Myra Breckinridge (film)

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This article is about the film. For the novel, see Myra Breckinridge.
Myra Breckinridge
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Sarne
Produced by David Giler
Robert Fryer
Written by Michael Sarne
David Giler
Based on Myra Breckinridge 
by Gore Vidal
Starring Mae West
John Huston
Raquel Welch
Rex Reed
Farrah Fawcett
Music by John Phillips
Cinematography Richard Moore
Edited by Danford B. Greene
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • June 24, 1970 (1970-06-24)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5.385 million[1]
Box office $4 million (US/ Canada)[2]

Myra Breckinridge is a 1970 American comedy film based on Gore Vidal's 1968 novel of the same name. The film was directed by Michael Sarne, and featured Raquel Welch in the title role. It also starred John Huston as Buck Loner, Mae West as Leticia Van Allen, Farrah Fawcett, Rex Reed, Roger Herren, and Roger C. Carmel. Tom Selleck made his film debut in a small role as one of Leticia's "studs". Theadora Van Runkle was costume designer for the film, though Edith Head designed West's costumes.[3]

Like the novel, the picture follows the exploits of Myra Breckinridge as she goes to Hollywood to turn it inside out; also in the story are a former Hollywood siren named Leticia and Myra's alter ego, Myron, who originally was a man before he became Myra.

The picture was controversial for its sexual explicitness (including acts like pegging), but unlike the novel, Myra Breckinridge received little to no critical praise and has been cited as one of the worst films ever made.[4]


Myron Breckinridge (Rex Reed) flies to Europe to get a sex-change operation and is transformed into the beautiful Myra (Raquel Welch).

Myra travels to Hollywood, meets up with her rich Uncle Buck (John Huston) and, claiming to be Myron's widow, demands money. Instead, Buck gives Myra a job in his acting school.

While there, Myra meets aspiring actor Rusty (Roger Herren) and his girlfriend, Mary Ann (Farrah Fawcett).

With Myra as a catalyst, the trio begin to expand their sexual horizons.



Filming was laden with controversy due to Michael Sarne being granted complete control over the project. Sarne quickly went over budget due to his unorthodox techniques, which included spending up to seven hours at a time by himself, "thinking", leaving the cast to wait around on set for him to return so that filming could commence.[5] Additionally, Sarne spent several days filming tables of food for a dream sequence which, in addition to being non-essential to the plot, appears in the film for only a few seconds.[5] According to many accounts, Sarne encouraged bickering among cast members. After the failure of this film, he was never asked by an American studio to direct another film. Upon learning that Sarne was now working at a pizza restaurant, Gore Vidal is said to have commented that this was proof of God's existence.[better source needed]

There were also reports of conflicts between Raquel Welch and Mae West, who came out of a 27-year retirement to play Leticia Van Allen.[6][7] Furthermore, some 1940s- and 1950s-era film actors who appeared in Myra Breckinridge were upset that footage from their old films was inserted into the movie to punctuate some of the gags and the film's climactic rape sequence. After the film was previewed in San Francisco, the White House demanded that footage from the 1937 film Heidi, featuring Shirley Temple, be removed due to Temple's role as a United States ambassador. Loretta Young also successfully sued to have footage of herself removed from the film.[6] Commenting on this, Rex Reed, who co-starred and was then a columnist, said "This was a film where the lawsuits really flew".


Myra Breckinridge was one of two films with an X rating to be released by 20th Century Fox in 1970 (the other being Beyond the Valley of the Dolls).[8] In 1978 the studio submitted a cut version running 91 minutes to the MPAA, and the film was re-classified with an R rating. Both versions are available on the DVD, though the uncut print is now considered unrated.


Upon its release, the film drew fiercely negative reviews and was a box office flop.[9] Time magazine stated "Myra Breckinridge is about as funny as a child molester. It is an insult to intelligence, an affront to sensibility and an abomination to the eye" and called it "so tasteless, it represents some sort of nadir in the history of American cinema".[10] Herb Kelly wrote in the Miami News: "I now nominate Myra Breckinridge as the worst movie ever made... nothing can touch it for tastelessness and boredom".[11] Variety magazine wrote that the film "plunges straight downhill under the weight of artless direction".[12] The film is also cited in the book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time. Gore Vidal disowned the film, calling it "an awful joke".[13][14] Film historian Leonard Maltin gave the film a BOMB (his lowest possible score). In his movie guide he states the film "tastelessly exploits many old Hollywood favorites through film clips". He also calls the film "as bad as any movie ever made".

Due to the film's adult themes, it has rarely been shown on television, though in recent years, the film has aired on Fox Movie Channel. In 2004, Myra Breckinridge was released on DVD with minor changes: to make the film's ending (that Myra never had her sex change) clearer, the ending sequence was changed to a black-and-white format. Since its release, it has developed a cult following.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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. p256
  2. ^ Solomon p 231. Please note figures are rentals not total gross.
  3. ^ Chierichetti, David; Head, Edith (2003). Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume Designer. HarperCollins. p. 180. ISBN 0-06-056740-6. 
  4. ^ a b Moran, Leslie J.; Christie, Ian; Sandon, Emma (2004). Law's Moving Image. Loizidou, Elena. Routledge Cavendish. p. 87. ISBN 1-904385-01-X. 
  5. ^ a b The Agony Booth
  6. ^ a b Tuska, Jon; Tyler, Parker (1992). The Complete Films of Mae West. Citadel Press. p. 183. ISBN 0-8065-1359-4. 
  7. ^ Prono, Luca (2008). Encyclopedia of Gay and Lesbian Popular Culture. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 270. ISBN 0-313-33599-0. 
  8. ^ Frasier, David K. (1998). Russ Meyer-The Life and Films: A Biography and a Comprehensive, Illustrated and Annotated Filmography and Bibliography. McFarland. p. 129. ISBN 0-7864-0472-8. 
  9. ^ Hadleigh, Boze (2001). The Lavender Screen: The Gay and Lesbian Films : Their Stars, Makers, Characters, and Critics. Citadel Press. p. 108. ISBN 0-8065-2199-6. 
  10. ^ "Cinema: Some Sort of Nadir". TIME. July 6, 1970. Retrieved February 6, 2015. 
  11. ^ Kelly, Herb (August 29, 1970). "Breckinridge Worst Ever". The Miami News. 
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Hoberman, J.; Rosenbaum, Jonathan (1991). Midnight Movies. Da Capo Press. p. 268. ISBN 0-306-80433-6. 
  14. ^ Conner, Floyd (2002). Hollywood's Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Lucky Breaks, Prima Donnas, Box Office Bombs, and Other Oddities. Brassey's. p. 65. ISBN 1-57488-480-8. 

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