Julia (1977 film)

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Julia (1977 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster by Richard Amsel
Directed byFred Zinnemann
Produced byRichard Roth
Screenplay byAlvin Sargent
Based onPentimento
1973 story Julia
by Lillian Hellman
StarringJane Fonda
Vanessa Redgrave
Jason Robards
Hal Holbrook
Rosemary Murphy
Maximilian Schell
Music byGeorges Delerue
CinematographyDouglas Slocombe
Edited byWalter Murch
Marcel Durham
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • October 2, 1977 (1977-10-02)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$7.84 million[1]
Box office$20.7 million[2]

Julia is a 1977 American holocaust period drama film directed by Fred Zinnemann, from a screenplay written by Alvin Sargent based on a chapter from Lillian Hellman's controversial book Pentimento (1973), about the author's alleged friendship with a woman named, "Julia", who fought against the Nazis in the years prior to World War II. The film stars Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards, Hal Holbrook, Rosemary Murphy, Maximilian Schell and Meryl Streep (in her film debut).

Julia was released theatrically on October 2, 1977 by 20th Century Fox to generally positive reviews and grossed $20.7 million. It received a leading eleven nominations at the 50th Academy Awards, including for the Best Picture and won three; Best Supporting Actor (for Robards), Best Supporting Actress (for Redgrave), and Best Adapted Screenplay. At the 35th Golden Globe Awards, it received a leading six nominations including for the Best Motion Picture – Drama, with Fonda and Redgrave winning Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively. It also received a leading ten nominations at the 32nd British Academy Film Awards and won four, including for the Best Film.


Julia, the daughter of a wealthy family being raised by her grandparents in the United States, enjoys an incredibly close relationship with Lillian Hellman as children and adolescents. Years later, Julia attends Oxford and the University of Vienna as a medical student. Meanwhile, Lillian lives as a struggling writer and suffers through constant revisions of her play with her mentor and occasional lover Dashiell Hammett, a famed author. The two share a beach house and talk about Lillian's writing over dinner.

One day, Julia's school in Vienna is overrun by Nazi thugs, and she sustains severe injuries trying to protect her colleagues. Lillian receives word of Julia's condition and rushes to Vienna to be with her. Julia is taken away by the staff for "treatment" and Lillian is unable to find her again as the hospital denies any knowledge of Julia ever being treated there. She remains in Europe to try and locate Julia but is unsuccessful.

Later, during the Nazi era, Lillian has become a celebrated playwright and is invited to a writers' conference in the USSR. While in Paris, Lillian meets Johann, an associate of Julia's. He informs her that Julia, having taken on the battle against Nazism, needs Lillian to smuggle money into Nazi Germany to assist the anti-Nazi cause en route to Moscow. Johann emphasizes this is a dangerous mission, especially for a Jewish intellectual like Lillian. As a result, she is told very little information about the mission or Julia's condition.

Lillian departs for the USSR via Berlin. Throughout the trip, the movements of her person and the placement of her possessions (a hat and a box of candy), are carefully guided by compatriots of Julia through border crossings and inspections. In Berlin, Lillian is told to go to a café and finds Julia, where she informs Lillian they will be able to speak only briefly. Julia divulges that the "treatment" she received in the hospital in Vienna was the amputation of her leg. She adds that the money Lillian has brought will save 500 to 1,000 people, many of them Jews. Lillian also learns that Julia has a daughter, Lily, who is living with a baker in Alsace. Lillian is reluctant to leave but Julia assures her this is what is best for the mission. After Lilian leaves Julia in the café and boards the train to Moscow, a man tells her to avoid passing through Germany again after she leaves the USSR, as German customs confiscated her steamer trunk in suspicion.

As Lillian watches a Russian production of Hamlet, Julia is killed by Nazi agents in Frankfurt. Upon returning to London, Lillian is informed of Julia's death by letter, although the details of her death are shrouded in secrecy. After being given Julia's ashes, Lillian unsuccessfully looks for more information about Julia's murder and her daughter in Alsace. She returns to the United States and is reunited with Hammett in New York City. After being turned away by Julia's grandparents, Lillian is haunted by her memories of Julia and is distraught over not having found Julia's baby. Hammett reminds Lillian the baby is dead and Julia's grandparents never cared about Julia due to her lack of conformity and their desire to keep Julia's money for themselves.

The film ends with an image of the real Lillian Hellman seated in a boat alone, fishing. She reveals in voiceover that she continued to live with Hammett for another thirty years and outlived him by several more.


The film marked the film debut of Meryl Streep and Lisa Pelikan.


The film was shot on location in England and France from September 8 to December 15, 1976. Although Lillian Hellman claimed the story was based on true events that occurred early in her life, the filmmakers later came to believe that most of it was fictionalized. Director Fred Zinnemann would later comment, "Lillian Hellman in her own mind owned half the Spanish Civil War, while Hemingway owned the other half. She would portray herself in situations that were not true. An extremely talented, brilliant writer, but she was a phony character, I'm sorry to say. My relations with her were very guarded and ended in pure hatred."[3]

The 1977 film Julia was based on the "Julia" chapter of Hellman's memoir Pentimento. On June 30, 1976, as the film was going into production, Hellman wrote about the screenplay to its producer:[4]

This is not a work of fiction and certain laws have to be followed for that reason ... Your major difficulty to me is the treatment of Lillian as the leading character. The reason is simple: no matter what she does in this story–and I do not deny the danger I was in when I took the money into Germany–my role was passive. And nobody and nothing can change that unless you write a fictional and different story ... Isn't it necessary to know that I am a Jew? That, of course, is what mainly made the danger.

In a 1979 television interview with Dick Cavett, author Mary McCarthy, long Hellman's political adversary and the object of her negative literary judgment, said of Hellman that "every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'."[5] Hellman responded by filing a US$2,500,000 defamation suit against McCarthy, interviewer Dick Cavett, and PBS.[5] McCarthy produced evidence she said proved that Hellman had lied in some accounts of her life. Cavett said he sympathized more with McCarthy than Hellman in the lawsuit, but "everybody lost" as a result of it.[5] Norman Mailer attempted unsuccessfully to mediate the dispute through an open letter he published in the New York Times.[6] At the time of her death in 1984, Hellman was still in litigation with McCarthy; her executors dropped the suit.[7]

In 1983, New York psychiatrist Muriel Gardiner had become involved in the libel suit between McCarthy and Hellman. She claimed to be the model for the character named Julia in Pentimento, and in the movie Julia based on a chapter of that book. Hellman, who never met Gardiner, said that "Julia" was somebody else.[8]

Gardiner wrote that, while she never met Hellman, she had often heard about her from her friend Wolf Schwabacher, who was Hellman's lawyer. By Gardiner's account, Schwabacher had visited Gardiner in Vienna. After Muriel Gardiner and Joseph Buttinger moved into their house at Brookdale Farm in Pennington, New Jersey in 1940, they divided the house in two. They rented half of it to Wolf and Ethel Schwabacher for more than ten years.[9]

Many people believe that Hellmann based her story on Gardiner's life. Gardiner's editor cited the unlikelihood that there were two millionaire American women who were medical students in Vienna in the late 1930s.[8]


The film earned $7.5 million in North American rentals.[10]

It currently holds a 76% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 29 reviews.[11]

The response varied from positive to mixed, usually praising the period setting and acting, but criticizing the script and failure to adequately portray the friendship between the two leads. Variety gave it a positive review, praising Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave as being "dynamite together on the screen," Richard Roth's production as "handsome and tasteful," as well as the period costumes and production design.[12]

Roger Ebert called the film a "fascinating story," but felt the movie suffered from being told by Lillian Hellman's point of view. "The film never really establishes a relationship between the two women," he wrote. "It's awkward, the way the movie has to suspend itself between Julia – its ostensible subject – and Lillian Hellman, its real subject." He gave it two and a half out of four stars.[13]

John Simon said of Julia- "Very little of what happens in the film is intrinsically interesting".[14]

TV Guide gave it three out of five stars and declared it "Beautifully crafted, nominated for eleven Academy Awards, a big hit at the box office--and a dramatic dud ... If you like red nail polish, faux-cynicism, painfully brave smiles and European train stations, Julia may be your kind of cocktail." [15]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Picture Richard Roth Nominated
Best Director Fred Zinnemann Nominated
Best Actress Jane Fonda Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Jason Robards Won
Maximilian Schell Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Vanessa Redgrave Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Alvin Sargent Won
Best Cinematography Douglas Slocombe Nominated
Best Costume Design Anthea Sylbert Nominated
Best Film Editing Walter Murch[nb 1] Nominated
Best Original Score Georges Delerue Nominated
British Academy Film Awards Best Film Richard Roth Won
Best Direction Fred Zinnemann Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Jane Fonda Won
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Jason Robards Nominated
Best Screenplay Alvin Sargent Won
Best Cinematography Douglas Slocombe Won
Best Costume Design Anthea Sylbert, Joan Bridge and Annalisa Nasalli-Rocca Nominated
Best Editing Walter Murch Nominated
Best Original Music Georges Delerue Nominated
Best Production Design Gene Callahan, Carmen Dillon and Willy Holt Nominated
British Society of Cinematographers Best Cinematography Douglas Slocombe Won
César Awards Best Foreign Film Fred Zinnemann Nominated
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actress Jane Fonda Won[a]
David Giovani Award Fred Zinnemann Won
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Julia Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Jane Fonda Won
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Jason Robards Nominated
Maximilian Schell Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Vanessa Redgrave Won
Best Director – Motion Picture Fred Zinnemann Nominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Alvin Sargent Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actor Jason Robards Won
Best Supporting Actress Vanessa Redgrave Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actor Jason Robards Won
Best Supporting Actress Vanessa Redgrave Won
Best Cinematography Douglas Slocombe Won
Nastro d'Argento Best Foreign Director Fred Zinnemann Won
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films Julia Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actress Jane Fonda Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Maximilian Schell Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actor Won
Best Supporting Actress Vanessa Redgrave Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium Alvin Sargent Won

After Redgrave was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, the Jewish Defense League objected to her nomination because she had narrated and helped fund a documentary entitled The Palestinian, which supported a Palestinian state. They also picketed the Oscar ceremony.[17]


  1. ^ Marcel Durham is listed as an editor for the film in some credit listings for Julia, including the credits database of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS). However, he is not listed as a nominee for the Academy Award in the AMPAS awards database.[16]
  1. ^ Tied with Simone Signoret for Madame Rosa.


  1. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p258
  2. ^ "Julia (1977) (1977)". Box Office Mojo. 1977-10-02. Retrieved 2013-01-21.
  3. ^ Zinnemann, Fred (2005). Fred Zinnemann: interviews, University Press of Mississippi (2005) p156. ISBN 9781578066988. Retrieved 2013-01-21.
  4. ^ Austenfeld, American Women Writers, pp. 102-03
  5. ^ a b c Martinson, Lillian Hellman, pp. 354–56
  6. ^ Norman Mailer,"An Appeal to Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy", nytimes.com, May 11, 1980; accessed December 16, 2011.
  7. ^ Frances Kiernan, "Seeing Mary Plain", nytimes.com, accessed November 25, 2015.
  8. ^ a b McDowell, Edwin (April 29, 1983). "New Memoir Stirs 'Julia' Controversy". New York Times. Retrieved December 16, 2011.
  9. ^ Muriel Gardiner, Code Name "Mary": Memoirs of an American Woman in the Austrian Underground (Yale University Press, 1983), xv-xvi
  10. ^ Solomon p 234
  11. ^ "Julia (1977)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  12. ^ "Julia – Variety". Variety.com. 1976-12-31. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (1977-01-01). "Julia Movie Review & Film Summary (1977)". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  14. ^ Simon, John (1982). Reverse Angle: A Decade of American Film. Crown Publishers Inc. p. 338.
  15. ^ "Julia - Movie Reviews and Movie Ratings". TV Guide. 2017-09-29. Retrieved 2018-04-16.
  16. ^ "Academy Awards Database - 50th (1977)". Archived from the original on 2014-02-19. Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  17. ^ "Vanessa Redgrave's controversial Oscar speech". ABC7 Los Angeles. Retrieved 2017-01-24.

External links[edit]