1974 Promotional Poster for "Conrack"
|Directed by||Martin Ritt|
|Screenplay by||Harriet Frank Jr.|
|Based on||The Water Is Wide|
by Pat Conroy
|Music by||John Williams|
|Cinematography||John A. Alonzo|
|Edited by||Frank Bracht|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$2 million|
Conrack is a 1974 American drama film based on the 1972 autobiographical book The Water Is Wide by Pat Conroy, directed by Martin Ritt and starring Jon Voight in the title role, alongside Paul Winfield, Madge Sinclair, Hume Cronyn and Antonio Fargas. The film was released by 20th Century Fox on March 15, 1974.
The story follows a young teacher, Pat Conroy (Jon Voight), in 1969 assigned to isolated "Yamacraw Island" (Daufuskie Island) off the coast of South Carolina and populated mostly by poor black families. He finds out that the children as well as the adults have been isolated from the rest of the world and speak a dialect called Gullah, with "Conrack" of the novel's title being the best they can do to pronounce his last name. The school has only two rooms for all grades combined, with the Principal (Madge Sinclair) teaching grades one through four and Conroy teaching the higher grades. Conroy discovers that the students aren't taught much and will have little hope of making a life in the larger world.
Conroy tries to teach them about the outside world but comes into conflict both with the principal and Mr. Skeffington (Hume Cronyn), the superintendent. He teaches them how to brush their teeth, who Babe Ruth is, and has the children listen to music, including Flight of the Bumblebee and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. He explains that the when Beethoven wrote the Fifth Symphony, he was writing about "what death would sound like". He is also astounded they've never even heard of Halloween, and he decides to take them to Beaufort on the mainland to go trick-or-treating, which the superintendent has forbidden. He also must overcome parental fears of "the river." As a result, he's fired. As he leaves the island for the last time, the children come out to see him leave, all of them lined up on a rickety bridge. As he is about to leave by boat, one of the students then begins playing a record, which is the beginning movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
- Jon Voight as Pat Conroy
- Paul Winfield as Mad Billy
- Madge Sinclair as Mrs. Scott
- Tina Andrews as Mary
- Antonio Fargas as Quickfellow
- Ruth Attaway as Edna
- James O'Rear as Postman
- Gracia Lee as Mrs. Sellers
- C.P. MacDonald as Mr. Ryder
- Jane Moreland as Mrs. Webster
- Thomas Horton as Judge
- Nancy Butler as Mrs. Ryder
- Robert W. Page as Mr. Spaulding
- Hume Cronyn as Mr. Skeffington
- Mac Arthur Nelson as Mac
- Kathyrn Turner as Katt
On a budget of $2.37 million, Conrack grossed $2 million in the United States and Canada.
Nora Sayre of The New York Times wrote that "despite Mr. Voight's skill, the teacher's character never jells ... Another weakness is the glaze of sentimentality that sugars much of the narrative." A review in Variety stated, "Its computerized warmth may make 'Conrack' seem a bit self-congratulatory at times, but at least its creative participants deserve outsiders' congrats for translating hokum into potentially viable b.o. fodder." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four and praised it as "an undeniably tender film full of affecting moments, genuine tension, and much good will. It's also one of those rare film commodities: a nice family picture." Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "'Comrack' has Voight's commanding characterization as its center, and those kids, and a strong visual sense throughout. And in its warm concern for human values, it is beyond question a welcome alternative to the hard-edge melodramas which have been conspicuous in recent times. The disappointment is that to achieve a sentimental optimism, it is felt necessary to create a world which, however real it looks and sounds, turns out to be make-believe at its center." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called it "an unusually decent and appealing adventure, a commercial entertainment that also reflects the best of human and social intentions. One trusts that it will be a popular film, and it deserves to be." John Raisbeck of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "With its lingering long shots Conrack is a constant visual delight; but for all its craftsman-like virtues, it seems a conscious turning aside from the complexities of modern cinema to the simpler alternatives of yesteryear. Indeed, with underpriveleged white children instead of black and Greer Garson substituting for Jon Voight, the film might have been made all of thirty years ago."
It has never been released on DVD though it remains available through other means, such as VHS as well as online streaming. Twilight Time released a limited edition (3,000 copies) Blu-ray version of the film in 2014.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
Tommy Tedesco played guitar on the introduction theme.
- List of American films of 1974
- List of drama films of the 1970s
- Daufuskie Island
- Sea Islands
- White savior narrative in film
- "Conrack - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
- Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p257
- Solomon p 232. Please note figures are rentals not total gross.
- "Conrack". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
- Sayre, Nora (March 28, 1974). "Film: 'Conrack,' Story of a Teacher". The New York Times. 33.
- "Film Reviews: Conrack". Variety. February 20, 1974. 14.
- Siskel, Gene (March 29, 1974). "'Conrack's' no life cure-all but..." Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 8.
- Champlin, Charles (March 10, 1974). "Madness Motivates in 'Conrack'". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 73, 77.
- Arnold, Gary (March 27, 1974). "'Conrack': Jon Voight as Pat Conroy . . .". The Washington Post. B1.
- Raisbeck, John (September 1974). "Conrack". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 41 (488): 197.
- "Conrack: Limited Edition (Blu-ray): DVDTalk Review".
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-14.