like a prose opera, in which jealousy and passion inflame the characters, who are trapped in the sins of the past. To see the movie for its story is an exercise in futility. But it works well as gesture and flamboyance, a stage for outsize tragic figures." Clearly this is a movie where you will need to decide for yourself. Producer: Ismail Merchant Director: Simon Callow Screenplay: Carson McCullers (novel); Edward Albee (play); Michael Hirst (writer) Cinematography: Walter Lassally Art Direction: Michael T. Roberts Music: Richard Robbins Film Editing: Andrew Marcus Cast: Vanessa Redgrave (Miss Amelia), Keith Carradine (Marvin Macy), Cork Hubbert (Cousin Lymon), Rod Steiger (Rev. Willin), Austin Pendleton (Lawyer Taylor), Beth Dixon (Mary Hale), Lanny Flaherty (Merlie Ryan), Mert Hatfield (Stumpy McPhail), Earl Hindman (Henry Macy), Anne Pitoniak (Mrs. McPhail). C-101m. by Lorraine LoBianco SOURCES: Canby, Vincent "Review/Film Festival; Vanessa Redgrave in a Cursed Triangle of Love and Hate", The New York Times 28 Mar 91 Vanessa Redgrave: An Autobiography (Random House) Erskine, Thomas L., Welsch, James Michael, Tibbetts, John C. and Video Versions: Film Adaptations of Plays on Video Gussow, Mel Edward Albee: A Singular Journey: A Biography The Internet Movie Database The New Yorker 27 May 91

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - The Ballad of the Safe Cafe on DVD


In a desolate, dusty Southern town during the Great Depression, local eccentric Miss Amelia (Vanessa Redgrave) entertains the locals on the first floor of her house, often spending her nights dispensing her secret stash of moonshine to appease the citizens who spend their entire days doing backbreaking hard labor. However, the monotony of the town's daily existence is disrupted with two arrivals: hunchbacked Lyman (Cork Hubbert), who claims to be Miss Amelia's cousin and helps her run a café from her home, and Miss Amelia's estranged husband, Marvin Macy (Keith Carradine), whom she threw out shortly into their unconsummated marriage. Now fresh out of prison, he's fuming over her mistreatment of him (including usurping his land); furthermore, Lyman finds himself gravitating to Marvin as well. Soon the dysfunctional relationships devolve as the former lovers square off for a literal war of the sexes, delivering physical blows for public entertainment.

Based on a novella by Georgia novelist and southern gothic specialist Carson McCullers (The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Reflections in a Golden Eye), this peculiar drama contains the usual gender-bending themes and physical grotesquerie which characterize much of her work. Barely seen in theaters, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe went straight to video in most territories and came during a strange period in the Merchant Ivory cycle, which also included the far less successful Slaves of New York.

Though it marks the first (and so far only) directorial effort for frequent Merchant Ivory actor Simon Callow, this film is really held together by Redgrave's forceful performance. With her close-cropped hair and androgynous affectations, she's a dynamic force throughout the film even when much of it doesn't seem to make much sense. The dusty look of the film is quite successful, with some graceful poetic touches that lift it close to a grim fairy tale. (Callow refers several times to Night of the Hunter as an influence, which makes perfect sense.)

Part of Home Vision's ongoing line of Merchant Ivory releases, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe benefits tremendously from a new anamorphic transfer that easily outdoes the blurry VHS edition, which looked like was literally being projected through a cloud of dirt. Here the details are sharp and colors are bold, with the often intriguing locales finally discernable even in the darkest night scenes.

The disc also includes optional English subtitles and audio commentary by Callow, who obviously holds a great deal of affection for the film and worked for many years to get it produced. In fact the project started outside of the Merchant Ivory circle but became entangled when it came to acquiring the rights, which had merged with the Edward Albee estate after he bought the novella for his play of the same name. Fortunately this filmic rendition - the story's third manifestation - offers an effective showcase for talent both behind and in front of the camera. The disc also includes liner notes by Merchant Ivory specialist Robert Emmet Long, who discusses his experiences on the set and offers a fair appraisal of this one-of-a-kind film's virtues.

For more information about The Ballad of the Safe Cafe, visit Home Vision Entertainment. To order The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, go to TCM Shopping.

by Nathaniel Thompson

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - The Ballad of the Safe Cafe on DVD

In a desolate, dusty Southern town during the Great Depression, local eccentric Miss Amelia (Vanessa Redgrave) entertains the locals on the first floor of her house, often spending her nights dispensing her secret stash of moonshine to appease the citizens who spend their entire days doing backbreaking hard labor. However, the monotony of the town's daily existence is disrupted with two arrivals: hunchbacked Lyman (Cork Hubbert), who claims to be Miss Amelia's cousin and helps her run a café from her home, and Miss Amelia's estranged husband, Marvin Macy (Keith Carradine), whom she threw out shortly into their unconsummated marriage. Now fresh out of prison, he's fuming over her mistreatment of him (including usurping his land); furthermore, Lyman finds himself gravitating to Marvin as well. Soon the dysfunctional relationships devolve as the former lovers square off for a literal war of the sexes, delivering physical blows for public entertainment. Based on a novella by Georgia novelist and southern gothic specialist Carson McCullers (The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Reflections in a Golden Eye), this peculiar drama contains the usual gender-bending themes and physical grotesquerie which characterize much of her work. Barely seen in theaters, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe went straight to video in most territories and came during a strange period in the Merchant Ivory cycle, which also included the far less successful Slaves of New York. Though it marks the first (and so far only) directorial effort for frequent Merchant Ivory actor Simon Callow, this film is really held together by Redgrave's forceful performance. With her close-cropped hair and androgynous affectations, she's a dynamic force throughout the film even when much of it doesn't seem to make much sense. The dusty look of the film is quite successful, with some graceful poetic touches that lift it close to a grim fairy tale. (Callow refers several times to Night of the Hunter as an influence, which makes perfect sense.) Part of Home Vision's ongoing line of Merchant Ivory releases, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe benefits tremendously from a new anamorphic transfer that easily outdoes the blurry VHS edition, which looked like was literally being projected through a cloud of dirt. Here the details are sharp and colors are bold, with the often intriguing locales finally discernable even in the darkest night scenes. The disc also includes optional English subtitles and audio commentary by Callow, who obviously holds a great deal of affection for the film and worked for many years to get it produced. In fact the project started outside of the Merchant Ivory circle but became entangled when it came to acquiring the rights, which had merged with the Edward Albee estate after he bought the novella for his play of the same name. Fortunately this filmic rendition - the story's third manifestation - offers an effective showcase for talent both behind and in front of the camera. The disc also includes liner notes by Merchant Ivory specialist Robert Emmet Long, who discusses his experiences on the set and offers a fair appraisal of this one-of-a-kind film's virtues. For more information about The Ballad of the Safe Cafe, visit Home Vision Entertainment. To order The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, go to TCM Shopping. by Nathaniel Thompson

TCM Remembers - Rod Steiger


ROD STEIGER, 1925 - 2002

From the docks of New York to the rural back roads of Mississippi to the war torn Russian steppes, Rod Steiger reveled in creating some of the most overpowering and difficult men on the screen. He could be a total scoundrel, embodying Machiavelli's idiom that "it's better to be feared than loved" in the movies. But as an actor he refused to be typecast and his wide range included characters who were secretly tormented (The Pawnbroker, 1965) or loners (Run of the Arrow, 1965) or eccentrics (The Loved One, 1965).

Along with Marlon Brando, Steiger helped bring the 'Method School' from the Group Theater and Actors Studio in New York to the screens of Hollywood. The Method technique, taught by Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, insisted on complete immersion into the character's psyche and resulted in intense, dramatic performances and performers. Steiger made his first significant screen appearance as Brando's older brother in On the Waterfront (1954). Their climatic scene together in a taxicab is one of the great moments in American cinema.

It was a short leap from playing a crooked lawyer in On the Waterfront to playing the shady boxing promoter in The Harder They Fall (1956). Based on the tragic tale of true-life fighter Primo Carnera, The Harder They Fall details the corruption behind the scenes of professional boxing bouts. Steiger is a fight manager named Nick Benko who enlists newspaperman Eddie Willis (Humphrey Bogart in his final screen appearance) to drum up publicity for a fixed prizefight. While the boxing scenes were often brutally realistic, the most powerful dramatic moments took place between Steiger and Bogart on the sidelines.

As mob boss Al Capone (1959), Steiger got to play another man you loved to hate. He vividly depicted the criminal from his swaggering early days to his pathetic demise from syphilis. In Doctor Zhivago (1965), Steiger was the only American in the international cast, playing the hateful and perverse Komarovsky. During the production of Dr. Zhivago, Steiger often found himself at odds with director David Lean. Schooled in the British tradition, Lean valued the integrity of the script and demanded that actors remain faithful to the script. Steiger, on the other hand, relied on improvisation and spontaneity. When kissing the lovely Lara (played by Julie Christie), Steiger jammed his tongue into Christie's mouth to produce the desired reaction - disgust. It worked! While it might not have been Lean's approach, it brought a grittier edge to the prestige production and made Komarovsky is a detestable but truly memorable figure.

Steiger dared audiences to dislike him. As the smalltown southern Sheriff Gillespie in In The Heat of the Night (1967), Steiger embodied all the prejudices and suspicions of a racist. When a black northern lawyer, played by Sidney Poitier, arrives on the crime scene, Gillespie is forced to recognize his fellow man as an equal despite skin color. Here, Steiger's character started as a bigot and developed into a better man. He finally claimed a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Sheriff Gillespie.

Steiger was an actor's actor. A chameleon who didn't think twice about diving into challenging roles that others would shy away from. In the Private Screenings interview he did with host Robert Osborne he admitted that Paul Muni was one of his idols because of his total immersion into his roles. Steiger said, "I believe actors are supposed to create different human beings." And Steiger showed us a rich and diverse cross section of them.

by Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford

TCM Remembers - Rod Steiger

ROD STEIGER, 1925 - 2002 From the docks of New York to the rural back roads of Mississippi to the war torn Russian steppes, Rod Steiger reveled in creating some of the most overpowering and difficult men on the screen. He could be a total scoundrel, embodying Machiavelli's idiom that "it's better to be feared than loved" in the movies. But as an actor he refused to be typecast and his wide range included characters who were secretly tormented (The Pawnbroker, 1965) or loners (Run of the Arrow, 1965) or eccentrics (The Loved One, 1965). Along with Marlon Brando, Steiger helped bring the 'Method School' from the Group Theater and Actors Studio in New York to the screens of Hollywood. The Method technique, taught by Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, insisted on complete immersion into the character's psyche and resulted in intense, dramatic performances and performers. Steiger made his first significant screen appearance as Brando's older brother in On the Waterfront (1954). Their climatic scene together in a taxicab is one of the great moments in American cinema. It was a short leap from playing a crooked lawyer in On the Waterfront to playing the shady boxing promoter in The Harder They Fall (1956). Based on the tragic tale of true-life fighter Primo Carnera, The Harder They Fall details the corruption behind the scenes of professional boxing bouts. Steiger is a fight manager named Nick Benko who enlists newspaperman Eddie Willis (Humphrey Bogart in his final screen appearance) to drum up publicity for a fixed prizefight. While the boxing scenes were often brutally realistic, the most powerful dramatic moments took place between Steiger and Bogart on the sidelines. As mob boss Al Capone (1959), Steiger got to play another man you loved to hate. He vividly depicted the criminal from his swaggering early days to his pathetic demise from syphilis. In Doctor Zhivago (1965), Steiger was the only American in the international cast, playing the hateful and perverse Komarovsky. During the production of Dr. Zhivago, Steiger often found himself at odds with director David Lean. Schooled in the British tradition, Lean valued the integrity of the script and demanded that actors remain faithful to the script. Steiger, on the other hand, relied on improvisation and spontaneity. When kissing the lovely Lara (played by Julie Christie), Steiger jammed his tongue into Christie's mouth to produce the desired reaction - disgust. It worked! While it might not have been Lean's approach, it brought a grittier edge to the prestige production and made Komarovsky is a detestable but truly memorable figure. Steiger dared audiences to dislike him. As the smalltown southern Sheriff Gillespie in In The Heat of the Night (1967), Steiger embodied all the prejudices and suspicions of a racist. When a black northern lawyer, played by Sidney Poitier, arrives on the crime scene, Gillespie is forced to recognize his fellow man as an equal despite skin color. Here, Steiger's character started as a bigot and developed into a better man. He finally claimed a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Sheriff Gillespie. Steiger was an actor's actor. A chameleon who didn't think twice about diving into challenging roles that others would shy away from. In the Private Screenings interview he did with host Robert Osborne he admitted that Paul Muni was one of his idols because of his total immersion into his roles. Steiger said, "I believe actors are supposed to create different human beings." And Steiger showed us a rich and diverse cross section of them. by Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States April 26, 1991

Released in United States Spring May 10, 1991

Released in United States June 7, 1991

Wide Release in United States June 28, 1991

Released in United States on Video June 17, 1992

Released in United States 1991

Released in United States February 1991

Released in United States March 1991

Released in United States May 7, 1991

Shown at American Film Market (AFM) in Santa Monica February 28 - March 8, 1991.

Shown at Berlin Film Festival (in competition) February 15-26, 1991.

Shown at New Directors/New Films series New York City March 28 & 30, 1991.

Feature film directorial debut for actor and stage director Simon Callow.

Began shooting June 21, 1990.

Completed shooting August 18, 1990.

Released in United States April 26, 1991 (Dallas)

Released in United States Spring May 10, 1991

Released in United States June 7, 1991 (Chicago)

Released in United States on Video June 17, 1992

Released in United States 1991 (Shown at American Film Market (AFM) in Santa Monica February 28 - March 8, 1991.)

Released in United States February 1991 (Shown at Berlin Film Festival (in competition) February 15-26, 1991.)

Released in United States March 1991 (Shown at New Directors/New Films series New York City March 28 & 30, 1991.)

Released in United States May 7, 1991 (Premiere at the Angelika Film Center in New York City May 7, 1991.)

Wide Release in United States June 28, 1991