The Prince of Tides
|The Prince of Tides|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Barbra Streisand|
Andrew S. Karsch
The Prince of Tides|
by Pat Conroy
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Don Zimmerman|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$110 million|
The Prince of Tides is a 1991 American romantic drama film based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Pat Conroy; the film stars Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte. It tells the story of the narrator's struggle to overcome the psychological damage inflicted by his dysfunctional childhood in South Carolina. Streisand directed and produced the film in addition to starring in it. Conroy and Becky Johnston adapted the screenplay.
Tom Wingo, a teacher and football coach from South Carolina, is asked by his mother, Lila, to travel to New York City to help his twin sister's psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein, after his sister Savannah's latest suicide attempt. Tom hates New York but reluctantly accepts, largely to take the opportunity to be alone and away from a life that does not satisfy him. During his initial meetings with Lowenstein, Tom is reluctant to disclose many details of their dysfunctional family's secrets. In flashbacks, Tom relates incidents from his childhood to Lowenstein in hopes of discovering how to save Savannah's life. The Wingo parents were an abusive father and an overly proud, status-hungry mother. The father was a shrimp boat operator and, despite being successful at that profession, spent all of his money on frivolous business pursuits, leaving the family in poverty.
Tom is also torn with his own problems but hides behind what he calls "the Southern way"; i.e., laughing about everything. For example, his wife Sallie is having an affair, and her lover wants to marry her. Tom and Lowenstein begin having feelings for each other. After Tom discovers that she is married to Herbert Woodruff, a famous concert violinist, Lowenstein introduces Tom to her son Bernard, who is being groomed to become a musician as well but who secretly wants to play football. Tom starts coaching Bernard along with attending sessions with Lowenstein to help his sister. Tom discovers that Savannah has been in such a dissociated state that she even had a different identity, Renata Halpern. As Halpern, she wrote books to disguise the Savannah side of her troubled life. Tom confronts Lowenstein over not revealing this information before, and they argue, during which she throws a dictionary at him. To apologize, she asks him to dinner, and their relationship becomes closer.
Tom has a fateful meeting with his mother and stepfather, bringing up painful memories. Tom reveals that, when he was 13 years old, three escaped convicts invaded his home and raped him, his mother, and his sister. His older brother, Luke, killed two of the aggressors with a shotgun, while his mother stabbed the third with a kitchen knife. They buried the bodies beneath the house and never spoke of it again. Tom bursts into tears, having now let loose a key piece of Savannah's troubled life.
After discovering that Tom has been coaching Bernard, Herbert orders Bernard to stop his football pursuits, return to his music lessons, to prepare to leave for Tanglewood, a prestigious music academy. Tom is invited to a dinner at Lowenstein's home, along with poets and intellectuals. Herbert is overtly rude and reveals that Tom's sister is in therapy with his wife. Infuriated, Lowenstein voices her suspicions about her husband's affair. Tom takes Herbert's "million dollar" violin and threatens to throw it off the high-rise balcony unless Herbert apologizes. Tom throws the violin in the air, Herbert nervously apologizes, and Tom catches the violin before it falls.
Tom spends a romantic weekend with Lowenstein at her country house. Savannah recovers and is released from the hospital. This recovery is due to finally learning about things she has repressed from her childhood, most notably the rapes. Her first suicide attempt at age 13 was after the rapes and murders of the three convicts. Tom then receives a call from his wife, who has finally decided she wants him back. He loves both Lowenstein and his wife, but tells Lowenstein he "has loved his wife longer, not more". Tom ends his relationship with Lowenstein and reunites with his wife and family, but wishes that two lives could be given to each man and woman. He is happy in his renewed life, after finally working out the traumatic events in his past with Lowenstein's help. Tom thinks of her daily as he reaches the top of the bridge on his drive home from work. Her name comes to him as a kind of prayer, a blessing.
- Nick Nolte as Tom Wingo
- Barbra Streisand as Dr. Susan Lowenstein
- Blythe Danner as Sally Wingo
- Kate Nelligan as Lila Wingo Newbury
- Melinda Dillon as Savannah Wingo
- Jeroen Krabbé as Herbert Woodruff, Lowenstein's husband
- George Carlin as Eddie Detreville, Savannah's gay neighbor
- Jason Gould as Bernard Woodruff, Lowenstein's son (and Streisand's real life son with Elliott Gould)
- Brad Sullivan as Henry Wingo
Pat Conroy, author of the novel The Prince of Tides, gave Streisand a copy of his novel with the inscription: "To Barbra Streisand: The Queen of Tides...you are many things, Barbra, but you're also a great teacher...one of the greatest to come into my life. I honor the great teachers and they live in my work and they dance invisibly in the margins of my prose. You've honored me by taking care of it with such great seriousness and love. Great thanks, and I'll never forget that you gave 'The Prince of Tides' back to me as a gift. Pat Conroy."
Roger Ebert gave the film three and 1/2 stars out of four, praising Streisand's directing. Ebert wrote, "By directing one good film, you prove that you had a movie inside of you. By directing two, you prove you are a real director". He called the film "an assured and very serious love story that allows neither humor nor romance to get in the way of its deeper and darker subject", adding that "Streisand shows herself as a director who likes emotional stories - but doesn't simplify them, and pays attention to the human quirks and strangeness of her characters".
Variety wrote: "A deeply moving exploration of the tangled emotions of a dysfunctional Southern family, this lovingly crafted (though unevenly scripted) film of Pat Conroy’s novel centers on Nick Nolte’s performance of a lifetime. Bringing her usual strengths of character to her role as Nolte’s psychiatrist/lover, Barbra Streisand marks every frame with the intensity and care of a filmmaker committed to heartfelt, unashamed emotional involvement with her characters".
Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader wrote: "The results may seem overripe and dated in spots, but (Streisand) coaxes a fine performance out of Nolte, and the other actors (herself included) acquit themselves honorably".
The Prince of Tides was a critical and box office success, opening at number four with a grossing of $10,035,412 behind Hook, Beauty and the Beast, and Father of the Bride, and remained in the top 10 for seven weeks. Eventually the final gross was $74,787,599. The film grossed $36,100,000 in rentals, giving it a final gross of $110 million. The film was among the top 20 highest-grossing movies of the year at the box office.
Although the film, its cast, and its crew received many nominations for Academy Awards, Best Director was not among these, while Best Picture was. At the following year's Oscar ceremonies, host Billy Crystal sang, to the tune of "Don't Rain on My Parade," "did this film direct itself? " The following year, when A Few Good Men joined Prince of Tides and the previous year's Awakenings in being nominated for the latter award, but not the former, Columbia Pictures president Mark Canton issued a statement, "This is unfortunately the third year in a row that Columbia has had a film nominated for Best Picture that seemingly directed itself."
- Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama - Nick Nolte
- Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor - Nick Nolte
- Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor - Nick Nolte
- Academy Award for Best Picture
- Academy Award for Best Actor - Nick Nolte
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress - Kate Nelligan
- Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay - Becky Johnston and Pat Conroy
- Academy Award for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration - Paul Sylbert and Caryl Heller
- Academy Award for Best Cinematography - Stephen Goldblatt
- Academy Award for Original Music Score - James Newton Howard
- Golden Globe Award for Best Director - Barbra Streisand
- Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama
- Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures - Barbra Streisand
- WGA Award for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium - Becky Johnston and Pat Conroy
- American Society of Cinematographers Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases - Stephen Goldblatt
Differences from novel
While the film was a box office hit and raised Streisand's reputation as a director, its numerous changes from the original novel upset some Conroy purists. Conroy and Johnston eliminated most of the novel's flashback scenes. They describe Tom Wingo's relationship with his siblings in great detail. In the novel, these flashbacks form the main plot and take up more of the novel than the romance between Streisand's character, Dr. Lowenstein, and Tom Wingo. The removal of the flashbacks makes the relationship between Wingo and Lowenstein the central story in the film, whereas in the novel, it is not. Another character in the novel - the second Wingo brother, Luke, who appears only in flashbacks onscreen - is vitally important to the novel, and his death is a major plot point. In fact, the title of the book derives from a poem written by Savannah about Luke and his struggle against the government after the seizure of Colleton. In the film, "The Prince of Tides" is the title of a book of poetry written by Savannah and dedicated to Tom. Luke only appears intermittently, and his death is only vaguely described.
Streisand initially hired English composer John Barry to write a score for the film, but Barry eventually left due to creative differences. In a 7 March 1996 Cinemusic conference interview, Barry explained his exodus from the film, stating, "I was asked by Barbra Streisand to do The Prince of Tides – I live in New York, she lives in Los Angeles – and I went and met with her, and she showed me some footage, and she said, 'Why aren't you moving to Los Angeles?' and I said, 'Absolutely not.' And she said, 'Well, I like to know what's going on' – Barbra's an extreme case, by the way – and I said, 'Even if I did move to Los Angeles, I have no desire to meet with you once I know what I'm going to do. I can't work with someone over my shoulder, absolutely no way.'" Barry later retitled his theme for The Prince of Tides "Moviola" and it was released on his 1992 movie theme album of the same name. The theme also appeared in Barry's 1995 score for the 3D IMAX film Across the Sea of Time, retitled "Flight Over New York".
The final film score was composed by James Newton Howard and released 12 November 1991. It was well received by critics and garnered Howard his first Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score, though it lost to Alan Menken's music for Beauty and the Beast. The soundtrack contains two songs by Streisand, although they did not appear in the film (one of those songs, "Places That Belong To You", was at one point intended for the film's end credits, but replaced with new music by Howard in the released version). The film also includes songs and music that do not appear on any soundtracks.
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