Sunday Bloody Sunday


1h 50m 1971
Sunday Bloody Sunday

Brief Synopsis

A doctor and a female executive try to cope with their love for an aloof bisexual artist.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Release Date
Oct 1971
Premiere Information
London opening: 28 Jun 1971; New York opening: 21 Sep 1971; Los Angeles opening: 29 Sep 1971
Production Company
Vectia Films, Ltd.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
London, England, United Kingdom; Bray Studios, Windsor, England, United Kingdom; London,England; London, England, Great Britain; Windsor, Great Britain England

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)

Synopsis

Middle-aged London physician Daniel Hirsch and employment counselor Alex Greville are simultaneously carrying on affairs with the same young man, artist Bob Elkin. Unknown to each other, Daniel and Alex share the same answering service which both continually check for messages from the elusive Bob, as well as a mutual friendship with Alva and Bill Hodson. Alex is anxious about the upcoming weekend, during which she and Bob are to stay at Alva and Bill's home to look after their five children while the couple attends an academic conference. Apprehensive that Bob might back out of the weekend, Alex arrives at the Hodsons' late Friday night, as dinner breaks up and is relieved to find Bob. While Daniel spends the evening alone at his flat, gazing thoughtfully at the garden light-sculpture Bob has given him, the Hodsons depart and Alex and Bob play with the exuberant children. On Saturday afternoon when Bob indicates he would like to go into town, Alex immediately asks if he will be seeing Daniel, but Bob remains evasive and departs. A surprised Daniel welcomes Bob and the men spend the afternoon in bed together. Afterward, Bob examines his light-sculpture and confides that an art dealer in America is very interested in the piece. Aware of Bob's weekend plans, Daniel asks if Alex knows of Bob's visit, but the younger man responds equivocally. Bob then asks Daniel when they will take their long planned trip to Italy and Daniel assures him that he can go at the end of the month. At the Hodsons', precocious older daughter Lucy asks the grumpy Alex if she is overeating because Bob has left her. Later, the power goes out and when Bob returns he replaces the fuses as Alex heatedly accuses him of thoughtlessness, as the purpose of the weekend was to spend it together. Bob suggests that Alex wants too much from him while he is giving her all there is, but Alex sulks. That evening, Alex apologizes for her moodiness and the couple reconciles. Daniel spends the evening with some friends at the opera and is disconcerted when he runs into a former lover on the drive home. Daniel spends Sunday alone, while Alex and Bob take the children and their Rottweiler to the park. The group spends a boisterous morning until Lucy dashes across a street with the dog, which is struck and killed by a truck. Stunned, Lucy is inconsolable while the other children are hushed and silent. Back at home, Bob cheerfully leads the children in a drawing contest to distract them as thoughts of the accident prompt Alex to recall a fearful incident when she was child during the war. Late that afternoon, Bob encourages Alex to rest and when she awakens in the early evening she discovers Alva and Bill have returned. Alex expresses regret for the death of their dog and is relieved when Alva indicates that Bob has invited some fellow artists over and is working. Alex looks in on the men but is unsettled when she overhears one of Bob's colleagues advise him to redesign his latest work once he reaches America. Later, when Bob drives Alex home, he declines to spend the night with Alex, to her disappointment. The following Tuesday, Alex dines with her father and mother. When Mr. Greville takes a business call, Alex comments that she is uncomfortable with her parents constantly inviting her ex-husband to dine. Mrs. Greville admits they like Alex's former husband and reveals he hopes to reunite with Alex. When Alex chastises her mother for tolerating her spouse's inconsiderate behavior over the years, her mother speculates about Alex's current romance. Mrs. Greville tells Alex she expects too much from a relationship, then startles her daughter by admitting that many years earlier she had left her husband. Mrs. Greville reveals that she returned when she discovered she missed him and tells Alex that she is mistaken in considering her parents' relationship "nothing." On the way home that night, Alex unknowingly crosses paths with Daniel as both purposely drive by Bob's flat. Wednesday Alex has her hair trimmed and re-writes a letter of resignation to her boss. At her office she counsels a middle-aged businessman, George Harding and, attracted to his easy manner, invites him home. That same evening, Daniel has a party at his flat, but Bob grows weary of a drunken, arguing couple and, despite Daniel's protests, leaves. At Alex's, Bob is surprised to meet George, but later when Alex asks him if he minds, insists that he does not, which discourages Alex. The next day Bob visits a doctor for a smallpox vaccine as he makes preparations to go to America. Daniel stops at a travel agency to retrieve several brochures on Italy but is let down when Bob cancels their dinner engagement that evening. At Daniel's apartment Friday night, Bob suffers a mild physical reaction to the vaccination, then admits he had the inoculation because of his travel plans. Although upset, Daniel asks if the trip will bolster Bob's career and Bob replies he is uncertain but willing to take the chance. On Saturday, Daniel spends the day with his large family celebrating the bar mitzvah of his nephew. Bob meets Alex at her home and confesses his plans to go to America, then asks if she might visit him there. Alex sadly points out that whereas Bob believes that everything can remain the same, she has changed. Declaring she will not visit him abroad, does not want him to call and will not wait for him to return, Alex maintains she will not repeat her mother's life. Admitting she loves Bob, Alex nonetheless says she cannot abide his personal terms. Bob repeats that Alex demands too much of him and expresses regret at losing her. Feeling empathy with Daniel, Alex assures Bob she is not breaking with him over their relationship. That night, Daniel arrives home from the bar mitzvah to find Bob asleep in his bed. After the men make love, Daniel wonders if Bob will miss either him or Alex. Bob casually promises he will return. On Sunday, Bob departs, leaving Daniel's flat key behind. Later when Alex goes to visit the Hodsons, she sees Daniel's car outside and waits for him to leave. The couple meet on the street and share a moment of embarrassed laughter and mutual commiseration over Bob's cavalier departure that morning. That afternoon Alex returns home to find Bob has left her his pet toucan. Daniel resumes his Italian language practice and reflects that although he is aware of Bob's profound inadequacies as an emotional partner, the men did share something of worth.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Release Date
Oct 1971
Premiere Information
London opening: 28 Jun 1971; New York opening: 21 Sep 1971; Los Angeles opening: 29 Sep 1971
Production Company
Vectia Films, Ltd.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
London, England, United Kingdom; Bray Studios, Windsor, England, United Kingdom; London,England; London, England, Great Britain; Windsor, Great Britain England

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)

Award Nominations

Best Actor

1971
Peter Finch

Best Actress

1971
Glenda Jackson

Best Director

1971
John Schlesinger

Best Writing, Screenplay

1972

Articles

Sunday, Bloody, Sunday -


Filmmaker John Schlesinger was riding high on the popular and critical success of his American film debut, Midnight Cowboy (1969), when he returned to Britain to begin work on what would become the most personal film of his career. Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) is an intimate, compassionate story of a romantic triangle with two middle-aged divorcees (Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch) sharing a handsome young bisexual artist (Murray Head) who flits between them. In his tape-recorded diary, Schlesinger made the personal connection more explicit: "It's my story, my own bloody Sunday - my affair with a young man."

While Schlesinger came up with the story idea and outline, he approached Penelope Gilliatt to write the screenplay. A novelist and film critic writing for The New Yorker, she had written to Schlesinger with the desire of working with him. It was a tense collaboration. "We didn't like each other much," Schlesinger later admitted. "She was an intellectual snob and I resented that. There was a kind of tension between us but I think perhaps out of that tension came a very good film." Gilliatt preferred to remain in New York and resisted Schlesinger's requests to rewrite the dialog in a more natural style. When Gilliatt refused to travel to London during production, he hired David Sherwin to rework the dialogue. When production began, he was rewriting pages and handing them to the actors the morning before shooting started on those scenes. Gilliatt, however, received sole screen credit.

According to Schlesinger biographer William Mann, the director was keen on Peter Finch to play the central role of Daniel Hirsh from the beginning - Finch had previously starred in Schlesinger's Far from the Madding Crowd (1967) and earned a BAFTA for his performance - but he was already committed to another project and Ian Bannen was initially cast in the lead. After a few days of shooting, Schlesinger decided it wasn't working and when Bannen fell ill, Schlesinger approached Finch, who was suddenly available, to take over the role. Finch had spent a year preparing for a major film that was cancelled just before it was scheduled to begin production. He flew from Rome to London, met with Schlesinger, read the script, and began shooting the next week with almost no time to prepare. "He knew the character in some way without, I think, ever having experienced any of it," recalled Schlesinger later. Finch was "exactly what I wanted for the part... a pair of open arms."

The role of Alex Greville was written with Vanessa Redgrave in mind but she turned down the part. Schlesinger offered the role to Glenda Jackson after seeing her performance in Ken Russell's Women in Love (1969). Though nervous about her reputation for being difficult and strident, he was immediately won over by her sense of humor. For the third leg of the romantic triangle, a young artist named Bob, Schlesinger cast Murray Head, who was better known as a singer than an actor. "I didn't have an easy time on Sunday Bloody Sunday," he told Finch biographer Elaine Dundy, and Schlesinger was hard on the young actor, who was only 24 at the time and splitting his time between the film and singing the role of Judas in the original cast recording of Jesus Christ Superstar.

The most talked about sequence in the film was the kiss between the two men. "I remember my uncle talking about the famous kiss scene between Peter Finch and Murray Head (both straight men, as it happens)," wrote Schlesinger's nephew Ian Buruma in an essay for the Criterion disc release of the film. "He didn't want it to be coy, and certainly not sleazy; the camera should be neither prurient nor primly looking away. The kiss was just a kiss between two loving people." The sequence caused discomfort on the set, not between the actors but among the crew. "Is this scene really necessary?" asked cinematographer Billy Williams just before shooting commenced. Schlesinger insisted "Of course it is!" According to Head, the crew was even nervous while watching the rushes. "Everyone smoking four cigarettes at a time, crossing and re-crossing their knees, coughing and sputtering," he recalled. "I mean, the more it went on, the more they were embarrassed."

The film's presentation of a loving romantic and sexual relationship between two men in the same naturalistic terms as a heterosexual romance was unprecedented for its time, at least in a mainstream movie. Finch's quiet performance makes Daniel a man first and a gay man second, a defining feature of the character without becoming the defining feature, and the physical and emotional intimacy between Finch and Head is presented with the same easy natural quality as the relationship between Jackson and Head: an enormous accomplishment for the time.

Reviews were unanimously enthusiastic in Britain and in the United States. New York Times film critic Vincent Canby called it Schlesinger's "wisest, least sentimental film," Roger Ebert proclaimed it "a masterpiece," and Pauline Kael declared it "instantly recognizable as a classic." The film earned Academy Award nominations for Schlesinger's direction, Gilliatt's screenplay, and actors Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson, and it won five BAFTA awards, including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Direction, and Best Film. "Sunday Bloody Sunday is probably the best film I've ever made," Schlesinger later recalled. "And I probably won't make a better one."

Sources:
"Something Better," Ian Burma. Criterion Collection Booklet, 2012. Finch, Bloody Finch, Elaine Dundy, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980.
Peter Finch: A Biography, Trader Faulkner. Taplinger Publishing Company, 1979.
Edge of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger, William J. Mann. Billboard Books, 2005.
By Sean Axmaker
Sunday, Bloody, Sunday -

Sunday, Bloody, Sunday -

Filmmaker John Schlesinger was riding high on the popular and critical success of his American film debut, Midnight Cowboy (1969), when he returned to Britain to begin work on what would become the most personal film of his career. Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) is an intimate, compassionate story of a romantic triangle with two middle-aged divorcees (Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch) sharing a handsome young bisexual artist (Murray Head) who flits between them. In his tape-recorded diary, Schlesinger made the personal connection more explicit: "It's my story, my own bloody Sunday - my affair with a young man." While Schlesinger came up with the story idea and outline, he approached Penelope Gilliatt to write the screenplay. A novelist and film critic writing for The New Yorker, she had written to Schlesinger with the desire of working with him. It was a tense collaboration. "We didn't like each other much," Schlesinger later admitted. "She was an intellectual snob and I resented that. There was a kind of tension between us but I think perhaps out of that tension came a very good film." Gilliatt preferred to remain in New York and resisted Schlesinger's requests to rewrite the dialog in a more natural style. When Gilliatt refused to travel to London during production, he hired David Sherwin to rework the dialogue. When production began, he was rewriting pages and handing them to the actors the morning before shooting started on those scenes. Gilliatt, however, received sole screen credit. According to Schlesinger biographer William Mann, the director was keen on Peter Finch to play the central role of Daniel Hirsh from the beginning - Finch had previously starred in Schlesinger's Far from the Madding Crowd (1967) and earned a BAFTA for his performance - but he was already committed to another project and Ian Bannen was initially cast in the lead. After a few days of shooting, Schlesinger decided it wasn't working and when Bannen fell ill, Schlesinger approached Finch, who was suddenly available, to take over the role. Finch had spent a year preparing for a major film that was cancelled just before it was scheduled to begin production. He flew from Rome to London, met with Schlesinger, read the script, and began shooting the next week with almost no time to prepare. "He knew the character in some way without, I think, ever having experienced any of it," recalled Schlesinger later. Finch was "exactly what I wanted for the part... a pair of open arms." The role of Alex Greville was written with Vanessa Redgrave in mind but she turned down the part. Schlesinger offered the role to Glenda Jackson after seeing her performance in Ken Russell's Women in Love (1969). Though nervous about her reputation for being difficult and strident, he was immediately won over by her sense of humor. For the third leg of the romantic triangle, a young artist named Bob, Schlesinger cast Murray Head, who was better known as a singer than an actor. "I didn't have an easy time on Sunday Bloody Sunday," he told Finch biographer Elaine Dundy, and Schlesinger was hard on the young actor, who was only 24 at the time and splitting his time between the film and singing the role of Judas in the original cast recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. The most talked about sequence in the film was the kiss between the two men. "I remember my uncle talking about the famous kiss scene between Peter Finch and Murray Head (both straight men, as it happens)," wrote Schlesinger's nephew Ian Buruma in an essay for the Criterion disc release of the film. "He didn't want it to be coy, and certainly not sleazy; the camera should be neither prurient nor primly looking away. The kiss was just a kiss between two loving people." The sequence caused discomfort on the set, not between the actors but among the crew. "Is this scene really necessary?" asked cinematographer Billy Williams just before shooting commenced. Schlesinger insisted "Of course it is!" According to Head, the crew was even nervous while watching the rushes. "Everyone smoking four cigarettes at a time, crossing and re-crossing their knees, coughing and sputtering," he recalled. "I mean, the more it went on, the more they were embarrassed." The film's presentation of a loving romantic and sexual relationship between two men in the same naturalistic terms as a heterosexual romance was unprecedented for its time, at least in a mainstream movie. Finch's quiet performance makes Daniel a man first and a gay man second, a defining feature of the character without becoming the defining feature, and the physical and emotional intimacy between Finch and Head is presented with the same easy natural quality as the relationship between Jackson and Head: an enormous accomplishment for the time. Reviews were unanimously enthusiastic in Britain and in the United States. New York Times film critic Vincent Canby called it Schlesinger's "wisest, least sentimental film," Roger Ebert proclaimed it "a masterpiece," and Pauline Kael declared it "instantly recognizable as a classic." The film earned Academy Award nominations for Schlesinger's direction, Gilliatt's screenplay, and actors Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson, and it won five BAFTA awards, including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Direction, and Best Film. "Sunday Bloody Sunday is probably the best film I've ever made," Schlesinger later recalled. "And I probably won't make a better one." Sources: "Something Better," Ian Burma. Criterion Collection Booklet, 2012. Finch, Bloody Finch, Elaine Dundy, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1980. Peter Finch: A Biography, Trader Faulkner. Taplinger Publishing Company, 1979. Edge of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger, William J. Mann. Billboard Books, 2005. By Sean Axmaker

Quotes

Hmm...
- Alex
It's funny, there's a smell that is just like po...
- Alex
Children... are you smoking pot?
- Alex
Are you bourgeois?
- Lucy
Don't come to me like a possessive wife!
- Bob
Well, I wouldn't if you hadn't left me with five children and a dog!
- Alex
Look, I know you feel you're not getting enough of me, but you're getting all there is.
- Bob
Well, you're spreading yourself a little thin, aren't you?
- Alex
A hippie? Oh, I like hippies! They hate business and competitiveness... I think that's what has always attracted me to them.
- Mrs. Greville
I always expect Saturday to be the best day of the week.
- Daniel
When you are in school and want to quit, people say you're going to hate being out in the world. Well, I didn't believe them and I was right. When I was a boy, I couldn't wait to be grown up, and they said childhood was the best time of my life and it turned out it wasn't. Now, I want his company and people say, what's half a loaf, you're well shot of him; and I say, I'm happy. Apart from missing him. You could throw me a pill or two for my cough.
- Daniel
All my life, I've been looking for someone courageous and resourceful, unlike myself, and he wasn't it.
- Daniel
But something. We were something.
- Daniel
I've only come about my cough.
- Daniel

Trivia

Notes

All the cast and crew credits appear at the end of the film. The credits include an acknowledgment to David Sherwin and Ken Levison for their assistance during the production of Sunday Bloody Sunday. The last card in the closing credits stated that the film was made by Vectia Films Ltd. for Vic Films and shot at Bray Studios, Windsor and on location in London. A June 1969 New York Times article indicated that director John Schlesinger and novelist, short story writer and film critic for the New Yorker Penelope Gilliatt would team up to film Sunday Bloody Sunday. The article indicates that the film would be produced for United Artists that coming fall in London. The script was Gilliatt's only feature film screenplay.
       In January 1970, a Hollywood Reporter item announced the start of filming had been delayed but was now set for the following month. A February 1970 Daily Variety item stated that Ian Bannen had been cast to co-star with Glenda Jackson and Murray Head. After one month of shooting, however, Daily Variety announced that Bannen had contracted pneumonia and been replaced by Peter Finch. Filmfacts indicated that Vanessa Redgrave was initially considered for the role of "Alex Greville." The film marked the feature film debut of Daniel Day-Lewis, who makes a brief appearance as a young vandal.
       Several reviews of the film praised the film's depiction of homosexuality and the performances of Finch and Jackson, in particular. The onscreen passionate kiss between Finch and Head was also noted in some reviews. The characters of Alex and "Daniel" share only one scene together, near the end of the film. The film concludes with Daniel addressing the camera directly to declare that although he knows "Bob" has a weak character, he made Daniel happy and, ultimately, they shared something worthwhile. Sunday Bloody Sunday received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor (Finch), Best Actress (Jackson), Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. Modern sources add Petra Markham to the cast.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall October 1971

Film debut for actor Daniel Day-Lewis, role is offscreen credit.

Released in United States Fall October 1971

The United Kingdom