I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (film)

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I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
Film Poster for I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAnthony Page
Produced byDaniel H. Blatt
Roger Corman
Written byNovel:
Joanne Greenberg
Gavin Lambert
Lewis John Carlino
StarringKathleen Quinlan
Bibi Andersson
Music byPaul Chihara
CinematographyBruce Logan
Edited byGarth Craven
Distributed byNew World Pictures
Release date
  • July 14, 1977 (1977-07-14)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million[1]
Box office$3.2 million[1]

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is a 1977 American fantasy drama film based on the Joanne Greenberg novel of the same name.[2] Mel Gibson makes his film debut in a small uncredited role as a baseball player, and the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo appear as residents of Deborah's secret kingdom.


Pretty and privileged Deborah is, at the age of 16, a borderline schizophrenic who spends most of her waking hours in a bizarre fantasy realm. After a suicide attempt, she lands in a mental institution, where the hostile environment threatens to destabilize her condition even further. It's only through the focused attention of the sympathetic Dr. Fried that Deborah is gradually able to distinguish between dreams and reality again.



In the wake of the success of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Roger Corman was able to get funding for a movie version of Rose Garden. Bibi Andersson played Dr. Fried, while Kathleen Quinlan played Deborah. All references to Judaism were removed, including the storyline of the vicious cruelty Deborah suffered from anti-Semitic peers, so that her childhood bout with urethral cancer becomes the sole reason for Deborah's "retreat from reality".

In an interview, Greenberg stated that the references to Judaism were removed because the producers were "terrified." The author added that the characterizations of mental illness in the film "stank on ice."[3]

Deborah's name is changed from Blau (which means "blue" in German, and parallels the author's pseudonym "Green") to Blake. Another major theme of the book, Deborah's artistic talent which flourished in spite of her illness, was reduced to a scene in which she scribbles childishly on a drawing pad. The Kingdom Of Yr is portrayed on-screen, as are some of its gods, but never seen in its original ethereal beauty, only the wasteland that it became much later.

The background music for the Yr sequences is a recording of a Balinese Kecak, the ceremonial chant of the sacred monkeys from the Ramayana. The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, headed by Danny Elfman, appear as extras in the Yr sequences.

In a 2006 interview, Greenberg recalled that she was not consulted on any aspect of the film, and was contacted only by Bibi Andersson. She recalled Andersson telling her that the producers had said Greenberg could not be consulted as she was "hopelessly insane".[4]

The studio is listed as "Imorh" Productions, imorh (variously meaning "sleep", "death" or "insanity") being an Yri word from the novel.

The movie was one of the most expensive ever made from New World Pictures.[5]

The film received mixed reviews, but was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 50th Academy Awards.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Christopher T Koetting, Mind Warp!: The Fantastic True Story of Roger Corman's New World Pictures, Hemlock Books. 2009 p 100-102
  2. ^ I Never Promised You A Rose Garden on IMDb
  3. ^ Author can't shed legacy of 1964 novel 'Rose Garden', Colorado Springs Gazette, October 15, 2007.
  4. ^ Interview with Claudia Cragg, A Conversation with Joanne Greenberg. Page dated 2009-03-08, website with podcast found 2010-07-06.
  5. ^ Ed. J. Philip di Franco, The Movie World of Roger Corman, Chelsea House Publishers, 1979 p 227

External links[edit]