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Absence of Malice (1981)

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When a prosecutor leaks a false story that a liquor warehouse owner is involved in the murder of a union head, the man's life begins to unravel.

Director:

Sydney Pollack

Writer:

Kurt Luedtke
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Newman ... Gallagher
Sally Field ... Megan
Bob Balaban ... Rosen
Melinda Dillon ... Teresa
Luther Adler ... Malderone
Barry Primus ... Waddell
Josef Sommer ... McAdam
John Harkins ... Davidek
Don Hood ... Quinn
Wilford Brimley ... Wells
Arnie Ross Arnie Ross ... Eddie Frost
Phanie Napoli Phanie Napoli ... Nickie (as Anna Marie Napoles)
Shelley Spurlock Shelley Spurlock ... Sarah Wylie
Shawn McAllister ... Hood 1
Joe Petrullo Joe Petrullo ... Hood 2
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Storyline

Mike Gallagher is a Miami liquor wholesaler whose deceased father was a local mobster. The FBI organized crime task force have no evidence that he's involved with the mob but decide to pressure him into perhaps revealing something - anything - about a murder they're sure was a mob hit. They let Megan Carter, a naive but well-meaning journalist, know he is being investigated and Gallagher's name is soon all over the newspaper. Gallagher has an iron-clad alibi for when the murder occurred but won't reveal it to protect his fragile friend Teresa. When Carter publishes her story, tragedy ensues. Needing to make amends, Carter tells Gallagher the source of the first story about him and he sets out to teach the FBI and the Federal Attorney a lesson. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Suppose you picked up this morning's newspaper and your life was a front page headline... And everything they said was accurate... But none of it was true. The D.A., Feds and the police set her up to write the story that explodes his world. Now he's going to write the book on getting even. See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

18 December 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ausencia de malicia See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$12,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$64,775, 22 November 1981, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$40,716,963
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Paul Tatara at the The Turner Classic Movies website states that there was "a press conference/luncheon featuring [Paul] Newman, [Sally] Field, [Sydney] Pollack, and others at New York City's Tavern on the Green restaurant. What started out as a glowing ember of discontent among reporters turned into a raging fire by the time Newman and Field were done answering questions. When a reporter from the sensationalist tabloid 'The New York Post' introduced herself to Field, the actress responded, 'Wouldn't you rather say you're from some place else?', despite the fact that the actress recently participated in a perfectly cordial interview with the paper. Then, when Newman was introduced to the Post's Diana Maychick, he bluntly snapped, 'I hate your paper'." See more »

Goofs

The union workers who struck Michael told him that if their union cards were pulled they would not be able to work anywhere. Florida is a right to work state and you don't need to have a union card to work. They would be considered "scabs" but they would be able to work at any dock in Miami. See more »

Quotes

James A. Wells, Assistant U.S. Attorney General: Tell you what we're gonna do. We're gonna sit right here and talk about it. Now if you get tired of talking here, Mr. Marshal Elving Patrick there will hand you one of them subpoenas he's got stuck down in his pocket and we'll go downstairs and talk in front of the grand jury... Elliot? Jim?... Fine. All right, Elving, hand whichever one of these fellas you like a subpoena and we'll go on downstairs and talk in front of the grand jury.
District Attorney James A. Quinn: Gallagher's a government witness.
James A. Wells, Assistant U.S. Attorney General: Wonderful thing, a ...
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Connections

Referenced in Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip (1982) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
The Fourth Estate on trial
23 February 2006 | by krorieSee all my reviews

Paul Newman and Sally Field, though somewhat opposites both in their roles as Michael Colin Gallagher and Megan Carter respectively and in real Hollywood life, mesh and make believable lovers. Megan tells Michael that she is 30 something and doesn't need courting to play in the hay. Michael retorts, "Maybe I do," and drives away. Megan winds up somewhat of a failure both as a newspaper hound and as a liberated female. Then along comes Wilford Brimley in a bit part and runs away with the show. That's saying a lot since the well chosen cast gives it all they've got including ace jobs by Bob Balaban and Melinda Dillon.

The essence of the film is "What is the nature of truth?" What we read in the paper ain't necessarily so. Jibes are poked at bureaucrats too who certainly have problems determining what is truth. As long as the paperwork looks good then so goes the world. With the Horatio Alger success formula still around in the world of big government and big business, empire builders are a dime a dozen. Usually their asses are saved by cover ups and fall guys. In "Absence of Malice" the innocent victim outsmarts the bureaucrats and the Fourth Estate to bring the house of cards down, certainly an anomaly in the 21th century as it was in 1981, maybe even more so.

Admittedly, the film becomes too preachy at times which not only grates on the nerves but also slows the picture down. Yet the well-written script and Sydney Pollack's knowing direction keep it from becoming a total disaster. Not on the level of Pollack's previous "Three Days of the Condor" or his next feature "Tootsie," "Absence of Malice" still packs a wallop.


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