The Rose (film)

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The Rose
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMark Rydell
Screenplay byBo Goldman
Bill Kerby
Michael Cimino (uncredited)
Story byBill Kerby
Produced byAaron Russo
Marvin Worth
Anthony Ray
StarringBette Midler
Alan Bates
Frederic Forrest
CinematographyVilmos Zsigmond
Edited byCarroll Timothy O'Meara
Robert L. Wolfe
Music byPaul A. Rothchild (Mendelssohn – Piano concerto no 1, 2nd movement, the Rose)
Distributed by20th Century-Fox
Release date
  • November 7, 1979 (1979-11-07) (New York City)[1]
Running time
134 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$9.3 million[3][4]
Box office$29.2 million (US/Canada)[5]

The Rose is a 1979 American musical drama film directed by Mark Rydell, and starring Bette Midler, Alan Bates, Frederic Forrest, Harry Dean Stanton, Barry Primus, and David Keith. Loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin, the film follows a self-destructive rock star in the late 1960s, who struggles to cope with the pressures of her career and the demands of her ruthless business manager.

Originally titled Pearl (Janis Joplin's nickname and the title of her last album), the film's screenplay was revised and fictionalized after the Joplin family declined to allow producers the rights to her story.[6]

The Rose was nominated for four Academy Awards at the 52nd Academy Awards (1980), including Best Actress in a Leading Role (Bette Midler, in her screen debut), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Frederic Forrest), Best Film Editing and Best Sound.[7] Midler performed the soundtrack album for the film, and its title track became one of her biggest hit singles.


In late 1969, Mary Rose Foster is a famous rock and roll diva known as "The Rose." In spite of her success, her personal life is lonely and exhausting. She is exploited and overworked by her gruff, greedy manager and promoter Rudge Campbell. Though forthright and brassy, Rose is an insecure alcoholic and former drug user who seems to crave approval in her life. As such, she is determined to return to her Florida hometown, now as a superstar, and perform for the people from her past.

Following a performance in Texas, Rose meets with country music star Billy Ray, whom she idolizes and whose songs she often covers in live shows. Billy Ray cruelly demands that she never perform his music again, and he rudely dismisses her. After discovering that Rudge arranged the meeting because he wants to sign Billy Ray to his label, Rose defiantly flees with a limousine driver named Huston Dyer. The two take a cross-country trip to New York City, where Rose is scheduled to complete recording sessions. They begin a whirlwind romance.

Rudge assumes that Huston is just another hanger-on, but Rose feels she has finally met her true love. Huston eventually admits to her that he is actually an AWOL sergeant from the Army, and she tells him of her past in Florida. The couple's relationship grows turbulent amidst Rose's reckless lifestyle and constant touring. In Memphis, Rose is met by Sarah, a former lover of hers. When Huston walks in on the two women kissing, he and Rose get into a violent fight, after which Huston flees.

Determined to reunite with Huston, Rose searches for him in a red light district of Memphis with PFC Mal, a military member whom she met in Texas. She subsequently appoints Mal as her security escort, and the two travel to Rose's hometown Jacksonville, Florida, where Rudge has booked her a hometown reunion show. Upon arriving, Rose shows Mal her childhood home, her high school, and other local landmarks from her childhood. Arriving at the stadium for afternoon rehearsals for her concert, Rose repeats her intention to take a one-year break from performing, leading Rudge to tell her she will be in breach of contract. Rudge proceeds to fire her, though unbeknownst to Rose, this is only a ploy to ensure that she performs the show. A distraught Rose is met by Huston, who has traveled to Jacksonville to reunite with her.

Believing her concert is cancelled, Rose decides to run away and start a new life with Huston. That night, she takes Huston on a tour of local bars and clubs she used to frequent prior to becoming famous, recklessly drinking and indulging in barbiturates and heroin. At one bar, Huston becomes jealous when a male patron harasses Rose as she performs, and he begins a fight. After, Rudge reaches Rose on her car phone and convinces her to return for the concert. She acquiesces, and her decision to appease Rudge causes Huston to give up on the relationship and leave town. Later that night, after performing the opening song of her long-awaited homecoming concert, Rose collapses onstage and dies of an overdose.




The film was originally offered to Ken Russell, who chose instead to direct Valentino. Russell has described this decision as the biggest mistake of his career.[8] At one point, Michael Cimino was also slated to direct, but he chose to direct Heaven's Gate instead. Cimino did, however, make uncredited contributions to the script.[9]


Suzy Williams was originally offered the title role, but turned it down for personal reasons, instead suggesting it to Bette Midler.[10]


The Rose was completed in time for a scheduled release in April 1979; however, 20th Century-Fox elected to postpone release til autumn 1979:(Mark Rydell quote:)"[at] Easter time...the public seems to like frothy films."[11]


The Rose received a mixed to positive critical reception. The film has a 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 22 reviews.[12] Among the positive reviews were Siskel & Ebert, who on their program Sneak Previews, both gave the film a collective "Yes".[13]

The film opened in New York City on Wednesday, November 7, 1979 and grossed $793,063 in its opening weekend from 44 screens, the second highest-grossing opening weekend on under 50 screens behind Star Wars (1977).[14] The film went on to gross $29.2 million in the United States and Canada.[5]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Actress Bette Midler Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Frederic Forrest Nominated
Best Film Editing Robert L. Wolfe and Carroll Timothy O'Meara Nominated
Best Sound Theodore Soderberg, Douglas Williams, Paul Wells and Jim Webb Nominated
British Academy Film Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Bette Midler Nominated
Best Sound Theodore Soderberg, Douglas O. Williams, Paul Wells and James E. Webb Nominated
César Awards Best Foreign Film Mark Rydell Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Bette Midler Won
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Frederic Forrest Nominated
Best Original Song – Motion Picture "The Rose" – Amanda McBroom Won
New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture – Female Bette Midler Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actress 3rd Place
Best Supporting Actor Frederic Forrest Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actress Bette Midler Runner-up
Best Supporting Actor Frederic Forrest Runner-up
SESC Film Festival Best Foreign Film Mark Rydell Won


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

Home video[edit]

The Criterion Collection released the film on Blu-ray and DVD on May 19, 2015.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Rose at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. ^ "The Rose". Variety. December 31, 1978. Archived from the original on August 16, 2020.
  3. ^ Solomon 2002, p. 259.
  4. ^ Bette Midler Comes Up 'Rose' Mann, Roderick. Los Angeles Times 1 Mar 1979: f10.
  5. ^ a b "The Rose". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  6. ^ Elan, Priya. "Is the Janis Joplin biopic finally going to be filmed? Don't hold your breath", The Guardian, August 7, 2010. WebCitation archive.
  7. ^ "The 52nd Academy Awards (1980) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-07.
  8. ^ Gray, Sadie. "Ten big things I have learnt from my mistakes - Times Online". The Times. Registration required
  9. ^ Stempel, Tom (2000). Framework: A History of Screenwriting in the American Film. ISBN 9780815606543.pages 228-229
  10. ^ Williams, Suzy. "Suzy Williams Official Bio". Laughtears.
  11. ^ Cedar Rapids Gazetter 1 January 1979 "Show Business Beat" by Marilyn Beck p.7C
  12. ^ "The Rose (1979)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  13. ^ "The Rose, the Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, the Marriage of Maria Braun, French Postcards, Best Boy, 1979 – Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews".
  14. ^ "All-Time Opening Weekends: 50 Screens or Less". Daily Variety. September 20, 1994. p. 24.
  15. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-05.
  16. ^ "The Rose (1979)". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2015-02-17.


External links[edit]