A Boston feminist and a conservative Southern lawyer contend for the heart and mind of a beautiful and bright girl unsure of her future.

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Writers:

(novel), (screenplay)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Madeleine Potter ...
...
Mrs. Burrage
...
Dr. Tarrant
Barbara Bryne ...
...
Dr. Prance
Charles McCaughan ...
Music Hall Policeman
Nancy New ...
Adeline
...
Henry Burrage (as John Van Ness Philip)
...
Mr. Pardon
Peter Bogyo ...
Mr. Gracie
Martha Farrar ...
Mrs, Farrinder
Dusty Maxwell ...
Newton Tarrant
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Storyline

19th-century Boston woman dedicated to the suffrage movement, meets a faith healer's daughter, a Mississippi lawyer also has eyes for the young woman. Written by Joyce Kavitsky <Kavitsky@erols.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A BEAUTIFUL FILM . . . An intimate and exquisite probe of the feminist heart. [Australia Theatrical]

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

|

Language:

Release Date:

17 August 1984 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

A bostoniak  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This motion picture's opening title card reads: "Boston 1875". See more »

Goofs

After a title card has advised us we are in New York City in l876, Olive Chancellor writes a check for Mr. Tarrant, dated Septmber 13, 1875. See more »

Quotes

Miss Birdseye: [on Basil] Your cousin looks like a genius, my dear.
Olive Chancellor: It's only a distant cousin. He's a lawyer from Mississippi, he left his mother and his sisters behind and he's come to try to make his living in New York. He's not in sympathy, I'm afraid.
Miss Birdseye: Well, I've often found that people are only waiting for the light.
See more »

Connections

Featured in The Wandering Company (1984) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The World of Henry James
8 September 2011 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Henry James has not been an easy author to bring to the screen. The Heiress has been one glorious exception and even with the fine production values that Merchant/Ivory brought to The Bostonians it still doesn't quite measure up to The Heiress in glorious black and white.

That being said The Bostonians is great window on the world of Henry James and the upper class society in which he moved in New York and Boston. James was a great evaluator of human nature even of the love that dare not speak its name.

Stripped of all the trimmings about the emerging women's movement what we've got here is a triangle with a lesbian twist. Vanessa Redgrave got an Oscar nomination for Best Actress with her portrayal as an intellectual leader who feels she hasn't the voice to articulate the issues surrounding suffrage and all the other inequalities women endured back then. She latches on to a protégé in the person of Madeline Potter recently shilling for her faith healer father Wesley Addy. What she cannot, dare not articulate is the physical attraction she's feeling for Potter.

Redgrave is simply marvelous as the frustrated, possibly even latent lesbian. We're never sure if she has or will ever consummate her feelings. This is Boston of the 1870s-1880s where such things are frowned there even more than most places in the USA.

Vanessa's rival for Potter is Christopher Reeve a devilishly handsome young blade from the south who has come north to seek his fortune as a lawyer. As for Potter she's not sure of what she wants or even that Redgrave's interest in her is more than politics.

Linda Hunt and Jessica Tandy have a pair of good roles, The Bostonians is great in terms of roles for women. Tandy is an aged old soul who rejoices in the changes in America she's seen in the 19th century of which she remembers most of. Hunt is her nurse/companion who is a shrewd observer of the events around her and Tandy.

The Bostonians also got a nomination for Costume Design and the shooting in Boston and New York are fine. Boston has kept a lot of the same look Henry James knew in certain areas of the city and James Ivory made great use of Central Park in New York and some of the structures there that were put up in the time of Henry James.

I won't say what happens other than to say that Vanessa Redgrave does find it in herself to articulate her cause. As for the rest you have to watch this very fine production to find out.


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