The Sterile Cuckoo

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The Sterile Cuckoo
Film Poster for The Sterile Cuckoo.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alan J. Pakula
Produced by David Lange
Alan J. Pakula
Written by Screenplay:
Alvin Sargent
Based on Novel:
John Nichols
Starring Liza Minnelli
Wendell Burton
Tim McIntire
Music by Fred Karlin
Cinematography Milton R. Krasner
Edited by Sam O'Steen
Boardwalk Productions
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • October 22, 1969 (1969-10-22)
Running time
107 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $13,982,357[1]

The Sterile Cuckoo (released in the UK as Pookie) is a 1969 American comedy-drama film released by Paramount Pictures that tells the story of an eccentric, young couple whose relationship deepens despite their differences and inadequacies. The movie stars Liza Minnelli, Wendell Burton, and Tim McIntire.[2]

The movie was adapted by Alvin Sargent from the 1965 novel by John Nichols and directed by Alan J. Pakula in his directing debut.[2]

Much of the movie was filmed at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. Some of it was filmed in Sylvan Beach, New York, including the Sylvan Beach Union Chapel. Some scenes such as the bus stop scenes were filmed at the park in Vernon Center, New York.

It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Liza Minnelli) and Best Music, Song (Fred Karlin and Dory Previn for "Come Saturday Morning").


Mary Ann "Pookie" Adams (Minnelli) is an oddball, quirky teenager who meets the quiet, reserved Jerry Payne (Burton) while waiting for a bus heading to their colleges, which are near each other and where they have enrolled as freshmen. Jerry immediately sees that Pookie is different, even strange. She lies to a nun on the bus so the nun will switch seats with her.

Jerry is beginning to settle into college life with his roommate (McIntire) when the aggressive Pookie arrives one Saturday morning out of the blue. They spend much time together over the weekend, and then they begin to see each other regularly.

Jerry falls in love with Pookie, but soon their different personalities pull them apart. After having sex, Pookie tells Jerry she might be pregnant. After the pregnancy scare is over, Jerry wants to spend spring break alone to catch up on his studies. Pookie pleads to stay with him, and he relents.

A week alone with the needy and at times unstable Pookie makes Jerry realize more that they need time apart. Discovering later that she has left college, Jerry finds her in the same boarding house where she had stayed on the first day she came to visit. He puts her on a bus for home, and the young lovers part ways for good.



The film was well-received by critics and holds an 88% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[3] It grossed $13,982,357 at the North American box office,[1] making it the 13th highest-grossing film of 1969.

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