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David and Lisa

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David and Lisa
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Perry
Screenplay byEleanor Perry
Based onLisa and David
by Theodore Isaac Rubin
Produced byPaul M. Heller
CinematographyLeonard Hirschfield
Edited byIrving Oshman
Music byMark Lawrence
Vision Associates Productions
Distributed byContinental Distributing
Release date
  • December 26, 1962 (1962-12-26)
Running time
93 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.3 million (rentals)[2]

David and Lisa is a 1962 American drama film directed by Frank Perry. It is based on the second story in the two-in-one novellas Jordi/Lisa and David by Theodore Isaac Rubin; the screenplay, written by Frank Perry's wife Eleanor Perry (née Rosenfeld), tells the story of a bright young man suffering from a mental illness which, among other symptoms, has instilled in him a fear of being touched. This lands him in a residential treatment center, where he meets Lisa, a similarly ill young woman who displays a split personality.

The film earned Perry a nomination for the 1963 Academy Award for Best Director and one for Eleanor Perry for her screenplay.

The film was later adapted into a stage play in 1967 and a made-for-television film in 1998.


David Clemens is brought to a residential psychiatric treatment center by his apparently caring mother. He becomes very upset when one of the residents brushes his hand, as he believes that being touched can kill him. Cold and distant, he mainly concentrates on his studies, especially that of clocks, with which he appears to be obsessed. It is later revealed that he has a recurring dream in which he murders people by means of a giant clock.

He meets Lisa Brandt, a girl who has two personalities: one of them, Lisa, can only speak in rhymes, while the other, Muriel, cannot speak, but can only write. David befriends her by talking to her in rhymes. Over time, he begins to open up to his psychiatrist, Dr. Alan Swinford, and also becomes friendly with another resident, Simon, which provokes Lisa's jealousy. Following an argument when his mother visits, David's parents decide that he should leave the place. He returns to his parents' house, but after a short time, runs away to the treatment center, where he is allowed to stay.

One day Lisa realizes that she is both Lisa and Muriel and that they are the same person. After this breakthrough, she seeks out David, but he is busy listening to Simon play a Bach piece on the piano. Lisa turns on the metronome, interrupting Simon's playing and provoking David's anger. Then, Lisa runs away from the center and takes the train into Center City, Philadelphia, unnoticed. David and the staff fruitlessly search for her until the next morning, when David realizes that she might have returned to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where she had once embraced a statue of a mother and child.

David and Dr. Swinford rush to the museum, where David finds Lisa on the museum steps. Upon seeing David, Lisa appears to be cured and speaks to him in prose. David, overcoming his own fear of touch for the first time, allows her to hold his hand, while they walk down the stairs to go on their return trip.


This was the film debut of both Janet Margolin and Karen Gorney (who, billed as Karen Lynn Gorney, later became well known for her leading role in Saturday Night Fever in 1977).


In 1961, Ann Perry read the novella and showed it to her mother Eleanor. The playwright was so fascinated by what she read that she set out to write a screenplay, enlisting her husband Frank as director. The resulting film was produced with small investors and a collection of unknowns to keep costs down. Production began in June 1962 in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. Only after a run on the festival circuit did the film receive a willing exhibitor from New York.[3][4]


David and Lisa has received positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 85% of 13 reviews were positive, with an average rating of 6.9/10.[5] Perry estimated (in 1987) the film made roughly $25 million.

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times described the film as "commendable" and "sympathetic," finding the "vague and elusive" explanation of the characters' ills to be "one of the stumbling blocks in this film," but praising Dullea and Margolin, whose portrayal of the protagonists' "growing curiosity and attachment in the midst of a cheerless institute" is "touchingly presented."[6] French director Jean Renoir called it “a turning point in world cinema."

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[7] Best Director Frank Perry Nominated
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Eleanor Perry Nominated
British Academy Film Awards[8] Best Film from any Source Nominated
Best Foreign Actor Howard Da Silva Nominated
Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles Keir Dullea Nominated
Janet Margolin Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[9] Most Promising Newcomer – Male Keir Dullea Won
Most Promising Newcomer – Female Janet Margolin Nominated
Laurel Awards Sleeper of the Year Won
San Francisco International Film Festival Best Actor Keir Dullea Won
Best Actress Janet Margolin Won
Venice International Film Festival Best First Work Frank Perry Won[a]

Play adaptation[edit]

In 1967, the film was adapted into a stage play, but it only ran for a short time.

Plot of the stage play[edit]

The play begins with David Clemens and his mother preparing to leave to bring David to "school". We later learn this is a school for children with mental and psychological issues. David's mother is overprotective and overbearing, and it shows. At the station, a porter touches David's arm, and we learn that David is afraid to be touched.

We meet a variety of teachers and other students, particularly Dr. Alan Swinford, the head psychologist, and are introduced to the school. We learn that David has an obsession with clocks, and also with death. We are also introduced to the other title character, Lisa, who has a split personality: one who will only speak in rhymes and the other who will not speak, but will only write or draw her thoughts. Over time, David and Lisa befriend each other, until midway through the play, after an embittering visit, David's parents take him away from the school.

David eventually runs away from his home and comes back to the school, where he is allowed to stay. One day, however, Lisa is annoying David as he listens to another child playing the piano. David becomes cross and shouts at her, and Lisa runs away from the school. David and the head psychologist, Dr. Alan Swinford, go out in search of her, and arrive just in time to save Lisa from the ravages of two boys in a city park. David and Lisa are both relieved that the other is there for them, and somehow Lisa is cured of her two personalities and becomes truly herself, speaking "plain straight" to David for the first time. David extends his hand and asks her to take it, conquering his fear of being touched, and they walk off together, hand in hand.

Television film remake[edit]

In 1998, the film was remade into a made-for-television film that premiered on ABC on November 1, 1998. Produced by Oprah Winfrey and directed by Lloyd Kramer, the film starred Lukas Haas as David, Brittany Murphy as Lisa, and Sidney Poitier as Dr. Swinford, with a supporting cast featuring Debi Mazar, Allison Janney, Kim Murphy, Giuseppe Andrews, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Gene Wolande, Kimiko Gelman, and Ty Hodges. The scenes were shifted to the Los Angeles area, including the Museum of Natural History at Exposition Park and Venice Beach.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries or a Movie (Dramatic Underscore) Marco Beltrami Nominated [10]
Young Artist Awards Best Performance in a TV Movie/Pilot/Mini-Series or Series – Leading Young Actress Brittany Murphy Nominated [11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "DAVID AND LISA (X)". British Board of Film Classification. June 5, 1963. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  2. ^ "Top Rental Features of 1963", Variety. 8 January 1964, pg 71.
  3. ^ Gussow, Mel (August 31, 1995). "Frank Perry, 65, the Director Who Filmed 'David and Lisa'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  4. ^ Taylor, Clarke (June 28, 1987). "FRANK PERRY IS STILL INDEPENDENT AND HAPPY". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  5. ^ "David and Lisa (1962)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  6. ^ Crowther, Bosley (December 27, 1962). "Odd Romance Involves Mentally Ill Children". The New York Times. Retrieved May 8, 2022.
  7. ^ "The 35th Academy Awards (1963) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Archived from the original on February 2, 2018. Retrieved August 23, 2011.
  8. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1964". BAFTA. 1964. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  9. ^ "David and Lisa – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  10. ^ "Oprah Winfrey Presents: David and Lisa". Emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved October 25, 2021.
  11. ^ "The 20th Annual Youth in Film Awards". Young Artist Awards. Archived from the original on November 28, 2016. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  1. ^ Tied with Fernando Birri for Los Inundados.

External links[edit]

1962 first version
1998 second version