Family Plot


2h 1976
Family Plot

Brief Synopsis

A phony psychic takes on a pair of kidnappers.

Film Details

Also Known As
Complot de famille, trama, La
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Mystery
Thriller
Release Date
1976
Production Company
Universal Pictures
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures; Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Technical Specs

Duration
2h
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

A phony psychic and con man are a conniving couple who plot to swindle an old lady out of her fortune by telling her they can find her long-lost nephew. In the process, their lives become intertwined with a larcenous jewel merchant and his beautiful girlfriend who have an affinity for kidnapping.

Videos

Movie Clip

Family Plot (1976) - A Psychic As A Dry Salami After the opening in which Blanche (Barbara Harris) communed with a wealthy San Francisco widow, she toys with cabbie George (Bruce Dern), whom we learn is her boyfriend, lying to him in the process, early in director Alfred Hitchcock’s last film, Family Plot, 1976.
Family Plot (1976) - I Told You About Danger Adamson (William Devane) and Fran (Karen Black) have just returned their hostage and secured their gigantic diamond ransom, and we learn, as they return home, that they appear to be a redoubtable well-to-do San Francisco couple, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot, 1976.
Family Plot (1976) - Did You Find Walter? Phony psychic Blanche (Barbara Harris) is seeing a routine client (Louise Lorimer) when her cohort, cabbie George (Bruce Dern) appears with a lead on a separate case that could earn them $10,000, director Alfred Hitchcock having fun with it, in Family Plot, 1976.
Family Plot (1976) - Never Liked Them Multiple Funerals Bent San Francisco cabbie George (Bruce Dern), now posing as a lawyer investigating a case, comes to a cemetery, where he discovers the man he’s after appears to be dead, meeting the maybe-creepy caretaker (John Steadman), in Alfred Hitchcock’s last picture, Family Plot, 1976.
Family Plot (1976) - The Trader Veering away from his original story, possibly the most famous image from the picture, silent Karen Black in the shades and blonde wig executes the collection of ransom, details provided by cops, Alan Fudge the chopper pilot, early in Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot, 1976.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
Complot de famille, trama, La
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Mystery
Thriller
Release Date
1976
Production Company
Universal Pictures
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures; Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Technical Specs

Duration
2h
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

Family Plot


For his 53rd and final feature, director Alfred Hitchcock chose to adapt a suspense thriller by the British novelist Victor Canning called The Rainbird Pattern. The plot was structured around two stories that eventually come together. In the first, an elderly woman hires a phony medium to find her long-lost heir, and the medium sets off with her cabbie boyfriend to find him. In the second, a kidnapper is plotting a diamond heist. The stories come together at a cemetery, which is one reason the movie's title ultimately became Family Plot, a phrase which carries multiple meanings in the overall story. (The movie's working title was Deceit until the last week of shooting.)

Hitchcock liked this structure and the basic premise, but he decided to turn the book into a movie that was more overtly comedic, while still keeping the suspenseful elements. In a move that brought much publicity, he hired Ernest Lehman - the writer of North by Northwest - to pen the adaptation. But this collaboration was, by Lehman's account, almost non-existent: "I realized that our relationship was quite different. Many years had passed. We had both had successes and failures. We were different people now." The two would meet every day to hash out the script, with Lehman's prodding for more character development basically shrugged off by Hitch. By the end of their sessions, Hitchcock was no longer speaking to him, preferring instead to exchange written messages. "It's too difficult to get Ernie to agree with me," Hitchcock said.

The production itself was a difficult one for Hitchcock. In the months before filming, he was treated for gout and was stricken with the flu. He had a pacemaker inserted during the shoot and suffered from arthritis. He also worried about his wife, Alma, who was in decline herself. Still, his experience and expertise enabled him to pull off an entertaining film. While not one of his best, Family Plot is still enjoyable and full of Hitchcock trademarks, such as its theme of the search for a missing person and frequent doses of black humor.

Jack Nicholson was Hitchcock's first choice for George Lumley, the cabbie boyfriend character. Hitchcock had seen Easy Rider (1969) and the Nicholson movies that followed and was impressed. But as Nicholson was committed to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Hitch turned to Bruce Dern, who had recently co-starred with Nicholson in The King of Marvin Gardens (1972). Dern had also appeared as the bludgeoned sailor in Marnie (1964), and Hitch remembered his offbeat personality fondly. For the part of the elderly Julia Rainbird, Hitchcock was pleased to get 88-year-old Cathleen Nesbitt, who rarely made movies. She was a grande dame of the British stage, and Hitch had admired her as early as the 1920s on London's West End. Karen Black and Barbara Harris rounded out the cast.

Everyone was obviously elated to be working with Alfred Hitchcock. Harris described him as "serene." Black said, "He's always thinking of his audience, of how they will respond to each detail." Bruce Dern said crew members were concerned about Hitchcock's health and alertness, but that actually "he noticed everything - a shadow on a performer's face, a few seconds too long on a take. Just when we thought he had no idea what was going on, he'd snap us all to attention with the most incredible awareness of some small but disastrous detail that nobody would have noticed until it got on screen. And then he'd be bored again."

Director of photography Leonard South was equally impressed: "He asks what lens you have on the camera, then he looks at the scene and he knows what will appear on the screen. He's rarely wrong. And he never moves the camera without a reason. When it moves, it's because the audience should be looking around with the actors. He's very specific about that."

Fittingly, the final shot of Hitchcock's final film is of a woman looking straight into the camera and winking. The wink was a major point of contention between Lehman and Hitchcock but in the end, as Patrick McGilligan has written in his biography Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, "Hitchcock couldn't be stopped from winking at the audience, just as he had been doing for fifty years." Hitchcock announced publicly that he was preparing yet another film, The Short Night, but he died in 1980 at the age of 80.

Producer/Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay: Ernest Lehman, Victor Canning (book)
Cinematography: Leonard J. South
Film Editing: J. Terry Williams
Art Direction: Henry Bumstead
Music: John Williams
Cast: Karen Black (Fran), Bruce Dern (Lumley), Barbara Harris (Blanche), William Devane (Adamson), Ed Lauter (Maloney), Cathleen Nesbitt (Julia Rainbird).
C-121m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Jeremy Arnold
Family Plot

Family Plot

For his 53rd and final feature, director Alfred Hitchcock chose to adapt a suspense thriller by the British novelist Victor Canning called The Rainbird Pattern. The plot was structured around two stories that eventually come together. In the first, an elderly woman hires a phony medium to find her long-lost heir, and the medium sets off with her cabbie boyfriend to find him. In the second, a kidnapper is plotting a diamond heist. The stories come together at a cemetery, which is one reason the movie's title ultimately became Family Plot, a phrase which carries multiple meanings in the overall story. (The movie's working title was Deceit until the last week of shooting.) Hitchcock liked this structure and the basic premise, but he decided to turn the book into a movie that was more overtly comedic, while still keeping the suspenseful elements. In a move that brought much publicity, he hired Ernest Lehman - the writer of North by Northwest - to pen the adaptation. But this collaboration was, by Lehman's account, almost non-existent: "I realized that our relationship was quite different. Many years had passed. We had both had successes and failures. We were different people now." The two would meet every day to hash out the script, with Lehman's prodding for more character development basically shrugged off by Hitch. By the end of their sessions, Hitchcock was no longer speaking to him, preferring instead to exchange written messages. "It's too difficult to get Ernie to agree with me," Hitchcock said. The production itself was a difficult one for Hitchcock. In the months before filming, he was treated for gout and was stricken with the flu. He had a pacemaker inserted during the shoot and suffered from arthritis. He also worried about his wife, Alma, who was in decline herself. Still, his experience and expertise enabled him to pull off an entertaining film. While not one of his best, Family Plot is still enjoyable and full of Hitchcock trademarks, such as its theme of the search for a missing person and frequent doses of black humor. Jack Nicholson was Hitchcock's first choice for George Lumley, the cabbie boyfriend character. Hitchcock had seen Easy Rider (1969) and the Nicholson movies that followed and was impressed. But as Nicholson was committed to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Hitch turned to Bruce Dern, who had recently co-starred with Nicholson in The King of Marvin Gardens (1972). Dern had also appeared as the bludgeoned sailor in Marnie (1964), and Hitch remembered his offbeat personality fondly. For the part of the elderly Julia Rainbird, Hitchcock was pleased to get 88-year-old Cathleen Nesbitt, who rarely made movies. She was a grande dame of the British stage, and Hitch had admired her as early as the 1920s on London's West End. Karen Black and Barbara Harris rounded out the cast. Everyone was obviously elated to be working with Alfred Hitchcock. Harris described him as "serene." Black said, "He's always thinking of his audience, of how they will respond to each detail." Bruce Dern said crew members were concerned about Hitchcock's health and alertness, but that actually "he noticed everything - a shadow on a performer's face, a few seconds too long on a take. Just when we thought he had no idea what was going on, he'd snap us all to attention with the most incredible awareness of some small but disastrous detail that nobody would have noticed until it got on screen. And then he'd be bored again." Director of photography Leonard South was equally impressed: "He asks what lens you have on the camera, then he looks at the scene and he knows what will appear on the screen. He's rarely wrong. And he never moves the camera without a reason. When it moves, it's because the audience should be looking around with the actors. He's very specific about that." Fittingly, the final shot of Hitchcock's final film is of a woman looking straight into the camera and winking. The wink was a major point of contention between Lehman and Hitchcock but in the end, as Patrick McGilligan has written in his biography Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, "Hitchcock couldn't be stopped from winking at the audience, just as he had been doing for fifty years." Hitchcock announced publicly that he was preparing yet another film, The Short Night, but he died in 1980 at the age of 80. Producer/Director: Alfred Hitchcock Screenplay: Ernest Lehman, Victor Canning (book) Cinematography: Leonard J. South Film Editing: J. Terry Williams Art Direction: Henry Bumstead Music: John Williams Cast: Karen Black (Fran), Bruce Dern (Lumley), Barbara Harris (Blanche), William Devane (Adamson), Ed Lauter (Maloney), Cathleen Nesbitt (Julia Rainbird). C-121m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Jeremy Arnold

Ernest Lehman (1915-2005)


Ernest Lehman, the acclaimed screenwriter who did everything from stranding Cary Grant in a cornfield (North by Northwest) to seeing Julie Andrews help the Von Trap family escape the Nazis in (The Sound of Music) died on July 2 in Los Angeles following an undisclosed illness. He was 89.

Born on December 8, 1915 in New York City, Lehman graduated from New York's City College with a degree in English. After graduation he found work as a writer for many mediums: radio, theater, and popular magazines of the day like Collier's before landing his first story in Hollywood for the comedy, The Inside Story (1948). The success of that film didn't lead immediately to screenwriting some of Hollywood's biggest hits, but his persistancy to break into the silver screen paid off by the mid-'50s: the delicious Audrey Hepburn comedy Sabrina (1954, his first Oscar® nomination and first Golden Globe award); Paul Newman's first hit based on the life of Rocky Graziano Somebody Up There Likes Me; and his razor sharp expose of the publicity world based on his own experiences as an assistant for a theatre publicist The Sweet Smell of Success (1957).

Lehman's verasitily and gift for playful dialogue came to the fore for Alfred Hitchcock's memorable North by Northwes (1959, his second Oscar® nomination); and he showed a knack for moving potentially stiff Broadway fodder into swift cinematic fare with West Side Story (1961, a third Oscar® nomination); The Sound of Music (1965); Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966); and Hello, Dolly! (1969, the last two being his final Oscar® nominations for screenwriting).

Lehman took his turn as a director when he adapted Philip Roth's comic novel Portnoy's Complaint (1972) for film, and despite some good reviews, it wasn't a commercial hit. He wrote just two more screenplays before retiring: an underrated comic mystery gem for Hitchcock Family Plot (1976); and the big budget Robert Shaw espionage drama Black Sunday (1977). Lehman served as president of the Writers Guild of America from 1983-85. After going zero for five with his Oscar® nominations, the Academy made it up to him in 2001, by presenting him with an honorary Academy Award for his "body of varied and enduring work." Lehman is survived by his wife Laurie and three children.

by Michael T. Toole

Ernest Lehman (1915-2005)

Ernest Lehman, the acclaimed screenwriter who did everything from stranding Cary Grant in a cornfield (North by Northwest) to seeing Julie Andrews help the Von Trap family escape the Nazis in (The Sound of Music) died on July 2 in Los Angeles following an undisclosed illness. He was 89. Born on December 8, 1915 in New York City, Lehman graduated from New York's City College with a degree in English. After graduation he found work as a writer for many mediums: radio, theater, and popular magazines of the day like Collier's before landing his first story in Hollywood for the comedy, The Inside Story (1948). The success of that film didn't lead immediately to screenwriting some of Hollywood's biggest hits, but his persistancy to break into the silver screen paid off by the mid-'50s: the delicious Audrey Hepburn comedy Sabrina (1954, his first Oscar® nomination and first Golden Globe award); Paul Newman's first hit based on the life of Rocky Graziano Somebody Up There Likes Me; and his razor sharp expose of the publicity world based on his own experiences as an assistant for a theatre publicist The Sweet Smell of Success (1957). Lehman's verasitily and gift for playful dialogue came to the fore for Alfred Hitchcock's memorable North by Northwes (1959, his second Oscar® nomination); and he showed a knack for moving potentially stiff Broadway fodder into swift cinematic fare with West Side Story (1961, a third Oscar® nomination); The Sound of Music (1965); Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966); and Hello, Dolly! (1969, the last two being his final Oscar® nominations for screenwriting). Lehman took his turn as a director when he adapted Philip Roth's comic novel Portnoy's Complaint (1972) for film, and despite some good reviews, it wasn't a commercial hit. He wrote just two more screenplays before retiring: an underrated comic mystery gem for Hitchcock Family Plot (1976); and the big budget Robert Shaw espionage drama Black Sunday (1977). Lehman served as president of the Writers Guild of America from 1983-85. After going zero for five with his Oscar® nominations, the Academy made it up to him in 2001, by presenting him with an honorary Academy Award for his "body of varied and enduring work." Lehman is survived by his wife Laurie and three children. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

I don't know what's come over me tonight. I'm tingling all over.
- Fran
I told you about danger, didn't I? First it makes you sick, then when you get through it, it makes you very, very loving.
- Arthur Adamson
Isn't it touching how a perfect murder has kept our friendship alive all these years.
- Arthur Adamson

Trivia

in silhouette 45 minutes into the film behind the door at the registrar of births and deaths.

Alfred Hitchcock's final film.

Roy Thinnes was originally hired to play Arthur Adamson, but Hitchcock was dissatisfied with his performance and fired him one month into the filming.

features a modern chemical toilet.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1976

Re-released in United States on Video May 23, 1995

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1976

Re-released in United States on Video May 23, 1995