Ash Wednesday (1973 film)

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Ash Wednesday
Original poster
Directed by Larry Peerce
Produced by Dominick Dunne
Written by Jean-Claude Tramont
Starring Elizabeth Taylor
Henry Fonda
Helmut Berger
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography Ennio Guarnieri
Edited by Marion Rothman
Sagittarius Productions
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • November 1, 1973 (1973-11-01)
Running time
99 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Ash Wednesday is a 1973 American drama film starring Elizabeth Taylor, directed by Larry Peerce and produced by Dominick Dunne.

The screenplay by Jean-Claude Tramont focuses on the effect that extensive cosmetic surgery has on the life of a middle-aged married woman.


In a desperate attempt to save her faltering marriage, 55-year-old Barbara Sawyer submits to full-body plastic surgery in a Swiss clinic, then checks into an exclusive ski resort Cortina d'Ampezzo to await the arrival of her attorney husband Mark. Reveling in her considerably younger and tauter appearance, she allows playboy Erich to seduce her. When Mark finally arrives, he makes an announcement that changes Barbara's initial plans forever.


Critical reception[edit]

The film's critical reception was reasonably favorable, particularly for Taylor, who was nominated for a Golden Globe. Rex Reed's review in The New York Observer amounted to a love letter to Taylor: "She's subtle, sensitive, glowing with freshness and beauty, fifty pounds lighter in weight, her hair is coiffed simply, her clothes ravishing, her make-up a symphony of perfection. For those who grew up in love with Elizabeth Taylor, the movie is pure magic. She is once again the kind of star marquees light up for."

Variety agreed: "Taylor, fashionably gowned and bejeweled carries the film almost single-handedly. Fonda is excellent in his climatic appearance, an unusually superb casting idea. Taylor's performance also is very good, and relative to many of her recent roles, this is one of the strongest and most effective in some time. Her Beauty remains sensational."[1]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times added a dissenting voice, saying the film "was directed by Larry Peerce . . . and written by Jean-Claude Tramont with all the fearlessness and perception demanded in the boiling of an egg."[2]

Roger Dooley of the Village Voice disagreed, thinking the film "Elizabeth Taylor's best role in years... Jean-Claude Tramont's screenplay, directed by Larry Peerce, makes one remember why millions of people used to enjoy movies."[3]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times thought "The movie's story is not really very interesting, but we're intrigued because the star is Taylor. She's 40 or 41 now, and yet she looks great. There's a kind of voyeuristic sensuality in watching her look at herself in the mirror (which she spends no end of time doing) . . . Maybe the fundamental problem with the movie is that we can't quite believe any man would leave Elizabeth Taylor. It's a good thing we never see Henry Fonda's bimbo, because if we did, we wouldn't be convinced."[4]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Elizabeth Taylor was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama but lost to Marsha Mason in Cinderella Liberty.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]