Jump to content

Play Misty for Me

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Play Misty for Me
Theatrical release poster
Directed byClint Eastwood
Screenplay byJo Heims
Dean Riesner
Story byJo Heims
Produced byRobert Daley
StarringClint Eastwood
Jessica Walter
Donna Mills
John Larch
CinematographyBruce Surtees
Edited byCarl Pingitore
Music byDee Barton
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • October 20, 1971 (1971-10-20)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$10.6 million[3]

Play Misty for Me is a 1971 American psychological thriller film directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, his directorial debut. Jessica Walter and Donna Mills co-star. The screenplay, written by regular Eastwood collaborators Jo Heims and Dean Riesner, follows a radio disc jockey (Eastwood) being stalked by an obsessed female fan (Walter).

The film was a critical and financial success, with Walter earning praise for her first major film role, including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama.


Dave Garver is a KRML radio disc jockey who broadcasts nightly from a studio in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, often incorporating poetry into his program. After work at his favorite bar, playing a nonsensical game involving corks and bottle caps with the barman, he deliberately attracts the attention of a woman named Evelyn Draper. Dave drives her home, where she reveals that her presence in the bar was not accidental; it was she in fact who sought him out after hearing the bar mentioned on his radio show. He guesses correctly that she is the recurring caller who always requests the jazz standard "Misty". The two have sex.

A casual relationship begins between Dave and Evelyn. But before long, Evelyn begins to display obsessive behavior and volatile personality traits that alarm Dave. She shows up at Dave's house uninvited, follows him to work, and calls to demand that he not leave her alone for a single minute. The final straw comes when a jealous Evelyn disrupts a business meeting, mistaking Dave's lunch companion for his date and ruining a major opportunity for his career.

His efforts to gently sever ties with Evelyn lead her to attempt suicide in his home by slashing her wrists. After Dave rejects her again for trying to blackmail him with her injuries, Evelyn breaks into his home and his housekeeper Birdie finds her vandalizing his possessions. Evelyn stabs Birdie (who is hospitalized but survives) and is subsequently committed to a psychiatric hospital.

During Evelyn's incarceration, Dave rekindles a relationship with his ex-girlfriend Tobie Williams. A few months later, Evelyn again calls the studio to request "Misty". She tells Dave that she has been granted parole and is moving to Hawaii for a fresh start in life. She then quotes the Edgar Allan Poe poem "Annabel Lee". That night, while Dave is asleep, Evelyn sneaks into his house and attempts to kill him with a knife, but he manages to fend her off and she escapes. Dave has a detective, McCallum, tap his phone in case she contacts him again.

Dave tells Tobie about Evelyn and cautions Tobie to stay away from Evelyn until the woman is caught, to which she agrees. Unbeknownst to him, Evelyn has already gained access to Tobie by posing as her new roommate, "Annabel". Tobie eventually realizes that Annabel is Evelyn when she sees the fresh scars on Evelyn's wrists, but before Tobie can escape, Evelyn takes her hostage. McCallum arrives for a welfare check and is fatally stabbed with a pair of scissors.

Dave makes the connection between Tobie's roommate and the poem. When he calls Tobie to warn her, Evelyn answers and says she and Tobie are waiting for him. Dave switches from a live show to taped music and rushes to the house, where he finds Tobie bound and gagged. Evelyn attacks him with her knife, slashing Dave multiple times. He punches Evelyn, knocking her through the window, over a railing, down onto the rocky shore below, killing her. He and Tobie leave the house as his voice on the radio show leads into the song "Misty".


Jazz musicians Johnny Otis, Joe Zawinul, and Cannonball Adderley appear as themselves in scenes shot at the real-life 1970 Monterey Jazz Festival.[4]


The script was originally conceived by Jo Heims, a former model and dancer turned secretary, and was polished by Dean Riesner.[5]: 192  The story was acquired by Ross Hunter while at Universal Pictures.[6][1] It is based on a novel written and published in 1972 by Paul J. Gillette.

Before Malpaso Productions co-founder Irving Leonard died, he and Eastwood discussed a final film, one giving Eastwood the artistic control he desired by making his directorial debut. The film was Play Misty for Me. Eastwood reflected on his new role:[7]

After seventeen years of bouncing my head against the wall, hanging around sets, maybe influencing certain camera set-ups with my own opinions, watching actors go through all kinds of hell without any help, and working with both good directors and bad ones, I'm at the point where I'm ready to make my own pictures. I stored away all the mistakes I made and saved up all the good things I learned, and now I know enough to control my own projects and get what I want out of actors.

The story line was originally set in Los Angeles, but at Eastwood's insistence, the film was shot in the more comfortable surroundings of the actual Carmel-by-the-Sea, where he could shoot scenes at the local radio station, bars and restaurants and friends' houses.[5]: 193  The idea of another love interest, with a level-headed girlfriend Tobie added to the plot, was a suggestion by Sonia Chernus, an editor who had been with Eastwood when he was initially spotted for Rawhide.[5]: 193 

Filming commenced in Monterey, California, in September 1970, and although this was Eastwood's debut as film director, Don Siegel stood by to help and also had an acting role in the film as a bartender. Frequent collaborators of Siegel's, such as cinematographer Bruce Surtees, editor Carl Pingitore and composer Dee Barton made up part of the filming team.[5]

Additional scenes were shot at the Monterey Jazz Festival in September 1970, featuring jazz greats Johnny Otis, Cannonball Adderley and future Weather Report founder Joe Zawinul. The commentator mentions: "That was the Cannonball Adderley group. They are playing at the Monterey Jazz Festival with Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Joe Williams, and many others. Now we are gonna hear from 'The Gator Creek Organization' and 'Feeling Fine'..."[4]

The Sardine Factory is still at the same location as in the film, at Prescott and Wave Streets,[8] just one block up from Cannery Row in Monterey. The radio station, KRML, was an actual jazz station in Carmel, whose studios were relocated to the Eastwood Building at San Carlos and 5th, in the same building as the Hog's Breath Inn (a restaurant that Eastwood owned). After a brief dark period in 2010, the radio station returned to the air in 2011.

The rights to the song "Misty" were obtained after Eastwood saw pianist Erroll Garner perform at the Concord Music Festival in 1970. Eastwood also paid $2,000 for the use of the song "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" by Roberta Flack.[5] Meticulous planning and efficient directorship by Eastwood (which would become one of his trademarks) enabled the film to be made nearly $50,000 short of its $1 million budget, and it was completed four or five days ahead of schedule.[5] Variety reported the budget at $1,242,000.[6] Other sources put the budget at $750,000.[1]


Play Misty for Me premiered in October 1971 at the San Francisco Film Festival. It opened in six cities on October 20, 1971 before expanding in November.[1][5]: 195 

Box office[edit]

It was a mild financial success, grossing $10.6 million at the US and Canadian box office.[2] It grossed $133,000 in its first week from six theaters, finishing tenth for the week at the box office in the United States and Canada.[9]

Critical response[edit]

The film has been given mostly positive reviews, with an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 40 reviews. The site's critics consensus reads: "A coolly calculating psychological thriller that manages to scare the audience even if it is just using textbook thrills."[10]

Roger Ebert wrote: "Play Misty for Me is not the artistic equal of Psycho, but in the business of collecting an audience into the palm of its hand and then squeezing hard, it is supreme."[11]

Critics such as Jay Cocks in Time, Andrew Sarris in the Village Voice and Archer Winsten in the New York Post all praised Eastwood's directorial skills and the film, including his performance in the scenes with Walter.[5]: 195 

Arthur D. Murphy of Variety called it an "often fascinating suspenser" "when it's not serving as an overdone travelog for the Monterey Peninsula". He also praised the excellent casting.[6]

Observers have noted that Walter's performance is consistent with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, such as unstable mood, chaotic interpersonal relationships, highly impulsive behavior, self-harm and intense fear of abandonment.[12][13]


Jessica Walter was nominated for the 1972 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Drama.

Play Misty for Me was number 26 on Bravo!'s "30 Even Scarier Movie Moments".[citation needed]

Home media[edit]

Play Misty for Me was released on DVD in many territories. In the United States it was released as a Collector's Edition DVD on September 18, 2001. Extra features include a 49-minute documentary titled ""Play it Again: A Look Back at Play Misty for Me", a brief featurette of the relationship between Eastwood and Don Siegel, photography montage and "Evolution of a Poster" on the marketing and design of the one sheet.[14] It was first released on Blu-ray Disc on November 10, 2015 by Universal Studios with most of the extra features ported over.[15] The film was released in the United Kingdom on Blu-ray by Final Cut Ent. on July 27, 2020 with all-new alternative special features.[16] It was released on Blu-ray in the U.S. by Kino Lorber studio classics on November 10, 2020 with a 2K master. It includes ported over special features from the previous release and an interview with Donna Mills and audio commentary by film historian Tim Lucas.[17]

In popular culture[edit]

In Don Siegel's film Dirty Harry, a cinema marquee that shows the title of Play Misty for Me is visible in the beginning of the film, while Inspector Harry Callahan is on his lunch break before the bank robbery which opens the movie.

In Keeping Up Appearances, Rose asks Emmett to "play Misty for me" as she is dragged out of the church while under the influence of tranquilizers.

In 227's final season episode, titled "Play Christy for Me", Lester is stalked by a female listener who repeatedly asks him to play the Hoagy Carmichael song "Stardust".

In an episode of That '70s Show, Fez watches Play Misty for Me with a date who thinks Evelyn is the film's hero.

The film's title is parodied in the 2001 video game Grand Theft Auto III, where there is a mission called "Drive Misty for Me". The title is also parodied in the name of a quest for the 2017 video game Fortnite: Save the World, which is "Slay Misties for Me".[18]

The film is mentioned in Bob Dylan's 17 minute epic-ballad "Murder Most Foul", released in March 2020. Centering around the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Dylan writes a 'stream-of-consciousness' narrative consisting of many musical, political and cultural references which he 'requests' from disc-jockey Wolfman Jack. One such request is Misty, yielding the film's title as part of the final verse.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Play Misty for Me at the AFI Catalog of Feature Films
  2. ^ a b Patrick McGilligan (July 23, 2014). Clint: The Life and Legend. OR Books, LLC. pp. 138–. ISBN 978-1-939293-97-8. Archived from the original on June 11, 2020. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
  3. ^ "Play Misty for Me, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Archived from the original on October 22, 2014. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Play Misty For Me at The Monterey Jazz Festival 1970". Voices of East Anglia. 2012-03-05. Archived from the original on 2021-04-01. Retrieved 2021-03-27.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h McGilligan, Patrick (1999). Clint: The Life and Legend. Harpercollins Pub Ltd. p. 194. ISBN 0-00-255528-X.
  6. ^ a b c Murphy, Arthur D. (September 15, 1971). "Film Reviews: Play Misty for Me". Variety. p. 6.
  7. ^ Elliot, Marc (2009). American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood. Harmony Books. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-307-33688-0.
  8. ^ "Sardine Factory - Contact". Archived from the original on 2013-07-30. Retrieved 2013-06-26.
  9. ^ "50 Top-Grossing Films". Variety. November 3, 1971. p. 11.
  10. ^ Play Misty For Me at Rotten Tomatoes
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (1971). "Play Misty for Me". Chicago Sun-Times.
  12. ^ Janet Wirth-Cauchon (2001). Women and Borderline Personality Disorder: Symptoms and Stories. Rutgers University Press, ISBN 9780813528915
  13. ^ Jacqueline Noll Zimmerman (2003). People Like Ourselves: Portrayals of Mental Illness in the Movies. Scarecrow Press, ISBN 9781417503353
  14. ^ "Play Misty For Me DVD". Blu-ray.com. September 18, 2001. Archived from the original on July 27, 2020. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  15. ^ "Play Misty For Me Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. November 10, 2015. Archived from the original on July 27, 2020. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  16. ^ "Play Misty For Me Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. July 27, 2020. Archived from the original on July 27, 2020. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  17. ^ "Play Misty for Me". November 10, 2020. Archived from the original on July 27, 2020. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
  18. ^ Epic Games (June 29, 2020). Fortnite: Save the World (Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One). Epic Games. Level/area: Plankerton Questline - Slay Misties for Me.

External links[edit]