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Carnal Knowledge (1971)

R | | Drama | 30 June 1971 (USA)
Chronicling the lifelong sexual development of two men who meet and befriend one another in college.


Mike Nichols


Jules Feiffer
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Jack Nicholson ... Jonathan
Candice Bergen ... Susan
Art Garfunkel ... Sandy (as Arthur Garfunkel)
Ann-Margret ... Bobbie
Rita Moreno ... Louise
Cynthia O'Neal ... Cindy
Carol Kane ... Jennifer


The concurrent sexual lives of best friends Jonathan and Sandy are presented, those lives which are affected by the sexual mores of the time and their own temperament, especially in relation to the respective women who end up in their lives. Their story begins in the late 1940s when they are roommates attending Amherst College together. Both virgins, they discuss the type of woman they would each like to end up with. Sandy, the more sensitive of the two, meets Susan at a mixer, she who he believes is going to be the one to who he will lose his virginity. Sandy goes through the process methodically, taking into account what he thinks Susan wants, but without much true passion or romance. Jonathan, the more sexually aggressive of the two, ends up losing his virginity first to "Myrtle", who ends up being a steady but hidden girlfriend. Based on what each knows of the other's relationship, both Jonathan and Sandy strive for a little more of what the other has. These relationships also set... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The United States Supreme Court Has Ruled That "Carnal Knowledge" Is Not Obscene. See It Now!




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Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Carol Kane has not a single word of dialogue in the film which was only the second feature film in which she appeared. Four years later, she would be Oscar-nominated for Best Leading Actress (for "Hester Street"), ironically, in the same year against Ann-Margret (for "Tommy"), 1975. See more »


[first lines]
Jonathan: If you had a choice...
Sandy: Yeah?
Jonathan: Would you rather love a girl, or have her love you?
Sandy: I want it mutual.
Jonathan: I mean if you couldn't have it mutual.
Sandy: You mean would I rather be the one who loves, or is loved?
Jonathan: Yeah.
Sandy: It's not that easy a question. But, I think I'd rather be in love.
Jonathan: Me too. I wouldn't want to get hurt, though.
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A String of Pearls
Written by Jerry Gray and Edgar De Lange
Performed by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra
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User Reviews

Mike Nichols last depressing hurrah
7 November 2012 | by daha1120See all my reviews

For the first half hour the characters are so disgusting and terrible, the feeling of bile rising in my throat doesn't subside. These are the people who I have known. And while I cannot bring myself to turn it off, I also can't help but fondly remember watching all of his movies that he made before this one, the spark that say The Graduate or Catch-22 had, and this just feels a little flat. But at the same time, it seems to completely succeed in doing what it sets out to do, creating something suffocatingly real, like watching the most depressing moments in my life played back for me with dim lighting and blonder actresses. The fact that Candice Bergen goes away after that also helps. Upper middle class ennui is something that's almost always tedious to watch, but this is actually affecting. Nonetheless, this feels like the beginning of the end for Mike Nichols. He would never again make anything on a level with Catch-22, and he followed this one up with Day of the Dolphins. Seriously. wtf. Also for the curious, pop star Arthur Garfunkle (as the back of the DVD box puts it) gives a surprisingly strong performance in this.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

30 June 1971 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Carnal Knowledge See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Embassy Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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