Gene Garrison, played by Gene Hackman, clearly states the theme of this moving family drama at the film’s beginning and end: “Death ends a life. But it does not end a relationship.” In between, he sensitively captures the inner turmoil of an adult trying to cope with the demands of an aging parent (Melvyn Douglas). A respected college professor and recent widower, Hackman’s character has spent his life living in the shadow of his overbearing father. His decision to leave his family home to remarry becomes even more difficult when his mother dies, and he becomes his father’s primary caregiver. Robert Anderson based the script on his own dealings with his father and captured problems that still face the children of aging parents. He had first written the screenplay in the early ’60s, with Spencer Tracy or Fredric March targeted to play the aging father. When neither proved available, Anderson reshaped the material for Broadway, where it did well enough to merit a film adaptation. Both Douglas and Hackman were nominated for Oscars, while Anderson won the Writers Guild Award.
Dir. Gilbert Cates
In attendance: Illeana Douglas