Friday, June 22, 2012


The generic Hollywood “woman’s film,” those melodramatic, get-out-your-handkerchiefs – style weepies that were once Joan Crawford’s and Bette Davis’ stock in trade, underwent a colorful (that is to say, increasingly explicit) transformation during the '50s and '60s. Reflecting the changing role of women in American culture, the once romance-centric genre transmogrified into the multi-character, hand-wringing, career-girl soap operas of the sort typified by Rona Jaffe’s water cooler drama The Best of Everything (1956), in which Joan Crawford’s stock '40s shopgirl character gets an executive upgrade, and that deservedly iconic ode to Broadway, booze, and barbiturates, Valleyof the Dolls (1967).
Jessica Walter (Lucille Bluth on my favorite TV show, Arrested Development) looks "Joan Crawford fabulous" and almost walks away with the film as Libby, the least sympathetic but most dynamic member of The Group

These films dramatized, in highly glamorized fashion, the challenges facing women as they strove to balance love, friendship, and the pursuit of their dreams while navigating the patriarchally hostile waters of the American workforce. Always purporting to “blow the lid off” one taboo subject or another (in George Cukor’s The Chapman Report it was the sex lives of suburban housewives) these films offered at most a cursory nod to female independence before reverting to type and getting back to the business of subtly endorsing traditional gender roles.

Valley of the Dolls, in its exquisite awfulness, remains the gold standard by which every “sex and soap” women’s film is and should be compared. But one of my favorite forgotten examples of the genre that managed to fall through the cracks due to past unavailability (it had a brief VHS life [Thanks, Poseidon3!], was never released on Laserdisc, but is currently available on made-to-order DVD) is Sidney Lumet’s lively screen adaptation of Mary McCarthy’s 1963 bestselling novel, The Group
Eight is Enough
The sparkling cast of up-and-comers that comprise The Group

I don’t know who first coined the phrase “superior soap opera” but the term categorically applies to this expensively mounted, surprisingly well-acted tale of the interweaving lives of eight friends—graduates of Vassar College, Class of ’33— as each sets out to make her mark on the world. The experiences of these economically and psychologically diverse heroines reflect, in microcosm, the emergent state of (white) American womanhood in the mid-20th century. Specifically, the Roosevelt Administration years from The Great Depression through to the earliest days of the outbreak of WW II.
As each woman embarks on the journey of realizing the American Dream that their wealth, position, and privilege have practically guaranteed them, they discover that life outside the protective bubble of college and "The Group" poses considerably greater challenges. 
With a cast of eight beautiful women all falling histrionically in and out of love, bedrooms, and careers, The Group basically takes the usual all-girl triad formula of The Pleasure Seekers and Three Coins in the Fountain (along with the aforementioned The Best of Everything and Valley of the Dolls) and merely ratchets up the stakes by moving it into territory first blazed by Clare Boothe Luce in The Women. All of which is sheer Nirvana for fans of camp cinema and movies about high-born women brought to low circumstances, but a headache for studio publicity departments and folks seeking economic ways of recounting the plot and summarizing the characters.  

The challenge presented in having to promote a film with an ensemble cast of relative unknowns is revealed in the giggle-inducing tone adopted by the film’s ad campaign; the copy of which I’ll borrow to briefly introduce the members of The Group:

Lakey: The Mona Lisa of the smoking-room…for women only!
Dottie: Thin women are more sensual. The nerve endings are closer to the surface.
Priss: She fell in love and lived to be an “experiment.”
Polly: No money…no glamour…no defenses…poor Cinderella.
Kay: The “outsider” at an Ivy League Ball.
Pokey: Skin plumped full of oysters…money, money, money…yum, yum, yum!
Libby: A big scar on her face called a mouth.
Helena: Many women do without sex, and thrive on it.

If I remember correctly, most, if not all of these lines come directly from the novel (a terrific read, I might add) and several are even repeated in the film. How anyone was able to resist such sleazily salacious come-ons is beyond me, but The Group didn’t fare too well at the boxoffice at the time and slipped quietly into obscurity after that. My guess is that it’s because the film at its core wasn’t really as trashy as its hard-sell. Well, more’s the pity, for The Group, by benefit of its remarkable cast and director Sidney Lumet’s deft handling of the wide-sweeping plot, is a step above the usual glossy soap opera.
Dottie (Joan Hackett) loses her virginity to emotionally remote artist Dick Brown (Richard Mulligan). In real life, Hackett & Mulligan were married from 1966 to 1973. They appeared together in a 1971 episode of  Love, American Style

As a fan of both Robert Altman’s trademark ensemble opuses and movies with overdressed women dramatically suffering in opulent surroundings, there isn’t really much to dislike about The Group. Touching on everything from politics, birth-control, lesbianism, marriage, mental illness, spousal abuse, adultery, childbirth, alcoholism, and date-rape (all in the course of 2 ½ hours) The Group has a lot of field to cover. Director Sidney Lumet (The Pawnbroker, Network, Dog Day Afternoon) keeps things moving at a rapid-fire pace that adds spark to the light comedy (Jessica Walter is a hoot as a bitchily gabby gossip) and tension to the drama. If the expeditious pacing of the story spares The Group from ever being plodding or dull, it's fair to say it also occasionally undercuts the film’s overall emotional impact. The commitment to brevity that results in Joan Hackett’s character disappearing for a protracted time in the middle of the film is a considerable flaw as far as I'm concerned, but at least it’s a flaw born of an attempt to tighten the sprawling narrative. 
An example of Sidney Lumet's masterful framing and use of space in The Group 

I generally just like the propulsive feel of The Group's visual style. I can’t remember when I’ve seen a movie that handled the staging and filming of group scenes better or to greater effect; nor can I recall a cleverer employment of cinematic devices to provide plot exposition. In rewatching the film, my attention is drawn to the many subtle character interactions and small details (like the financially-struggling Kay always wearing the same hat to every wedding) easily overlooked on first viewing due to the film’s quick cutting and Lumet’s skillful use of the foregrounds and backgrounds to relay information.
When I think of what I like about The Group, the conclusion I always arrive at is, what’s not to like?

The telephone features prominently in The Group not only as a means by which the friends stay in contact but as a handy device to relate plot exposition

If you’ve ever harbored the notion that a film like, say, Valley of the Dolls would have been “better” with real actresses in the roles (sorry Patty Duke), watching The Group should pretty much lay that fantasy to rest. The cast assembled for The Group couldn’t be more accomplished or better-suited to their roles, but even they can’t surmount a screenplay or a basic story construct so plot-driven. The mere volume and frequency of crises and conflict in films like these reduce even exemplary performances (Hackett, Knight, Pettet, and Hartman) to “best of” moments.

Sidney Lumet cast his father, Baruch Lumet in the small role of Mr. Schneider, Polly's paternal neighbor

A standout, both appearance and character-wise, is Jessica Walter, who either annoys or enchants in a showy role that is essentially Rosalind Russell in The Women. Also very good is the highly appealing Shirley Knight. My personal favorite, however, is Joan Hackett (making her film debut along with Bergen and Pettet) whom I never tire of watching and who never seems to hit a false note.
60s lesbians were always portrayed as severe, vaguely predatory types who stood around giving each other knowing looks under arched eyebrows. Here, an admittedly outclassed Candice Bergen introduces her sorority sisters to her "friend" the Baroness (Lidia Prochnicka)

Before I finish, special mention must be made of the men in The Group. True to the genre, the men are a pretty odious bunch. Almost to a man they are characterized as weak, bigoted, manipulative, oppressive, brutalizing, or womanizing. Some all at the same time. This is of course to be expected and goes with the soap opera territory. What surprises me most is that there isn’t a single looker in the bunch. I know it’s a matter of taste and I'm taking into account that perhaps in 1966 these guys passed for handsome (so what was Paul Newman?); but to a most distracting degree, the men at the center of The Group are like a grandmother’s wish-list of desirable males. Hal Holbrook? Larry Hagman? Richard Mulligan? James Broderick? The film features such a parade of sexless, daddy-fixation types that after a while I actually started to take it as some kind of personal affront. Valley of the Dolls suffered from the same malady.
No, this isn't an image of Polly (Shirley Knight) and her father. This is Gus (Hal Holbrook) the patently implausible object of desire of two gorgeous women and one unseen wife in The Group

My older sister (whom I credit/blame for a good deal of my love of bad movies) got me to watch The Group on TV with her when I was a kid. A protofeminist if ever there was one, she tended to gravitate towards movies with female protagonists but lamented the fact that a great majority of these films tended to be vaguely masochistic soaps and cheesy exploitation films. 
The Group was Elizabeth Hartman's follow-up to her Oscar-nominated film debut in A Patch of Blue. As Priss, she's cast again as a victim of an oppressive relative, this time a husband.
 Sloan (her physician husband, following a miscarriage): "We'll, we can't have this again, Priss. Worst possible advertisement for a pediatrician!"

My sister (who was drawn to the bitchiness of the Libby character but identified with the self-sacrificing nobility of Polly) enjoyed the camp fun to be had at the expense of the fancy clothes, elaborate hairstyles, and frankly unsympathetic milieu of the privileged classes; but what she also responded to, and in turn helped me to appreciate, was what the film was trying to say about the challenges of maturity. The idealized vision of the world (and oneself) one can safely harbor while sheltered within the walls of youth and academia can take quite a beating when confronted by the disappointments and compromises of the real world. Is a person really failing in life if they put to rest youthful dreams in hopes of achieving some unforeseen, yet perhaps more authentic, realization of fulfillment? And how much pain does one cause oneself clinging to idealized illusions of "potential" and entitled success...all the while ignoring the possibility for happiness dressed in humbler clothing? 
Have to hand it to my sister...if she could find that kind of insight within a glossy potboiler like this, I'd say I learned about the value of "bad" films at the feet of a master.
In a role rendered considerably smaller in the film than  in the book, Carrie Nye has at least one memorable scene as Norine, a low-income Vassar classmate and outsider excluded from The Group 

Now, I’m not going to make out like The Group is some kind of profound, unacknowledged classic, but in light of what women's films have become over the years (they proudly proclaim themselves "chick flicks" and celebrate shopping as a valid expression of female empowerment), and in our current boomerang culture that doesn't encourage young people to seek and accept struggle as an integral part of the growing-up process; well...let's just say that there's something to be said for a 46-year-old guilty-pleasure movie that comes across as more progressive and perceptive in 2012 than it did in the year of its original release.
Halcyon Days
Helena's scandalous painting of The Group (that's Helena as the satyress)

Copyright © Ken Anderson  2009 - 2012


  1. Yay! I enjoyed reading this a lot. I love the portrait of all eight ladies with their names and characters listed. It looks like they were really all together in person and not CGI-ed or pasted in like so many publicity shots now.

    I couldn't agree more about the men in The Group. It's sometimes hard to see why the women even care about them so much because they lean towards the undesirable. (Not as much a problem in other girls against the world films where Rossano Brazzi, Gardner McKay, Louis Jourdan, Stephen Boyd and so on were the guys.) But, to continue your own thought, Valley of the Dolls suffers the same fate if not more so! The men tend to fade from the screen and from the memory in that one.

    When I first saw The Group (around the mid-90s), I longed to see more of Candice Bergen. She seemed to have been whittled down in the editing. True, she was no great actress then, but she looked so sleek to me.

    And not trying to be persnickety, but The Group did have a short-lived release on VHS. I have a closely-guarded tape which is how I first saw it (like you say, it was rarely on TV after a certain point.)

    Glossy as it is, some of the rejection/oppression that these gals go through in the movie is so raw it almost hurts to watch at times. Thanks for featuring it here on your site!

  2. Hi Poseidon
    It's funny you mention "The Group" portrait (yes, today they would be CGI'd to death, ala "Desperate Housewives" in its waning years. Thank god this photo exists because my post would have looked like a scroll roll had I tried to use screen caps for all eight characters.
    And yes, this film has a case of bland male co-stars that rivals "VOD"...I just keep wondering whose taste is being represented in the casting. In the commentary for "VOD" Barbara Parkins can't stop talking about how much she resented having such an old love interest.
    Candice Bergen is awfully gorgeous here, I agree. I think her character is kind of refreshingly level headed next to her nervously sorority sisters. If you ever get your hands on Bergen's autobiography, read it for her account on the making of "The Group," she's marvelously frank and self-deprecating about the whole thing.
    Lastly, thanks for your info on an unknown to me VHS release of "The Group"! I would have loved to have had this in my video collection had I knew it was around. As it stood, this recent re-acquaintance with it was my first time seeing it since an old TV screening in the 80s. Always like hearing from you Poseidon, Thanks!

  3. I knew nothing of this film before seeing it advertised on an Astor calendar a couple years ago. So rather fortunate was I to witness this on the big screen in 35mm format (it was a good print, too)--and a Sidney Lumet film to boot!

    "The Group" probably bites of more than it can chew in some ways--I remember quite clearly having difficulty keeping up with character names, what was happening with each, and even across two and a half hours, to flesh out so many primary characters, and to get us to care about them, is indeed a herculean task.

    That said, it's a film that is well worth seeing. Despite the large number of women in the ensemble and how much focus is placed upon each, to me, the person who walks away with the entire film is...LARRY HAGMAN! I never watched "Dallas", so to see Hagman acting like such a heel was a revelation. He played the alcoholic, manipulative husband to the hilt, just a brilliant piece of work. It's easily one of the finest performacnes that I've witnessed.

    Why do these women stay with such undesirable men? Perhaps the abuse and jealousy that they receive from their men makes them feel important, noticed, desired. The constant arguments and accusations--sometimes being noticed for the wrong reasons is better than not being noticed at all. I'm not certain if it can be explained better than this. I do know that these days, women watch horrible soap operas and think that their own relationships and lifestyles are supposed to be as they are depicted in such television programmes. Woody Allen once said "Life doesn't imitate art, life imitates bad television". All too often so true, but I'm not sure what the excuse would've been back in 1933 for the girls of "The Group", outside what I've already stated. Perhaps it all comes back to the notion of "having it all", and that the men that they desire are the ones in the best position to let them have it.

    I do love the final shot of the film, complete with voiceover--it's so brilliantly ironic, the echoing of youthful optimism juxtaposed with the cold realities of the adult world beyond university. There are times when an otherwise good film can be dragged down by a terrible ending. "The Group" is the opposite of this--it's a pretty good film that is lifted tremendously by its final scene--and Larry Hagman's virtuoso performance also goes a long way.

    It is my feeling that far too many univeristy students have a grand sense of entitlement upon completng their tertiary level education and stepping into the outside world (especially those who attend "fancy" schools). That's another reason to love "The Group"--it's a rude awakening, a huge reality check to anybody who thinks that a privileged youth is a guarantee to "have it all" throughout adulthood. Also, you can't go past the wardrobe in this one--they all look like a bunch of Stepford Wives!

    Finally, let's not forget that Mary McCarthy, the writer of the book upon which the film is based, was the sister of actor Kevin McCarthy!

    1. Hi Mark,
      Loved your comments! I had no idea Kevin McCarthy was related to the author of "The Group." Leave it to a fan of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"!
      I like your observations on the possible motivations for the masochistic side of soap operas. Trust me, I was once of amind to feel that thekind of doormat behavior depicted in this film was just a reflection of the times. In the year 2012 when I can read twitter posts from young girls saying that rap singer Chris Brown can "...beat me up anytime,he's so fine!"...well, I think you put it well (though I'm loathe to quote Woody Allen) -life seems to imitate bad television.
      Thanks for pointing out Larry Hagman's performance. As unappealing as I've always found him, he is undeniably good here.
      So gla dyou got to see the film on the big screen and you added quite a lot of thoughtful ideas to this post. Much appreciated!

  4. Argyle here. Thank you, Ken, for an outstanding site. I read every post and often haven't got a thing to add, or have to immediately find the film. Your selections are absolutely amazing; the films and observations you continue to glean create a kind of pixelated portrait-in-progress. I hope that makes sense.

    This movie sends me in many different directions and I can’t pull it all together so this is going to be incoherent. I love it in all its weaknesses and faults. It overwhelms me in a way. I always end up talking about it when I’m at a graduation party and always wonder if anyone was listening and checked it out. They would be horrified, but I totally read my mother and three sisters through this film. But I also read myself through it.

    For me, this film has always been a vehicle to consider who am I? I am male; I went to college in the late ‘70's; I’m not rich or from “the north.” I have a mother and three sisters (two older, one younger.) Also a brother and a father, but that’s part of the effect of this film for me; it submerges me in my idea of the world of my mother and my sisters. I guess it also completely lays out the challenge of what do you do with yourself when you’re finally on your own? I have never really enjoyed “The Women.” There doesn’t seem to be anything at stake. From the first scrap of “The Group” that I saw on TV decades ago, it spoke to me. Everything is at stake.

    I remember my mother being sort of mildly revolted when I asked her about this movie and book. I doubt if she read the book or saw the movie when they came out. I feel like she was just kind of acting out what I believe was the conventional reaction to both at the time. (Book and movie were both somewhat shocking, I believe.) And my mom is not a snob, she just kind of steers clear of “sensations” for the most part. I’m a little bit that way, but a couple of years later I’m always interested in dissecting those sorts of things once they’ve become passe. To me they’re more interesting in that light and you can see the motivations and fallout a little clearer.

    I have an old, very tattered paperback copy of the book that I have never been able to read. It’s completely unbound, loose pages, and has been for years, held together with a dark red ribbon.


  5. (Yes, more from Argyle)

    I love the right visual with the right music overlaid. (I read somewhere a long time ago Robert Towne describing intrusive, superfluous film music as being like “chocolate syrup on fried chicken.”) The opening establishing scenes at the college with the choral songs over them are completely mesmerizing to me. I think there are three songs used. It goes from a sort of nursery rhyme/college song through a really beautiful choral piece to what you figure is their alma mater. And the camera swoops and circles and pans up and around and you basically fall in love with these girls and their possibilities. It’s sublime. And you sense that everything afterward is going to be a kind of disappointment.

    I agree that the mens casting is interesting. I don’t think Larry Hagman ever got to do anything as challenging as this. And the end when he exits Candice Bergen’s roadster is a re-watch scene; Candice Bergen’s facial expression. And her character is weirdly inconsistent through out but you want MORE. I think a conventionally handsome leading man of the period in any of the men’s roles would have been a distraction from the women who are pretty uniformly gorgeous but seem very real to me. The doctor character is so horrible and “stage-y”. So the contrast with Elizabeth Hartman’s naturalness and vulnerability is almost unbearable. It’s a portrait of a bad match/bad choice.

    And I have watched that scene with Carrie Nye over and over just to savor her delivery and “business” with the cream(?) and spoon. The last time I watched it sent me into Carrie Nye research mode (I had known that she was married to Dick Cavett) and I came up with a documentary about the fire and subsequent reconstruction of their home on Montauk. It’s really interesting and low-key and you get lots of Carrie talking. It’s called From the Ashes: The Life and Times of Tick Hall. You just want more Carrie Nye.

    This is random but, for me, a good counterpoint to how this sort of all-over-the-place movie is absolutely compelling in terms of character and suggestions of lives beyond the frame is the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby which goes to all kinds of effort and achieves (for me) absolutely no life on screen. And not to slag F. Scott Fitzgerald, but maybe Mary McCarthy just managed to create characters that were so vivid they could not be suppressed.

    1. Hi Argyle
      So terrific to hear from you! You are too kind (and very brave) to have read all my posts. I'm honored, and your kind words mean a lot to me. You put it so poetically, but you seem to really "get" my movie posts. They're as much biographical essays as they are film reviews. Frighteningly, they DO all add up to a portrait of ME. Which is frightening enough to ponder!
      Thanks so much for sharing your personal "relationship" with this film. It's just fascinating hearing about your family. You nailed it when you say that "The Group" addresses that period after college when who we are slams smack up against who we wanted to be. I'd be writing another essay if i commented on everything I found interesting about what you wrote. Suffice it to say that your insights and sharing a bit of yourself feels like a continuation of my post, not just an eloquent comment. I enjoyed every word!

    2. One of my oldest friends, Scott Morris, is a writer and director...He made the film "From the Ashes..", about the fire and reconstruction of Tick Hall....Carrie Nye and Dick Cavett's home

    3. That's fascinating! I recently saw a few clips of that film and it looks like quite a remarkable documentary about a more than remarkable house.

  6. I love, love, love this film. I just re-watched this one last month as a matter of fact...a great rainy Sunday afternoon kind of film. I just get lost in all the characters and all that drama!

    I have to agree that this film rivals "Valley of the Dolls" in the leading men department - except for Larry Hagman and James Congdon. I had a childhood crush on "Major Tony Nelson" and Congdon is very easy on the eyes...and he sings !(he can be heard on the Original London Cast recording of "Promises, Promises").

    One minor quibble: Candice Bergen's limited screen time. They ship "Lakey" off to Europe and is not seen again until near the end of the film. Her sexuality is only hinted at and never explored, especially in that infamous exchange between her and Hagman in her car.

    I agree with Mark Vanselow that Hagman almost walks away with the film...among the men he was the standout and he made the most of it!

    Interesting bit of trivia: Pamela Tiffin auditioned for the role of "Libby". Lumet tested her but ultimately gave the role to the fabulous Jessica Walter but not without writing Miss Tiffin a very complimentary letter on her audition.

    1. Hi again!
      You pretty much nailed it in saying that this is a perfect Sunday afternoon kind of film. I've watched it countless times and it's always so enjoyable to me. I like that you had a childhood crush on Hagman. It makes me smile because it is so inconceivable. And indeed, he is very good as the creepiest of creepy husbands. His rages are startling!
      I do see you point about Congdon...removed from his brutish behavior he might not be so bad. Thanks for that bit if info about "Promises, Promises". I have the London cast album and will now have to dig it up to give it a listen!
      Bergen is very much missed in this film by a lot of fans. It's a shame she is onscreen for such a brief time, but BOY do they do a good job of juggling so many women's roles. The screenwriter should be applauded for managing to keep all the stories straight.
      Lastly, thanks for passing that info on about Pamela Tiffin, I always find it intriguing to know what other actors were considered for certain roles. Tiffin would have made a great chatterbox type (like in her scenes in Summer and Smoke) and I don't know that I've ever seen her play bitchy. It would have been interesting.
      Thanks for another great comment!

    2. You're welcome Ken. FYI if you want to see Tiffin play bitchy you need look no further...she played spoiled, rich, bitchy rich girl "Miranda Sampson" opposite Paul Newman and an all-star cast in 1965's "HARPER".

      One of my favorite lines she spits out to Lauren Bacall (playing her equally venomous stepmother): "I just love your wrinkles. I revel in them!"


    3. Ha! That's a great line and I've never heard it before! OK, that's another film I'll hunt out at Netflix. I really like Bacall and a chance to see Tiffin less than sweet is kind of irresistible. Thanks for the tip!

  7. Hey Ken: Have you ever read Pauline Kael's account of the making of "The Group"? It's one of the few pieces of journalism she ever did and it's fascinating. She followed the making of the film from start to finish. You can find the piece in her collection "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" - well worth tracking down by fans of this picture.

    1. Hi Joe, The last time I read that Kael piece was way back in the early 80s, when I had a copy of the book you refer to. I have't seen it since. I might have to do an Ebay or Ioffer search. Thanks for reminding me!

  8. Never seen The Group but must try and track down a copy now after reading that Hal Holbrook's in it. As a teen in the 70s I had a massive crush on Hal, despite him being old enough to be my dad! My parents and friends all thought I was nuts...thinking I should be lusting after Donny Osmond if! I have always been attracted to older guys...ended up marrying one, lol. I think it was Hal's role as Lieutenant Briggs in Magnum Force that started it all as he was playing such a sneering, creep unlike his usual roles. See also Capricorn One where he played another baddie. Years later I met him during one of his Mark Twain performances and he was such a lovely guy to chat to.

    - Madison

    1. Hello Madison
      First off, let me say thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. Second, I really appreciate your expressing, in such a pleasant way, your long-term affection for Hal Holbrook without reverting to what is becoming too common on the internet - the combative challenge with those that don't share your opinion. I love it that, in spite of my expressing the polar opposite opinion about Holbrook in this post, you share your fondness for the actor in a way that doesn't try to change my opinion, just merely illuminating yours.

      Your teenage crush on him sounds thoroughly charming and leaves me to think that you are a true original, ignoring what your peers deemed an appropriate teen heartthrob. Holbrook's role in "The group" is a sizable one, and, as he's rather youngish, you are sure to enjoy it a great deal. Perhaps you've already seen it, but I also recommend "They Only Kill Their Masters" (1972) as another Hal Holbrook forgotten performance. he's actually a rather menacing bad guy.
      Lovely to hear from you and thanks for confirming that people can disagree and still share their thoughts in a nice way.

  9. Hi Ken! You're very welcome! I will definitely check out they Only Kill their Masters. Also must give credit to Hal for being brave and taking the role of a gay man coming out of the closet in "That Certain Summer" at a time when attitudes towards homosexuality in the US weren't as tolerant as today (and there's still a long way to go today!) I remember that film being groundbreaking for its non-judgemental approach. I did manage to track down "Suddenly Single" another early 70s TV movie romantic comedy starring Hal and also Chloris Leachman, an actress I admire a lot. I always enjoy the energy she puts into her roles. Anyways keep up the excellent writing, I'll have to open an account and follow you properly on here. xx Madison

    1. Your bringing up "that Certain Summer" reminds me of all the great TV-movies that were made in the 70s that have yet to get the DVD treatment. I hadn't thought of that film in years. Way ahead of its time, as I recall. I also vaguely remember "Suddenly Single"; not seeing it, but the previews for it (which were often more entertaining than the films themselves). Hope you get to check out"The Group" and maybe come back and let me know what you thought of it. Thanks, Madison!

  10. The group is on right now I'm in Dayton Ohio watching it it brings me back to a time of old school TV when times were good and sacred

    1. Hi Jeff
      Yes! When I was a kid, old-school TV, with its wide variety and steady stream of old movies, was like free film school. Love that a lot of broadcast channels nowadays are returning to showing classic films!

  11. The generic Hollywood “woman’s film,” those melodramatic, get-out-your-handkerchiefs – style weepies that were once Joan Crawford’s and Bette Davis’ stock in trade . . .

    Why does this society always sweep melodramas - especially those about women - under the rug as "generic"?

    Why do these women stay with such undesirable men? Perhaps the abuse and jealousy that they receive from their men makes them feel important, noticed, desired. The constant arguments and accusations--sometimes being noticed for the wrong reasons is better than not being noticed at all.

    What the hell?

    1. To refer to a particular film genre (studio-system melodramas manufactured and marketed for a female audience) as "generic" is specification, not assessment. To interpret that word as a form of sweeping a genre under the rug is a matter of reader interpretation. In the content and context of this essay and the paragraph in which it appears, "generic" is an identifier meaning "the collective category" or "of the genre" --but you're free to read it as a dismissive pejorative along the lines of "common" or "run of the mill" if it helps you make your point.

      And for any readers who might assume the last out-of-context paragraph of this comment belongs to me, was written by me, or is in any way connected to my essay, please know it is not. It's from a comment left by a reader nine years ago (it can be found above). Kindly direct all future, wholly appropriate "What the Hell?" responses to the reply link there.

  12. 1) this is on Blu-ray now via Kino Lorber. 2) you have to track down Pauline Kael's article on the making of The Group. It's an amazing hatchet job on Sydney Lumet

    1. Thank you for contributing the update info of THE GROUP's Blue-ray release info to the comments here (I got the Blu-ray back in 2020 and the film has never looked better). I also have had the opportunity to read the Pauline Kael article, and it is a marvelous read that is indeed rather brutal to Mr. Lumet...and Co.
      Much appreciated!

  13. The book "The Group" certainly IS " a profound, unacknowledged classic." I think the movie is transparently and unapologetically faithful to the book, besides being beautifully acted.

    1. Yes, the book is wonderful. One of the pleasures of reading it so many years after seeing the film was in the realization of just how faithful screen adaptation proved to be.