The Landlord

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The Landlord
Landlord movie poster.jpg
promotional poster
Directed byHal Ashby
Produced byNorman Jewison
Written byKristin Hunter
Bill Gunn
StarringBeau Bridges
Lee Grant
Diana Sands
Pearl Bailey
Music byAl Kooper
CinematographyGordon Willis
Edited byWilliam A. Sawyer
Edward Warschilka
Mirisch Company
Cartier Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • May 20, 1970 (1970-05-20)
Running time
113 minutes
Budget$1.95 million[1]

The Landlord is a 1970 American Comedy drama film directed by Hal Ashby, based on the 1966 novel by Kristin Hunter. The film stars Beau Bridges in the lead role of a privileged and ignorant white man who selfishly becomes landlord of an inner-city tenement, unaware that the people he is responsible for are low-income, streetwise residents. Also in the cast are Lee Grant, Diana Sands, Pearl Bailey, and Louis Gossett, Jr.. The film was Ashby's first film as director.


Elgar Enders, a man who lives off his parents' wealth, buys himself an inner-city tenement, in the transitional neighborhood of 1970 Park Slope, Brooklyn, planning to evict all the occupants and construct a luxury home for himself. However, once he ventures into the tenement, he gradually grows fond of the low-income black residents who dwell there. Enders decides to remain as the landlord, and help fix the apartment building. He rebels against his WASP upbringing, and to his parents' dismay, he romances two black women.

Elgar falls for Lanie, a dancer at a local black club. Lanie is a beautiful black woman who has a mother of Irish descent, and a father of African descent, thus she has light skin and features, and has experienced colorism because of it. Their relationship is strained, as Elgar has an affair with one of his tenants, Fanny, and gets her pregnant. Consequently, her boyfriend Copee, a black activist with an identity crisis, is enraged when he finds out about the pregnancy, and tries to kill Elgar with an axe. He ultimately stops. The Enders family is shaken and stirred by their son's decisions and behavior, but reluctantly accepts him. Ultimately, Fanny gives the child up for adoption to start a new life. The story ends with Elgar taking custody of child, mending his relationship with Lanie, and moving in with her and the baby.


Actor Role
Beau Bridges Elgar Winthrop Julius Enders
Lee Grant Joyce Enders
Diana Sands Francine "Fanny" Johnson
Pearl Bailey Marge
Walter Brooke William Enders
Louis Gossett, Jr. Copee Johnson
Marki Bey Lanie
Melvin Stewart Professor Duboise
Susan Anspach Susan Enders
Robert Klein Peter Coots
Will Mackenzie William Enders, Jr.

Charlie Murphy, older brother of Eddie Murphy, lived in the neighborhood where the film was shot, and he appears in a brief scene as a boy stealing Elgar's hubcaps.


The film was a commercial disappointment. Arthur Krim of United Artists later did an assessment of the film as part of an evaluation of the company's inventory:

What was expected to be provocative material to the new modern film audience of 1968-1969 in depicting black and white relationships in an urban setting, emerged as a film which we felt would be of limited interest to the audience of 1970 - an audience more and more sated with films of this genre. This is still a type of film we intend to continue to make but at one-quarter the cost. Unfortunately, at the time this film was programmed, unrealistic optimism about the potential audience for this type of film prevailed.[2]

Critical reaction[edit]

The film garnered mostly positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes it has received a 92% overall approval from critics.[3] Upon its release, New York Times film critic Howard Thompson, called the film, "a wondrously wise, sad and hilarious comedy."[4] On September 19, 2007 journalist Mike Hale discussed the film in a New York Times article called "Before Gentrification Was Cool, It Was a Movie". Hale praised the film for tackling the racial tension that arose in the aftermath of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death and wrote in surprise how the film, "...would disappear after its 1970 release – rarely shown and just as rarely discussed."[4]

Award and nominations[edit]

Academy Awards

  • Nominated, Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Lee Grant

BAFTA Awards

  • Nominated, UN Award

Golden Globe Awards

  • Nominated, Best Supporting Actress – Lee Grant

Golden Laurel Awards

  • Nominated, Best Supporting Female Performance – Lee Grant
  • Nominated, Female Star of Tomorrow – Diana Sands

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Films of Hal Ashby". Beach, Christopher (2009). Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, p. 175, ISBN 978-0-8143-3415-7.
  2. ^ quoted in Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company that Changed the Film Industry, Wisconsin Press, 1987 p 314
  3. ^ "The Landlord". Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Before Gentrification Was Cool, It Was a Movie". Retrieved 13 January 2015.

External links[edit]