The Glass Menagerie (1987) Poster

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Beautiful Production!
sherger15 December 2004
I just viewed this movie and have to agree fully with jslack-2 from Granstburg, Illinois. I've played Tennessee Williams myself (Laura in THE GLASS MENAGERIE and later in my career Blanche in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE) and I think Newman really got to the "core" of Williams with this production. The acting is superb and draws you into the story as Williams intended. This isn't for the "faint of heart" who only seeks "light entertainment"...this is raw and very real. I lived in the South at a time when the old conventions were struggling against giving way to the new. I met many "Amanda Wingfields" and know just how "true" this really is. Kudos to Newman and his cast...and yes, where WERE the Oscar nominations that year for this production?!
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The best filmed version of The Glass Menagerie
TheLittleSongbird9 June 2012
When it comes to Tennesse Williams, I am more familiar myself with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire, but when studying The Glass Menagerie for A Levels three years ago I was struck by how moving the story and the character of Laura was. And apart from a few close-ups that distracted from the momentum of some scenes, I loved this version and consider one of the better, perhaps even the best, version(s) of The Glass Menagerie. The production values look striking, and even with the close ups the photography is not half bad. I will be honest in saying that Paul Newman is a better actor than he is as director. That is not to say that he didn't do a good job, he did(in fact it is for me one of his better directorial efforts), but this is the same Paul Newman who has been responsible for some of the finest performances I've seen like in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke, The Hustler and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof(where he played Brick) and for me his directing while impressive is not quite up to the same standard. What is impressive here though is that, from his work as Brick no doubt, he does capture the basic core of The Glass Menagerie instead of missing the point of it. Back to the rest of the film's assets, the story is still moving and the script is just as beautifully written and thoughtful as Williams' own writing. And there are great performances too, James Naughton is excellent as Jim and John Malkovich's Tom is wonderfully fey and gives his monologues a suitably dream-like quality. The best two performances though come from Karen Allen as a heartbreaking Laura and especially the superb Amanda(one of Williams' juiciest characters) of Joanne Woodward. In conclusion, a great, well-acted version of The Glass Menagerie. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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Beautiful and haunting
Michael Muldowney18 March 1999
Under-rated beautifully realized version of a famous play - everything is just right and Karen Allen's work as the tragic Laura is deeply moving - one of the best screen performances never to have been nominated for an Academy Award.
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more than adaptation
Armand30 April 2015
the play. the cast. the atmosphere. short, a splendid adaptation , exploring, with grace and precision, the nuances of text. the entire tension, the fragility of Laura, the heavy-gray emotions of Tom, the Joanne Woodward's Amanda are pieces of a great science to remind the beauty of play, the South flavor, the failure and the impossibility of hope. the right sound of image and acting - that is the great virtue of the film. a film who has all the ingredients to be more than inspired adaptation but perfect support for reflection about a small universe and its borders. John Malkovich does an admirable role and that is important for the link between viewer and the close universe. the fragility of the scenes. and the voice of Malkovich as its frame.
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Deeply moving--tops all previous film versions.
BrentCarleton11 April 2006
The depth of feeling manifested in the acting on display here easily trumps both the (wildly miscast)Gertrude Lawrence and the (vastly overrated) Katherine Hepburn versions of this celebrated play.

Though everyone involved (on both sides of the camera) does a first rate job, special accolades are due to Joanne Woodward, who is perhaps the first actress to really understand Amanda, since the role's originator--Laurette Taylor.

The pathos in Miss Woodward's delineation of the character is almost unbearable on some occasions, as in the famous jonquil soliloquy, in which she conveys, with hushed voice and beatific eyes, a sentimental recollection for lost time (and lost love) that is not only wholly personally convincing, but also manages to imprint her sentiment onto the audience with all the deja vu of Proust's madeleine.

Her Amanda is never less than fully persuasive.

And Mr. Malkovitch, in his final address to the camera, ("blow out your candles Laura") achieves effects of the same high order, with emotions so confiding, intimate, and genuine that he leaves viewers of any sensitivity as heartbroken as he is.

All told a devastating achievement not to be missed by admirers of Mr. Williams.
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Superb acting and directing
jobla24 September 2004
I'll say upfront that I haven't read Tennessee Williams' play, so I can't comment on the film as an adaptation. I have seen various film and stage productions of it over the years, and this is the best presentation that I've seen yet. The acting is superb, particularly John Malkovich and Karen Allen. Malkovich gives a definitive portrayal of the budding writer, a performance that would please Tennessee Williams himself, in my opinion. Director Paul Newman contributes the same sensitive approach that he brought to his earlier, vaguely similar film THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN-IN-THE-MOON MARIGOLDS. This is a superb effort, one that should be on DVD with commentary from the cast.
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Not my favorite film version but solid performances by all
Robert Gold2 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I have taught the play many times to my high school English classes. I have also shown various movie versions to my students as well.

I enjoyed this version, but it's not the one I would show my classes.

I thought that Woodward's Amanda was softer and sweeter than Gertrude Lawrence and Katharine Hepburn. Some parts I would have liked to have seen her a bit more emotional, but I feel that Joanne Woodward turned in a touching performance. The character of Amanda can be quite funny; Judith Ivey did a wonderful job as Amanda on Broadway in the spring of 2010. I feel that Woodward brought out some of that humor in the role.

I also liked the other three too. All good performances, but the pacing of the movie slowed it down. Also the film looked quite dark. I know it's a memory play set in a dingy apartment, but it was a bit too dark, especially when the lights have been turned off.

What's up with Tom visiting the now vacant and abandoned apartment building?

Overall, I prefer the 1950 black and white version. Unlike many others, I really liked Gertrude Lawrence's Amanda. I also liked Arthur Kennedy and Jane Wyman. Kirk Douglas was a little bit too energetic but still good.

When I showed Katharine Hepburn's Amanda, my students begged to return to the black and white version. This - coming from kids who hate black and white movies.

I am glad I finally sat down to watch this version, but for me I will stick with the first film version, even if it has that insipid happy ending.
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Perfect cast in a classic story
Craig Hamrick12 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I first noticed James Naughton when he starred in the cheesy 1970s TV version of the Planet of the Apes, and later learned that he has had an amazing stage career over the years. It's a shame he may be more widely remembered for his work in that series than for his theater endeavors, which by nature aren't usually recorded. Fortunately, his heart-breaking performance as Jim O'Connor was saved for posterity. He's perfectly cast here as the charming former high school golden boy who comes to the Wingfield home for dinner, offering a ray of hope for a happy future for painfully shy Laura (Karen Allen in a well-acted stretch from her most famous role as the spitfire lover of Indiana Jones in Raidres of the Lost Ark).

Joanne Woodward shines in a multi-layered, brilliant turn as one of the most interesting characters in modern literature, Amanda Wingfieid. She gives just the right touch to small moments that give the viewer an enlightening peek at the desperate condition of the fading southern belle -- such as a moment on the telephone, coaxing someone to renew their newspaper subscription so she can scrape off her small commission.

John Malkovich also turns in a terrific performance, making the aftermath of the dinner party compelling, though painful, to watch. Malkovich has evolved into an actor whose quirkiness can sometimes overpower his character. In this relatively early work, his brooding sexiness gives an endearing depth to the story's narrator, a character who, in the wrong hands, can be utterly dislikable.

My only real quibble with this film is has to do with the technical direction. Paul Newman drew out such great work from his cast that it's unfortunate that distracting camera work takes attention away from them at times when it shouldn't. One can see that he was trying to make the stagy story more "movie like" and intimate with close-ups and quick cuts from camera angle to camera angle. For example, when Jim accidentally breaks one of Amanda's favorite glass animals, we don't really need to see a quick, tight close-up of the unicorn and his broken horn; that momentarily breaks the momentum of the scene. It's more than enough to hear the sad young woman's touching twist of the situation-- comforting Jim for causing the break by saying she'll imagine that her treasured unicorn has had an operation to make him look like a regular horse, and will be happy now that he's not a freak. The camera work certainly does not render the film unwatchable, and I think it shouldn't be missed.
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I like it.
Kate-5913 March 1999
I read this play in my high school English class, and I love it. I think John Malkovich did an amazing job as Tom. His monologues at the beginning of every scene were especially well done. He gave the movie a really dream-like quality. For once, a movie does the written material justice.
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It made me read the book!
YFL16 April 1999
I don't usually watch movies like this ... you know ... which is more on the artistic side. I could've just not watched ... but somewhere through it ... I was captivated. I don't know about the other things ... like directing... So I can't say much about that ... but technical stuff apart, I can say ... it is excellent. The theme of three different characters trapped in their different visions... and yet so connected ... We don't have to question Tennessee Williams gift for writing. Aside from that, the characters are played out beautifully. Karen Allen was effective as Laura, subtle and quiet and fragile ...... And John Malkovich ... he makes it so GOOD ... And I'm entirely willing to believe he IS Tom Wingfield himself, regardless of what I've read of critics. He intrigues and captures through every word and action... Or just his presence ... After watching this movie, I actually WANTED to read the play ... out of my own free will. Which is really something! Just watch this movie and let the story and characters overwhelm you.
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great adaptation
Kirpianuscus22 January 2017
exploration of nuances. this is the basic point for admire this admirable adaptation. the precise acting . the new senses of a well known play . and the portraits of the characters who, in vulnerability, force, hate and need of sense are realistic reflections of social facts. Paul Newman does more than a great job but the inspired translation of the essence of Tennesee Williams universe. a great film . for the science to use delicacy for create a powerful - touching world. for the art to give to the each character a special light for understand the motivation and the fight. and Tom Wingfield of John Malkovich is real impressive.
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Tom, Laura and their mother Amanda live in a small Saint Louis apartment during the 1930's. The three struggle to find balance in their lives.
vjohns199628 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This movie shows a great understanding of the original play. The use of lighting, music, and actor choice exemplifies the mood and theme of the play. The actors bring out all the emotions and characteristics that Tennessee Williams put into his original piece.

The setting is a 1930's apartment in Saint Louis and is told from the perspective of Tom. Laura, Tom and their mother, Amanda, live there together because their father abandoned them. Amanda fears that Tom is becoming an alcoholic like his father and she worries about Laura's future. Laura dropped out of Business College and has a leg defect. Amanda views her daughter as damaged goods. Laura is shy and does not get attention from boys and so Amanda tries to make Laura pretty for Jim, a man Tom knows for work. Laura realizes that Jim is her high school crush and gets embarrassed and doesn't eat dinner. Jim then takes the time to talk with Laura and the two ended up dancing together and kissing. Jim didn't tell Laura that he was engaged and he leaves after revealing the information to Laura and Amanda. Tom leaves his family at the end of the play, just as his father did. The cast was limited to four people, making the actors all have to communicate well with each other.

The viewer notices each time something is meant to be awkward and each time something is meant to be serious. Each of the four actors portrayed their parts fantastically and exemplified the characters as written in Williams' original play. The candlelight shows a different kind of mood than light from the light bulb. Then Tom gives Laura some dandelion wine and leaves the candles in the room with them. He asks Laura to move closer so he can see her. After Tom and Laura look at her glass collection, they go open the door and dance. Tom gives her confidence in herself that no one else ever has. This setting was created so that the viewer sees the room in a romantic setting.

The music in the movie were pieces that would be played during the time it was written and set, which was the late 1930's. The music adds to the tone, especially when Laura tried to distract Amanda from the fact that she dropped out of Business School.
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the movie was excellent!!!
brogan-314 November 1999
i just watched "the glass menagerie" on video, and was just blown away by the three main characters...(john malkovich, joanne woodward, and karen allen.)performances. i know that tennessee williams writing was exceptional, but the actors made the writing come alive. john malkovich especially touched me,he is by far one of the finest actors today. his narration really brought the film together, the final segment made me realize just how wonderful he is... and made we want to see everything he has ever done!!!
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An astonishing performance by Karen Allen
jtdb17 May 2005
Stagey but handsome version of the Williams classic directed by Paul Newman. Fluid camera-work and beautiful lighting, an evocative score, and nice (if leisurely) pacing help immensely. The high school classes I showed this to didn't respond to Woodward's Amanda, though she certainly nails the comedy of the piece; however, it's a very animated performance, with flutey vocal mannerisms that can grate on one. (I've not seen the Hepburn performance, but she often gets criticized for the same thing; however, I'd love to see her tackle the dramatic stuff.) James Naughton is solid, if a bit stolid, as the gentleman caller. Malkovich etches a remarkable portrayal of Tom--defiantly unafraid of the character's possible gay subtext--that grows in poignancy to a heartbreaking final monologue. But it's Karen Allen's Laura that is the heart of this piece--if you've only seen her in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or "Scrooged," you'll be astounded at her ability to cut straight to your heart with just her eyes. She's truly unforgettable.
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The Glass Menagerie (1987)
musicalmarion4 October 2013
A wonderful dramatisation of the work and everyone giving a super performance, although I felt that Malkovich had a somewhat dispassionate edge to his. The drama demands every attention to the script which pays off beautifully, despite the slow-moving storyline. I am desperate to know the name of the music and the performing band, who all gave the most beautiful interpretation of tone and expression. Does anybody happen to know how to trace it, or what it is originally called? In my copy I seem to have missed the composer's name too, in the credits. It is a wonderful piece of music and so beautifully played by the musicians, and I am amazed if this was overlooked in the final production.
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Utterly Amazing
dudein3d24 December 2001
I don't think I want to spoil it with just need to watch and feel the film. The film really has changed me...for the better I can see...and it's opening my eyes and my brain. But that's just me...because I think it's about time something awakes me like this film has done. Please watch this film...and let me know what you think. Please don't take my words as a basis for your judgement on the film...or for the time leading up to watch it...but take it with your own thoughts. Different situations for different people cause us to have different ideas and thoughts...and the film has left me with a lasting feeling.
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Not so good
hillary121 November 2004
I'm a wannabe writer who would sacrifice my firstborn for one tenth of the talent Tennessee Williams gave us over his amazing career as a playwright. I love Amanda and Blanche and Maggie and Baby Doll and all those incredible, erotic literary women he lovingly created and left to us to enjoy. However, this version just doesn't hit the mark. The main problem, really, is that all the actors are far TOO OLD. Karen Allen must be nearly 40 in this film, and really not believable as the sheltered, shy misfit of the play, and the same can be said of John Malcovich, who usually is one of my favorite actors. Joanne Woodward is good as Amanda, one of the more demanding female roles in cinema, but just lacks the ability to suck you in and make you pity her, although I think that has more to do with the lackluster supporting cast and direction than her acting ability. Not a good adaptation.
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1fortheroad9 April 2003
Hey I liked this play! We're reading it for credit and I watched the movie and it is very funny, much funnier in person than just reading the script. I thought that Joanne Woodward does an extreamly good portrayal of Amanda Wingfield. She acts exactly like I thought she would act--flighty, and maybe a bit shallow, but at the same time you have this overwhelming feeling of pity for her and her family. Obviously, here is a woman who was breed for a delicate life, but was forced to live differently after her husband left. And I knew I recognized Laura!!!! I who have watched Indiana Jones all my life! Karen Allen! She's pretty good in this. She plays the role well--shy, timid, mousy... and trapped and dominated by her mother. As far as Tom, played by John Malkovich, wasn't that good. He has no emotion in his voice, and he speaks in these horrible slow tones that make me want to scream. Usually he is very good, I wonder what went wrong? But overall, it's a pretty good show. Except that I find a striking similarity between Amanda Wingfield from Glass and Blanche Dubois from Streetcar. Don't you? Perhaps Tennessee Willaims had limited experience with southern women. :)
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a little disappointing
hobhob-22 May 2000
As the director of a theatre version of the play i was intrigued to see this film version, but found its directional tone a little too dark for my liking. I felt Newman failed to extract some of the humour from the text, although his overall character placement etc was pleasing. i liked woodward's amanda which i felt had the right blend of the endearing and the pathetic and i felt Allen was a delightful laura. i found Malkovich's tom just a little too intense and brooding. again, i would have liked to see more of the humour brought to life.
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A fascinating misreading of the play
stills-68 August 2000
Malcovich and Woodward are terrific - playing their characters for all that they're worth. And I love the idea of James being played as a traveling salesman with a philosophical/psychological patter than Naughton gives him. Allen is less impressive. Although Laura is not what you might call a "feature" role, it does demand more subtlety and awareness than she brings - even more so with a camera than on stage.

There is a strange hovering presence in this picture, however. The direction is, at times, curiously overbearing - the staging is not only unnecessary but sometimes intrusive. The transparent curtains, for example, are used for their fullest effect with James and Laura, but this effect is a misreading of the scene. The split screen implies a much simpler interpretation than the scene calls for. Laura is smothered, yes, and hidden, but the reasons why and her actual state of mind go beyond the obtuse battiness of her mother. Everyone that is absent in that scene, including the "fifth character," belongs there just as much and even more than James does. For that matter, I'm surprised that more wasn't done with the absent father figure than the ridiculous smiling picture on the wall.
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Obviously not the play
Direct26 March 2001
The directing was horrid. The character of Jim was totally off. Instead of the energetic happy person in the script, they have a dull lackluster interpretation of his character that through the whole play in the trash. I also think Laura's shyness was overplayed way too much. I would not suggest this movie to anyone.
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Very Disappointing
NetPlay52510 August 2004
This is a horribly disappointing treatment of Williams' great play. Paul Newman, the director, completely homogenizes the devastating undercurrents of the story, cast all the main roles way too old (except for his wife, Joanne Woodward, who gives a serviceable performance) and has no understanding of the characters, their secrets and what Williams was trying to say and express. Of course, none of the actors cast are bad actors, they are just very wrong for the roles.

Tennessee Williams did not write a sweet, romantic family story and Newman doesn't get it. Too bad, The Glass Menagerie could be a brilliant movie if it ever fell into the hands of a director who had the guts to get at the real meat in this story and within the 4 main characters.
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