An Unmarried Woman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
An Unmarried Woman
Unmarried woman.jpg
Directed byPaul Mazursky
Written byPaul Mazursky
Produced byPaul Mazursky
Anthony Ray
StarringJill Clayburgh
Alan Bates
Michael Murphy
Cliff Gorman
CinematographyArthur J. Ornitz
Music byBill Conti
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • March 5, 1978 (1978-03-05)
Running time
125 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$24,000,000[2]

An Unmarried Woman is a 1978 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Paul Mazursky and starring Jill Clayburgh, Alan Bates and Michael Murphy. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actress (Clayburgh).


Erica Benton is in a seemingly happy marriage to Martin, a successful businessman. They live together with their teenage daughter Patti in an upscale West Side apartment. Martin, however, has been having a year-long affair with a much younger woman; when he confesses to Erica that he loves his mistress and wants to marry her, Erica is devastated, and Martin moves out.

With the help of Patti, her circle of close friends, and a therapist, Erica slowly comes to terms with the divorce and begins to get her life back on track. She reluctantly tries dating again, but after Martin's betrayal and a disastrous blind date is even warier of ever finding a "good" man again. Her mistrust of men threatens her relationship with Patti, as she takes out her frustrations on Patti's boyfriend, Phil. Out of desperation, Erica sleeps with Charlie, an obnoxious, chauvinistic co-worker, but does not find the experience fulfilling.

As she grows more accustomed to her new life, she meets Saul, an abstract painter, and begins a relationship with him. Both value their independence and so have a difficult time adjusting to domestic life; when Patti meets Saul, she is initially hostile, believing Erica is trying to bring him in to replace Martin, which Saul assures Patti he does not want to do. Saul tries to convince Erica to come with him to his home in Vermont for the summer, where he spends five months every year with his children, but she refuses, not wishing to leave her daughter and her life behind for so long.

After a few tense meetings, Martin and Erica begin to act cordially towards each other, only for Martin to reveal that his girlfriend has left him and he wants Erica back. Erica rebuffs him.


The abstract expressionist paintings in the film were created by artist Paul Jenkins, who taught Alan Bates his painting technique for his acting role.[3]

Awards and honors[edit]

It was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress (Clayburgh) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Mazursky's screenplay won awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Clayburgh won the award for Best Actress at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival.[4]

The film was also nominated for several 1978 New York Film Critics Circle Awards, including Best Film, Best Direction, and Best Actress (Clayburgh).[5]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


Vincent Canby in The New York Times wrote "Miss Clayburgh is nothing less than extraordinary in what is the performance of the year to date. In her we see intelligence battling feeling – reason backed against the wall by pushy needs."[7]

Pauline Kael in The New Yorker wrote:

An Unmarried Woman may give Mazursky the popular success that his films Blume in Love, Harry and Tonto and Next Stop, Greenwich Village should have given him – Erica, the heroine, sleeps in a T-shirt and bikini panties. There are so few movies that deal with recognizable people that this detail alone is enough to pick up one's spirits... Jill Clayburgh has a cracked, warbly voice – a modern polluted-city huskiness... When Erica's life falls apart and her reactions go out of control, Clayburgh's floating, not-quite-sure, not-quite-here quality is just right.[8]

As of January 2022, An Unmarried Woman holds a rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes based on twenty-nine reviews. The site's consensus states: "Jill Clayburgh is wondrous as a woman who loses her marriage -- only to find herself -- in this acutely observed and lived-in portrait of New York City life."[9]


  1. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p258
  2. ^ "An Unmarried Woman, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
  3. ^ Randy Kennedy (17 June 2012). "Paul Jenkins, Painter of Abstract Artwork, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: An Unmarried Woman". Retrieved 2009-05-12.
  5. ^ "An Unmarried Woman: Awards & Nominations". MSN Movies. Archived from the original on September 23, 2012. Retrieved June 4, 2011.
  6. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-04-02. Retrieved 2016-08-14.
  7. ^ Fox, Margalit and Dennis Hevesi contributed reporting, "Jill Clayburgh Dies at 66; Starred in Feminist Roles", The New York Times, November 5, 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-05.
  8. ^ Reprinted in review collection, When the Lights Go Down, Pauline Kael
  9. ^ "An Unmarried Woman (1978)". Rotten Tomatoes.

External links[edit]