Myra Breckinridge (film)

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This article is about the film. For the novel, see Myra Breckinridge.
Myra Breckinridge
Myrabreckposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Sarne
Produced by David Giler
Robert Fryer
Written by Michael Sarne
David Giler
Based on Myra Breckinridge 
by Gore Vidal
Starring Mae West
John Huston
Raquel Welch
Rex Reed
Farrah Fawcett
Music by John Phillips
Cinematography Richard Moore
Edited by Danford B. Greene
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • June 24, 1970 (1970-06-24)
Running time 94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5.385 million[1]
Box office $4 million (US/ Canada)[2]

Myra Breckinridge is a 1970 American comedy film based on Gore Vidal's 1968 novel of the same name, the film was directed by Michael Sarne, with Raquel Welch in the title role. It also starred John Huston as Buck Loner, Mae West as Leticia Van Allen, Farrah Fawcett, Rex Reed, Roger Herren, and Roger C. Carmel. Tom Selleck made his film debut in a small role as one of Leticia's "studs". Theadora Van Runkle was costume designer for the film, but Edith Head designed West's costumes.[3]

Like the novel, the picture follows the exploits of Myra Breckridge as she goes to Hollywood to turn it inside out: also in the story are a former Hollywood siren named Leticia and Myra's alter ego, Myron, who originally was a man before he became Myra.

The picture was controversial for its sexual explicitness (including acts like pegging), but unlike the novel, Myra Breckinridge received little to no critical praise and has been cited as one of the worst films ever made.[4]

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Filming was laden with controversy, due to Michael Sarne being granted complete control over the project. Sarne quickly went over-budget due to his unorthodox techniques, which included spending up to seven hours at a time by himself, "thinking," leaving the cast to wait around on set for him to return so that filming could commence.[5] Additionally, Sarne spent several days filming tables of food, for a dream sequence which, in addition to being non-essential to the plot, appears in the film for only a few seconds.[5] After the failure of this film, he was never asked by American studios to direct another film. When author Gore Vidal supposely learned that Sarne was working at a pizza restaurant waiting tables, he said "a God does exist".

There were also reports of conflicts between Raquel Welch and Mae West, who came out of retirement to play the Leticia character.[6][7] Furthermore, some actors from 1940s and 1950s films that were used were upset that footage from their old films were inserted into the movie to punctuate some of the jokes as well as in the film's climactic rape sequence. After the film was previewed in San Francisco, the White House demanded that footage from the 1937 film Heidi, featuring Shirley Temple be removed due to Temple's role as United States ambassador. Loretta Young also successfully sued to have footage of herself removed from the film.[6] On this, Rex Reed, who costarred and was then a columnist, said "this was a film where the lawsuits really flew".

Rating[edit]

Myra Breckinridge was one of two films with an X rating to be released by 20th Century Fox in 1970 (the other being Beyond the Valley of the Dolls).[8] In 1978 the studio submitted a cut version running 91 minutes to the MPAA, and the film was re-classified with an R rating. Both versions are available on the DVD, though the uncut print is now considered unrated.

Reception[edit]

Upon its release, the film was a commercial and critical flop.[9] Time magazine stated "Myra Breckinridge is about as funny as a child molester. It is an insult to intelligence, an affront to sensibility and an abomination to the eye."[10] Herb Kelly in the Miami News, stated "I now nominate Myra Breckinridge as the worst movie ever made...nothing can touch it for tastelessness and boredom". [11] The film is also cited in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time. Gore Vidal disowned the film, calling it "an awful joke".[12][13] Film historian Leonard Maltin gave the film a BOMB (his lowest possible score). In his movie guide he states the film "tastelessly exploits many old Hollywood favorites through film clips." He also calls the film "as bad as any movie ever made."

Due to the film's adult themes, it has rarely been shown on television, though in recent years, the film has aired on Fox Movie Channel. In 2004, Myra Breckinridge was released on DVD with minor changes: to make the film's ending (that Myra never had her sex change) clearer, the ending sequence was changed to a black-and-white format. Since its release, it has achieved a cult following.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p256
  2. ^ Solomon p 231. Please note figures are rentals not total gross.
  3. ^ Chierichetti, David; Head, Edith (2003). Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume Designer. HarperCollins. p. 180. ISBN 0-06-056740-6. 
  4. ^ a b Moran, Leslie J.; Christie, Ian; Sandon, Emma (2004). Law's Moving Image. Loizidou, Elena. Routledge Cavendish. p. 87. ISBN 1-904385-01-X. 
  5. ^ a b The Agony Booth
  6. ^ a b Tuska, Jon; Tyler, Parker (1992). The Complete Films of Mae West. Citadel Press. p. 183. ISBN 0-8065-1359-4. 
  7. ^ Prono, Luca (2008). Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Popular Culture. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 270. ISBN 0-313-33599-0. 
  8. ^ Frasier, David K. (1998). Russ Meyer-The Life and Films: A Biography and a Comprehensive, Illustrated and Annotated Filmography and Bibliography. McFarland. p. 129. ISBN 0-7864-0472-8. 
  9. ^ Hadleigh, Boze (2001). The Lavender Screen: The Gay and Lesbian Films : Their Stars, Makers, Characters, and Critics. Citadel Press. p. 108. ISBN 0-8065-2199-6. 
  10. ^ "Some Sort of Nadir" - TIME, July 6, 1970.
  11. ^ Kelly, Herb. ""Breckinridge" Worst Ever." The Miami News, August 29, 1970.
  12. ^ Hoberman, J.; Rosenbaum, Jonathan (1991). Midnight Movies. Da Capo Press. p. 268. ISBN 0-306-80433-6. 
  13. ^ Conner, Floyd (2002). Hollywood's Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Lucky Breaks, Prima Donnas, Box Office Bombs, and Other Oddities. Brassey's. p. 65. ISBN 1-57488-480-8. 

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