Up the Down Staircase (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Up the Down Staircase
Up the Down Staircase (film poster).jpg
Film poster
Directed by Robert Mulligan
Produced by Robert Mulligan
Alan J. Pakula
Written by Bel Kaufman (novel)
Tad Mosel
Starring Sandy Dennis
Patrick Bedford
Eileen Heckart
Jean Stapleton
Music by Fred Karlin
Edited by Folmar Blangsted
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • July 19, 1967 (1967-07-19)
Running time
124 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $5,000,000 (US/ Canada)[1]

Up the Down Staircase is a 1967 American drama film about the first, trying assignment for a young, idealistic teacher played by Sandy Dennis. Robert Mulligan directed the film and Tad Mosel wrote the screenplay adaptation of the novel of the same name by Bel Kaufman.


The film's title is a reference to the staircases inside a public, overcrowded New York City high school with a number of troubled students. Sylvia Barrett, fresh out of graduate school, has just been hired to teach English to the teens in this place, who come from various races and ethnicities. Many are undisciplined; a few are hanging with gangs. She is confused at first by the required regulations, daily reporting and other paperwork. Her students also seem continually disruptive and playful. One girl has a crush on a male teacher, and tries to jump out of a window; another appears with a black eye. A boy on court probation, with a high I.Q. but a mixed academic record, tests her patience, while another boy works nights and falls asleep in class. Not everyone is agreeable with Sylvia's quiet approach to the situation, but she intends to get the teens to become good students and get them into real learning. She succeeds finally in getting them into a lively discussion about classic literature, followed by a lively mock trial, before weighing whether to continue or resign from her position.



Junior High School 99 in East Harlem was the site for exterior scenes as "Calvin Coolidge High School."

Sandy Dennis took the role of Sylvia Barrett after winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This was her first and only film with producer Alan J. Pakula and director Robert Mulligan. The film also featured early appearances from Bud Cort and Jean Stapleton. Cort later did other films: he is best known as the suicidal youth who meets a vivacious Holocaust survivor in Harold and Maude. Jean Stapleton would land the pivotal role of Edith Bunker on the TV show All in the Family.

The film was entered into the 5th Moscow International Film Festival where Sandy Dennis won the award for Best Actress.[2]

Outdoor scenes were filmed on 1st Avenue and 100th Street in East Harlem. The outdoor school scenes were filmed at JHS 99 also on 100th St (not the former Benjamin Franklin HS). Some indoor school and classroom scenes were filmed at the former Haaren HS on 59th St and 10th Ave (today's CUNY John Jay campus), and a studio in Chelsea.


Though a moderate hit and forgotten about in later years, the film was liked by critics and many loved the performance of Sandy Dennis. Later in the year, the film would be eclipsed by another movie about teaching, the megahit To Sir, With Love starring Sidney Poitier.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
  2. ^ "5th Moscow International Film Festival (1967)". MIFF. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 

External links[edit]