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The Prince of Tides (1991)

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A troubled man talks to his suicidal sister's psychiatrist about their family history and falls in love with her in the process.


Barbra Streisand


Pat Conroy (novel), Pat Conroy (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 7 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nick Nolte ... Tom Wingo
Barbra Streisand ... Susan Lowenstein
Blythe Danner ... Sally Wingo
Kate Nelligan ... Lila Wingo Newbury
Jeroen Krabbé ... Herbert Woodruff
Melinda Dillon ... Savannah Wingo
George Carlin ... Eddie Detreville
Jason Gould Jason Gould ... Bernard Woodruff
Brad Sullivan ... Henry Wingo
Maggie Collier Maggie Collier ... Lucy Wingo
Lindsay Wray Lindsay Wray ... Jennifer Wingo
Brandlyn Whitaker Brandlyn Whitaker ... Chandler Wingo
Justen Woods Justen Woods ... Tom Wingo (age 6)
Bobby Fain Bobby Fain ... Tom Wingo (age 10)
Trey Yearwood Trey Yearwood ... Tom Wingo (age 13)


The Wingo family is from South Carolina, they growing up in a house on a tidal plain. The oldest offspring, Lucas, largely acted as the protector for his younger twins siblings, Tom and Savannah, in light of their dysfunctional growing up, with their shrimper father, Henry, distant and abusive if/when he did pay them any attention, and their mother, Lila, while not doting on them most concerned about appearances and striving for social standing. Now in middle age, Savannah is a New York based poet, Tom, still living on the South Carolina coast outside of Charleston with his wife Sally and their own three doting daughters, taking a break from his high school teaching/football coaching job, while Lucas has long since died while still standing up for himself and his beliefs. Lila, divorced and now remarried with that wealth and social standing she so long desired, receives news that Savannah is in the hospital following her most recent suicide attempt. Not wanting to face the blame ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A story about the memories that haunt us, and the truth that sets us free.


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a scene of sex-related violence and for strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

25 December 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El príncipe de las mareas See more »

Filming Locations:

Beaufort, South Carolina, USA See more »


Box Office


$30,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Nick Nolte's wife is played by Blythe Danner. Danner played Martha Jefferson in 1776 (1972), the wife of Thomas Jefferson. Nolte played Jefferson himself in Jefferson in Paris (1995). His daughter was played by Gwyneth Paltrow, who is the daughter of Blythe Danner. See more »


Towards the end of the film, Tom is walking with Savannah along the water in New York. Despite having had cut her wrists recently, she is not wearing any bandages nor are any scars visible on her wrists. See more »


Tom Wingo: You do have a sense of humor! I was beginning to think you had it surgically removed.
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Referenced in The Wire: Ebb Tide (2003) See more »


Honey Don't
Written and Performed by Carl Perkins
Courtesy of Sun Entertainment/Rhino Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Sincere, generally well-crafted story about the far-reaching effects of childhood trauma, lovingly directed by Streisand and grounded by Nick Nolte's profoundly moving performance.
7 June 2001 | by gbrumburghSee all my reviews

Throughout the 80s and 90s, Barbra Streisand has grown in stature (albeit sporadically) as a formidable producer and director of social drama for both films and TV. The apex of her behind-the-camera career came with "The Prince of Tides," a poignant study of a man coping with the long-term effects of childhood trauma. Streisand nurtures this pet project from start to finish (co-adapted by Pat Conroy from his epic novel), finding a precise heartbeat for the profoundly sentient piece. Despite a rather protracted love story and one too many climaxes, Streisand, who also co-stars, never loses sight of the novel's primary intent.

Streisand graciously hands the spotlight over to actor Nick Nolte, who gives the most sensitive, emotionally complex performance of his varied career. Tom Wingo is a walking shell of a man who quells his pain with a drink, an easy smile, a cleverly foul remark, and a bitter, uncontrollable outpouring of anger. A one-time Southern-bred football coach-turned-teacher, he has grown increasingly irresponsible and disconnected over the years. With a troubled marriage hovering over him, he conveniently heads off to New York City at the urging of sister Savannah's psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein, following his twin's most recent wrist-slashing attempt. His purpose is to fill in the missing details of her tormented past (she has blotted out all childhood memories) in order to help steer the psychiatrist in her recovery process. Eventually, Tom, who lacks faith in psychiatry, finds himself facing his own demons as these initial discussions about Savannah take a suddenly dramatic and romantic turn.

In addition to Nolte's Oscar-nominated showcase, much of the film's strength lies in the highly concentrated flashback sequences as Tom recalls his turbulent family life. Kate Nelligan (also Oscar-nominated) is simply extraordinary as Lila, Tom's brittle, often callous mother, who quite understandably vows to remarry into money after surviving a horrific first marriage to Tom's violent, alcoholic, dirt-poor father (played by an absolutely terrifying Brad Sullivan). Nelligan grabs this role literally by the throat and allows her character no apologies for her flawed, self-serving logic, despite the effects it would have on her children, as her wealthy second husband starts exhibiting the same abusive traits as the first. Kudos must also go to the three strong young actors who play the Wingo siblings as children for reenacting the more horrific elements of this story.

Some of the other present-day roles, however, are hit-and-miss in their effectiveness. Blythe Danner has some strained though affecting moments as Tom's neglected wife. Sadly, the vital role of Savannah is nearly excised from the film. What with the talented Melinda Dillon egregiously reduced to such an insignificant extra, one can only rue the dramatic potential untapped here. As Savannah's neighbor and trusted friend, George Carlin seems to be around merely to show off New York gay chic -- providing mild amusement, a bit of pathos, and little else. On a brighter note, Jason Gould (Barbra's real-life son) acquits himself surprisingly well in the difficult role of Lowenstein's antagonistic son who slowly bonds with Tom's absentee father figure -- showing for once that nepotism isn't necessarily blind or reckless. Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbé gets brief but noticeable exposure as Herbert Woodruff, Lowenstein's charming, smug-elegant husband, a renown concert violinist who demonstrates more affection for his Stradivarius than either his wife or child. There is one telling dinner scene at his opulent Manhattan high-rise in which the out-classed Wingo gets to put Woodruff in his place.

As for Streisand herself, many will invariably take her to task for casting herself in the fundamental role of Susan Lowenstein. A star of such magnitude always faces the daunting task of presenting a fully- realized character, and Streisand is only marginally successful here. Although there is undeniable sexual chemistry between her and Nolte, it's hard to overlook her somewhat glossy approach to the role and the unethical intentions of her character. One can only imagine the ramifications of such a harmful act had her suicidal patient ever uncovered the illicit affair between her brother and psychiatrist.

Director Streisand, however, must be applauded for her explicit attention to exterior details. A visually resplendent picture, great care was taken to get the right look and feel. Notice particularly the lovely allegorical scenes with the children at the beginning and end. And with Streisand's exceptional musicianship, it is hardly surprising that James Newton Howard's lush score is one of the most beautifully designed ever (in fact, I borrowed it for my own commitment ceremony in 1996). It floods the film with an unexpressible tenderness. Nick Nolte's bookend narration is perfect as well -- warm, wise, poetic and reflective.

And so, despite the flaws "The Prince of Tides" may have, Streisand certainly shows that her heart was in the right place.

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