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The Pursuit of Happiness (1971) More at IMDbPro »

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The Pursuit of Happiness -- An alienated social drop-out accidentally runs over a woman in a rain storm. Though he can prove it was an accident, he refuses to cooperate with "the establishment," and is sentenced to a year in prison. With only a week left to his sentence, he gets involved in a knifing and manages to escape. He looks up his old girlfriend and the two fly off to Canada.


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Down 7% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Thomas Rogers (book)
Jon Boothe (screenplay) ...
View company contact information for The Pursuit of Happiness on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
22 May 1971 (Japan) See more »
"I don't want to run anymore..."
A young college student is sent to prison as much for killing a pedestrian with his car as for not paying his parking tickets... See more » | Add synopsis »
User Reviews:
Interesting, unfortunately obscure little drama. See more (7 total) »


  (in credits order)

Michael Sarrazin ... William Popper

Barbara Hershey ... Jane Kauffman
Arthur Hill ... John Popper

Ruth White ... Mrs. Popper

E.G. Marshall ... Daniel Lawrence

Robert Klein ... Melvin Lasher

Sada Thompson ... Ruth Lawrence

David Doyle ... James Moran

Barnard Hughes ... Judge Vogel

Peter White ... Terence Lawrence
Tom Rosqui ... District Attorney Keller

William Devane ... Pilot
Gilbert Lewis ... Convict George Wilson
Albert Henderson ... Convict McCardle

Ralph Waite ... Detective Cromie
Joseph Attles ... Holmes
Beulah Garrick ... Josephine
Jack Somack ... Judge Palumbo
Maya Kenin ... Mrs. Conroy

Rue McClanahan ... Mrs. O'Mara
Ed Kovens ... 1st Guard

Charles Durning ... 2nd Guard

Ed Setrakian ... Policeman
Ted Beniades ... Traffic Cop
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Philip Larson ... Student (uncredited)
Jay Morran ... Student (uncredited)

Directed by
Robert Mulligan 
Writing credits
Thomas Rogers (book)

Jon Boothe (screenplay) and
George Sherman (screenplay) (as George L. Sherman)

Produced by
Ronald H. Gilbert .... producer
Alan Shayne .... associate producer
David Susskind .... producer
Original Music by
Dave Grusin 
Cinematography by
Richard C. Kratina  (as Dick Kratina)
Film Editing by
Folmar Blangsted 
Art Direction by
George Jenkins 
Set Decoration by
Ben Rutter 
Costume Design by
Ann Roth 
Makeup Department
Robert Laden .... makeup artist
Production Management
Terence A. Donnelly .... unit production manager (as Terence Donnelly)
Hal Schaffel .... production manager
Hal Schaffel .... production supervisor
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Peter R. Scoppa .... assistant director (as Peter Scoppa)
Dwight Williams .... dga trainee (uncredited)
Art Department
John Jay Moore .... assistant art director
Sound Department
Dennis Maitland .... sound
Arthur Piantadosi .... sound

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, nudity, drug content and brief violence
93 min
Color (Eastmancolor)
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Australia:M | Finland:K-12 | Sweden:11 | USA:PG-13 (certificate #22563) | USA:GP (original rating)

Did You Know?

This was the last film performance of actress Ruth White who was famous for among other things playing Sally Buck, mother to Jon Voight's Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy.See more »
Mrs. O'Mara:Carelessness, accident, what difference does it make? She's still dead!See more »
The Pursuit of HappinessSee more »


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Interesting, unfortunately obscure little drama., 26 April 2013
Author: Scott LeBrun (Hey_Sweden) from Canada

It seems almost forgotten nowadays, which really is too bad. It's a thoughtful drama, adapted by Jon Boothe and George Sherman from the novel by Thomas Rogers. It tells a good story in a straightforward manner, refraining from indulging in any filler and giving impressive acting showcases to a fine bunch of actors.

Michael Sarrazin stars as William Popper, a college student who accidentally kills an old woman while driving in the rain one night. He's soon sent to prison, but what really screwed him more than the actual crime was the dim view that the system took of him, seeing a morally dubious young man with a serious disregard for law and order; not only was he driving with a license that he claims he didn't know expired, but he hadn't been paying his parking tickets.

While in prison, he becomes increasingly dismayed at the absurdity of the events in which he's caught up. Seeking to find some way to express himself, he seizes the opportunity for escape when it occurs, and implores his free spirited girlfriend Jane Kauffman (a very young and very gorgeous Barbara Hershey) to join him in his quest for freedom.

Boothe, Sherman, and director Robert Mulligan use this entertaining tale to make larger statements about the folly of human ignorance and the way that society at large can often impose its idea of how people should behave on the younger generation. Despite his good intentions, William continuously finds himself in trouble, whether he's admitting to being an atheist or lending some assistance to a homosexual fellow con (Gilbert Lewis). He's a young man frustrated by the injustices of the world and the whole aspect of chance. At least William has some people on his side, including his enthusiastic friend Melvin (comedian Robert Klein), his loving father John (Arthur Hill), and his formidable grandmother (Ruth White, who delivers a commanding performance). But he remains restless right to the end.

Sarrazin and Hershey are engaging in the leads, and the supporting cast features a number of familiar and reliable performers:E.G. Marshall as Williams' lawyer uncle, Sada Thompson as his aunt, David Doyle as an amiable con, Barnard Hughes as a judge, Ralph Waite as a detective, Rue McClanahan as an angry relative to the accident victim, and Charles Durning in a bit as a police guard. William Devane turns up late in the film, but makes a strong impression as a sleazy pilot whom William approaches for help.

This film is good enough, and likable enough, to deserve to be better known. At the very least, fans of the cast and director should be intrigued enough to want to give it a look.

Eight out of 10.

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