The Turning Point (1977 film)
|The Turning Point|
|Directed by||Herbert Ross|
|Produced by||Arthur Laurents
|Written by||Arthur Laurents|
|Edited by||William H. Reynolds|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Running time||119 minutes|
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (April 2011)|
The Turning Point is a 1977 film written by Arthur Laurents and directed by Herbert Ross. In starring roles were Shirley MacLaine, Anne Bancroft, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Leslie Browne, Tom Skerritt, Martha Scott, Anthony Zerbe, Marshall Thompson and James Mitchell. Despite 11 nominations, the film won no Oscars.
This film tells the story of friends and former competitors in the world of ballet, as well as the daughter/godchild of one of the women who is starting a career in ballet of her own.
DeeDee (Shirley MacLaine) left the ballet school after becoming pregnant with the child of another ballet dancer, Wayne (Tom Skerritt). The two settled down to raise a family and co-run a ballet studio in the suburbs of Oklahoma City. Emma (Anne Bancroft) stayed and eventually became a prima ballerina with the American Ballet Company (while having an affair with Michael, the ABA Company Head). When the company finally comes back to town, the two reunite. The reunion stirs up old memories and affects the present.
DeeDee's daughter, Emilia (Leslie Browne), is invited to join the company at Emma's request. Emilia starts an affair with a big-name Russian ballet defector and ladies' man, Yuri (Mikhail Baryshnikov). Emilia's brother Ethan is offered two ballet scholarships, but is unsure to pursue a career between ballet and baseball. He accepts one scholarship. Also, an old male friend of DeeDee's, a composer and conductor named Rosie is getting to know her all over again. Soon, the two are having an affair. Meanwhile, it looks as if Emma's day in the sun is coming to an end. For years, Carter has been asking Emma to marry him despite his marriage. By now as it looks as though she's ready to accept now that the company's forcing her to retire, he decides to stay with his wife.
Old friends Emma and DeeDee eventually enter into major conflict. DeeDee resents that Emma acts as a foster mother to Emilia even though Emma had abandoned the idea of family life by pursuing a career in ballet; while Emma feels that DeeDee is jealous of the success that Emma has had as a dancer. Emilia also suffers when she sees how Yuri carries on relationships with other girls.
Eventually, misunderstandings are settled, with Emma and DeeDee settling their differences and Emilia and Yuri mutually agreeing to a professional partnership with the company. Deedee decides she is happy with the life she chose and the family she has. Emma accepts her current status and Emilia deciding to pursue a career in ballet.
The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Mikhail Baryshnikov), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Anne Bancroft), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Shirley MacLaine), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Leslie Browne), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Albert Brenner, Marvin March), Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Sound (Theodore Soderberg, Paul Wells, Douglas O. Williams and Jerry Jost) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Despite these 11 nominations, the film won no Oscars. Thus, along with The Color Purple, it shares the record of receiving the most Oscar nominations without a single win.
The film did win a Golden Globe for Best Drama Film and for Best Director, among it's nominations. Screenwriter Arthur Laurents won the Writers Guild Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly For The Screen.
Leslie Browne, a young professional dancer with the American Ballet, received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in this film. She had joined the American Ballet Theatre just a year prior, in 1976, as a soloist, then became Principal in 1986. She retired from the company in 1993. In 1997, she was awarded the Distinguished Achievement Award by the New York City Dance Alliance.
Ms. Browne was also the goddaughter of Herbert Ross, the director, and appeared in several films after The Turning Point, including: Nijinsky (1980) and Dancers (1987), each directed by Herbert Ross.
Shirley MacLaine and Mikhail Baryshnikov became good friends on the set of this film, having long discussions over the practice of acting and ballet as the two of them have done both over the course of their career. Ironically, MacLaine and Baryshnikov don't do a single scene together in the film. Baryshnikov would later ask MacLaine to narrate the documentary made about him "The Dancer and The Dance."
American Ballet Theatre Prinicipal Ballerina Gelsey Kirkland was offered the role of Emilia in the film, but turned it down as she said her autobiography: "I wanted no part of Hollywood." She referred to the script as "a soap opera which had nothing to do with the art or the reality of ballet." She called Emilia "an ingenue with nothing between her ears." She even deliberately made herself sick so she'd have an excuse to bow out.
The film contains the only acting credit for Phillip Saunders, who plays the son of Deedee and Wayne Rodgers, Ethan.
MacLaine was the only veteran dancer with real experience between herself, Anne Bancroft and Tom Skerritt. Bancroft used a stunt double for her dancing scenes and we never see Skerritt dance at all.
Leslie Browne is director Herbert Ross' goddaughter. He would later cast in her in his other ballet-related pictures "Dancers" and "Nijinsky."
The title "The Turning Point" is a double-entendre to a big change and decision is one's life and the pirouette.
This film was also an introductory acting film for famous Russian ballet dancer, Mikhail Baryshnikov. Though his by-now famous stage presence and soaring jumps had been made famous by PBS's airing of In Performance Live from Wolf Trap (his American television dancing debut in 1976), Baryshnikov's performance of Yuri Kopeikine in The Turning Point was his first film role; one for which he received an Oscar nomination, a Golden Globe nomination and a David from the David di Donatello Awards. He subsequently played in several other films following The Turning Point including: White Nights (1985), with Gregory Hines and Isabella Rossellini (choreographed by Twyla Tharp), and Dancers (1987).
Appearances in popular culture
In an episode of The Nanny, Fran references the film by saying: "This is like that movie 'The Turning Point', only they were dancers and one was the mother and they were old friends... [looks confused] I should really rent that again."
In the episode of That '70s Show entitled "Fez Dates Donna," Eric, much to his delight, could not take Donna out to see the movie since Donna was pretending to be dating Fez.
In the opening episode of Bunheads, Sutton Foster responds to hearing her mother-in-law's life story by saying "How very Turning Point."
- "The Turning Point, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
- "The 50th Academy Awards (1978) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-05.
- "The Turning Point - Awards". The New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2008.
- Lawrence, Greg. Dance with Demons: The Life of Jerome Robbins. New York: Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-399-14652-0.
- Russo, Vito. The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies. New York: Harper, 1987. ISBN 0-06-096132-5.