Rosebud


2h 6m 1975

Brief Synopsis

A terrorist group hijacks a yacht and holds five millionaires' daughters hostage.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Action
Thriller
Political
Release Date
1975

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 6m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Five women who are all daughters of rich and powerful men are taking a vacation on the luxury yacht, Rosebud. Their pleasure trip is ended when a group of Middle Eastern terrorists kidnap them and hold them hostage. Larry Martin, a CIA agent posing as a reporter, recruits agents from Israel and West Germany to help him rescue the women.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Action
Thriller
Political
Release Date
1975

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 6m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Rosebud


Otto Preminger's Rosebud (1975) has nothing to do with Citizen Kane (1941). But that's the least of its problems. The big one is that it's a would-be thriller that's almost entirely devoid of thrills. Preminger's instinct for exploiting hot-button issues of the day (sex in The Moon Is Blue (1953), drugs in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), rape in Anatomy of a Murder (1959), homosexuality in Advise and Consent [1962]) deserts him utterly here in a lumpish account of the kidnapping by Palestinian terrorists and subsequent rescue of five capitalist princesses. The film takes its title, by the way, from the name of the yacht from which the young women are snatched.

Zigzagging from pre-production in London and Paris to shooting in Corsica, Germany, Israel and Paris again, it's handsomely crafted, but curiously plodding. Largely due to the inexperience of novice scriptwriter Erik Lee Preminger (Otto's son from a brief affair with Gypsy Rose Lee), the adaptation of the novel by Paul Bonnecarrere and Joan Hemingway bogs down in flatfooted exposition. Neither Preminger knew of their relationship until Erik reached adulthood, and the senior Preminger's impulse toward belated fatherly benevolence doomed the production. It didn't help that less than half of the actors knew English, although they were required to speak it. The film's style is of its time, inimical to today's quick-cut film world. Yet one can't help reflecting that it would have been even more comatose had not Preminger, desperate to bring the film in on time and on budget, stepped up the pace toward the end, throwing out page after page of script, condensing, compressing.

If, as Hollywood folk wisdom has it, a happy shoot means a bad film, Rosebud should have been a masterpiece. Even by the usual crisis-ridden atmosphere of filmmaking, Rosebud was a cut above most. But not, oddly enough, when the film switched leads shortly after shooting. Robert Mitchum, as the CIA mastermind in charge of the heroics, said he left. Preminger said he was fired. Drink was cited as a factor. But in two days, largely because he and Peter O'Toole's business partner were longtime friends, O'Toole stepped into the lead, bringing, apart from his English accent, a burned-out raffishness and eccentricity capped by an Irish tweed hat. Wild days behind him, his film career sliding downhill, O'Toole still had a lot to offer. His health was compromised in several ways. At one point he was hospitalized after losing two pints of blood from internal bleeding. Yet he used his physical frailness, layering into his performance a seen-it-all world-weariness. He was at his most robust in an episode that never made it into the film. Production momentarily ground to a halt after he received a bomb threat at a time when Europe was understandably jittery from real terrorist bombs detonated with unnerving regularity. He learned that the letter was sent as a prank by critic Kenneth Tynan, pressed two burly crew members into service, and went and beat Tynan up.

Richard Attenborough is a plus, too, in the much smaller and credibility-straining role of an English fanatic renegade terrorist – a sort of Lawrence of Arabia out of Black September. Cliff Gorman, fresh from The Boys in the Band (1970), attended to the macho Israeli commando chief. The best performance in the polyglot cast comes from Claude Dauphin, as the yacht's owner, a French industrialist forced by the media-savvy terrorists to go on TV, own up to gun-running, and proclaim his Jewishness. Ex-NYC mayor John Lindsay represents novel, but apt, casting as a millionaire U.S. Senator trying to keep his daughter alive by downplaying his Golden WASP Yalie air of patrician entitlement and persuading the U.S. president to not block the terrorists' tape from being aired on TV.

In fact, Rosebud has a baleful resonance today it couldn't possibly have to U.S. audiences in 1975, as yet untouched by the terrorist attacks with which Europe was all too grimly familiar. It's brought home by the film's final prescient scene, making clear that the eradication of one terrorist cell will hardly end terrorism. To the film's further detriment, production exigencies shrunk the important element of the propaganda war down to one single TV commentator (real-life British newscaster Julian Pettifer, playing, in effect, himself), instead of taking it worldwide, as originally planned. As spelled out in Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture, Theodore Gershuny's riveting and unexpectedly moving fly-on-the-wall book about the making of the film, Preminger's famous volcanic temper has ample occasion to erupt, given a steady stream of compromises and large and small disasters. But they co-exist alongside bottomless energy, resourcefulness and even grace as Preminger struggles to get the film made – or, rather, keep it from being snuffed out. His sentimentality as a father in assigning the screenplay to an inexperienced son didn't carry over into the production process. In all, he emerges as a surprisingly lovable monster, insensitive in many ways, especially to the needs of actors, unswervingly bull-headed – as he had to be – to get the flawed film made at all.

One thing he was right about was recognizing the potential in the young Isabelle Huppert, casting her as one of the kidnap victims, a Greek whose stubborn manner attests to her survival skills. Lalla Ward delivers the role of the rich English upper-cruster convincingly, and Brigitte Ariel has moments of haunted allure as the French member of the group. Kim Cattrall and Debra Berger aren't their equals. But performance shortfall is only one of the reasons Rosebud is unable to climb out from under an air of deflated hopes and piecemeal desperation. Flogging topical but intractable material, shorn of high attack, you can feel it lowering its sights en route, settling for mere releasability, and achieving it -- just. Too bad the suspense attending the making of the film never makes its way into the film itself. Preminger, powers sadly waning, only made one more film after it, Graham Greene's African espionage drama, The Human Factor, in 1979. Meanwhile, Rosebud gets the big thing – the arrival of terrorism on the media menu – right, but gets almost all the little things wrong.

Producer: Graham Cottle, Otto Preminger, Bud Rosenthal
Director: Otto Preminger
Screenplay: Erik Lee Preminger, Paul Bonnecarrere (novel), Joan Hemingway (novel)
Cinematography: Denys Coop
Film Editing: Thom Nobel, Peter Thornton
Art Direction: Simon Holland
Music: Laurent Petitgirard
Cast: Peter O'Toole (Larry Martin), Richard Attenborough (Edward Sloat), Cliff Gorman (Yafet Hemlekh), Claude Dauphin (Charles-Andrew Fargeau), John V. Lindsay (Sen. Donnovan), Peter Lawford (Lord Carter).
C-126m. Letterboxed.

by Jay Carr

Sources:
Otto Preminger: Preminger – An Autobiography
Nicholas Wapshott: Peter O'Toole
Theodore Gershuny: Soon To Be a Major Motion Picture
IMDb
Rosebud

Rosebud

Otto Preminger's Rosebud (1975) has nothing to do with Citizen Kane (1941). But that's the least of its problems. The big one is that it's a would-be thriller that's almost entirely devoid of thrills. Preminger's instinct for exploiting hot-button issues of the day (sex in The Moon Is Blue (1953), drugs in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), rape in Anatomy of a Murder (1959), homosexuality in Advise and Consent [1962]) deserts him utterly here in a lumpish account of the kidnapping by Palestinian terrorists and subsequent rescue of five capitalist princesses. The film takes its title, by the way, from the name of the yacht from which the young women are snatched. Zigzagging from pre-production in London and Paris to shooting in Corsica, Germany, Israel and Paris again, it's handsomely crafted, but curiously plodding. Largely due to the inexperience of novice scriptwriter Erik Lee Preminger (Otto's son from a brief affair with Gypsy Rose Lee), the adaptation of the novel by Paul Bonnecarrere and Joan Hemingway bogs down in flatfooted exposition. Neither Preminger knew of their relationship until Erik reached adulthood, and the senior Preminger's impulse toward belated fatherly benevolence doomed the production. It didn't help that less than half of the actors knew English, although they were required to speak it. The film's style is of its time, inimical to today's quick-cut film world. Yet one can't help reflecting that it would have been even more comatose had not Preminger, desperate to bring the film in on time and on budget, stepped up the pace toward the end, throwing out page after page of script, condensing, compressing. If, as Hollywood folk wisdom has it, a happy shoot means a bad film, Rosebud should have been a masterpiece. Even by the usual crisis-ridden atmosphere of filmmaking, Rosebud was a cut above most. But not, oddly enough, when the film switched leads shortly after shooting. Robert Mitchum, as the CIA mastermind in charge of the heroics, said he left. Preminger said he was fired. Drink was cited as a factor. But in two days, largely because he and Peter O'Toole's business partner were longtime friends, O'Toole stepped into the lead, bringing, apart from his English accent, a burned-out raffishness and eccentricity capped by an Irish tweed hat. Wild days behind him, his film career sliding downhill, O'Toole still had a lot to offer. His health was compromised in several ways. At one point he was hospitalized after losing two pints of blood from internal bleeding. Yet he used his physical frailness, layering into his performance a seen-it-all world-weariness. He was at his most robust in an episode that never made it into the film. Production momentarily ground to a halt after he received a bomb threat at a time when Europe was understandably jittery from real terrorist bombs detonated with unnerving regularity. He learned that the letter was sent as a prank by critic Kenneth Tynan, pressed two burly crew members into service, and went and beat Tynan up. Richard Attenborough is a plus, too, in the much smaller and credibility-straining role of an English fanatic renegade terrorist – a sort of Lawrence of Arabia out of Black September. Cliff Gorman, fresh from The Boys in the Band (1970), attended to the macho Israeli commando chief. The best performance in the polyglot cast comes from Claude Dauphin, as the yacht's owner, a French industrialist forced by the media-savvy terrorists to go on TV, own up to gun-running, and proclaim his Jewishness. Ex-NYC mayor John Lindsay represents novel, but apt, casting as a millionaire U.S. Senator trying to keep his daughter alive by downplaying his Golden WASP Yalie air of patrician entitlement and persuading the U.S. president to not block the terrorists' tape from being aired on TV. In fact, Rosebud has a baleful resonance today it couldn't possibly have to U.S. audiences in 1975, as yet untouched by the terrorist attacks with which Europe was all too grimly familiar. It's brought home by the film's final prescient scene, making clear that the eradication of one terrorist cell will hardly end terrorism. To the film's further detriment, production exigencies shrunk the important element of the propaganda war down to one single TV commentator (real-life British newscaster Julian Pettifer, playing, in effect, himself), instead of taking it worldwide, as originally planned. As spelled out in Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture, Theodore Gershuny's riveting and unexpectedly moving fly-on-the-wall book about the making of the film, Preminger's famous volcanic temper has ample occasion to erupt, given a steady stream of compromises and large and small disasters. But they co-exist alongside bottomless energy, resourcefulness and even grace as Preminger struggles to get the film made – or, rather, keep it from being snuffed out. His sentimentality as a father in assigning the screenplay to an inexperienced son didn't carry over into the production process. In all, he emerges as a surprisingly lovable monster, insensitive in many ways, especially to the needs of actors, unswervingly bull-headed – as he had to be – to get the flawed film made at all. One thing he was right about was recognizing the potential in the young Isabelle Huppert, casting her as one of the kidnap victims, a Greek whose stubborn manner attests to her survival skills. Lalla Ward delivers the role of the rich English upper-cruster convincingly, and Brigitte Ariel has moments of haunted allure as the French member of the group. Kim Cattrall and Debra Berger aren't their equals. But performance shortfall is only one of the reasons Rosebud is unable to climb out from under an air of deflated hopes and piecemeal desperation. Flogging topical but intractable material, shorn of high attack, you can feel it lowering its sights en route, settling for mere releasability, and achieving it -- just. Too bad the suspense attending the making of the film never makes its way into the film itself. Preminger, powers sadly waning, only made one more film after it, Graham Greene's African espionage drama, The Human Factor, in 1979. Meanwhile, Rosebud gets the big thing – the arrival of terrorism on the media menu – right, but gets almost all the little things wrong. Producer: Graham Cottle, Otto Preminger, Bud Rosenthal Director: Otto Preminger Screenplay: Erik Lee Preminger, Paul Bonnecarrere (novel), Joan Hemingway (novel) Cinematography: Denys Coop Film Editing: Thom Nobel, Peter Thornton Art Direction: Simon Holland Music: Laurent Petitgirard Cast: Peter O'Toole (Larry Martin), Richard Attenborough (Edward Sloat), Cliff Gorman (Yafet Hemlekh), Claude Dauphin (Charles-Andrew Fargeau), John V. Lindsay (Sen. Donnovan), Peter Lawford (Lord Carter). C-126m. Letterboxed. by Jay Carr Sources: Otto Preminger: Preminger – An Autobiography Nicholas Wapshott: Peter O'Toole Theodore Gershuny: Soon To Be a Major Motion Picture IMDb

Quotes

Trivia

Robert Mitchum was originally cast in the lead, but shortly after filming began he and director Otto Preminger had a major blowup and Mitchum either quit (according to Mitchum) or was fired (according to Preminger). Peter O'Toole was hired to replace him.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1975

Released in United States on Video July 13, 1994

Released in United States 1975

Released in United States on Video July 13, 1994