Stanley & Iris

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Stanley & Iris
Stan iris moviep.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMartin Ritt
Screenplay by
  • Harriet Frank, Jr.
  • Irving Ravetch
Based onUnion Street
by Pat Barker
Produced byArlene Sellers
Alex Winitsky
CinematographyDonald McAlpine
Edited bySidney Levin
Music byJohn Williams
Lantana Productions
Star Partners II Ltd.
Distributed byMGM/UA Communications Co.
Release date
  • February 9, 1990 (1990-02-09)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$23 million[1]
Box office$5.8 million[2]

Stanley & Iris is a 1990 American romantic drama film directed by Martin Ritt and starring Jane Fonda and Robert De Niro. The screenplay by Harriet Frank, Jr. and Irving Ravetch is loosely based on the 1982 novel Union Street by Pat Barker.

The original music score is composed by John Williams and the cinematography is by Donald McAlpine. The film was marketed with the tagline "Some people need love spelled out for them." It was the final film for Ritt, Frank and Ravetch, as Ritt died ten months after the film's release, while Ravetch and Frank died respectively in 2010 and 2020. It was also the last film Fonda would appear in for 15 years until 2005's Monster-in-Law.


Iris King, a widow still grieving 8 months after losing her husband, lives in a high-crime area in Connecticut and works in a baking factory. She lives from paycheck to paycheck as she raises her two children, Kelly and Richard. With money already tight for the family, Kelly learns she is pregnant, making matters worse.

Iris makes the acquaintance of Stanley Cox, a cook in the bakery's canteen, when he comes to her aid after her purse is snatched on a bus. But as their friendship develops, she notices peculiarities about Stanley. Witnessing his inability to pick out a specific medication, Iris finally realizes the truth: Stanley is illiterate. When she innocently mentions this to Stanley's boss, Stanley is fired the next day over food safety and lawsuit concerns. Unable to get steady work afterwards, Stanley moves into a garage to live. He is also forced to put his elderly father (who lived with him) in a shabby retirement home, where the old man dies after only a few weeks. Broken by these events, Stanley asks Iris if she could teach him to read. He explains that his traveling-salesman father moved him between dozens of schools all over the country when Stanley was a boy, resulting in his developing no reading or writing skills from this lack of educational stability. Iris agrees and starts giving him basic reading lessons, and he gradually grows close to her and her family. During one of these reading exercises, Stanley confides in her that he has wanted to be intimate with her since they first met, but Iris is hesitant.

Iris tests Stanley's developing reading skills by making a map for him to use to meet her at a nearby street corner, but Stanley gets hopelessly lost. Later, Iris visits a discouraged Stanley at his garage residence to try to get him to resume his lessons. Stanley, who invents things as a hobby, is at work on an elaborate cake cooling machine he designed that can potentially outperform similar commercial equipment. Iris is impressed by the device and Stanley says a nearby company was also and even offered him a job. He agrees to start reading again with Iris, and in time learns to write short sentences. The two of them begin to grow close again.

Stanley and Iris finally decide to consummate their relationship, but Iris is still clinging to her late husband's memory. This threatens their budding relationship further. Unwilling to give up on Iris because she never gave up on him, Stanley finally goes to see her. Iris hands him an unmailed letter she wrote him, and Stanley surprises her by reading it aloud nearly perfectly. Iris, now ready to start letting go of the past, accompanies Stanley to a fancy hotel where they order room service and spend the night together.

Stanley soon moves to Detroit for a new, well-paying job he has been offered, his inventing ability finally having paid off. Several months later, back in Connecticut, Iris is carrying groceries home when a new car pulls up next to her, with Stanley behind the wheel. Stanley tells her he just got a raise and plans to buy a large fixer-upper house in Detroit – and that he wants the family to come live there with him, with her as his wife. Iris accepts.

Main cast[edit]

Actor Role
Jane Fonda Iris King
Robert De Niro Stanley Cox
Swoosie Kurtz Sharon
Martha Plimpton Kelly King
Harley Cross Richard King
Jamey Sheridan Joe
Feodor Chaliapin, Jr. Leonides Cox
Zohra Lampert Elaine
Loretta Devine Bertha
Kathy Kinney Bernice
Stephen Root Mr. Hershey


Stanley & Iris: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by
Released1990 (original); 2017 (expansion)
RecordedLorimar Music Scoring
Length28:56 (original); 59:31 (on the Deluxe Edition)
LabelVarèse Sarabande
ProducerJohn Williams
John Williams chronology
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Stanley & Iris: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Home Alone
Professional ratings
Review scores

Track listing[edit]

1."Stanley and Iris"3:24
2."Reading Lessons"2:26
3."The Bicycle"3:07
4."Factory Work"1:23
5."Finding a Family"1:41
6."Stanley at Work"1:31
7."Looking after Papa"3:10
8."Stanley's Invention"1:17
9."Night Visit"1:58
11."Putting it all Together"1:46
12."End Credits"3:03

Deluxe Edition track listing[edit]

In 2017 Varèse Sarabande issued an expanded edition with John Williams' score for Martin Ritt's 1972 film Pete 'n' Tillie (tracks 27-36 - duration 17:51).

1."Stanley and Iris"3:26
2."The Bicycle"3:09
3."The Pink Sweater"1:07
4."Iris After Work"0:40
5."Stanley at Work"1:33
6."Looking after Papa"3:05
7."Entering the Library"1:07
8."Night Visit"2:00
9."Factory Work"1:26
10."Naming the Trees"3:37
11."Finding a Family"1:42
12."Lost in the Streets"2:56
13."Stanley's Invention"1:18
14."The Kitchen Table"1:06
15."Seeing the Baby"1:15
16."Reading Lessons"2:28
17."Growing Together"2:09
18."Putting It All Together"1:47
20."End Title"3:04
21."Stanley and Iris (Film version)"3:24
22."Stanley at Work (Film version)"1:29
23."Looking after Papa (Film version)"3:11
24."Stanley's Invention (Film version)"1:18
25."Putting It All Together (Film version)"1:49
26."Letters (Film version)"4:00
27."Pete 'n' Tillie - Main Title"1:57
29."Marriage Book"1:48
30."Bedroom Scene"0:57
32."For Robbie"1:33
35."End Title and End Cast"3:49
36."Love Theme"2:27


The film was shot on location in Toronto, Ontario, and Waterbury, Connecticut. During the filming in Waterbury, local Vietnam War veterans picketed the production protesting Jane Fonda's anti-war activities of a decade and a half earlier.[1] Fonda and De Niro were each paid $3.5 million for their performances. Ritt received $1.65 million and the Ravetches $500,000.[1]


Stanley & Iris received negative reviews from critics, as the film holds a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 15 reviews. It was also a commercial failure at the box office, grossing less than $6 million against its $23 million budget.


  1. ^ a b c Nat Segaloff, Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors, Bear Manor Media 2013 p 253-255
  2. ^ "Stanley & Iris (1990)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 20, 2018.

External links[edit]