IMDb > Desperate Characters (1971)
Desperate Characters
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Desperate Characters (1971) More at IMDbPro »

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Desperate Characters -- Sophie and Otto Bentwood are set in their ways. And unsettled in their hearts. They're Desperate Characters, trapped in a marriage that no longer works... yet unable to break free. In a performance widely cited as a career breakthrough, Shirley MacLaine portrays Sophie in this compelling grown-up drama that, in its own jolting way, is a love story.


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Popularity: ?
Down 11% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Paula Fox (novel)
Frank D. Gilroy (written by)
View company contact information for Desperate Characters on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
22 September 1971 (USA) See more »
Marriage of a midlife, middle-class, childless couple is in a rut. Sophie has become depressed, frigid and slightly paranoid and Otto is stuck in optimistic denial. Things escalate at their summer cottage, but no one dares call it quits. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
4 wins & 1 nomination See more »
User Reviews:
A baffling array of characters on the proverbial edge See more (5 total) »


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Shirley MacLaine ... Sophie Bentwood

Kenneth Mars ... Otto Bentwood

Sada Thompson ... Claire
Jack Somack ... Leon

Gerald S. O'Loughlin ... Charlie
Chris Gampel ... Mike Holstein
Mary Alan Hokanson ... Flo Holstein
Robert Bauer ... Young Man

Carol Kane ... Young Girl
Michael Higgins ... Francis Early
Michael McAloney ... Raconteur
Wallace Rooney ... Man on Subway
Rose Gregorio ... Ruth
Elena Karam ... Saleslady
Nick Smith ... The Caller
Robert Delbert ... Hospital Attendant
Shauneille Perry ... Woman Doctor (as Shauneille Ryder)
Gonzalee Ford ... Nurse
Patrick McVey ... Mr. Haynes
L.J. Davis ... Tom

Directed by
Frank D. Gilroy 
Writing credits
Paula Fox (novel)

Frank D. Gilroy (written by)

Produced by
Frank D. Gilroy .... producer
Paul Leaf .... co-producer
Original Music by
Ron Carter 
James Hall  (as Jim Hall)
Lee Konitz 
Cinematography by
Urs Furrer (director of photography)
Film Editing by
Robert Q. Lovett 
Art Direction by
Edgar Lansbury (uncredited)
Set Decoration by
Herbert F. Mulligan 
Costume Design by
Sarah E. Gifft 
Production Management
Norman I. Cohen .... production manager (as Norman Cohen)
Michael Haley .... assistant production manager (as Mike Haley)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Norman I. Cohen .... assistant director (as Norman Cohen)
François Moullin .... assistant director (as Francois Moullin)
Art Department
Robert Reilly .... property master (as Robert F. Reilly)
Sound Department
John H. Bolz .... sound mixer (as John Bolz)
Jack Dalton Jr. .... sound boom operator
Thomas Halpin .... sound editor
Sanford Rackow .... sound editor
Dick Vorisek .... re-recordist (as Richard Vorisek)
Camera and Electrical Department
Louis Gerolomi .... gaffer (as Louis Girolami)
Ronald M. Lautore .... assistant camera (as Ron Lautore)
Louis S. Toth Jr. .... grip (as Louis Toth Jr.)
Tony Girolami .... best boy (uncredited)
Ron Mazzola .... grip (uncredited)
Charles Moore .... still photographer (uncredited)
Morton O.M. Segal .... second assistant camera (uncredited)
Casting Department
Vic Ramos .... extra casting
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Peggy Farrell .... wardrobe (as Peggy M. Farrell)
Editorial Department
Geraldine Fabrikant .... assistant editor
Rick Shaine .... assistant editor (as Frederick Shaine Jr.)
Irving Rathner .... negative cutter (uncredited)
Transportation Department
James Giblin .... transportation captain (as Jim Giblin)
Ed Wilson .... driver
Other crew
Roberta Hodes .... script supervisor
Adeline Leonard Seakwood .... production secretary (as Adeline Leonard)

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
USA:97 min
Color (Eastmancolor)
Aspect Ratio:
1.78 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

Film debut of Carol Kane.See more »
Movie Connections:


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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful.
A baffling array of characters on the proverbial edge, 14 November 2001
Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv

Chilly examination of alienated New Yorkers is difficult to find on VHS, but it's worth the search for Shirley MacLaine's performance alone. She's quite sympathetic floating through this frigid sea of lost faces and souls. The film is slow (deliberately slow) and lugubrious, but also undeniably compelling. The horrors of the modern day (circa 1971) are well-depicted in scene after scene, and the fade-out offers no pat promises (and, amusingly, no hope). In her autobiography, MacLaine scathingly dismisses the film as one that "didn't work", blaming it on script problems. I agree the 'plot', such as it is, could've been stronger overall, but--as with all unconventional stories--the people, their emotions, and things they experience are just as important as the dialogue, and all of those elements here are provocative and well-observed. What a weird one this is! **1/2 from ****

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