Stanley & Iris
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|Stanley & Iris|
original film poster for Stanley & Iris
|Directed by||Martin Ritt|
|Produced by||Arlene Sellers
|Written by||Harriet Frank, Jr.
Irving Ravetch (screenplay)
Based on the novel Union Street by Pat Barker
Robert De Niro
|Music by||John Williams|
|Editing by||Sidney Levin|
|Distributed by||Metro Goldwyn Mayer|
|Release dates||February 9, 1990|
|Running time||104 min.|
Stanley & Iris (1990) is a romantic drama film directed by Martin Ritt and starring Jane Fonda and Robert De Niro. The screenplay by Harriet Frank, Jr. and Irving Ravetch is loosely based on the novel Union Street by Pat Barker.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (March 2013)|
Iris King is a working-class mother and widow in Connecticut with a job at a large commercial bakery. Still getting over the death of her husband, she lives from paycheck to paycheck as she raises her two children, Kelly and Richard. Also visiting at times are her unemployed sister Sharon and Sharon's abusive husband Joe. Iris and her family live in a high crime area. Eventually, Kelly becomes pregnant and adds more fuel to the family fires.
One of the few bright spots in her life is her blossoming friendship with Stanley Cox, a nice guy whom she first meets when he comes to her aid after her purse is stolen by a street thug on a public bus. Stanley works in the bakery's staff cafeteria, and he comforts her after she is roughed up by the thug. As their friendship develops, Iris starts noticing a few odd things about Stanley. While retrieving a pair of repaired shoes, and without the claim stub, he is asked to sign his name, but instead just jumps the counter, grabs the shoes and hurries from the shop. Iris notices this behavior. It is revealed that he cannot sign his name, does not drive, rides a bicycle and still lives with his elderly father.
It slowly dawns on Iris that Stanley is illiterate. Iris asks Stanley for some pain medication in the cafeteria lunch line, but Stanley offers her every small bottle, but never the requested one. In the midst of this encounter, the manager storms in yelling about some $2000 worth of supposedly stolen food supplies, but Stanley is clueless as the shipping orders are waved in his face. Complaining about an accurate but offensive book keeper, the manager threatens Stanley. Iris innocently tells his boss that Stanley couldn't be the culprit because he can neither read nor write and thus is not responsible for the theft. The next day, Stanley gets fired as a trust problem, as his illiteracy threatens the health and safety of his customers, despite the fact that he is a good cook and makes great soups.
Stanley's loss of a job is troubling, he now has to move, put his elderly father in a shabby boarding home, and live in a garage while taking odd jobs as a toilet attendant and day laborer. His father is not ill, has never taken any medications and still in control of his faculties, but now must share a small dorm room with three other old men. Stanley's concern is obvious. He will visit every Sunday and his father food to supplement that offered the boarding house. After a few weeks his father dies at the home and the management for several days couldn't contact Stanley, who has no phone, place of work, nor any real address. He is devastated that he couldn't take care of his father during his final years. There is a deeply pained look on Stanley's face as he receives his father's few personal belongings.
Stanley tracks down Iris waiting for a bus, and asks her 'teach me to read'. Iris questions his motives and he explains how as a boy he bounced from school to school, sat in back and never learned to read or write nor was he expected to do much. His father was a flatware salesman and moved constantly with Stanley in tow. In his youth, he and his father were close and shared all they could, their lives filled with hotels, strangers, moving and just getting by.
Stanley starts reading lessons from Iris and, at one point, asks her, "When was the last time you were with a man?" She replies, "I took one to the hospital the last time." Stanley gets closer to the family. During a visit to the local park, he takes her son Richard for a tour of the trees and can identify the common name and Latin name for each species. Richard asks how he could learn all that and Stanley says he took a leaf to a Japanese nursery and explained that he liked trees, they did too, so he sat on a bag of fertilizer one afternoon and learned them all. The boy confides that he's afraid of the dark and he appreciated his father letting him leave the light on at night. Stanley responds, "My father was the light." He says that if he had been able to read, his father could still be alive today.
Kelly King tells her mother that she does not want the baby she's carrying. Iris astonishes her with news that during her pregnancy with Kelly she felt the same way, that Kelly had been unplanned, that she did not look like her, and that she wanted it taken away. While in the hospital, baby Kelly began to show blood, the nurse told Iris that this is perfectly normal, just the hormones all mixed up in the child. Iris continues, "And from that moment on, this little girl was her little girl." They hug and the mini-crisis is over.
Stanley arrives for another reading lesson, dull and unprepared. Iris has a short fuse and, after finding out that he had watched sports on television instead of doing his homework, tells him not to waste her time. Her sex life is nil and she's angry because a high school classmate had commented that she could hardly recognize her. Stanley gets up and tells Iris to quit ironing and let him take over. Iris rests and Stanley continues with the ironing and the rest of the reading. Iris mentions that they have become friends, but before she moves forward with a man there will be lots of questions: health issues, blood tests, background information and enough time to get to know him well. This is fine with Stanley.
The next disaster happens on a Saturday afternoon when Stanley attempts to meet Iris at the corner of Washington and Post Streets, a short walk using a map that should take about 15 minutes. Stanley starts off, gets confused, cannot fully navigate with the map nor the street signs. He asks a taxi driver, who gives Stanley directions using other street names (which Stanley cannot read), just as the children playing in the street do. Hours later, the sun gone, he finally reaches the intended corner. Iris is frantic. Stanley is frustrated and embarrassed, and marches off. He can only navigate by churches, tall buildings, landmarks and such. Stanley's fear of being unable to read to save himself is clear.
Withdrawing from the family, Stanley goes to a concert in the park where Iris and Richard see his aloofness and let it be. Iris is not ready to quit. She feels she has made a mistake and decides to track down Stanley in his garage home. She wants him to go to a school or restart with her. As she looks around the mechanical project that Stanley is creating, she asks about it and is impressed with Stanley's mechanical talent. He has built a large, efficient, quiet, cake-cooling machine that will out-perform anything in the market place. She also learns that people from a tool and dye company have an interest in it. Wondering why Stanley can build something like this, he explains that this is his midnight to 4 am prison. Some men paint or draw or have other hobbies, but this is his personal cell.
Stanley starts up reading again, and during his next visit he pulls out a pair of reading glasses and has to admit to needing them. He now works as a short order cook and spends time doing his reading between orders. He has learned to write short sentences on the board.
He is embarrassed by his threadbare jacket. So, Iris offers him a better one which had belonged to her husband. He takes the clothes, telling Iris that he is a new man in them. He then says he will take her out to a fancy hotel. She tells him to save his money because he is not rich but he replies that he looks, feels and thinks he is rich.
The next scene is in the hospital for the birth of Kelly's daughter. Stanley adds comfort and support. Kelly wants to name the baby after her mom. Eventually, they settle on her middle name, Estelle.
Iris is shown walking down the street with two bags of groceries. She enters her home to the smell and clatter of someone cooking in her kitchen. Stanley tells her to wash her hands and sit down for the meal he has prepared: turkey and all the trimmings. Everyone decides on white or dark, wing or leg, the baby coos, and the food is a big hit. Iris only smiles and says, "This is good."
Stanley comes by later and learns from Iris that she no longer goes to the grave, and her health problems are in remission.
The next family crisis begins with Kelly showing up, pushing a support cart in the bakery. She says "I quit school" and Iris replies "Don't you know this line isn't going anywhere?"
That evening, Richard sees someone walking outside in the cool night air. Iris goes out and barks at the fellow and it turns out to be Stanley. She gets him to come in and discuss his problems. He's been offered a job in Detroit, accepted and will be taking off. First, though, he has to tell Iris how truly grateful he is and that he will be back. Iris shows him the letter she never mailed, all stained with gravy and ketchup. Stanley reads it perfectly. He and Iris go to a public library where Stanley reads out loud about engine electrical systems, compost piles with rotted manure, and, from the Bible: "let there be light and there was light!" The librarian tells him this is a library to which Stanley replies, "Yes lady, I know it's a library — it's my library!"
Stanley and Iris spend the night together. They joke about old sleeping wear, the fact that Iris married young and had children young, and that she had little experience with other men.
The next scene is Stanley going off to Detroit for his new job. At the airport, Iris tells Stanley to save his money and write her, not call. After several months, we see Iris walking down the street with two bags of groceries. Stanley pulls up alongside in his new Oldsmobile. Iris gets in and Stanley asks if she got his letters. She did: ten letters, one Christmas card, two Valentine's Day cards, and one Happy Easter. Stanley asks if she is paying attention and she says, "Every word." He tells her he has his eyes set on a large, six-bedroom, one-bathroom house in Detroit. Iris is full of questions, "Your car...? Lost your job...? Why are you here?" Stanley replies, "After twenty-four payments. No — got a raise. I'm here for you." Iris warns him about seven doctor visits a year, five dentist trips and lots of noise with the baby and TV. Stanley replies simply, "I'm here." As they walk into the Connecticut house, Iris asks if they could remove a wall for another bathroom, Stanley says "anything is possible."
|Jane Fonda||Iris King|
|Robert De Niro||Stanley Cox|
|Martha Plimpton||Kelly King|
|Harley Cross||Richard King|
|Feodor Chaliapin, Jr.||Leonides Cox|
|Stephen Root||Mr. Hershey|
|Stanley & Iris: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Film score by John Williams|
|John Williams chronology|
|1.||"Stanley and Iris"||3:24|
|5.||"Finding a Family"||1:41|
|6.||"Stanley at Work"||1:31|
|7.||"Looking after Papa"||3:10|
|11.||"Putting it all Together"||1:46|
Differences from the novel
The film was based loosely on the 1982 British novel Union Street by Pat Barker. The novel was set in the North East of England in the 1970s, and tells the story of seven working-class women who all live on the same street. Whereas the film adaptation was essentially a romantic drama, the novel includes themes of prostitution, rape, abortion and terminal illness, and is significantly more grim. Many of the characters that appeared in the source novel do not appear in the film.
- This film was shot on location in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and Waterbury, Connecticut.
- During the filming in Waterbury, Connecticut, local Vietnam veterans picketed the production protesting Jane Fonda's controversial anti-war activities of a decade and a half earlier.
- This was actress Jane Fonda's last film before she retired from acting (she returned to the screen 15 years later in the romantic comedy Monster-in-Law in 2005).
- Fonda and de Niro were each paid $3.5 million for their performances. Ritt received $1.65 million and the Ravetches $500,000.
- This was director Martin Ritt's last film before his death on December 8, 1990.
- Nat Segaloff, Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors, Bear Manor Media 2013 p 253-255
- Stanley and Iris at the Internet Movie Database
- Stanley and Iris at allmovie
- Stanley and Iris at Rotten Tomatoes