A Fine Madness


1h 44m 1966
A Fine Madness

Brief Synopsis

A womanizing poet falls into the hands of a psychiatrist with a straying wife.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1966
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 11 May 1966
Production Company
Pan Arts Co.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel A Fine Madness by Elliott Baker (New York, 1964).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

Samson Shillitoe, a rebellious Greenwich Village poet, is troubled by both overdue alimony payments and Rhoda, his current wife, who does not understand poetry and seductively interferes with his work. After losing his job as a carpet cleaner by seducing an office stenographer, he grudgingly accepts a $200 offer to read poetry at a cultural luncheon. This, too, turns into a shambles when he gets drunk and insults the ladies, including Lydia West, the wife of a prominent psychiatrist. Rhoda eventually gets Samson to Dr. West's sanitarium, and he easily seduces Dr. Vera Kropotkin, before ending up in a ripple bath with Lydia. All concerned finally agree that the only solution is to perform a lobotomy on Samson, but this also fails to tame him. When Lydia tells him that she is leaving her husband and wants to go away with him, Samson invites her to share his apartment with Rhoda. Furious, Lydia leaves him. As the long-suffering Rhoda is taking Samson home, she hesitantly informs him that she is pregnant. He knocks her unconscious, then dazedly picks her up and carries her back to their apartment.

Photo Collections

A Fine Madness - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for A Fine Madness (1966), starring Sean Connery, Joanne Woodward, and Jean Seberg. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1966
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 11 May 1966
Production Company
Pan Arts Co.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel A Fine Madness by Elliott Baker (New York, 1964).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

A Fine Madness


By the mid-1960s, Sean Connery had played James Bond in four films, and was anxious to avoid being typecast. Between the Bond films, he looked for roles that were far different from the suave superspy: a mysterious Hitchcock hero in Marnie (1964), a cockney POW in The Hill (1965), and a mad bohemian poet in A Fine Madness (1966). Based on a highly praised novel by Elliott Baker, who also wrote the screenplay, A Fine Madness is very much a product of its time. Connery plays Samson Shillitoe, who lives in Greenwich Village, works at menial jobs while writing his epic poems, tries the patience of his slobby wife (Joanne Woodward) by seducing other women, and battles to remain a free spirit. Like the character, A Fine Madness is often very funny, but is also something of a mess.

At the time, the studio system was moribund, and Warner Bros., like other major studios, had reduced its production schedule, releasing a scant dozen films in 1966. Much of A Fine Madness was shot on location in New York, but when shooting moved to the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, there was only one other film in production there - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Co-star Patrick O'Neal recalled that Virginia Woolf was shot on a closed set, and that he and Jean Seberg, who played his wife in A Fine Madness, sneaked onto the Woolf set to watch the filming.

In spite of the gloomy atmosphere at the studio, the cast of A Fine Madness became close. Joanne Woodward organized a movie club, and every Friday night, they and their spouses rented the screening room of the Beverly Hills Hotel to watch a movie one of them had selected. Woodward's husband Paul Newman provided the beer and popcorn. The films ranged from Singin' in the Rain (1952), O'Neal's choice, to Woodward's choice, the Hitchcock comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941), and Seberg's The Lady with a Dog (1960), a Russian film based on a Chekov story.

Connery kept things light on the set. When he and Seberg had a bathtub scene, she refused to do it nude. The flesh-colored body stocking wasn't working, and she was uncomfortable using pasties. Connery provided copious amounts of champagne, and when it was time to shoot, he stripped down, and a tipsy Seberg did the same.

Studio head Jack Warner, wanting a hit, had been delighted to sign Connery for A Fine Madness. But he thought he was getting a Bond-style action movie. Warner never understood the film's combination of drama and anarchic comedy, and continually ordered rewrites. When filming was finished, Warner barred director Irvin Kershner from the lot, ordered a new score, and re-edited it. Despite excellent performances, the film had problems finding a consistent tone.

Inevitably, critics picked up on the Connery character's compulsive womanizing, and compared him to James Bond. The Time critic referred to him as "a poet with a sex life as breezy as James Bond's," but added, "Though the resemblance of Madness to Bondomania is otherwise superficial, Director Irvin Kershner savors the joke to excess," and called A Fine Madness "a fitfully funny satire." The New York Times liked the film, in spite of its problems, calling it "an odd one indeed, ranging from rich to raucous to plain fumbling. At times, it's as funny as all get-out....Give it an A for effort and a brash B for impudence and originality. It founders, but it gleams."

Bond comparisons aside, critics praised Connery's performance, and applauded his efforts to avoid typecasting. The fans, however, wanted the macho-cool spy, not a lunatic poet, and they stayed away from A Fine Madness. The film was a box-office failure, and Connery followed it with another Bond, You Only Live Twice (1967), then walked away from the franchise. But he was wooed back twice -- in 1971, for Diamonds Are Forever, earning a record salary, which he donated to a Scottish charity; and in 1983, for the aptly named Never Say Never Again. In between, Connery played a wide variety of roles, proving once and for all that he was a fine actor as well as a superstar. He finally won an Oscar® for The Untouchables (1987), and retired following The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), recently refusing Steven Spielberg's plea to reprise his role as Indiana Jones' father in the latest sequel.

Director: Irvin Kershner
Producer: Jerome Hellman
Screenplay: Elliott Baker, based on his novel
Cinematography: Ted D. McCord
Editor: William H. Ziegler
Costume Design: Ann Roth
Art Direction: Jack Poplin
Music: John Addison
Cast: Sean Connery (Samson Shillitoe), Joanne Woodward (Rhoda Shillitoe), Jean Seberg (Lydia West), Patrick O'Neal (Dr. Oliver West), Colleen Dewhurst (Dr. Vera Kropotkin), Clive Revill (Dr. Menken), Werner Peters (Dr. Vorbeck), John Fiedler (Daniel Papp).
C-104m. Letterboxed.

by Margarita Landazuri
A Fine Madness

A Fine Madness

By the mid-1960s, Sean Connery had played James Bond in four films, and was anxious to avoid being typecast. Between the Bond films, he looked for roles that were far different from the suave superspy: a mysterious Hitchcock hero in Marnie (1964), a cockney POW in The Hill (1965), and a mad bohemian poet in A Fine Madness (1966). Based on a highly praised novel by Elliott Baker, who also wrote the screenplay, A Fine Madness is very much a product of its time. Connery plays Samson Shillitoe, who lives in Greenwich Village, works at menial jobs while writing his epic poems, tries the patience of his slobby wife (Joanne Woodward) by seducing other women, and battles to remain a free spirit. Like the character, A Fine Madness is often very funny, but is also something of a mess. At the time, the studio system was moribund, and Warner Bros., like other major studios, had reduced its production schedule, releasing a scant dozen films in 1966. Much of A Fine Madness was shot on location in New York, but when shooting moved to the Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, there was only one other film in production there - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Co-star Patrick O'Neal recalled that Virginia Woolf was shot on a closed set, and that he and Jean Seberg, who played his wife in A Fine Madness, sneaked onto the Woolf set to watch the filming. In spite of the gloomy atmosphere at the studio, the cast of A Fine Madness became close. Joanne Woodward organized a movie club, and every Friday night, they and their spouses rented the screening room of the Beverly Hills Hotel to watch a movie one of them had selected. Woodward's husband Paul Newman provided the beer and popcorn. The films ranged from Singin' in the Rain (1952), O'Neal's choice, to Woodward's choice, the Hitchcock comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941), and Seberg's The Lady with a Dog (1960), a Russian film based on a Chekov story. Connery kept things light on the set. When he and Seberg had a bathtub scene, she refused to do it nude. The flesh-colored body stocking wasn't working, and she was uncomfortable using pasties. Connery provided copious amounts of champagne, and when it was time to shoot, he stripped down, and a tipsy Seberg did the same. Studio head Jack Warner, wanting a hit, had been delighted to sign Connery for A Fine Madness. But he thought he was getting a Bond-style action movie. Warner never understood the film's combination of drama and anarchic comedy, and continually ordered rewrites. When filming was finished, Warner barred director Irvin Kershner from the lot, ordered a new score, and re-edited it. Despite excellent performances, the film had problems finding a consistent tone. Inevitably, critics picked up on the Connery character's compulsive womanizing, and compared him to James Bond. The Time critic referred to him as "a poet with a sex life as breezy as James Bond's," but added, "Though the resemblance of Madness to Bondomania is otherwise superficial, Director Irvin Kershner savors the joke to excess," and called A Fine Madness "a fitfully funny satire." The New York Times liked the film, in spite of its problems, calling it "an odd one indeed, ranging from rich to raucous to plain fumbling. At times, it's as funny as all get-out....Give it an A for effort and a brash B for impudence and originality. It founders, but it gleams." Bond comparisons aside, critics praised Connery's performance, and applauded his efforts to avoid typecasting. The fans, however, wanted the macho-cool spy, not a lunatic poet, and they stayed away from A Fine Madness. The film was a box-office failure, and Connery followed it with another Bond, You Only Live Twice (1967), then walked away from the franchise. But he was wooed back twice -- in 1971, for Diamonds Are Forever, earning a record salary, which he donated to a Scottish charity; and in 1983, for the aptly named Never Say Never Again. In between, Connery played a wide variety of roles, proving once and for all that he was a fine actor as well as a superstar. He finally won an Oscar® for The Untouchables (1987), and retired following The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), recently refusing Steven Spielberg's plea to reprise his role as Indiana Jones' father in the latest sequel. Director: Irvin Kershner Producer: Jerome Hellman Screenplay: Elliott Baker, based on his novel Cinematography: Ted D. McCord Editor: William H. Ziegler Costume Design: Ann Roth Art Direction: Jack Poplin Music: John Addison Cast: Sean Connery (Samson Shillitoe), Joanne Woodward (Rhoda Shillitoe), Jean Seberg (Lydia West), Patrick O'Neal (Dr. Oliver West), Colleen Dewhurst (Dr. Vera Kropotkin), Clive Revill (Dr. Menken), Werner Peters (Dr. Vorbeck), John Fiedler (Daniel Papp). C-104m. Letterboxed. by Margarita Landazuri

A Fine Madness - Sean Connery as a Rebellious Poet?


By the mid-1960s, Sean Connery had portrayed Agent 007 in four James Bond films: Dr. No (1963), From Russia With Love (1964), Goldfinger (1964), and Thunderball (1965). Interlaced between those years, Connery lent his leading man charms to Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie (1964), Basil Dearden's crime drama Woman of Straw (1964), and Sidney Lumet's World War II-themed The Hill (1965). When 1966 rolled around, Connery was again ready to display an acting acumen beyond ordering martinis shaken-not-stirred. The result: the main character in Irvin Kershner's peculiar comedy A Fine Madness (1966).

It is not uncommon to laugh and cry while watching a particular film, or even to laugh, cry, and scream in terror. The diverse emotions that A Fine Madness stirs, however, are more difficult to rationalize, contributing to a wholly unusual experience. Based on the novel by Elliot Baker (also the screenwriter), Kershner's film follows the misadventures of creatively parched poet Samson Shillitoe (Connery), whose wife Rhoda (Joanne Woodward) goes to great lengths to ameliorate his situation-including soliciting the expertise of psychiatrist Dr. Oliver West (Patrick O'Neal).

The first third of the A Fine Madness is quite hilarious, as Sean Connery exhibits talents in physical and verbal comedy, evidenced in his outrageous poetry reading at a meeting of the Women's League. The film is even reminiscent of Frank Tashlin's Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), only without the satirical elements and cartoon aesthetics. Upon meeting Dr. West, however, the film takes on a subtly sinister tone. It develops a satirical voice in mentioning the debate between nature vs. nurture and in the plotline of how medicine and science can cure a quick-tempered poet suffering from a case of writer's block. The middle third is an intense promenade around the territory of dark comedy, without the dark lighting scheme. The last third is absurd to the point of disconcertment--imagine Sean Connery in a mental institution with the possibility of receiving a lobotomy.

A Fine Madness may focus on Samson Shillitoe and his antics, but the film itself relies upon and benefits from the strength of the other characters. For instance, Jean Seberg, who starred in Jean-Luc Godard's landmark French New Wave film Breathless (1961), plays Dr. West's wife. There is but a glimmer of that insouciant American mentality she exuded in Godard's deconstructed, reinterpreted gangster film. In Kershner's piece, Seberg is sophisticated, elegant, musical, and comedic when necessary. Joanne Woodward gives an exceptional performance as well, displaying a mixture of feisty zaniness and relentless determination.

In addition to the supporting cast, New York City-where the film is set-also contributes to the multi-faceted nature of Kershner's film. Retrospectively, not only does A Fine Madness contain footage that is significant for its historical value, but it also features a brief but beautifully filmed sequence of Connery dancing about and walking down the Brooklyn Bridge. From the awesome geometry of the bridge to the magnificent view of the buildings below, the film captures a kind of serenity as seen from Samson Shillitoe's eyes. Furthermore, Sean Connery's performance proves that he has more in his artistic arsenal than cool cars, even cooler gadgets, and an uncanny immunity to serious injury.

Included on the DVD of A Fine Madness is a featurette called "Mondo Connery," a promotional short consisting of behind-the-scenes footage, which showcases Mr. Connery's incredible charisma and physical agility.

For more information about A Fine Madness, visit Warner Video.

by Stina Chyn

A Fine Madness - Sean Connery as a Rebellious Poet?

By the mid-1960s, Sean Connery had portrayed Agent 007 in four James Bond films: Dr. No (1963), From Russia With Love (1964), Goldfinger (1964), and Thunderball (1965). Interlaced between those years, Connery lent his leading man charms to Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie (1964), Basil Dearden's crime drama Woman of Straw (1964), and Sidney Lumet's World War II-themed The Hill (1965). When 1966 rolled around, Connery was again ready to display an acting acumen beyond ordering martinis shaken-not-stirred. The result: the main character in Irvin Kershner's peculiar comedy A Fine Madness (1966). It is not uncommon to laugh and cry while watching a particular film, or even to laugh, cry, and scream in terror. The diverse emotions that A Fine Madness stirs, however, are more difficult to rationalize, contributing to a wholly unusual experience. Based on the novel by Elliot Baker (also the screenwriter), Kershner's film follows the misadventures of creatively parched poet Samson Shillitoe (Connery), whose wife Rhoda (Joanne Woodward) goes to great lengths to ameliorate his situation-including soliciting the expertise of psychiatrist Dr. Oliver West (Patrick O'Neal). The first third of the A Fine Madness is quite hilarious, as Sean Connery exhibits talents in physical and verbal comedy, evidenced in his outrageous poetry reading at a meeting of the Women's League. The film is even reminiscent of Frank Tashlin's Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), only without the satirical elements and cartoon aesthetics. Upon meeting Dr. West, however, the film takes on a subtly sinister tone. It develops a satirical voice in mentioning the debate between nature vs. nurture and in the plotline of how medicine and science can cure a quick-tempered poet suffering from a case of writer's block. The middle third is an intense promenade around the territory of dark comedy, without the dark lighting scheme. The last third is absurd to the point of disconcertment--imagine Sean Connery in a mental institution with the possibility of receiving a lobotomy. A Fine Madness may focus on Samson Shillitoe and his antics, but the film itself relies upon and benefits from the strength of the other characters. For instance, Jean Seberg, who starred in Jean-Luc Godard's landmark French New Wave film Breathless (1961), plays Dr. West's wife. There is but a glimmer of that insouciant American mentality she exuded in Godard's deconstructed, reinterpreted gangster film. In Kershner's piece, Seberg is sophisticated, elegant, musical, and comedic when necessary. Joanne Woodward gives an exceptional performance as well, displaying a mixture of feisty zaniness and relentless determination. In addition to the supporting cast, New York City-where the film is set-also contributes to the multi-faceted nature of Kershner's film. Retrospectively, not only does A Fine Madness contain footage that is significant for its historical value, but it also features a brief but beautifully filmed sequence of Connery dancing about and walking down the Brooklyn Bridge. From the awesome geometry of the bridge to the magnificent view of the buildings below, the film captures a kind of serenity as seen from Samson Shillitoe's eyes. Furthermore, Sean Connery's performance proves that he has more in his artistic arsenal than cool cars, even cooler gadgets, and an uncanny immunity to serious injury. Included on the DVD of A Fine Madness is a featurette called "Mondo Connery," a promotional short consisting of behind-the-scenes footage, which showcases Mr. Connery's incredible charisma and physical agility. For more information about A Fine Madness, visit Warner Video. by Stina Chyn

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Location scenes filmed in New York City.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1966

Released in United States March 1996

Released in United States 1966

Released in United States March 1996 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "The Films of Jean Seberg" March 15-28, 1996.)