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Sweet Bird of Youth (1989)

Aging film star Alexandra del Lago, also known as Princess Kosmonopolis, fears her career is over due to her fading youthful looks. She takes up with a handsome young man, Chance Wayne, who... See full summary »


Nicolas Roeg


Tennessee Williams (play), Gavin Lambert (teleplay)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Elizabeth Taylor ... Princess Kosmonopolis
Mark Harmon ... Chance Wayne
Valerie Perrine ... Miss Lucy
Kevin Geer ... Tom Junior
Seymour Cassel ... Hatcher
Ronnie Claire Edwards ... Aunt Nonnie
Cheryl Paris Cheryl Paris ... Heavenly Finley
Rip Torn ... Boss Finley
Charles Lucia ... Dr. George Scudder
Teddy Wilson ... Fly (as Theodore Wilson)
Megan Blake ... Violet
John Fleck ... Mission Man (as John W. Fleck)
Michael Wilding Jr. Michael Wilding Jr. ... (as Michael Wilding)
Tom Nolan Tom Nolan
Billy Ray Sharkey Billy Ray Sharkey ... Scotty


Aging film star Alexandra del Lago, also known as Princess Kosmonopolis, fears her career is over due to her fading youthful looks. She takes up with a handsome young man, Chance Wayne, who once had promise as an actor but who has fallen into the life of a gigolo. Together they travel to Chance's home town, where he hopes to regain the love of his one-time girlfriend Heavenly Finley. But Chance's departure years before has destroyed Heavenly's possibilities of a happy life, and her father, political boss Tom Finley, wants revenge on Chance. Chance hopes to take Heavenly with him to start the movie career he believes the Princess offers him, but she is so fragile in her dread of lost youth that no one's dreams seem likely to come true. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Release Date:

1 October 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ambitions d'amour See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


A TV movie made for the NBC network. See more »


This remake is set in the late 1950s. Yet Alexandra del Lago pays with a credit card, not with checks as in the original play and original film. Also some of the costuming, especially Heavenly's, is much later in style than the 1950's-early 1960s. See more »


Version of Sweet Bird of Youth (1962) See more »

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User Reviews

Twilight of youth
17 October 2019 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Consider Tenneessee Williams one of the greats when it comes to play writing. 'Sweet Bird of Youth' is not quite 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof', 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and 'The Glass Menagerie', but it is nonetheless classic Williams and one of his best. Due to many things, the powerful emotional impact, challenging themes daring and ahead of the time to tackle back then, richly drawn characters and intelligent, realistic dialogue.

There are two filmed versions. One being the 1962 feature film with Geraldine Page and Paul Newman. The other being this 1989 television film. While neither are in the same league as the play, there is no doubt in my mind that the former is the better version. The bold themes may not have had their full impact, but they were intact still (more so than other film adaptations of Williams' work at that time that, although with much to recommend on their own terms, not just toned down the material but ommitted content which the film didn't do as badly), the chemistry was electric and the performances powerful. In the 80s and 90s, there were a number of television films made adapted from Williams' work and most of them were more faithful in detail and content (if not always in spirit) than their feature film counterparts. This 1989 'Sweet Bird of Youth' is an exception.

In that while Williams' intentions are clear this felt like 'Sweet Bird of Youth' re-ordered and re-invented, which it actually essentially was. It contains revisions made by Williams himself and a wider range of his writing, but a large part of me felt that it was not for the better, while its dilligence is admirable it is somewhat too on the academic side. The chemistry isn't on the same level here than to before, the steam generally is missing and personally thought that Elizabeth Taylor and Mark Harmon didn't quite sizzle enough together all the way through. Pace-wise, it feels rather staid, needed more edge, and the action could have opened up more because there can be a filmed stage play feel here and don't think that was quite the intent.

Due to the re-work and re-interpretations, some of the story is rather jumpy and can feel confused, and some of the characters that were major before are abridged to extended cameo-like. Taylor looks beautiful but unlike the out of this world portrayal of Geraldine Page in the 1962 film (am really trying not to compare but it is inevitable rather in this aspect because the difference in quality is so wide) her performance is uneven. There are some intensely moving moments, but also some overwrought ones and those that show a lack of energy. Surprising seeing as she was experienced in Williams, especially good in 'Suddenly, Last Summer'.

Mark Harmon though is good and has the right amount of intensity, his chemistry with Taylor has moments. This is a case though of the supporting cast making more of an impression than the leads. Ronnie Claire Edwards and Cheryl Paris make a lot out of their rather abridged roles and Valerie Perrine is heavenly as Miss Lucy. The best performance comes from Williams specialist Rip Torn, and also the cast member being most familiar with the play so knows it inside out, as a malevolent with a pinch of subtlety Boss Finley.

'Sweet Bird of Youth' is pleasing to look at, with Taylor's costumes looking ravishing. Williams' dialogue has lost none of its order despite the nature of how the play has been adapted. The direction is respectable if never properly distinguished and there are parts that have tension and poignancy (just wish there was more though). If there is one thing this does better than the feature film, it is the ending which doesn't feel as tidy or as odds with the mostly bleak tone.

Altogether, interesting and worth a peek but somewhat bland. 5/10

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