64 user 47 critic

The Dead (1987)

PG | | Drama | 18 December 1987 (USA)
Gabriel Conroy and wife Greta attend an early January dinner with friends at the home of his spinster aunts, an evening which results in an epiphany for both of them.


John Huston


James Joyce (short story from "Dubliners"), Tony Huston (screenplay)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 11 wins & 17 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Helena Carroll Helena Carroll ... Aunt Kate
Cathleen Delany Cathleen Delany ... Aunt Julia
Rachael Dowling Rachael Dowling ... Lily
Kate O'Toole Kate O'Toole ... Miss Furlong (as Katherine O'Toole)
Bairbre Dowling Bairbre Dowling ... Miss Higgins
Maria Hayden Maria Hayden ... Miss O'Callaghan
Cormac O'Herlihy Cormac O'Herlihy ... Mr. Kerrigan
Colm Meaney ... Mr. Bergin
Ingrid Craigie ... Mary Jane
Dan O'Herlihy ... Mr. Brown
Anjelica Huston ... Gretta
Donal McCann ... Gabriel
Sean McClory ... Mr. Grace (as Seán McClory)
Frank Patterson Frank Patterson ... Bartell D'Arcy
Marie Kean ... Mrs. Malins


On the lightly snowy evening of January 6, 1904 in Dublin, elderly spinster sisters Kate and Julia and their niece, Mary Jane - all music teachers or performers, past or present - are hosting their annual Epiphany party and dinner, and, with the exception of Mary Jane's new crop of students and the young gentlemen tasked with keeping them company, most of the guests have attended in previous years. Kate and Julia's nephew Gabriel and his wife Gretta hold integral roles for the evening, Gabriel, who, in addition to being Freddy Malins caregiver if he gets too drunk as is often the case, is to carve the dinner goose and provide the evening's main toast, while Gretta is to present the pudding. With the added unexpected excitement provided by Irish nationalist Molly Ivors for Gabriel, the party basically goes according to script. As most of the guests have departed and just before Gabriel and Gretta are to do the same - this year they staying in a downtown hotel instead of making the long... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A vast, merry, and uncommon tale of love.




PG | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


The film was made and released about 73 years after its source short story of the same name by James Joyce had been first published in his "Dubliners" collection in 1914. See more »


Mr. Grace: You have taken what is to the left of me, you have taken what is to the right of me, you have taken what is behind me, you have taken what is before me, and, it is my greatest fear, you have taken God from me.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Ten minutes of the film have been omitted from the 2009 DVD release. See more »


Referenced in C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud (1989) See more »


Arrayed for the Bridal
From the opera "I Puritani di Scozio" by Vincenzo Bellini
Sung by Cathleen Delaney
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User Reviews

John Houston takes his exit with an elegiac meditation in honoring his forefathers and passing on his wisdom to his devout audience
27 September 2016 | by lasttimeisawSee all my reviews

Released posthumously, THE DEAD bookends John Huston's illustrious career spanning 46 years, which is kick-started with a bang by THE MALTESE FALCON (1941). Adapted to the screen from James Royce's source story from his shorts collection DUBLINERS by John's son Tony, and stars his daughter Anjelica, plus a succinct length of merely 83 minutes and the fact that its story is mostly confined in a single location, THE DEAD is a small-scale labour of love of Huston (and his family too), an octogenarian ruminates about his fulfilled life and ponders what is inevitably waiting for him. But, don't be misled by its title, the film doesn't dwells on that morbid subject, instead, its life-force engendered from the lively festivity of a January dinner in Dublin 1904.

University professor Gabriel Conroy (McCann) and his wife Gretta (Houston) are invited to attend the annual dance and dinner to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, hosted by the former's aunties, the Morkan sisters, Kate (Carroll) and her elder sibling Julia (Delany), as well as their niece Mary Jane (Craigie). Other guests are also presented, among which there is Mr. Grace (McClory, the Irish old stager in his final silver screen presence), a character doesn't exist in Royce's original text, entertains audience with his sublime recitation of a Middle Irish poem YOUNG DONAL, " ..You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me; you have taken what is before me and what is behind me; you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me; and my fear is great that you have taken God from me.", it is a magic moment where the sheer power of words embraces its deserved cinematic glory.

Another highlights include Freddy Malins (Donnelly, an unforeseen usurper in my BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR list), a middle-aged bachelor, a raging alcoholic, Gabriel's childhood friend, noticeably under the influence, his soused conduct sterlingly breathes an air of discomfiture and drollness on top of the cordiality presented by the rest of the ensemble; whereas his mother Ms. Malins (Kean), a helicopter parent who perhaps isn't even aware of what damage she has done, and risibly puzzles why her son keeps being such a disappointment and laughing stock.

Irish hospitality, as Gabriel addresses in his heart-felt tribute speech to the three hostesses, whom he praises as "three Graces", is the glue brings everybody altogether, regardless of their tastes in music, political stances or even religious persuasions. Cathleen Delany as Aunt Julia, upstages the rest of the Irish ensemble with her grand reaction shots and bolstered by her rendition of an Irish folk song, purely because it is too rare a case that the script would give sizable screen time to a senior lady singing in her weather-beaten timbre (apart from Ms. Florence Foster Jenkins for obvious reason).

Anjelica Houston, shares her last journey of movie-making with her esteemed father, takes a back seat in the dinner party with her composed demeanor, until Gretta's concealed memory is unexpectedly prompted by THE LASS OF AUGHRIM sung by the tenor Bartell D'Arcy (Patterson), when the party is winding down. In her quietly poignant confession of a deceased young man who she fell in love with, the film reaches its well-earned catharsis through Donal McCann's reflective voice-over about certain existential epiphany, enhanced by the picturesque montage from DP Fred Murphy and Alex North's conspicuously pensive accompanying score.

John Houston takes his exit with an elegiac meditation in honoring his forefathers and passing on his wisdom to his devout audience, it is brimming with loftiness, sincerity and an utterly captivating sensibility, and we wish the party would never be over, because goodbye is the hardest word to say to a beloved master.

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UK | Ireland



Release Date:

18 December 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

John Huston's The Dead See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$69,074, 20 December 1987

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (DVD)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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