Rosemary's Baby (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Roman Polanski|
|Produced by||William Castle|
|Screenplay by||Roman Polanski|
|Based on||Rosemary's Baby|
by Ira Levin
|Music by||Krzysztof Komeda|
|Cinematography||William A. Fraker|
William Castle Enterprises
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$33.4 million|
Rosemary's Baby is a 1968 American psychological horror film written and directed by Roman Polanski, and starring Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy, Angela Dorian, Clay Tanner, and, in his feature film debut, Charles Grodin. The film follows a young, pregnant wife in Manhattan who comes to suspect that her elderly neighbors are members of a Satanic cult, and are grooming her in order to use her baby for their rituals. It is based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Ira Levin.
Rosemary's Baby deals with themes related to paranoia, women's liberation, Christianity (Catholicism), and the occult. The film earned almost universal acclaim from film critics and won numerous nominations and awards. It is considered a hallmark of art-horror. In 2014, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
In 1965, Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse rent an apartment in the Bramford, a large Gothic building in New York City. Though both Roman Catholics, the Woodhouses ignore their friend Hutch's warning about the Bramford's dark past with witchcraft and murder.
Rosemary meets a young woman, Terry Gionoffrio, a recovering drug addict whom Minnie and Roman Castevet, the Woodhouses' elderly neighbors, took in. One night, Terry apparently jumps to her death from the Castevets' seventh-floor apartment. Guy grows fond of the Castevets but Rosemary finds them annoying and meddlesome. Minnie gives Terry's pendant to Rosemary as a good luck charm, saying it contains "tannis root".
Guy lands an important role in a play after the original actor inexplicably goes blind. With his career on track, he now wants to have a baby with Rosemary. On the night they plan to conceive, Minnie brings them cups of chocolate mousse. Rosemary complains that hers has a chalky "under-taste". She eats only a small portion before discarding the rest. She passes out and experiences a dreamlike vision in which a demonic presence (Satan) rapes her as Guy, the Castevets, and other Bramford tenants watch. None of them, not even Rosemary, are clothed. The next morning, her body is covered in scratches. Guy explains them by saying that he had sex with her while she was unconscious since he did not want to miss "baby night".
Rosemary is no less happy to discover that she is pregnant, due to deliver the child in the last week of June. The Castevets, also elated by the news, insist Rosemary go to their close friend Dr. Abraham Sapirstein, a prominent obstetrician, rather than her own physician, Dr. Hill. During her first trimester, she suffers severe abdominal pains and loses weight. By Christmastime, Rosemary's gaunt appearance alarms Hutch, who researches the Bramford's history. Before he can tell Rosemary his findings, he falls into a mysterious coma. Rosemary, unable to withstand the pain, insists she must visit Dr. Hill; Guy is angry because he thinks Dr. Sapirstein will be offended. As they argue, the pains suddenly stop and she feels the baby move for the first time.
Three months later, Hutch's friend informs Rosemary that Hutch is dead. Before dying, he briefly regained consciousness and said to give Rosemary a book on witchcraft along with the cryptic message: "The name is an anagram". Rosemary deduces that Roman Castevet is an anagram for Steven Marcato, the son of a former Bramford resident and a reputed Satanist. She suspects the Castevets and Dr. Sapirstein belong to a Satanic coven and have sinister plans for her baby. Guy discounts her suspicions and throws the book away, making her think he may be conspiring with them.
Terrified, she visits Dr. Hill for help. Assuming she is delusional, she calls Dr. Sapirstein, who arrives with Guy to take her home. Rosemary locks herself in the apartment, but coven members infiltrate and restrain her. Dr. Sapirstein sedates a hysterical Rosemary, who goes into labor and gives birth. When she awakens, she is told the baby was stillborn. Guy tries to convince his wife that they will have riches and more children in the future. She hears an infant crying, but Guy claims it's from new tenants.
Believing her baby is alive, Rosemary discovers a hidden door leading into the Castevets' apartment. The Castevets, Guy, Dr. Sapirstein and other coven members are gathered around a bassinet. Peering inside, Rosemary is horrified and demands to know what is wrong with her baby. Roman tells her the baby, Satan's son, has his father's eyes and urges Rosemary to mother her child. When Guy tries to calm her by claiming they will be rewarded and can conceive their own child, she spits in his face. After hearing the infant's cries, Rosemary gently rocks the cradle.
- Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse
- John Cassavetes as Guy Woodhouse
- Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet
- Sidney Blackmer as Roman Castevet/Steven Marcato
- Maurice Evans as Hutch
- Ralph Bellamy as Dr. Abraham Sapirstein
- Charles Grodin as Dr. Hill
- Patsy Kelly as Laura-Louise
- Angela Dorian as Terry Gionoffrio
- Elisha Cook as Mr. Micklas
- Emmaline Henry as Elise Dunstan
- Hanna Landy as Grace Cardiff
- Philip Leeds as Dr. Shand
- Hope Summers as Mrs. Gilmore
- D'Urville Martin as Diego
- Marianne Gordon as Rosemary's Girlfriend
- Wendy Wagner as Rosemary's Girlfriend
- Fritzi Jane Courtney as woman at party
In Rosemary's Baby: A Retrospective, a featurette on the DVD release of the film, screenwriter/director Roman Polanski, Paramount Pictures executive Robert Evans, and production designer Richard Sylbert reminisce at length about the production. Evans recalled William Castle brought him the galley proofs of the book and asked him to purchase the film rights even before Random House published the book. The studio head recognized the commercial potential of the project and agreed with the stipulation that Castle, who had a reputation for low-budget horror films, could produce but not direct the film adaptation. He makes a cameo appearance as the man at the phone booth waiting for Mia Farrow to finish her call.
Evans admired Polanski's European films and hoped he could convince him to make his American debut with Rosemary's Baby. He knew the director was a ski buff who was anxious to make a film with the sport as its basis, so he sent him the script for Downhill Racer along with the galleys for Rosemary's Baby. Polanski read the latter book non-stop through the night and called Evans the following morning to tell him he thought Rosemary's Baby was the more interesting project, and would like the opportunity to write as well as direct it. After negotiations, Paramount agreed to hire Polanski for the project, with a tentative budget of $1.9 million, $150,000 of which would go to Polanski.
Polanski completed the 272-page screenplay for the film in approximately three weeks. Polanski closely modeled it on the original novel and incorporated large sections of the novel's dialogue and details, with much of it being lifted directly from the source text.
Casting for Rosemary's Baby began in the summer of 1967 in Los Angeles, California. Polanski originally envisioned Rosemary as a robust, full-figured, girl-next-door type, and wanted Tuesday Weld or his own fiancée Sharon Tate to play the role. Additionally, Patty Duke and Goldie Hawn were considered for the part.
Since the book had not yet reached bestseller status, Evans was unsure the title alone would guarantee an audience for the film, and he believed that a bigger name was needed for the lead. Mia Farrow, with a supporting role in Guns at Batasi (1964) and the yet-unreleased A Dandy in Aspic (1968) as her only feature film credits, had an unproven box office track record; however, she had gained wider notice with her role as Allison MacKenzie in the popular television series Peyton Place, and her unexpected marriage to noted singer Frank Sinatra. Despite her waif-like appearance, Polanski agreed to cast her. Her acceptance incensed Sinatra, who had demanded she forgo her career when they wed.
Robert Redford was the first choice for the role of Guy Woodhouse, but he turned it down. Jack Nicholson was considered briefly before Polanski suggested John Cassavetes, whom he had met in London. In casting the film's secondary actors, Polanski drew sketches of what he imagined the characters would look like, which were then used by Paramount casting directors to match with potential actors. In the roles of Roman and Minnie Castevet, Polanski cast stage actors Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon, respectively. Ralph Bellamy, also primarily a stage actor, was cast in the role of Dr. Abraham Sapirstein.
Polanski wanted to cast Hollywood old-timers as the coven members but did not know any by name. He drew sketches of how he envisioned each character, and these helped the casting director fill the roles. In every instance, the actor cast strongly resembled Polanski's drawing. They included Ralph Bellamy, Patsy Kelly, Elisha Cook, Jr., Phil Leeds and Hope Summers.
When Rosemary calls Donald Baumgart, the actor who goes blind and is replaced by Guy, the voice heard on the phone is actor Tony Curtis. Farrow, who had not been told who would be reading Baumgart's lines, recognized his voice but could not place it. The slight confusion she displays throughout the call was exactly what Polanski hoped to capture by not revealing Curtis' identity in advance.
Principal photography for Rosemary's Baby began on August 21, 1967 in New York City, where location shooting commenced. When Farrow was reluctant to film a scene that depicted a dazed and preoccupied Rosemary wandering into the middle of a Manhattan street into oncoming traffic, Polanski pointed to her pregnancy padding and reassured her, "no one's going to hit a pregnant woman". The scene was successfully shot with Farrow walking into real traffic and Polanski following, operating the hand-held camera since he was the only one willing to do it.
By September 1967, the shoot had relocated to California's Paramount Studios in Hollywood, where interior sets of the Bramford apartments had been constructed on soundstages. Some additional location shooting took place in Playa del Rey in October 1967. Though Paramount had initially agreed to spend $1.9 million to make the film, the shoot was overextended due to Polanski's meticulous attention to detail, which resulted in him completing up to fifty takes of single shots. The shoot suffered significant scheduling problems as a result, and ultimately went $400,000 over budget. In November 1967, it was reported that the shoot was over three weeks behind schedule.
The shoot was further disrupted when, midway through filming, Farrow's husband, Frank Sinatra, served her divorce papers via a corporate lawyer in front of the cast and crew. In an effort to salvage her relationship, Farrow asked Evans to release her from her contract, but he persuaded her to remain with the project after showing her an hour-long rough cut and assuring her she would receive an Academy Award nomination for her performance. Filming was completed on December 20, 1967 in Los Angeles.
The lullaby played over the intro is the song "Sleep Safe and Warm." It was composed by Krzysztof Komeda and sung by Mia Farrow. The song "Für Elise" is also frequently used as background music throughout the film. The original film soundtrack was released in 1968 via Dot Records. Waxwork Records released the soundtrack from the original master tapes in 2014 which included Krzysztof Komeda's original work.
In contemporary reviews, Renata Adler wrote in The New York Times that "The movie—although it is pleasant—doesn't seem to work on any of its dark or powerful terms. I think this is because it is almost too extremely plausible. The quality of the young people's lives seems the quality of lives that one knows, even to the point of finding old people next door to avoid and lean on. One gets very annoyed that they don't catch on sooner."
Variety said, "Several exhilarating milestones are achieved in Rosemary's Baby, an excellent film version of Ira Levin's diabolical chiller novel. Writer-director Roman Polanski has triumphed in his first US-made pic. The film holds attention without explicit violence or gore... Farrow's performance is outstanding."
The Monthly Film Bulletin said that "After the miscalculations of Cul de Sac and Dance of the Vampires", Polanski had "returned to the rich vein of Repulsion". The review noted that "Polanski shows an increasing ability to evoke menace and sheer terror in familiar routines (cooking and telephoning, particularly)," and Polanski has shown "his transformation of a cleverly calculated thriller into a serious work of art."
Today, the film is widely regarded as a classic; it has an approval rating of 96% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 71 reviews, with an average rating of 8.83/10. The site's critics' consensus describes it as "A frightening tale of Satanism and pregnancy that is even more disturbing than it sounds thanks to convincing and committed performances by Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon." Metacritic reports a weighted average score of 96 out of 100 based on 15 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
The Rosemary's Baby DVD, released in 2000 by Paramount Home Video, contains a 23-minute documentary film, Mia and Roman, directed by Shahrokh Hatami, which was shot during the making of the film. The title refers to Mia Farrow and Roman Polanski. The film features footage of Roman Polanski directing the film's cast on set. Hatami was an Iranian photographer who befriended Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate. Mia and Roman was screened originally as a promo film at Hollywood's Lytton Center, and later included as a featurette on the Rosemary's Baby DVD. It is described as a "trippy on-set featurette" and "an odd little bit of cheese."
Following the film's premiere, a string of other films focusing on Satan worshippers and black magic were produced, including The Brotherhood of Satan, Mark of the Devil, Black Noon, and The Blood on Satan's Claw.
The scene in which Rosemary is raped by Satan was ranked No. 23 on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments. In 2010, The Guardian ranked the film the second-greatest horror film of all time. In 2014, it was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
In the 1976 television film Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby, Patty Duke starred as Rosemary Woodhouse and Ruth Gordon reprised her role of Minnie Castevet. The film introduced an adult Andrew/Adrian attempting to earn his place as the Antichrist. It was disliked as a sequel by critics and viewers, and its reputation deteriorated over the years.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Rosemary's Baby (film)|
- Rosemary's Baby at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Rosemary's Baby at AllMovie
- Rosemary's Baby at IMDb
- Rosemary's Baby at Metacritic
- Rosemary's Baby at Rotten Tomatoes
- Rosemary's Baby at the TCM Movie Database
- Dialogue Transcript, Script-o-rama.
- "William Castle's involvement in the film", Faber & Faber, Film in focus.
- The many faces of Rosemary's baby, PL: Culture. Collection of Rosemary’s Baby posters from around the world.
- BABY, podcast by Culture.pl's Stories From The Eastern West about the making of the film.
- Rosemary’s Baby: “It’s Alive” an essay by Ed Park at the Criterion Collection