The Promise (1979 film)

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The Promise
Directed by Gilbert Cates
Produced by Fred Weintraub
Paul Heller
Written by Garry Michael White
Starring Kathleen Quinlan
Stephen Collins
Beatrice Straight
Laurence Luckinbill
William Prince
Bibi Besch
Michael O'Hare
Music by David Shire
Cinematography Ralph Woolsey
Editing by Peter E. Berger
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • March 8, 1979 (1979-03-08)
Running time 97 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Promise is a 1979 film, released by Universal Pictures, which starred Kathleen Quinlan, Stephen Collins, and Beatrice Straight. It was directed by Gilbert Cates and produced by Fred Weintraub and Paul Heller. The screenplay was written by Garry Michael White and was novelized later by Danielle Steel.


In a rich-boy/poor-girl story (along the lines of "Love Story"), college students Michael Hillyard (Collins) and Nancy McAllister (Quinlan) are in love, much to the chagrin of Hillyard's disapproving mother, Marion (Straight).

Michael and Nancy, visiting a park overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, hide a costume jewelry necklace under a large rock, promising that they will love each other as long as it remains undisturbed (which they expect to be forever).

Marion, whose relationship with her son is so tense that Michael calls his mother by her personal name, is convinced that Nancy is below Michael's class, so she tries to interfere. Michael, making it clear he will not choose her over Nancy, storms out of the matriarch's home.

Sensing the urgency of the moment and the matter, Michael calls Nancy with plans to elope.

On the way to the ceremony, with Michael's best friend Ben Avery (Michael O'Hare) in attendance, the three are involved in a horrible car crash. All three survive, but Michael is comatose.

Marion evilly makes a Mephistophelean deal with Nancy, who is heavily bandaged in the hospital with severe facial damage. Marion will send her to California and pay for the best plastic surgeons to restore her face and finish her education (as an artist) there. The catch is that Nancy must not return to Boston or contact Michael again unless he contacts her, with the implication being that he will decide if he wants the relationship to continue after the trauma of the accident. Believing that Michael will find her once he wakes up, Nancy agrees.

Marion then lies to Michael, when he has come out of his coma, that Nancy died in the car wreck.

Time passes and, once healed, Nancy changes her name to Marie Adamson and becomes a successful photographer. Michael becomes a successful architect, designing multimillion-dollar business skyscrapers. His company takes a contract to design a building in San Francisco. Seeing a photograph that he admires, he tracks down the artist to ask her to paint a mural for the building's lobby. He fails to recognize Nancy, but she knows him on sight.

Believing that he had discarded her, "Marie" rejects the offer. When he is persistent, she eventually gives Michael a photo and tells him to do what he likes with it. He has it put on a billboard on the side of a large truck, part of his campaign to break down her resistance.

They develop a working relationship, Michael finding himself drawn to "Marie" in a way he cannot understand. He is puzzled by her strange behavior towards him. When she asks him about the scar above his eyebrow (from the accident), Michael becomes terse and Marie takes it as a signal that he has forgotten all about her. Eventually, unable to contain her feelings of abandonment, she flees to the East Coast.

After being assaulted by "Marie's" boyfriend when he shows up at their apartment demanding to see her, Michael looks up at the wall to recognize a completed painting which Nancy had only partially finished during their romance. He finally realizes "Marie" is actually Nancy. Told that she has gone to Boston, he returns there.

In the climactic scene, Nancy reaches the rock. After a struggle, she dislodges it—to discover that the necklace is not there. While she tries to understand, Michael appears with the necklace in hand, having gotten there first. He poignantly informs her that she cannot have it, because it belonged to a friend of his, whom he had been told had died in a car crash. This sets the stage for a romantic embrace.

How the total failure of her evil plans ultimately affects Marion is not described in either Garry Michael White's story or Danielle Steel's novel version.

Musical score[edit]

The film features a haunting theme sound composed by David Shire. The theme song lyrics were jointly written by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman, and the resulting selection, titled "I'll Never Say Goodbye," was performed by Melissa Manchester. The song was nominated for an Oscar in 1979, which resulted for Melissa Manchester to become the first artist to have two movie themes songs "Through The Eyes Of Love" (from Ice Castles) and "I'll Never Say Goodbye" (from The Promise) to be nominated in the same year at the Academy Awards.

"I'll Never Say Goodbye" has been covered by several other artists, including a duet by Ogie Alcasid and Regine Velasquez which was released as a single in the Philippines. Filipino singer and actress Sharon Cuneta has also covered the song and has revealed she and her husband fell in love as a result of the song. In 2011, Barbra Streisand covered the song for her thirty-third studio album What Matters Most.

External links[edit]