Autumn Leaves (film)
Original theatrical poster
|Directed by||Robert Aldrich|
|Produced by||William Goetz|
|Written by||Jean Rouverol
|Music by||Hans J. Salter|
|Editing by||Michael Luciano|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Release dates||August 1, 1956|
|Box office||$1.1 million (US)|
Autumn Leaves is a 1956 Columbia Pictures drama film starring Joan Crawford and Cliff Robertson in an older woman/younger man tale of mental illness. The screenplay was written by Jean Rouverol and Hugo Butler, though it was credited to Jack Jevne, Rouverol and Butler being blacklisted at the time of the film's release.
Spinsterish Millicent "Millie" Wetherby (Crawford) works at home as a self-employed typist. One evening in a diner, she meets a lonely young man named Burt Hanson (Robertson). They take a liking to one another and eventually they marry.
Burt's ex-wife Virginia (Vera Miles) and his father (Lorne Greene) abruptly enter the scene. Burt is haunted by the day when he discovered his wife and father making love; he begins displaying signs of mental instability with their sudden, unwelcomed presence in his life. When he becomes violent, Millie sends him to a mental hospital.
Burt's condition improves with treatment, and he severs connections with his past. Millie happily discovers he still loves her and they look forward to a brighter future.
- Joan Crawford as Millie
- Cliff Robertson as Burt
- Vera Miles as Virginia
- Lorne Greene as Hanson
- Ruth Donnelly as Liz
- Marjorie Bennett as Waitress
- Frank Gerstle as Ramsey
The film's original title was The Way We Are but was changed to capitalize on the success of the then popular tune "Autumn Leaves" as sung by Nat King Cole. Cole's rendition is used over the film's title sequence.
The song's original title is "Les feuilles mortes" with music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by Jacques Prévert. English lyrics were written by the American songwriter Johnny Mercer (1949). The song was introduced by Yves Montand in the French feature film Les Portes de la Nuit (1946).
Although Bosley Crowther panned the film in the New York Times of August 2, 1956, (calling it a "dismal tale") Lawrence Quirk in Motion Picture Herald and William Zinsser in the New York Herald Tribune commented favorably upon the film. Autumn Leaves was a modest box-office success, chiefly among Crawford's female fans. The actress thought highly of the film, deeming it the "best older woman/younger man movie ever made," and added, "Everything clicked on Autumn Leaves. The cast was perfect, the script was good, and I think Bob [Aldrich] handled everything well. I really think Cliff did a stupendous job; another actor might have been spitting out his lines and chewing the scenery, but he avoided that trap. I think the movie on a whole was a lot better than some of the romantic movies I did in the past...but somehow it just never became better known. It was eclipsed by the picture I did with Bette Davis."
The film has grown in stature among Aldrich fans since its 1956 premiere and is now regarded as one of the director's best films. Dan Callahan of Slant Magazine (June 16, 2004) wrote, "All of Aldrich's early work is intriguing, but Autumn Leaves is his secret gem. It's been passed over as camp because of its star, Joan Crawford, but Aldrich brings all his hard edges to this woman's picture. The collision of his tough style with the soapy material makes for a film that never loses its queasy tension."
- 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957
- Crowther, Bosley. "A New Agonizer; Joan Crawford Stars in 'Autumn Leaves'"
- Quirk, Lawrence J.. The Films of Joan Crawford. The Citadel Press, 1968.
- Quirk, Lawrence J. and Schoell, William. Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography.
- Slant Magazine. Callahan, Dan. Autumn Leaves
- "6th Berlin International Film Festival: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2009-12-25.