The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (film)

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The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Ellis Miller
Produced by Thomas C. Ryan
and Marc Merson
Screenplay by Thomas C. Ryan
Based on The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Starring Alan Arkin
Sondra Locke
Music by Dave Grusin
Cinematography James Wong Howe
Edited by John F. Burnett
Distributed by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
Release dates
  • July 31, 1968 (1968-07-31)
Running time
123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.1 million (US/ Canada)[1]

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is a 1968 American film adaptation of the Carson McCullers novel of the same name. It was directed by Robert Ellis Miller.[2] It stars Alan Arkin and introduced Sondra Locke, both earning Academy Award nominations. The film updates the novel's small-town Southern setting from the Depression era to the then-contemporary 1960s.


John Singer (Alan Arkin) is a deaf-mute who works as a silver engraver in a small southern town. His only friend is a mentally disabled mute, Spiros Antonapoulos (Chuck McCann), who continually gets into trouble with the law since he doesn't know any better. When Antonapoulos is committed to a mental institution by his family, Singer decides to move to a town near the institution in order to be near his friend. Singer finds work there and rents a room in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Kelly (Biff McGuire and Laurinda Barrett), who are having financial difficulties as a result of Mr. Kelly's recent hip injury. Because the Kellys' teenage daughter, Mick (Sondra Locke), resents having to give up her room to him, Singer makes a few tentative efforts to win her friendship. Singer also tries to become friends with Blount (Stacy Keach), a semi-alcoholic drifter, and Dr. Copeland (Percy Rodriguez), an embittered segregationist African American who is secretly dying of lung cancer. Copeland's deepest disappointment is that his educated daughter, Portia (Cicely Tyson), works as a domestic and is married to a field hand.

Following a successful attempt to win Mick's friendship by encouraging her love for classical music, Singer visits Antonapoulos, and although he takes his friend out for the day, Singer is more lonely than ever when he returns home. Meanwhile, Portia and her husband are attacked and he is jailed for defending himself. Portia gets upset at Copeland for not perjuring himself to help bring out the truth about what happened in the fight. Copeland and Portia's relationship gets even more strained after her husband has his leg amputated after being placed in irons for trying to escape jail. Singer gets the two to reconcile after Portia learns from Singer of Copeland's illness.

Mick willfully loses her virginity to the sensitive older brother of one of her classmates after she realizes that her father's injury has permanently disabled him and she will have to leave school and go to work in order to help support the family. Disturbed by her sexual initiation, she ignores Singer's request for some company. A short time later, Singer goes to visit Antonapoulos and learns that he has been dead for several weeks. After visiting his friend's grave and saying goodbye in sign language, Singer returns to his room and commits suicide.

Some months afterwards, Mick brings flowers to Singer's grave and meets Dr. Copeland. As they talk, Mick questions "why did he do it?" and determines to face whatever her future may be.




The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
  2. ^ Adler, Renata. "New York Times: The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter". NY Times. Retrieved August 17, 2008. 
  3. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 6, 2016. 

External links[edit]